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.

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, 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

  • 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

  • These are by far the best chicken fingers I’ve ever had.
    I added extra garlic powder for personal preference.
    Great recipe!

  • Tried these tonight, substituted cayenne powder instead of paprika and they were amazing! First time ever making fried chicken. Recipe was very easy.

  • I prepared the tenders as listed but cooked in my airfryer. After coating I simply sprayed them with olive oil and air fried them for 11 minutes. Healthy and yummy! My daughter thought they were from a restaurant. Will definitely make again.

  • These were amazing~ My kids loved them so much. And, to be fair so did my husband and I. What a great recipe. And, simple too. Thank you!

  • Had it for dinner again and everyone loved it.
    My almost 3 yr old’s favorite!

    Thank you Jenn!

  • I made this for dinner and it was a huge success! My husband isn’t big on chicken but these turned out juicy and flavorful and he loved them. I marinaded the chicken over night as suggested and I’m glad I did. Will definitely use again. I didn’t have garlic powder but using Basil worked well!!

    • — April Robinson
    • Reply
  • Such great flavor, perfectly crispy and tender. Certainly a keeper!

  • All your recipes turn out great but this in particular stands out! My adult son declared these as the best fried chicken he’s ever eaten . And the mustard sauce is delicious too.

  • can they be baked?

    • Hi Anne, These really are best when fried. If you want a chicken tender recipe that you can get away with baking, I’d suggest this one. Hope you enjoy if you try them!

    • I made these in my airfryer and they were good. The first batch I made were meh, they did not turn brown, looked floury. The 2nd batch I learned from this mistake and sprayed/brushed olive oil on each side and they did turn golden brown. A similar approach might work for baking…I did note though that I had to be careful about the crispy breading falling off.

  • Made this last night along with this blog’s honey mustard and both were great! Lots of compliments. I marinated the chicken breasts in the buttermilk overnight and they were so juicy and tender. Thanks!

  • Our family loves these tenders!! They are so delicious! My husband says he likes them better than Chick fil A!

    The second time I made them, I let the chicken marinate for almost 48 hours and the flavors really popped out. I love the crunch they have from the clumps of flour and buttermilk. Thank you again, Jenn!

  • Excellent. can I freeze them after cooking and how to reheat?

    • Hi Pamela, glad you like these! The cooked chicken tenders can be frozen for up to 3 months. No need to defrost; put the chicken tenders on a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven until heated through and crisp, about 25 minutes. (Flip the chicken halfway through baking.)

    • Hi Jenn, I’ve made these before and my family absolutely loved them! I’ve tried a couple other recipes and they say that they are not as good as yours. I agree so I’m done trying other recipes!

      If I make them the night before a party we’re having, at what temperature is it best to reheat and for how long?

      • So glad you like these, Linda! To reheat the tenders, put them on a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven until heated through and crisp, 10 minutes give or take. (Flip the chicken halfway through baking.)

  • My husband loved them!

  • Look no further. I’ve been using this recipe for quite some time now. It is absolutely amazing. My grown sons go crazy for them. They are divine but they do make a mess and take some time…worth every second. Prepare exactly as directed. Thanks so much for this!

  • These are the best chicken tenders ever. I have had them in various restaurants and attempted to make them following recipes from various sources including the America’s Test Kitchen. Jenn’s recipe wins everyone else by a mile. I have made them so many times and they are truly amazing.

    I love cooking and own over 100 cookbooks. I only accidentally discovered Jenn’s website a few months ago. I feel a total loss of opportunity for not having discovered her sooner! I mention Jenn all the time to my family as if she were a friend. Every time I say I am trying a recipe by Jenn, everyone feels confident that dinner will be good. I cannot say enough of Jenn’s talent for developing and communicating family-friendly recipes.

    Thank you Jenn.

  • Best recipe ever

  • Just wanted to say these were fabulous! Ty

    • — Brandi Fernengel
    • Reply
  • I like more crispy breading so I replaced 1/2 cup of the flour with 1/2 cup of cornstarch. Other than that I followed the recipe step by step. VERY good chicken strips!!

