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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  • Ohhhh yes, the great buttermilk bath! That is the key to good Fried Chicken! I make mine like this too!!!

    • Loved this so much, other than the messy fingers! I definitely recommend this to anyone! Easy to follow and easy to cook, my family loved it.

  • Teri McGann

    Question: Any suggestion about storing the remaining oil? I’m not adverse to deep frying, but I’m not confident about what to do with the oil post-frying. I remember my mother saving it. It’s the waste of the oil that holds me back.
    Along those lines: What do you think of pan sauteing one side and then popping chicken and pan in oven to cook through at high oven temp (450)? I did this last night with breaded breasts. I’m not sure if it would still be crispy like fried-chicken. Any thoughts? This recipe looks delish….I can’t wait to try it!

    • Jenn

      Hi Teri, You won’t want to save the oil in this case…it gets a lot of residue in it from the breading. However, the nice thing about this recipe is that it really doesn’t use a ton of oil. By only filling the oil 3/4-inch up the pan, you’re essentially pan frying (or somewhere between pan frying and deep frying). And if you use a smaller pot, you’ll need even less. The only drawback with that is that they’ll take longer to cook because you’ll be cooking fewer at a time. You can try using even less oil; you might just have to do a lot of turning to get the sides evenly browned. Hope that helps.

    • Judi Kirk

      I have always avoided frying chicken because I am worried about it being cooked through by the time the coating is brown.

      I tried this recipe last night, and happened to have the oven on at the same time.

      As I cooked the chicken, I put it into the oven to keep hot. The oven was on a high temperature – 200C which I think is about 375F. I figured the extra cooking of the chicken wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      The coating on the chicken which had been in the oven came out exactly the same as it went in – still light and crisp and it didn’t brown any more. The chicken was still moist, protected by the coating I assume.

      Next time, I’ll plan to finish my chicken off in the oven, which will allow me to cook the coating till it’s the colour I want without worrying about if the chicken is fully cooked.

      • Jenn

        Hi Judi, I know what you mean…it’s always a concern that fried chicken won’t be all the way cooked through by the time the coating turns golden brown. Sounds like you have a good system worked out. The nice thing about using boneless chicken tenderloins, as I have here, is that they’re so much smaller and cook so much faster than whole bone-in chicken pieces. Getting them to cook through shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s certainly fine to give them a quick blast in the oven just to be sure.

  • Christine M

    I love that there are no eggs in this recipe! We have an egg allergy in our house. Thanks for sharing

  • Meg

    Is there alternative to the frying? Can it be cooked in the oven, with no frying?

    • Jenn

      Hi Meg and Donna, Unfortunately, there is no alternative to frying here. The breading would not crisp up in the oven; you’re better off finding a recipe with eggs and panko. Sorry!

  • Donna

    Hi Jenn – Love this site and the recipes. I have a question regarding the fried chicken tenders. I do not eat or serve my family fried foods. If I want to “fry” them in the oven, what can I do to ensure they still turn out crispy.

  • I had buttermilk that I wasn’t sure what to do with – this is a great idea! :)

  • Cynthia

    Chicken tenders have been a favorite of mine from elementary school! I will have to try out this recipe for sure.

    Is this breading what you would recommend for traditional fried chicken (e.g. drumstick, thigh) as well?

    • Jenn

      Cynthia, Definitely would work with traditional fried chicken as well. Hope you like it!

  • I always feel better about “fast” food when I make it myself!! This is a wonderful recipe…can’t wait to try it!!

  • Lanikazi

    My kids ages 7 and 9 helped me mix the batter and dredge the chicken and they loved seeing the chicken in its raw form and eating it. I marinated for 3 hours. Afterwards, we had first placed the chicken in an egg and milk mixture (2 eggs, half cup milk), let the egg drip off, and than dredged it in the batter. Let it sit for a few minutes and than fried it in peanut oil at 325 degrees. If the temp went up too high, I simply lowered the temp. I made sure the chicken was at 165 degrees before I took out of the oil. It was golden, not burnt, crisp on the outside and unbelievably tender on the inside. My picky eaters loved it and said it was better than Chick-Fil-A!!!

  • Sherri

    Everybody in my family loved it! I love the buttermilk flavor.

  • Robyn

    Made these tonight. So amazing. Even my picky eater said they were the best chicken tenders he has had. Delish! Will be sure to share this recipe with my friends.

  • Leah

    Just made for dinner. Yummy! My hubby prefers this to fried chicken on the bone. Thanks for sharing.

  • Holly

    Are these good if cooked ahead of time and served cold?

    • Jenn

      Hi Holly, I much prefer them hot. When they’re cold, they’re not crispy and crunchy. That said, I do put leftovers in the kids’ lunches and they enjoy them just fine. Hope that helps!

      • Holly

        Thanks, looking forward to making them!

  • Jennifer

    Hi Jenn, is there a particular type of vegetable oil that is best to use for this?

    • Jenn

      Hi Jenn, I don’t think it matters much, but I use Wesson 100% all natural vegetable oil.

  • Hi Jenn- I am making these for my husband tonight for Valentines Day. We just moved to New Zealand from Atlanta so want to give him a taste of home and fried chicken seems like the perfect idea. Thanks for posting!

