Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders

Tested & Perfected Recipes Cookbook Recipe

One of my most popular recipes, these chicken tenders are marinated in seasoned buttermilk and pan-fried to crispy, crunchy perfection.

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

Like most kids, my daughter prefers “kid food” to “grown-up food” any day of the week. Occasionally, it works to my advantage—a trip to McDonald’s makes excellent bribery—but most of the time I’m just dealing with a picky eater. Rather than desperately trying to coax her into eating dinner every night, sometimes I just make her favorites. These chicken tenders, marinated in seasoned buttermilk and pan-fried to crispy, crunchy perfection, are at the top of her list. They’re delicious plain, dipped in honey mustard Sauce, or perched on top of a salad. And they’re not just for picky kids — everyone loves them.

What you’ll need To Make Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders

How to make buttermilk fried chicken tenders

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.

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders

One of my most popular recipes, these chicken tenders are marinated in seasoned buttermilk and pan-fried to crispy, crunchy perfection.

Servings: 4
Total Time: 40 Minutes

Ingredients

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

For Cooking

  • 3-4 cups vegetable oil, for cooking

Instructions

  1. To marinate the chicken: In a large sealable, combine the chicken tenders with the remaining marinade ingredients. Seal the bag tightly and massage the chicken until it is evenly coated with buttermilk and seasoning. Place in a bowl (in case of leakage) and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
  2. To make the breading: In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Whisk until well blended, then add the buttermilk and stir with a fork until the mixture is evenly clumpy.
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Remove the chicken tenders from the marinade a few at a time and toss into the breading mixture. Be sure to press the chicken firmly into the breading so clumps adhere to the meat. (It's a messy job: use one hand to remove the wet tenders from the bag and the other to toss in the breading.) Set breaded tenders on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. To fry the chicken: Line another baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels and set next to the stove. Add oil to a large, high-sided pot until the level reaches about 3/4-inch. Heat over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering (about 350°). (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 the second side is also golden, a few minutes more. Set the cooked tenders on the paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Fry remaining tenders in batches adjusting the heat as necessary (if the tenders are browning too fast, lower the heat). 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.
  6. Note: Nutritional information was calculated assuming that approximately 1/4 cup of the oil is absorbed into the chicken tenders when frying.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cooked chicken tenders can be frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat, put the frozen tenders on a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and warm in a 350°F (175°C) oven until heated through and crisp, about 25 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Calories: 925
  • Fat: 51
  • Saturated fat: 1
  • Carbohydrates: 75g
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 41g
  • Sodium: 1866mg
  • Cholesterol: 96mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Finally!! The absolute perfect recipe. There are usually a few strips left when I make this, and they are great in the air fryer after being refrigerated. Just make it. It will come out perfect. Every single time! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • — Heather on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • I haven’t fried anything in over 39 years. This was crispy, moist and flavorful. Thank you for giving me the confidence to try it again. Will definitely make this again.

    • — KathyD on January 14, 2021
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  • I made this. Absolutely delicious. I didn’t have garlic powder so added minced garlic to the marinade and let it marinade overnight. I took the chicken out of the fridge for 20 mins before frying so it wasn’t too cold. I added 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to the batter. It was just lovely. Thanks!

    • — Kadi on January 13, 2021
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  • Made these for about the 6th time.
    My go to recipe. The family loves them. Buttermilk makes such a difference. Also made KFC copycat coleslaw to go with it, also used buttermilk….This is a Keeper.

    • — Flo on January 5, 2021
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  • Fabulous! My first time for deep frying( resolution accomplished), and this breading was fantastic. It stayed on the chicken, and I thought that was success 😅. My family was impressed, and now think they no longer ever want KFC.
    My only question is, about how thick were your tenders? It seemed the outside of mine was done a little too soon before middle- I did have fry thermometer and instant read. Both around 350.
    Thanks for the guidance, and great recipe!!!!!

