Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders


My daughter has never been a gourmand. She’ll take processed kid food or McDonalds over a home cooked meal any day of the week. Sometimes it works to my advantage — a trip to McDonalds makes excellent bribery — but most of the time I’m just dealing with a picky eater. I don’t usually give in, but every once in a while you have to give a picky eater what she wants, and what mine wants (big shocker) is fried chicken tenders.  Marinated in seasoned buttermilk and pan-fried to crispy, crunchy perfection, these are her all-time favorite. They’re delicious on their own, dipped in honey mustard, or perched on top of a salad. And by the way, they’re not just for kids…everyone loves them.

Begin by combining the chicken tenderloins with a mixture of buttermilk, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and salt. If you have time, let them marinate overnight.

When you’re ready to cook them, make the breading by combining the flour, baking powder and spices in a bowl. Stir in a bit of buttermilk until the mixture is nice and clumpy.

Toss the tenderloins in the mixture and coat evenly with the breading.

They’ll look like this…

Finally, heat your oil until shimmering in a high-sided pot to prevent splatters. Place the tenderloins in the hot oil without crowding the pot, and cook until golden brown on both sides.

Drain on paper towels.

And that’s all there is to it. If you need a good honey mustard recipe to go with it, try this one. Enjoy!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders

Print Recipe
Servings: 4
Total Time: 40 Minutes


For the Marinade

  • 2 pounds chicken tenderloins
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

For the Breading

  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk

For Cooking

  • 3-4 cups vegetable oil, for cooking


  1. Combine the chicken tenders with all of the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag. Seal the bag tightly and smush it around to ensure chicken tenders are evenly coated with buttermilk and seasoning. Place in a bowl (in case of leakage) and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.
  2. Make the breading by combining the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk until well combined, then add the buttermilk and stir with a fork until mixture is evenly clumpy.
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove the chicken tenders from the marinade a few at a time and toss into the flour mixture. Be sure to press the chicken firmly into the breading so clumps adhere to the meat. (It's best to use one hand to remove the tenders from the bag and the other to toss in the breading.) Set breaded tenders on prepared baking sheet.
  4. Line another baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels and set aside. Add oil to a large, high-sided pot until the level reaches about 3/4-inch. Heat over high heat until oil is shimmering. (If a cube of bread sizzles when you drop it in, it's ready.) Using tongs, place several chicken tenders in the hot oil without crowding the pan. Cook until golden brown on the bottom side, a few minutes, then flip and cook until second side is also golden, a few minutes more. Set cooked tenders on baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain. Fry remaining tenders in batches. Serve hot.
  5. Note: I find that it's hard to tell how golden the chicken is when it's immersed in the oil. It may only look lightly golden, but it's actually a perfect fried chicken golden brown. If you're unsure, simply pull a tender out of the oil and rest it on the paper towels to see the true color.


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  • Really enjoyed this recipe! Thanks for sharing! Great tip to use a higher sided pan when frying!

  • So good! Buttermilk is the key here. I have even “cheated” when I didn’t have any buttermilk, and soured some milk with 1 T of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup milk.

  • Teresa Cochran

    One of our families favorites. The kids love it! Great to pack for a picnic too!

  • Kelly W.

    These are the best chicken fingers I have made. My family loves them and my father inlaw, which is a hard one to please ;).

  • Melissa Upton

    I am so excited to try this!

  • Jheri

    These are excellent! I’m making them for the second time this week because hubby was so impressed and loved them!! :)

  • Joy

    Found this fabulous recipe on Pinterest These were wonderful! I halved the recipe since I was only cooking for two. I only had time to marinate for 3 hours and they are loaded with flavor! Yummy!

  • Amy

    3 words. OH. MY. LORD. I just made these and I swear…….. PG-13 I am so f-ing amazed. They are THE BEST chicken tenders i’ve made. I make chicken nuggets or at least try to and they never come out crispy.ever. AND THESE, they are perfectly crispy and savory and tender. UGH I am so glad I found your recipe on pinterest. Thank you so much for sharing it with everyone!

  • Becca J

    These were delicious and made a dinner that we all enjoyed. That said, I had trouble with my batter falling off and/or sticking to the pan and peeling off during frying. I noticed that you didn’t dredge the tenders in egg before battering, and that’s a step that I’ve used in the past with success. Is there a reason, other than simplicity, that you left that out? Thanks again for a great recipe! Yours is one of my favorite sites for go-to recipes!

    • Jenn

      Hi Becca, So glad you enjoyed. Since it’s a somewhat wet coating, you don’t really need the egg before battering. That said, if you had issues with it, there’s no harm in dipping the tenders in egg first so the coating it adheres better. Hope that helps :)

  • Mackenzie

    I am wanting to try this recipe this week, but was just curious if anyone has tried baking these? My husband isn’t a fan of fried food, so thought

  • jennifer

    Hi. Want to try these, your directions call for baking soda, buit ingredient list says baking powder…
    Is it supposed to be powder???

    • Jenn

      Hi Jennifer, Thanks so much for catching that! I corrected the typo…definitely use baking powder. Hope you enjoy!

  • Shani

    Made these for 14 children at our new years party. A BIG hit! (the adults loved them, too!)

