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 bag, 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

  • I have been brining my chicken in Buttermilk for almost 20 years. I also use Self Rising Flour vs regular Flour so nothing else is needed. I got that tip from my mother that’s a retired cook. She’s now in her 80’s. I have never added buttermilk to the flour before frying. I will try it.

    Thanks Jen! You’re the best, and your recipes are top notch.

    • — Naomi on October 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • What a great recipe! I had not seen one that added buttermilk or baking powder to the flour coating and what a difference that makes in the texture! It looks like genuine fried chicken with the craggy crispy batter. I used cake & pastry flour accidentally but it was fine. It’s now my go-to recipe for chicken tenders. Thank you!!!

    • — Karen on October 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe made me follow Jenn Segal! There is a place in Cambridge, Massachusetts that is famous for their tenders and these are almost identical to their tenders. Segal’s honey mustard recipe is also a five star recipe. Thank you for sharing.

    • — Sara in Mass on September 23, 2021
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  • This recipe is amazing! The chicken tastes so juicy after a buttermilk marinade. I’ve made this “as is”, but I’ve also added pickle juice & hot sauce to the marinade, switched up the spices, made popcorn style chicken instead of tenders, etc. You can’t go wrong and I found the fundamentals of this recipe + pictures really helpful.

    • — Jackie on September 20, 2021
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  • These are a family favorite!!!

    • — Heather on September 18, 2021
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  • Best chicken strips I have ever made! So crispy and juicy and flavorful. I did the 24 hour marinade. 5 stars for sure

    • — Keisha on September 18, 2021
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  • Excellent recipe. Thank you, Jenn.

    • — Judy on September 6, 2021
    • Reply
  • Did you use full fat buttermilk? Would low fat buttermilk work?

    • — Diana on August 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Diana, Any kind of buttermilk will work. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • Amazing recipe! I can see me making these over and over for the grandkids!

    • — Lisa Ann Thomson on August 20, 2021
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    • Best recipe ever!! Always cook these!

      • — Amelia on August 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen, I love your recipes! I just recently bought an air fryer and was wondering if this recipe for buttermilk tenders would work in it. I would assume so, but wanted to know if you have any suggestions before I try it. Thank you!

    • — TD on August 15, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! I don’t have an air fryer and 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 August 16, 2021
      • Reply
    • I made them in my air fryer and they came out great! I brushed the bin with olive oil and sprayed each piece of chicken with olive oil and fried them at 380° for 7-12 mins on each side depending on how big your pieces are.

      • — Johanna on September 25, 2021
      • Reply
      • I just got a brand new GE Range that has an air fry setting. 😊 I’m going to try this recipe with the air fry. Thanks for the tip! Thanks for the recipe Jen!

        • — Joyce Rasada on October 24, 2021
        • Reply
  • Can I use King Arthur white whole wheat flour for this?

    • — Brian on August 8, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 9, 2021
      • Reply
  • This was delicious! The batter was tasty, crunchy and stayed adhered to the tenderloins while eating! The only problem I found, and it was easy to correct, was there wasn’t enough flour dredge. I just made a second batch and continued on. The dredge is plenty for one pound but didn’t stretch for two pounds of tenderloins.

    • — Janet Boyett on August 2, 2021
    • Reply
    • Agreed it was not quite enough for under 2 pounds in my case.

      • — Judy on September 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • I bought a 3 pack of chicken tenderloins from Costco. The first pack I used for Jenn’s chicken marsala recipe. I didn’t want to freeze the other 2 packs so I decided to try out this recipe. The amount of chicken I had called for 1.5x the ingredients. This recipe is so easy to adjust to the amount you want to make. The next time I make these, I’ll probably make a double batch so I can freeze the rest.

    As a side, I used avocado oil and set my stovetop on the medium setting. I did about 2.5 min on each side and that fried the chicken perfectly, for me.

    • — Janice R. on July 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe is a winner. I’ve made it a couple times and there aren’t any left over. My whole family loves it. Simple to make and flavorful.

    • — Ressa on July 25, 2021
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  • These are ahhhhmazing!! Thanks so much!!

    • — Linda on July 24, 2021
    • Reply
  • Followed the recipe exactly. Excellent!

    • — Cerise Wuthrich on July 18, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious. I doubled the recipe and ponded my chicken breast just to make the thicker sections a little closer in thickness to the thinner sections. Other than that, followed it to the tee. Thx for the fried chicken recipe that needs no skin.

    • — Cindy on July 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • We love this recipe..as we like spicier foods I add Frank’s Hot Sauce to the marinade. Thank you for a great recipe.

    • — Jan Bremner on July 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi! Thoughts on adding corn starch to the flour mixture? Would this make the chicken more crispy? Should we then eliminate the baking powder? How much corn starch would be appropriate?

    • — Mike on June 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Mike, I think you could do that. I’d replace 3 tablespoons of the flour with cornstarch (and I wouldn’t omit the baking powder). Please LMK how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on June 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • Best fried chicken ever!! I used chicken breasts- marinated them all day… it was tender and crispy!! There were no leftovers!! Another fabulous recipe- this site is the best!