    • — Carol on January 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you like these! If you find them a little thick, you can flatten them a bit with the palm of your hand before putting them. I’d aim for about ¼-inch thick

      • — Jenn on January 5, 2021
      • Reply
  • These were absolutely delicious! I only had time to marinate for less than 2 hours and they were still perfect. I also really appreciate the reheating instructions, there are only 2 of us and a good amount of leftovers.

    • — Lauren on January 2, 2021
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  • I made these one night for dinner over the holidays with the hope to have enough left over for lunch the next day. Never happened. I doubled the recipe and every piece was gobbled up. Best fried chicken recipe I have made. The 2 TBSP of buttermilk in the flour breading was key. They fried up beautifully and the breading was so good. The buttermilk marinade made the chicken so juicy. Just incredible. Yum!!

    • — Jeana Slade on December 28, 2020
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  • Made these today and they were a big hit. Thanks for another great and reliable recipe!

    • — Amy on December 24, 2020
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  • Turned out very well.
    Last pieces of chicken were a little too moist coming out of the flour mix. Should have kept the flour bag handy since they stuck to my fryer basket.

    • — Ted on December 22, 2020
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  • This is the best chicken tender recipe I’ve tried. Flavorful and crispy! Thank you!

    • — Robin on December 20, 2020
    • Reply
  • Can I use fake buttermilk (1 cup milk, 1 T vinegar) for this recipe?

    • — Colleen on December 18, 2020
    • Reply
    • Yep – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 20, 2020
      • Reply
  • Best fingers ever!!! My wife and kids not only loved them but begged me to make them again the very next night. A very easy recipe and the flavors, especially the buttermilk immersion are to die for. Thank you for this!

    • — Jimmy Ray on December 17, 2020
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  • Could I cook these in my air fryer?

    • — Sabrina Hallett on December 1, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Sabrina, I’ve never used an air fryer so I can’t say for sure – I’m sorry! I’d love to hear how they turn out if you try it though!

      • — Jenn on December 2, 2020
      • Reply
      • We cooked these tonight with some modifications! We sprayed them with olive oil spray and then cooked half in the air fryer at 360F 13 minutes on one side, 12 mins on the other. The other half we put in the oven at 400F for 20 minutes- the air fryer ones worked much better than the oven ones.
        Obviously frying as is recommended by the recipe is by far the best option! The coating is so delicious!

        • — Eva on December 16, 2020
        • Reply
        • Thank you Eva!!! Just got my AF and love this recipe, it’s a staple in my house but wanted to see if I could AF them, gonna try tonight.

          • — Reyna on January 12, 2021
          • Reply
  • so very crispy. making the dredge clumpy with the buttermilk was game-changing

    • — Jacob Rubenstein on November 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, can I prepare this But before frying it ALL, (there’s just two of us) cover and put the dredged chicken in fridge and cook the other half the next day? …will it still be nice and crispy?

    • — Gigi B on November 23, 2020
    • Reply
    • Yes, I think you could get away with it as they are fairly forgiving. Please LMK how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on November 23, 2020
      • Reply
      • They turned out GREAT!! Still crispy still delicious Jenn!! My husband couldn’t wait for this second batch!! And that homemade honey mustard sauce was the BOMB!!!

        • — Gigi B on December 1, 2020
        • Reply
  • can I make these in the air fryer instead of deep fry? How long and how high?

    • — karin S. on November 10, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Karin, I don’t have an air fryer I don’t know much about using one so it’s hard to say for sure – I’m sorry! You may find these tips helpful in converting traditional recipes to air fryer versions. Hope that helps at least a bit!

      • — Jenn on November 10, 2020
      • Reply
      • Hi Jen, can I bake these? Thank you

        • — Rhonda on January 5, 2021
        • Reply
        • Hi Rhonda, These are really best when fried. If you’d like a chicken tender that you can bake, I’d recommend this recipe. (While I do prefer them fried, if you want to bake them I’d put them in a 350 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Enjoy!

