Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard Sauce

Tested & Perfected Recipes

A gourmet twist on chicken tenders that appeals to kids and adults alike.

chicken tenders

The dinner recipes that I get the most excited to share are the ones that appeal to my kids as much as they appeal to me. (And let’s face it: that’s not frequently the case!) This gourmet twist on chicken tenders is one of them.

The chicken is breaded in a mixture of pecans and panko, then pan-fried until crispy and golden and served with a creamy whole grain honey mustard sauce. Since the pecans are finely chopped, even kids who think they don’t like nuts will try them, ask for seconds, and even sneak thirds when you’re not looking (you know who you are!).

What you’ll need to make chicken tenders

chicken tenders

How to make chicken tenders

Begin by placing the pecans in a food processor.

pecans

Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. If they’re too big, they won’t adhere to the chicken. Just be careful not to over-mix — you don’t want a nut paste.

chopped-pecans

Add the panko, sugar, salt and cayenne pepper to the nuts.

pecans-and-panko

Process until the mixture is well combined and the panko is broken down into slightly smaller flakes.

pecans-and-panko-mixed

Set up a breading station with flour, beaten eggs and the pecan/panko mixture.

breading

Season the chicken with salt. Working with one or two tenders at a time, dredge first in the flour, shaking off any excess.

dredging-in-flour

Then dip in the eggs.

dipping-in-egg

Then finally dredge in the pecan/panko mixture, turning and pressing on the chicken several times so that the mixture adheres. Try to use one hand for the dry breading (the flour and pecan/panko mixture) and one hand for the wet (the eggs) — otherwise, your hands will end up a gloppy mess.

dredging-in-bread-crumbs

Place the breaded tenders on a baking sheet.

ready-to-cook

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat about 1/8-inch vegetable oil over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the chicken tenders and cook on the first side until golden brown. Watch carefully and adjust the heat if necessary. Because there are nuts in the breading, the tenders can burn if the heat setting is too high.

cooking-chicken

Flip the tenders and cook for another few minutes until done.

cooking-chicken-second-side

Place cooked tenders on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

ready-to-serve

Meanwhile, make the honey mustard sauce by mixing the mayonnaise, whole grain mustard and honey in a small bowl. Easy!

honey-mustard-sauce

Serve the pecan crusted tenders with the honey mustard sauce on the side. The recipe makes a fair amount but you’ll be glad to have extra; they go quickly and leftovers are delicious the next day served warm and crispy over a salad. Enjoy!

Pecan-Crusted-Chicken-Tenders-with-Honey-Mustard

Note: I definitely prefer to pan-fry these chicken tenders but you can also bake them for a healthier option. They don’t get quite as crispy and juicy, but they’re still good.

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Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard Sauce

A gourmet twist on chicken tenders that appeals to kids and adults alike.

Servings: 4-6
Total Time: 40 Minutes

Ingredients

For Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders

  • 1-1/4 cups pecans
  • 1-1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds chicken tenderloins
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil, for cooking

For Honey Mustard Sauce

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, best quality such as Hellmann's
  • 1/2 cup whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey

Instructions

  1. Place the pecans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (go easy -- you don't want a paste). Add the panko, 1-1/4 teaspoon salt, sugar and cayenne pepper and pulse a few more times to combine. The panko should be broken down slightly but not finely ground.
  2. Set up three large shallow dishes in an assembly line. Place the flour in the first dish; beat the eggs in the second dish; and place the pecan/panko mixture in the third dish. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil to hold the breaded tenders, and place at the end of the assembly line.
  3. Season the chicken tenders with the remaining teaspoon salt. Working with one tender at a time: dredge first in the flour, shaking off any excess; dip in the egg to coat evenly; and then dredge in the pecan/panko mixture, pressing down to make the coating adhere. Try to use one hand for the dry breading (the flour and pecan/panko mixture) and one hand for the wet (the eggs) -- otherwise, your hands will end up a mess. Place the breaded tender on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining tenders.
  4. Heat about 1/8-inch of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. While the oil heats up, line another baking sheet with paper towels (this is for the finished tenders — the paper towels will absorb any excess oil).
  5. When the oil starts to shimmer, add half of the chicken tenders and cook for a few minutes on the first side until golden brown. Using tongs, flip the tenders and cook until the second side is also golden, 1-2 minutes Adjust the heat as necessary so the tenders don't burn. Transfer the cooked tenders to the prepared baking sheet. Discard the oil, wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel, and then repeat with the remaining tenders.
  6. Make the sauce by combining the mayonnaise, mustard and honey in a small bowl. Serve alongside chicken tenders.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: 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.)