    • — Kelly S on June 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hello! I would like to make these chicken fingers for a party. Rather than freezing them, can I make a day ahead and refrigerate them and then bake in the oven shortly before the party? If yes, since they would not be frozen would I still heat at 350 degrees but for a shorter time? Also, does the peanut oil make them greasier than vegetable oil (canola oil). Since I want to impress my guests, which will produce the best chicken finger? Thank you so much for your time.

    • — Sharon Jones on June 6, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Sharon, I think you could get away with breading them ahead and refrigerating, but I wouldn’t recommend baking them. If you want a chicken tender you can bake, I’d recommend this recipe. These are also best fried, but you can get away with baking them. If you go that route, I’d suggest baking them 350°F for 15 – 20 minutes. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on June 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • I’ve got a kid who LOVES chicken tenders but is allergic to milk. Would almond or cashew milk work for the buttermilk if I added vinegar or lemon juice to it?

    • — Terri on May 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Terri, I do think it would work. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it.

      • — Jenn on May 29, 2021
      • Reply
      • OMG! I finally found an absolute winner for my family! The buttermilk makes the chicken so tender and the spices are just enough. My son hates bread crumbs so this was a winner with using flour. Soooo good. I’ve made it twice in the last week. 😆

        • — Karen on June 3, 2021
        • Reply
  • These were absolutely wonderful! So was the honey mustard sauce. My family absolutely loves everything that I make of yours. I’m becoming a superstar in the kitchen thanks to you:) Have one of your cookbooks, going to get another one as well. Thank you so much:)

    • — Danute on May 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • My pleasure! 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 13, 2021
      • Reply
  • Shockingly good. I have NEVER ‘fried’ anything before so this was something new. They were really delicious and actually quite easy to put together. I made one pound and it was enough for two meals for the two of us. PERFECT. And we enjoyed them cold as well. I might not make these as often as your other meals but it is definitely on my ‘will do again’ list. Thanks, Jenn. I always know that your recipes will not only turn out but will be amazing.

    • — Judi on May 13, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can I use gluten-free flour?

    • — Gloria on May 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, Gloria, that should work. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • I am not good at frying food but the chicken tenders that came out as they were supposed to were delicious. I will try to make them again!

    • — Retsuko on May 6, 2021
    • Reply
  • I like the sound of these but noticed the garlic powder. Any reason I couldn’t switch it out for minced fresh garlic ? I often don’t like the after taste of garlic powder & garlic salt.

    • — Candy on May 6, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, Candy, if you’d prefer that, it should be fine. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • I added 1 tsp of poultry seasoning to buttermilk mixture 2nd time I made it and it enhanced the flavor

    • — Marca Kaplar on May 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • 5 star. Better than restaurant good. I’ve now used this recipe once with peanut oil and a couple of times with vegetable oil. Personally, I like the peanut oil better. Really gets a nice golden brown crunch. Good with buttermilk ranch or BBQ sauce!

    • — Roy Grimes on April 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi was wondering if I can use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead? Sorry for the ridiculous question I’m new to cooking and this looks delicious but I have thighs on hand not tenders?
    Thanks

    • — Julia on April 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Julia, it’s not a ridiculous question! Sure, you can make these with thighs; I’m not sure if it will impact the cooking time at all though, so make sure you check them for doneness before serving. Please LMK how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on April 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • AMAZING💃🏼 This is so cravably delicious. It is the best Southern chicken ever and easy to make. The seasoning is perfect and the crunch is spectacular! Your instructions are always so easy to follow and you cook for the heart as well as the palet! ❤️ I really appreciate your website. It is clean and classy! Also love your cookbook!

    • — Mimi on April 22, 2021
    • Reply
    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on April 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • could you bake these instead of frying? also, would it be ok to use smoked paprika instead of paprika. thanks

    • — janar on April 22, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Janar, I don’t recommend baking these, but yes on the smoked paprika. 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • As if this recipe needs another 5 star review….. But, I just had to add my 2 cents! I made this last week for my son who is leaving for the Army. I made all of his favorites before he left. When he eats in a restaurant he almost always orders chicken tenders and fries. I thought I would try a homemade version for him. He said, “You knocked it out of the park with this one, Mom! Can you make it again before I leave?” They were the tenderest chicken tenders I have ever had! Your recipe gave our family a very fond memory in addition to a wonderful meal together! Thanks, Jen.

    • — Tonya on April 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • We are in the middle of moving and are trying to finish what food we have in our refrigerator. I wanted to make chicken tenders only to realize we had no eggs! A Google search for ‘no egg chicken tenders recipe’ led me here. Let me tell you, I hit the jackpot! My two picky-eating daughters crushed this. My husband and I were so happy with how flavorful, perfectly juicy and tender it came out. The only thing I did differently is I didn’t marinate the chicken as the recipe states (4-24 hours). I did 30 mins and shocked at how much flavor it had. The recipe is now a part of our family rotation!

    • — Donna K on April 19, 2021
    • Reply

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