          • — Jenn on January 5, 2021
          • Reply
  • I’ve made these a few times for my family and they’re always a hit. “Best chicken tenders I’ve ever had” is what people say when they try them. Making some tomorrow night for my son’s birthday dinner! Thank you!

    • — Todd on November 7, 2020
    • Reply
    • Can you deep fry them?

      • — Anderson on November 10, 2020
      • Reply
      • Yep – enjoy!

        • — Jenn on November 10, 2020
        • Reply
      • These are an absolute hit!!! Sooo juicy and crispy! This was my first time making my own chicken tenders (fried) and I’m so glad I did!!

        • — Jasmin Lopez on December 9, 2020
        • Reply
  • These are AMAZING!! One question… while they were being eaten, the breading fell off a little bit. Any suggestions for how I can remedy this? I think maybe I should pound out the chicken a little bit with a mallet–the chicken tenders I had were kinda thick. Maybe the breading will stick a little better if they are thinner?

    • — Kristen on November 4, 2020
    • Reply
    • Glad you liked them! Yes, I do think that pounding them out a little will help the breading to stick. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 6, 2020
      • Reply
  • Holy crap! I have never made fried chicken before — a friend gave me a mini deep-fryer years ago and I never used it once. I FINALLY pulled it out to make these chicken tenders and, not only were they better than any chicken tenders I have ever had at a restaurant bar, they were the tastiest dinner I have had in months! The perfect amount of heat — they fry up super crispy with lots of crunch. I don’t ever leave reviews but my lord, my week has been made because of this recipe. Thank you!

    • — Maria on November 2, 2020
    • Reply
  • Nailed it!

    For years, I have wondered how they made flaky breading for chicken and seafood—this is it!

    I was doubtful about making the breading, but once I saw it come together it made sense. The crispy, flaky breading was DELICIOUS and CRUNCHY!

    The only thing I would do differently next time is tenderize my chicken tenderloins with a mallet as they were very large and thick—I prefer a thinner piece of chicken.

    You won’t regret this! We also dipped the tenders in the buttermilk ranch (from this website). So tasty!

    • — Sam on November 1, 2020
    • Reply
  • I made these last night and they are absolutely delicious!!! Jenn, this is the fifth or sixth recipe that I’ve used from your blog, and they have all been fantastic! Thank you for sharing, and I’m planning to continue preparing your yummy recipes!!

    • — LESLIE THEODORAKAKOS on October 26, 2020
    • Reply
    • I’ve been wanting to try this, but I don’t have 4 hours to marinate it.. will it be ok with a couple hours of marinating?

      • — Kristie on October 28, 2020
      • Reply
      • Sure, Kristie, they’ll still be good. Enjoy!

        • — Jenn on October 28, 2020
        • Reply
  • Yummy!! These are delicious and easy to make; I followed the recipe exactly as presented. I also made the honey mustard sauce for dipping. This recipe is a home run!!

    • — Kathryn Flowers Glasco on October 25, 2020
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  • Flavorful and crunchy! I modified your recipe slightly (diet considerations) and bakd these and they came out delicious. I have experimented with flour vs panko and we prefer panko as it provides us the crunch we would have had from frying. Really amazing, thank you!

    • — Karen on October 25, 2020
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    • What temperature & for how long did you bake them? I’m very interested to hear.

      • — Janice on November 20, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen, these chicken tenders are awesome, thank you for the recipe. I just have a question about the nutritional info. Did you mean that 1 serving (out of the 4 servings that the 2lbs makes) is 925 calories or that the entire 2lbs of tenders is 925 calories? Thanks a bunch!

    • — Aderonke Awe on October 11, 2020
    • Reply
    • Glad you like them! The nutritional info is for 1 serving.

