Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders

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

Bowl of buttermilk chicken tenders.

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 Tendersingredients to make fried chicken tenders

Step-by-Step Instructions

To marinate the chicken: In a large sealable bag, combine the chicken tenders with the buttermilk, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and salt. Seal the bag tightly and massage the chicken until it is evenly coated with buttermilk and seasoning.

chicken tenders marinating in bag

Place in a bowl (in case of leakage) and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

chicken tenders in a bag in a bowl to prevent leakage

When you’re ready to cook them, make the breading: In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.

breading ingredients in bowlWhisk until well blended.

whisked dry ingredients for coatingAdd the buttermilk and stir with a fork until the mixture is evenly clumpy.

Bowl of clumpy coating.Remove the chicken tenders from the marinade a few at a time and toss into the breading mixture.

breading the tenderloins

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.)

breading the tenderloinsSet breaded tenders on a foil-lined baking sheet.

breaded tenders on baking sheet

To fry the chicken: Line a 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.

chicken tenders frying in oilSet the cooked tenders on the paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

fried chicken tenders draining on paper towelsFry remaining tenders in batches adjusting the heat as necessary (if the tenders are browning too fast, lower the heat). Serve hot with honey mustard sauce.

Bowl of buttermilk chicken tenders.

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

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Video Tutorial

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, plus at least 4 hours marinating time

Ingredients

For the Marinade

  • 2 pounds chicken tenderloins
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

For the Breading

  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 heaping teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¾ 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 ¾-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 ¼ 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

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • 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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Comments

  • Hi
    I’ve made these numerous times , always great. Last time I made them my accidentally bought canola oil, which I guess technically isn’t vegetable oil and they come out much lighter and not as crisp and a bit greasy, the temperature was OK, I definitely check that. Would canola oil make such a difference?

    • — Maureen Mackinnon on June 21, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Maureen, sorry you didn’t get as good a result this past time. I don’t think using canola versus vegetable oil would have made a difference. You mentioned that you checked the oil temperature but based on what you’re describing, it does sound like either the oil was not hot enough or they weren’t fried for long enough. Hope you have better luck next time around!

      • — Jenn on June 21, 2024
      • Reply
  • These are hands down the best chicken strips ever. The recipe is spot on and they are delicious. Your recipes never disappoint. Thanks.

    • — Deb on June 10, 2024
    • Reply
  • Can I make the tenders ahead of time?

    • — Angela Freda on June 9, 2024
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on June 10, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, do you bother removing the white tendon in your chicken before marinating? Thanks!

    • — Emily Hao on May 28, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Emily, I usually don’t bother to cut off the tendon unless it’s large.

      • — Jenn on May 29, 2024
      • Reply
  • I tried your recipe today and it came out perfect. I will definitely use it again. I only did one pound of strips so I halved the recipe. My family could not get enough. Thanks for the recipe because the last time I fried chicken strips they did not turn out well.

    • — Roz E on May 23, 2024
    • Reply
  • I’m a teenager learning how to cook and it was my first time frying chicken. The breading part was messy, but worth it! The tenders came out flavorful, crispy, and delicious! This recipe was very easy to follow. Thank you so much!

    • — Nelly on May 21, 2024
    • Reply
    • Glad you liked them, and good for you for tackling frying — something that a lot of adults get intimidated by!

      • — Jenn on May 22, 2024
      • Reply
  • OMG Jenn! I finally went to Chick-fil-A to find out what all the hype was about. I ordered the chicken strips. They were excellent. However, I did think to myself (with a self-satisfied smirk) that mine are better. Mine are, naturally, yours. Way to go Jenn!! Every single recipe of yours that I’ve made has been a winner! Thank you!!

    • — Heather Lampman on May 18, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    Do you think these could be cooked in an air fryer?

    • — Cindy on May 18, 2024
    • Reply
    • Unfortunately, I don’t think these would work in an air fryer — sorry!