  • Judy

    Made these for my grandkids and they when so quick I think that the adults helped them. Next time I’ll make more. Great taste I think I’ll try to bake them and see if they come out as good.

  • Marcia

    This is one of our favorite chicken tender recipes! I add a little hot sauce to the buttermilk mixture because we like a little more heat. These turn out great everytime! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Rachel

    Hi and thank you for the recipe. I’m planning on making these for dinner tonight. I had a question though…
    Why baking powder? What does that do?

    • Jenn

      Hi Rachel, It makes the crust extra crispy. Hope you enjoyed them!

  • Kate

    I just made these tonight. Delicious!! I used chili powder instead of the cayenne. Still good, DH loved them!! Thank you for the recipe. Can’t wait to make them again!

  • Karen

    Finally made these. I have never “deep fat fried” anything! I guess part of me was like, it is not good for me, but mostly I thought it was be very messy. Well, I made these tenders today and it was easy, and mess free! Thanks for another great recipe and another cooking item off my list of things I have never tried. These were very good and very easy. I always have buttermilk in the house.

  • GeRita

    Made these tonight and they are amazing!!! Super tender and delicious! Left out the cayenne pepper and used my deep fryer instead but other than that- followed the recipe. Will be making again soon!

  • Karen

    This was the first time I have ever attempted to fry chicken. The tenders were delicious and the recipe was so easy. Will be making this again and again.

  • Lucille

    OMG! These are so flipping good, my whole family loved them. Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Allison

    Outstanding! I have never gotten *anything* I’ve fried to a texture like this, with all the perfect crispy parts on the outside. Just delicious — thank you!

  • Mary P

    By far a family favorite!!! These are delicious!!!

  • Cheryl from Iowa

    These were so easy to make and flavorful!!!! My husband asked for more when there was none left. Thinking I will have to use 8 chicken breast sliced rather than 4. Tender and yummy. I forgot the baking powder but didn’t really miss it!!! Thanks for the hit!!! Served them with mashed potatoes (not boxed) and homemade gravy!!

  • Heather

    These sound fabulous. I have a child who can’t eat wheat so I need to replace the flour and the baking powder. I have a couple of other flour options. Not sure about baking powder. He also can’t have corn or potatoes so some of the gluten free options won’t work either. Ideas for a replacement?

    • Jenn

      Hi Heather, I’d just leave the baking powder out. It just makes the crust a little more crispy. They will still be delicious without it.

  • Made this for my family and they gobbled it down like they hadn’t eaten in a month. Didn’t have any rosemary so I chopped up some fresh basil added. It was great. :)

  • I just have to add to the praise of this recipe. I made it for my husband last night and it was incredible. Thank you for sharing! I will have to try the honey mustard next time with it :)

    I don’t fry much, any tricks for getting the smell of oil out of your house after the fact?

    • Jenn

      Glad you enjoyed it, Paula. Not much you can do about the smell…just be sure your exhaust fan is on while you’re frying, and lots of lysol afterwards :)

  • M

    This is one of my regular go-to recipes – both kids and adults love it, and I especially like that it’s also so easy to make. Leftovers work great for lunch the next day too as an added bonus.
    I scale back on the salt a little, as I find the other spices adequately provide flavor, and serve it with a side of red lentils or cous cous. Delicious!

  • Valerie

    We absolutely love these chicken tenders. They are wonderfully crispy and flavorful. Jenn, thank you for foolproof recipes with reliably great results.

    • Jenn

      You’re welcome, Valerie. So glad you enjoyed them!

  • Ponyo

    Hi Jennifer – I’ve made this a number of times and really love it, but have a question about the chicken tenders. I buy Trader Joe’s organic chicken tenders, which always have a rubbery sinew type of thing running along each tender. I usually remove it but was wondering whether it’s better to not, as it falls apart a bit when I do remove. Do you remove it?

    • Jenn

      Hi Ponyo, Excellent question. All chicken tenderloins have it. I only bother removong it if it is really thick.

  • Christine

    Made these tonight for dinner while watchin football. Was a hit!!

  • Amanda G

    Baked these on a greased cookie sheet and used panko crumbs instead of flour. Very moist and tasty!

  • Leah

    Delicious – kids love them. I used gluten free flour and grapesees oil for frying so a bit healthier and not greasy at all.

  • Patricia Slamkowski

    I fry them then put them on a cooling rack over a baking sheet and put them in a warm oven while i fry the rest of them,works great,and they stay goodand warm.

  • Patty feldstein

    Why does my breaking completely fall off the chicken after it is cool????? Pls. Answer.

    • Jenn

      Hi Patty, I’m not sure why that would happen. Did you make any substitutions?

  • Brittney

    I am making this for dinner tonight and I am so excited after reading all the comments :)! I was just wondering if I can use my fryer and if so, what temp should I set it to in order to fry them properly?

    • Jenn

      Hi Brittney, I would set it at 350. Hope you enjoy and please let me know how they come out!

  • Landra

    This is, by far, the best chicken tender recipe I’ve ever tried. I did make one change that I think makes it even better. I used half flour and half panko bread crumbs and didn’t add the buttermilk to the batter. The panko makes them very crunchy and by not adding the buttermilk, it makes it a little easier coating them.

  • Jenn

    I don’t see why not! I hope you enjoy it :)

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