      • — Jenn on October 12, 2020
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    • Made these for the first time and they came out SUPERB! The chicken was moist, crispy and seasoned to perfection. My husband loved them. Definitely saving this recipe. Your recipes are terrific. Thanks for sharing them👍

      • — Linda on October 28, 2020
      • Reply
  • love following you! Are these spicy for children 1.5-5 years old? I am a vegetarian so will not be taste testing…but I have 5 grandchildren visiting this week:) Thank you.

    • — Debbie on October 11, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Debbie, these definitely don’t taste spicy, but if you’re concerned about the heat at all, you can reduce or omit the cayenne — they’ll still have plenty of flavor. Hope your grandkids enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on October 12, 2020
      • Reply
  • Made this recipe again last night, just had left overs this lunch and I will continue to make these for me and the hubs. I use fresh garlic and I do not fry, but put in the oven at 450 for 25 mins along with my cubed potatoes and we had steamed fresh strings beans, we enjoyed last night’s meal. I love the crush that forms from the flour and buttermilk and the flavors and the chicken is so tender, just a fun way to cook tenders. This is a keeper! Thank you for all you do Chef Jenn! Keep it simple though…

    • — Barbara Jannarone on October 8, 2020
    • Reply
  • I’ve made other versions of this type of recipe in the past, but these were the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had. This is the only recipe that I can think of that calls for adding liquid to the breading, and I thought that it was a bit strange at first, but adding that small amount of buttermilk to the flour mixture gives the breading that extra crunchy texture when finished. My family loved it!

    • — Maria on October 7, 2020
    • Reply
  • Made these for the first time after eyeing the recipe for awhile and I’m so glad I did! They are delicious and easy. I used avocado oil to fry the chicken, turned out great, thanks!

    • — Donna on October 6, 2020
    • Reply
  • I have been looking for a really good chicken tenders recipe for years and finally found a great one! These are as good as our local take out place. Made the buttermilk myself with vinegar and grass fed whole milk. Used organic chicken tenders. Liked that high sided pot was used to keep stove cleaner. Thank you for a delicious recipe!

    • — Momma from Delco on October 1, 2020
    • Reply
  • WOW!!! I just finished making these and they are fantastic. Everyone loved them especially my children. Thank you for such a great recipe.

    • — Mayra on September 21, 2020
    • Reply
  • These are incredible!!! Actually even better than you’d get in most restaurants (I won’t name any names). My husband actually made these for the first time while I was at work. He told me he made them and that they were just okay, so I should just take a bite. After the first two bites I was like, “Are you kidding me?!?!” He said, “I know, right! I just wanted to get your true opinion on whether or not you really think they’re as good as I do.” Haha!

    • — Shaynee on September 19, 2020
    • Reply
  • Can I try this in an Air Fryer?

    SM

    • — Sylvia Mosquera on September 19, 2020
    • Reply
    • I don’t have an air fryer and don’t know much about using one so I can’t say for sure – sorry! You may find these tips helpful in converting traditional recipes to air fryer versions. I’d love to hear how they turn out if you make them in an air fryer!

      • — Jenn on September 19, 2020
      • Reply
  • These are yummy! I will definetely make this again.

    • — Elaine on September 15, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn I had my two year old grandson for dinner and I made these and they are delicious! He gobbled them up. I served them with the Broccoli Tots from your cookbook (which I got for my birthday and love). They were also great. I would serve them to adults as an appetizer.
    I’m learning a lot using your recipes eg why buttermilk is a good tenderizer for boneless chicken vs lemon juice. Thank you – I love your recipes!

    • — Cindy Bryson on September 13, 2020
    • Reply
  • Could I follow the recipe as is using boneless skinless thighs? Thank you!

    • — Tanuja on September 6, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure. Not sure if it will impact the cooking time at all though, so make sure you check them for doneness before serving. Please report back and let me know how they turn out with thighs. 🙂

      • — Jenn on September 10, 2020
      • Reply

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