  • Oh my goodness my husband died over these!! They turned out perfect and until last night had never actually fried anything before. He now wants every Friday to be Chicken Finger Friday! Thanks again. I look forward to trying more of your recipes.

    link to differentkindofsouthern.blogspot.com

  • Yasmin

    Soooo good. Made them and they were so tender and delicious. Thanks for a good recipe.

  • Andrew

    Loved these tenders. They were perfect that night and even reheated well the next day. I use peanut oil for frying most of the time, and it was perfect for this recipe. I do usually save the oil, despite the bit of debris, straining it out best I can and only using it for frying in the future.

  • GJ

    This is going on my list of kid-friendly recipes to try. Thanks!

  • Rosalinda

    i am going to make this for the weekend. i love cooking and baking with buttermilk!

    i am priting it out now thanks for the recipe

  • Joanne

    I am looking forward to trying this. My husband is on a fried chicken kick and this recipe looks great.

  • Amy Bridgford

    Definitely looks delicious! Getting groceries today, so I’m making sure to pick up buttermilk now :) With luck, I’m trying it tonight, but if not, it’ll be a delicious dinner tomorrow!

  • Janda

    Would be great with some freshly grated parmesean cheese added to the flour mixture too!

  • Erin

    This is one of those recipes that totally changes your opinion on how good something can be. These are phenomenal. Love this recipe! Can’t wait for summer to make more, and to use the leftovers for other recipes.

  • My granddaughter and husband loves chicken tenders from the fast food venders but I know they will love this recipe and it will be much better for them.

  • I have tried the wet hand/dry hand thing. But before you know it both hands are covered with buttermilk and flour. Seems like it sticks to my fingers more than my chicken. I have done these in the oven before too. They are the crispy fried feel in your mouth, but the flavors are still there. I put them on a foil lined pan and turn them after about 15 minutes. It doesn’t take that long on the second side.

  • Krista

    Looks delectible. I’m going to try my hand at it…not sure how we’ll it will work out with gluten-free flour.

  • Sue

    I made these for Super Bowl party. Didn’t change a thing w/ the recipe. Super tender and very tasty. Great crunchy outside.

  • Cindy Nelson

    Quick easy and delicious for adults too!

  • Angela

    I made a double batch for dinner tonight. These were very good and easy to make.

  • carmen

    This is such a great kid friendly recipe – the adults will love them too! Made them for dinner and leftovers were packed for lunch the next day.

  • Chrissy

    I’m a vegetarian but my family is not so I try to find easy recipes that my kids will enjoy. This was such a hit with them and it was quite easy to make. My husband was thrilled to see me cook friend chicken too – rave reviews all around!

  • I made these and also finished and kept them hot in the oven. I was cooking for a party and these are perfect for finger food eaters.

  • Sue Goodin

    These look so good and easy. A great dinner after work.

  • Andee

    This sounds like a perfect recipe to try when my picky cousins come up next. Unless it’s mac n’ cheese, chicken nuggets or pizza, they won’t eat it.

  • Tracy

    I was craving fried chicken when you posted this. My first batch browned too quickly so I took it out of the pot and cut into it to see if it was done. But it was raw. I turned down the temperature and waited a few minutes for the oil to get cooler and my next two batches were perfect. I’ll definitely make this again. Great flavor!

  • Adrienne Peach

    WOW! Made these for dinner last night and they were delicious! Big hit w/the kids!! Easy to make and the leftovers were just as good. Thank you for posting this recipe!!

  • Becca L

    I made these last night for dinner and they were delicious! There were no leftovers at all. This will now be my “default” recipe for fried chicken, thank you!

  • Sara

    This was very good, thank you for sharing the recipe!

  • Sarabjit Cheema

    Absolutely loved the dish. Very easy to make and boy did the family have a blast. Thanks a bunch.

  • I made these chicken tenders and am very, very pleased with the results. Not only were they delicious, they looked like the restaurant variety, but without all the fat. Have filed the recipe with my other go-to meals in a hurry.

  • Valerie

    Everyone loved these and wanted the recipe!

  • Shannon

    Hi! This sounds amazing! I don’t have a fryer, could this work pan frying them?

    • Jenn

      Hi Shannon, I don’t use a deep fryer for this recipe…just a regular fry pan, so whatever you have should work fine.

  • My cousins and I love making this recipe! The tenders are juicy and perfectly crunchy. We like to add a bit more paprika and a pinch of mustard powder and garlic powder to the breading. We serve the tenders with homemade sweet potato fries and ranch dressing for an awesome kids dinner :)

  • I made these along with another of your recipes for a get-together held at my home last weekend. I didn’t make any changes to your wonderful recipe. They were delish when they were hot but guests were still snagging them after they’d cooled off. Will definitely make them again with or without friends to share.

  • Renee H

    I was worried these would come out too greasy, but they were perfect. Nice little kick (I added a bit more cayenne than what the recipe called for), crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Wonderful weekday meal!

  • Eliana G

    what can i substitute for butter milk to make this dairy free?

    • Jenn

      Hi Eliana, You could try beer or water.

  • Teresa Cochran

    These are the best chicken tenders you will ever make. We have six kids and they devour them when they are brought to the table!

  • Karen

    The chicken tenders look so good, I will be making them this weekend!!!

  • Tammy

    Oh goodness these look sooo yummy. Just wondering if they are spicy with the cayenne pepper
    and if it is if you could leave it out. Thanks so much!

    • Jenn

      Hi Tammy, They aren’t spicy at all but if you’re worried, it’s certainly fine to leave it out or reduce it.

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