  • i made these tenders for dinner and my boyfriend and 2 year old LOVED them!! Marinated the chicken for about 5 hours, and deep fried them. Melted in my mouth! I will definitely make this again!!! Thank you (:

  • These were very good. I did them in the deep fryer. I also doubled all the seasonings except salt. They turned out excellent!

  • I made these for my partner months ago and he is still talking about them. The buttermilk marinade really adds to the incorporation of the spices into the chicken. The outcome is flavorful, crispy, and not overly greasy. Also, I have never deep fried anything before, and found the process of this recipe to be easy to follow and safe. My only regret is that I didn’t make more!

  • Anyone tried air frying

  • Pretty good recipe! For extra crispy chicken, use 3/4 cup flour and 3/4 cups corn starch. Also, the taste was more on the bland side, so don’t be afraid to SEASON UP the flour and buttermilk marinade. If the flour mixture doesn’t smell strongly of the seasonings, the outside will be bland after frying. This chicken comes out very juicy and melt in your mouth!

  • Hi Jenn,

    I just want you to know how much I enjoy your recipes.

    The first recipe I made of yours was your ginger snap crusted, pumpkin cheesecake. This has been a total hit at our family holiday gatherings. It has the look & taste of a very expensive dessert. I am always asked to bring it.

    Your roasted asparagus soup recipe. I make this during the cold months for my family. I love how your addition of lemon really heightens the asparagus flavor.

    And this fried buttermilk chicken fingers recipe (I made tonight) was by far the best recipe for chicken fingers I’ve ever made. So crunchy and full of flavor. They went well with a simple homemade ranch dressing dip.

    I find your recipes are more refined then others I’ve tried elsewhere.

    I love to cook and I just love cooking and sharing your recipes with my family and friends.

    Thank you Jenn!!!

    • So glad you enjoy the recipes, Liz – thanks for your sweet words! ❤️

  • Can u sub the buttermilk for milk? Please need to know I want to do this for my family tonight?

    • Hi Rosemary, I really recommend using buttermilk here as it’s important for tenderizing the chicken. You can easily make your own buttermilk. See how to here. Hope that helps!

  • Hi Jen, just came to say that these are the best chicken tenders ever! I can eat an unlimited amount of these if I’m not careful. We have used your honey mustard sauce before (which is great), but decided to mix it up this time and used your BBQ sauce recipe from your cookbook as a dip. And oh wow! New favourite! Thank you!

  • I made this for my little family today, and my hubby and toddler were very pleased! I felt like Martha Stewart with all the compliments I received! Lol By far the best recipe!

  • Can these be baked instead of fried?

    • Hi Hazel, these really need to be fried; if you’d prefer tenders that can be baked, you may want to give these a try. (I’d bake them at 350°F for 15-20 minutes.) Hope you enjoy!

  • Good morning! I would like to use tonight but would like to bake the buttermilk tenders. The suggested alternative has nuts, we have people with allergies. Any suggestions would be great. thank you

    • These really are best fried – you could use the Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders but use more panko in place of the nuts – it won’t have quite the same flavor, but should still be delicious.

  • Do you have to marinate for 4 hours? I think my chicken marinated for a good hour and a half

    • That’s fine, Lindsey – it will still be delicious.

  • Great receipt. This one is a keeper, my family loved them!

  • Great recipe. Cook time instructions lacked detail: A “few minutes”? Geez I only learned recently that “a couple” could mean three. Also I don’t believe the recipe said to double coat it. It was good coated once, but hardly the “fried tenders” I expected. But I’m learning so excuse me for needing more.

    • “A couple” ALWAYS means two I’m the English language…….don’t let anyone lie to you.

  • These chicken strips were delicious. Crispiest ones I have made so far. Had a bit of flour mix and buttermilk left over so dipped some hamburger dill pickle rounds in the buttermilk and then the flour mixture and fried them. They were soooooo good. Almost better than the chicken. Now I want to try other vegetables like mushrooms and zucchini.

    • Love that idea!

  • We made these for the first time a few weeks ago. They were delicious! They had such good flavor and were perfect made exactly like the recipe. I made them with the buttermilk biscuits which were delicious as well. We can’t wait to have this meal again. You can’t go wrong with her recipes.

