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Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders

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One of my most popular chicken 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 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.

clumpy coatingRemove 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.

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

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Video Tutorial

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders

One of my most popular chicken 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

  • I was just wondering if these will work on the stovetop or oven instead of a fryer?

    • — Nicole on February 1, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Nicole, you do deep fry these on the stovetop. Are you referring to just pan-sauteeing them? If so, I don’t recommend it. If you want to use that method, I’d suggest this recipe. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on February 1, 2023
      • Reply
  • OMG Jenn!!! Everything I have tried from you is always above. I just tried these and we are in shock . They are amazing.. Thank you always!!

    • — MaryAnn Ciancio on January 30, 2023
    • Reply
  • Could you air fry these? How long and what temp?

    • — Hannah on January 26, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Hannah, I don’t think these will work in an air fryer. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on January 30, 2023
      • Reply
  • Can you marinade these for more than 24 hours?

    • — Danielle on January 22, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure, that should be fine.

      • — Jenn on January 23, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hands down the best and the honey mustard is amazing my kids love when I make these tenders ty Jenn!

    • — Dawn T on January 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made these today and they were delicious- my eldest son loved them but said can we make a zinger version using the same recipe?

    • — Angela Ross on January 22, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Angela, Glad these were a hit! I’m not familiar with zinger chicken so you may want to find a proven recipe for it. 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 23, 2023
      • Reply
  • Can you bread these chicken tenders ahead of time?

    • — Angie on January 15, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure, Angie, that should work. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 16, 2023
      • Reply
      • These are the best chicken tenders I’ve ever made or tasted. I’ve made them a few times now and they are delicious every time. I just follow your recipe and they’re perfect. They are a bit messy to make but very much worth it. Thank you for sharing the recipe 🙂

        • — Tina on January 17, 2023
        • Reply
  • We used this recipe for a family of 6 (all love C-F-A) & said these things rocked! One thing we changed …. we made our buttermilk w/ 1-1/3 cups of whole milk & added 1 Tbsp. of white vinegar. **CHEF TRICK** Once the chicken had finished marinating, we emptied the Ziploc freezer bag & dumped the powdered seasoning directly into the bag, zipped it up & shooooook it until the seasoning completely covered the chicken. We then poured out the tenders on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet & rolled them around for extra coating!

    • — Rob on December 31, 2022
    • Reply
  • Best chicken seasoning I’ve ever tried😋

    • — Princess on December 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • I love this recipe so much! It’s definitely a winner! I am going to marinate it for 24 hours. Do you think that’s okay?

    • — Madison on December 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, you can get away with 24 hours (and glad you like them)!

      • — Jenn on December 23, 2022
      • Reply
  • I have made this so many times I lost count. A true family favorite! A+++

    • — SCJ on December 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi,
    Any advise on freezing please ? I see you can make and freeze raw but I buy premade nuggets and tenders for the kids and I don’t think they are raw because cooking is simple 10mins in the oven or fry.
    Is there a way I can do the same with these ?
    Thank you.

    • — Lexa on December 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Lexa, You can cook and freeze these. See the bottom of the recipe for more specific freezer-friendly instructions. 🙂

      • — Jenn on December 14, 2022
      • Reply

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