Extra Toasty Cheez-It Chicken Tenders

published May 6, 2021
Extra Toasty Cheez-It Chicken Tenders

These crispy, cheesy chicken tenders are served with a homemade buttermilk ranch.

Serves4 to 6

Prep20 minutes

Cook20 minutes to 25 minutes

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Extra Toasty Cheez-It Chicken Tenders on a sheet pan
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

When it comes to salty snacks, my preferred cheesy cracker has always been a Cheez-It. (Sorry, team Goldfish.) So when I got my hands on my first box of Extra Toasty Cheez-Its a few years ago, I nearly combusted. They are perfect. Baking the classic Cheez-Its just a few minutes longer gives them a deep, golden-brown color and a nutty, toasty flavor that brings me so much joy.

While I love snacking on ‘em straight out of the (family size) box, I love cooking with them, too. My favorite thing to make is crispy, cheesy chicken tenders: I blitz the Cheez-Its in the food processor and use them to bread the chicken, creating chicken strips so good you won’t want to share them with the kids. It goes without saying that I recommend you use Extra Toasty Cheez-Its, but you can make this with any Cheez-It flavor you like (or any cheesy cracker, for that matter).

I like to serve these toasty tenders with a quick, homemade buttermilk ranch. As written, the consistency of the ranch is more like a dipping sauce, but if you’d prefer to eat the tenders over some leafy greens and get a little salad going, just add a few teaspoons of water to thin it out to a dressing-like consistency.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

4 Tips for the Perfect Cheez-It Tenders

  1. Blitz the Cheez-Its until finely ground. Pulsing the Cheez-Its in the food processor until the majority of them are finely ground will help the breading adhere to the tenders.
  2. Spray the tenders with oil. Spraying the tenders with a nice coating of fat before they hit the hot oven will help them bake up golden-brown and crispy.
  3. Swap in tofu for chicken. Cheez-It-loving vegetarians can opt for pressed, extra-firm tofu in place of chicken.
  4. Prep ahead! Marinate the chicken overnight for a super-easy dinner the next day.

Extra Toasty Cheez-It Chicken Tenders

These crispy, cheesy chicken tenders are served with a homemade buttermilk ranch.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 3/4 cup

    buttermilk

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 3 teaspoons

    garlic powder, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    hot sauce, such as Cholula

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken tenders or breasts

  • 4 cups

    Cheez-Its, Extra Toasty preferred

  • Cooking spray

For the ranch dip:

  • 2 tablespoons

    finely chopped fresh chives

  • 2 tablespoons

    finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

  • 1/2 cup

    sour cream or plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

  • 1/3 cup

    buttermilk

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

Instructions

  1. Place 3/4 cup buttermilk, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons of the garlic powder, 1 teaspoon hot sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper in a large bowl and stir to combine.

  2. If using chicken breasts, slice lengthwise into 1/2-inch wide strips. Add the chicken to the marinade and toss well to coat. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes, or cover and refrigerate up to overnight.

  3. Place 4 cups Cheez-Its, the remaining 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and the remaining 1 teaspoon black pepper in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until the crackers are finely ground, about 1 minute. (Alternatively, crush everything together in a large ziptop bag with a rolling pin until finely ground.) Transfer to a wide bowl or pie plate.

  4. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Coat the parchment with cooking spray.

  5. Bread the chicken one piece at a time: Remove from the buttermilk and let any excess marinade drip back into the bowl, then place in the cracker crumbs and press gently for the crumbs to adhere until completely coated. Place on the baking sheets, spacing them evenly apart. Coat the chicken lightly with cooking spray.

  6. Bake for 12 minutes. Flip the chicken and rotate the baking sheets from front to back and between racks. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, 8 to 13 minutes more. Meanwhile, make the ranch dip.

  7. Finely chop until you have 2 tablespoons fresh chives and 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves. Place in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/3 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and stir to combine. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve the chicken tenders with the ranch.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The chicken can be marinated up to 1 day ahead.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in separate airtight containers up to 4 days.

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