  • This is an awesome recipe, makes it hard to go anywhere and order chicken tenders after you have had these!

  • Just made these tonight, and they were very good. Great flavor but they were a bit to salty so I think I’ll stick to 1 tsp of salt. I will definitely make these again. They are better than McDonalds buttermilk chicken fingers – way better.

    • These are hands down the best chicken tenders I have ever had. The buttermilk and spices give the chicken itself so much flavor and makes it very moist while the breading is crispy, flavorful and delicious. The honey mustard sauce is so good the apple cider vinegar addition is perfection. If you haven’t tried these yet what are you waiting for?

  • Hi! These are incredibly delicious. I’m having a problem getting the breading to stick to the tenderloins before I put them in the hot oil and it just starts falling off when I do put them in the oil. Any suggestions please?

    • Hi Kristin, If you’re having trouble getting the breading to stick, I’d start by lightly coating the tenders in the flour mixture (don’t worry about it adhering), then dip the tenders back in the marinade, then back again in the flour mixture – that should do the trick. Hope that helps!

  • Just bought my first waffle maker and I really want some chicken & waffles. Would you change anything about this recipe if you were putting this chicken on a waffle?

    • Yum – I don’t think you’d need to change anything – hope you enjoy!

  • Hi, I am keen to try this recipe but can’t get buttermilk where I am What is the alternative to buttermilk if it is not available?

    • Hi Traci, It’s easy to make your own buttermilk — See how to here. Hope you enjoy the chicken!

  • Just made these for the first time but it definitely won’t be the last. So tender and excellent to use in a Carolina Chicken Salad!!

  • Can this be oven baked instead of fried? Thanks!

    • Hi Gail, These really are best when fried; if you want a chicken tender recipe that you can bake, I’d suggest this one. Hope that helps!

  • Love these! My grandkids said they were even better than their fast food ones they love. OF COURSE THEY WERE! Crispy, great flavor, easy to make like all Jenns recipes! I bought several copies of your book after reading cover to cover (including your tips) to give as gifts. I’m so hooked on your food, style, down to earth personality and want to make EVERYTHING! Thank you so much. My fave cookbook and I have quite a collection!

    • Aww so happy you’re enjoying the book, Noreen! ❤️

  • Can you use this recipe for chicken thighs and drumsticks

    • — Jackie bovenzi
    • Reply
    • Hi Jackie, Are you referring to bone-in thighs and drumsticks? If so, For thighs, You’ll have to finish cooking them in a 350°F oven, as they won’t cook fully in the pan before getting too dark. I’m guessing the thighs will need 30-40 minutes in the oven after frying and the drumsticks 15 – 20 minutes. I’d love to hear how they turn out!

  • These are amazing! Make them!

  • Could I use this recipe with fish, like Cod instead of chicken?

    • Sure, Doris – as long as it’s a firm-flashed fish like cod.

  • These were delicious!

  • I made these on Friday night, as chicken nuggets instead of tenders. The first time I made them was tenders. Both were fantastic and rave reviews from the family. Thanks for sharing your recipes with us.

  • How long should they be in the oil, and at what temperature? Thanks I’m advance!

    • Hi Wayne, the temperature should be between 350 and 375 degrees. (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can determine if the oil is hot enough for by dropping a cube of bread into the pan; if it sizzles when you put it in, the oil is ready.). The tenders will take about 3 minutes, give or take, per side. Hope you enjoy!

  • Jenn did it again! My husband and I are still talking about this meal! It was so good! It was some of the most crispy and delicious fried chicken I have ever had and I am a southerner! Leave it to the Chef to have secret tips for us like the buttermilk added to the batter to make the chicken crispy!

  • Seems like a lot of salt I am making 8 pounds of chicken so I am going to quadruple the recipe. That would be 6 teaspoons of salt I haven’t made it yet what go young think? We

    • Hi Joann, If you’re increasing all of the other ingredients, I’d go ahead and increase the salt accordingly. It seems like a lot, but that’s a lot of chicken!

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