      • — Jenn on May 20, 2024
      • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious

    • — Dila Juncaj on May 15, 2024
    • Reply
    • Loved it and will make again. When I met my husband 25 years ago he insisted he was allergic to fish, chicken and turkey. Somehow this recipe changed his chicken allergy. He loved it. He ate seconds. Honestly these are the best chicken tenders I have ever made. Thank you.

      • — Mary Keller on May 20, 2024
      • Reply
  • So good!! I made a double batch. I fried 1/2 of them and put the other half (already battered) in the freezer to fry another day. Assuming I need to let them thaw before cooking them.

    • — Dianne White on April 29, 2024
    • Reply
    • Glad you liked them! Yes, I would thaw the others before cooking.

      • — Jenn on April 30, 2024
      • Reply
  • So good!! I made a double batch. I fried half of them and put the other battered half in the freezer to fry later. Hopeful they will be just as good.

    • — Dianne White on April 29, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hello Jenn, this recipe is now a staple in my household. Following it to a T and having great success everytime. My partner and my daughter both request this recipe often. My partner likes to say “Jenn knows what she’s doing” when we talk about trying recipes 😂

    I have a question however; I am about to go Keto and am wondering if I can replace the flour by almond flour instead? I’ve seen a few keto tenders using a mixture of almont flour and dry grated parmesan for breading. However I’d like to see if yours can be modified, as I’m sure the marinade does all the difference here.

    Thank you!

    • — Gina on April 12, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Gina, so glad you all like the tenders (and tell your partner that I am flattered)! 😊 I’ve never used almond flour in place of all purpose here so I can’t say for sure, but think it should work. Please LMK how they turn out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on April 12, 2024
      • Reply
  • Absolutely the best recipe for chicken tenderloins. Easy directions. Cook mode switch is so helpful.
    Thank you.

    • — Carol on April 1, 2024
    • Reply
  • Absolutely the best chicken strips recipe ever. I’ve tried other recipes for years, but this one beats them all. Crispy, moist and flavorful. This is definitely my new favorite!

    • — Carol on March 15, 2024
    • Reply
    • Awful. The breading fell off and my chicken was too greasy and I followed the recipe to the letter.

      • — Amanda on March 27, 2024
      • Reply
      • I recommend monitoring the temp of the oil. It should be around 375. If it gets too cool, it can cause your chicken to be greasy.

        • — Heather on May 30, 2024
        • Reply
  • Would be great if there were clear measurements of ingredients not just pictures

    • — Guessing on March 7, 2024
    • Reply
    • It sounds like you are just looking at the portion of the page that has the pictures with some instructions above. If you scroll down a bit to under the pictures, you’ll find the full recipe. Alternatively, at the very top of the page, to the right of the recipe name, you’ll see an orange/red button that says Jump to Recipe – if you click on that, it will take you directly to the recipe. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on March 8, 2024
      • Reply
  • The best and easiest fried chicken recipe. I as a 16 year old have made this several times and my family loves it.

    • — Norma Lappalainen on March 2, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hey, taking these to a dinner party and want to cook at home first. Would you just pop in oven for 20min to reheat? – similar to directions from frozen? Thanks 🙂

    • — Meg on February 29, 2024
    • Reply
    • Yep, that should work well. 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 1, 2024
      • Reply
    • Can you make these ahead of time and reheat?

      • — Jennifer on March 10, 2024
      • Reply
      • Sure!

        • — Jenn on March 11, 2024
        • Reply
  • These turned out perfectly. There was JUST enough batter to cover the chicken when I made them. The coating is nice and crispy. Everyone loved them!

    • — Amy K on February 28, 2024
    • Reply
  • I just made these tonight and they were delicious! The only substitution I made was instead of salt in the flour mixture, I used Johnny’s seasoning salt. I made gravy with the drippings and like the flavor it adds. Just my preference. Thank you for the recipe!

    • — Kristen on February 25, 2024
    • Reply
  • Used 1:1 gluten free flour, turned out perfect and delicious. Followed the recipe for the most part. Added Frank’s hot sauce to the marinade, instead of cayenne. Used smoked paprika and added a little extra garlic powder. Boyfriend and grandson loved them.

    • — Heaven Kindall on February 15, 2024
    • Reply
  • Made it but with homemade buttermilk as couldn’t get it locally and the chicken was amazing 💕💕

    • — Carolanne Squance on February 9, 2024
    • Reply
  • Not sure if this was answered already. Can these be air fried? Thank you, Jen!

    • — Vivian on January 31, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Vivian, I don’t think these will work in an air fryer – sorry!

      • — Jenn on January 31, 2024
      • Reply
      • Does anyone have the original honey mustard sauce recipe that used to be at the bottom of this recipe?

        • — Ellie on February 7, 2024
        • Reply
        • Hi Ellie, you can find the honey mustard with this recipe. 😊

          • — Jenn on February 7, 2024
          • Reply
          • Do you think these could be baked?

            • — Melody on February 13, 2024
          • Hi Melody, I don’t recommend cooking these in the oven. If you’d like chicken tenders 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 February 14, 2024
  • I made this recipe tonight and it was a big hit! Thanks so much!

    • — Joy Crigger on January 29, 2024
    • Reply
  • My young boys love this chicken tenders recipe! I used the same recipe for nuggets and it was an even bigger hit. As a single dad, I’m constantly trying to come up with new homemade dinner options and this recipe has moved ahead of pizza and steak. I never leave comments or reviews but I felt this recipe deserved it. Thank you!

    • — Amir Hosseini on January 27, 2024
    • Reply
  • Definitely the best fried chicken I’ve had anywhere! Perfectly crisp and crunchy; for sure going to be making a reappearance soon!

    • — Alyson on January 17, 2024
    • Reply
  • This is my go-to recipe now. Absolutely great and my 3 boys love them. The only thing from the recipe I wasn’t sure about was the time. I know a couple is technically 2 but I wasnt sure. I cook them at 350 for 5.5 minutes (Deep Fry) and they are absolutely perfect. Definitely going to try some of your other recipes. Thanks again.

    • — Clay on January 17, 2024
    • Reply
  • Best tenders we have ever devoured!!! Better than any restaurant! They didn’t even need any dipping sauce. Marinated for 24 hours. Added your classic coleslaw which was outstanding and corn on the cob and we were in comfort food heaven! Thank you again! Beyond 5 stars!

    • — Tara on January 11, 2024
    • Reply
  • THE BEST chicken fingers I’ve ever made by a mile, and perhaps the best I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. They are sublime. I added a bit more of the spices and salt along the way, and fried in tallow instead of oil, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Delicious!

    • — Lindsey on January 7, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hands down the best tenders I have ever made or eaten! I can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

    • — Lee on January 5, 2024
    • Reply
  • This was easy to make and very tasty! It is a new favorite.

    Carolyn

    • — Carolyn on January 1, 2024
    • Reply
  • My first truly successful fried chicken after years of trying. Thank you! It was crunchy, tasty and juicy. The only thing I did differently was add about 1 Tbsp. of dill pickle juice. (Had heard that was a secret ingredient of Chick-fil-A).

    • — Mary S on December 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made these for the 1st time today! Only thing i did different was marinated for 48 hours (because I got so busy I couldn’t fry them after 12/24 hours), and used grapeseed oil to fry them. They were delicious!! Crispy, flavorful and tender.

    • — karen kelly on December 26, 2023
    • Reply
  • I will definitely make this again, I’ll add more spices next time, only because I like things with more kick.

    • — Em on December 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • This recipe and method is the best of all the fried chicken tender recipes I’ve tried. The spices are a perfect blend for all ages and palates. The sprinkling of the buttermilk into the coating to create the crisp shards is the key to the success of this recipe — That and the correct temperature of the oil. If you fry these right, you will find that very little oil was actually absorbed into the coating. Anyone commenting that the coating doesn’t stick to the chicken is doing something wrong. Press the flour mixture into the marinated tenders, fry correctly and you will be treated to the lightest, crunchiest, most delectable fried chicken you’ve ever had. Thank you for this recipe!

    • — MT on December 1, 2023
    • Reply
  • Thank you so much for this recipe. It turned out so flaky and light. I love you tips on how to..really helped.

    • — Jill on November 30, 2023
    • Reply
  • I’m planning to make this soon. I just wondered if salt is table salt or kosher salt. Thank you, can’t wait to try!

    • — Pia on November 28, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Pia, When a recipe of mine says salt in the ingredient list, I am referring to regular/table salt. If it calls for something else like kosher salt, I will specify that in the recipe. Hope you enjoy these if you make them!

      • — Jenn on November 29, 2023
      • Reply
  • Excellent chicken tenders! Thank you for the great recipe! We live in Germany and we all miss the chicken tenders from the US. Thanks for this recipe that took us all back home!

    • — Laura on November 20, 2023
    • Reply
  • It says temp and time to reheat but not for cooking first time in oven.

    • — Robbie on November 19, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Robbie, I don’t recommend cooking these in the oven. If you’d like chicken tenders 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 November 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • I couldn’t believe how easy this was to make and how good they turned out. Chicken was perfect and very popular with the kids! I am definitely bringing this into the dinner rotation going forward!

    • — Corey on November 19, 2023
    • Reply
  • This was a huge hit in my house. AMAZING!!!! Love how easy it was…. and I let them soak in the buttermilk for close to 24 hours. This will be a favorite for sure.

    • — Jenna Hannigan on November 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • Incredibly delicious!!! And such a creative mix of spices. I was suspicious of the cayenne and paprika at first, but these are amazing! I think these might be a weekly indulgence.

    • — Mary in Ohio on November 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • This was my first time making homemade chicken tenders, and I’ll do it this way from now on. It was so simple and delicious!!!

    • — Abby on October 25, 2023
    • Reply
  • Love this recipe!!! I have made it twice now and it is definitely a hit with my family!! I have 5 kids so eating chicken out isn’t cheap and the kids all love chicken tenders. I decided to look up a recipe and landed on yours. I am SO a glad I found it!!! The chicken is tasty, crispy and altogether amazing!!

    • — Kari Bottoms on October 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made these for dinner tonight and they were AMAZING. I didn’t have any buttermilk so I just did the old lemon juice trick (1 tbsp juice mixed into 1 C milk). Honestly the best chicken fingers I’ve ever had. Will most definitely make again.

    • — Lisa on October 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • My family LOVES this recipe and the honey mustard sauce. Your original sauce link doesn’t work anymore, do you mind reposting it somewhere? The one with the apple cider vinegar too? Thank you, love your recipes!

    • — Ali on September 27, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Ali, Although they have red wine vinegar — not apple cider vinegar –I think you must be referring to the honey mustard sauce that accompanies the pigs in a blanket. And so glad to hear you like the tenders!

      • — Jenn on September 27, 2023
      • Reply
  • I made this a couple weeks ago and it was delicious. Came out great. I am gonna try it today with chicken breasts and make sandwiches out of it.

    • — Ralph on September 17, 2023
    • Reply
  • Now I’m annoyed because I had a whole review typed out and it disappeared because of the advertisement mess. Definitely need to scale that down. 😳 However, the strips were awesome and I recommend them. That’s all I’m saying now. Lol

    • — Sharon W on September 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • Do it you won’t regret it! Wife and three boys said best homemade fried chicken they ever had.

    • — Michael N. on September 12, 2023
    • Reply
    • Made twice and both times delicious, crispy, juicy chicken. I have been intimidated by fried chicken but followed this exactly with cast iron pan and it is a keeper for me. I used 1 large chicken breast cut into tender strips and it was perfect for the recipe. As stated, do not linger with the frying – it is done before you think it should be with the size of the tenders!

      • — Mary on September 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • 613 comments 5 stars?! This recipe is trash. The breading fell off the chicken, doesn’t clump right and turned into paste. Giant waste of time and money. Furious

    • — Nicholas Wilson on September 8, 2023
    • Reply
    • Interesting, mine started to fall off too. But it was delicious!

      • — Fred Martin on November 3, 2023
      • Reply
    • There’s NO way that this flour coating should ever fall off. Did you flour and fry them when they were still frozen??

      • — rich on February 18, 2024
      • Reply

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