Pair with

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Reviews & Comments

  • Hi Jenn, Wondering–If I pursue cutting up regular chicken breasts (vs. tenderloins with that tendon in there that can be hard to deal with, no?) and baking these (instead of frying/realize not your first choice) can I do that the night before and reheat them in the oven for guests the next night? Or will that dry them out too much? If okay to do–what temp and for how long do you think? (Have one picky guest who only eats boneless skinless chicken and I’ve run out of ideas for this guy.) Thanks for any thoughts!

    • — Diane on June 10, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Diane, While I do prefer these fried, you can bake them. I’d suggest baking them 350°F for 15 – 20 minutes. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 10, 2019
      • Reply
  • HI Jenn– I am excited to make this. I already have pecans that are finely chopped (trader joes unslated dry toasted pecan pieces)…so wondering how to measure given that they are already in finely chopped form….Thanks!

    • — Eve on February 26, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi, I’d stick with the 1 1/4 cups that the recipe calls for. Although they’re already finely chopped, the amount should be about the same. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 26, 2019
      • Reply
  • Very good chicken tenders with a fantastic nutty flavor. Love the honey-mustard sauce!!

    • — Nathalie Heyman on December 26, 2018
    • Reply
  • Very good especially with the mustard honey sauce. Love the pecan flavor.

    • — Nathalie H on October 8, 2018
    • Reply
  • Very good, indeed. The only difficulty I had was knocking some of the breading off while turning them, but my hands aren’t as steady as they used to be. 🙂

    The nuts added a nice…heft, I guess, to the breading, some substance. Very filling!

    I also had very thick tenders, which meant lower, slower cooking. Next time, I’ll just cut my own tenders, and get them a bit more manageable.

    • — Ryan on October 2, 2018
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    These look delicious! Would it work to bake them instead?

    • — Melissa Pickard on July 16, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Melissa, I think they are best fried, but if you’d prefer to bake them, I’d suggest 350°F for 15-20 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 17, 2018
      • Reply
  • Do you have nutritional information on the pecan chicken strips? Thank you!

    • — Beck on March 17, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Beck, I want my nutritional info to be as accurate as possible — I never added it to this recipe because I was uncertain about how much oil gets absorbed into the chicken when they are fried. Sorry I can’t give you exact numbers!

      • — Jenn on March 20, 2018
      • Reply
  • Best chicken tenders I have ever had. Better than Chick-Fil-A. Your recipes never disappoint Jenn.

    • — Dee on March 11, 2018
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen
    Your recipes have become my first go to.
    I’m without nuts for this recipe. What can you suggest? I’m sure a lot of nut allergy folks would like to know your suggestions as well.
    Mahalo Susan

    • — Susan Wakefield-David on January 26, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Susan! I think this would work with more panko in place of the nuts – it won’t have quite the same flavor but should still be delicious.

      • — Jenn on January 29, 2018
      • Reply
  • About to try this tonight ! I cut out some of the salt . I made your pecan salmon last night ! It was delicious but I had to redo the glaze because the amount of salt you have is toooo much ( at least for our tastes, unless there’s a typo ??)

    • — Asra on July 31, 2017
    • Reply
  • Do you have a suggestion (low carb) for a replacement of panko? Almond flour??? More pecans??? Or anything else? Thanks!

    • Hi Jean, you could use gluten-free panko, which you can find in the gluten-free section of most grocery stores. Hope you enjoy!

    • I’ve made a similar recipe with almond flour before and it turned out great! Haven’t tried this one yet though

      • — Kathryn on January 11, 2018
      • Reply
  • Could you assemble these a few hours ahead of time, refrigerate them, then cook them? Or do you recommend cooking immediately after breading? Thanks!

    • Hi Chelsea, I think it would work fine if you breaded them a few hours ahead. LMK how they turn out!

      • They came out great! I was afraid the breading would get soggy but it was fine. Thanks!!

        • So glad you enjoyed them- thanks for following up!

  • I made these for dinner tonight and my wife and I both loved them! The sauce was just perfect with them and the pecans added a little extra flavor and crunch. Another great recipe! Thanks Jenn!

  • I’ve recently discovered this site, and I’ve loved everything that I’ve tried, but these were especially spectacular! I did have trouble knowing when the chicken was done and had to put a few pieces back to finish cooking, but other than that these were fabulous!

  • Truly delicious…..great weeknight dinner. A definite winner! Thanks. I didn’t have whole grain mustard, substituted spicy brown. The family loved it.

  • Made this recipe and it was delicious. I did not make the sauce to go with them because I am not a fan of mayo, and they were still yummy by themselves. The only issue I had was that my first batch got a little too dark, so when I did the second batch I had to really keep an eye on the oil and make sure it wasn’t too hot. Next time, and there will be a next time I will add just a little more cayenne pepper. I did the 1/4 tsp, but will make it heaping like you originally suggested.

  • A great choice for an easy, evening dinner. I also love the buttermilk chicken recipe, however that recipe takes a little longer (as there is an element of marinating) to prepare and also this recipe feels a little lighter (healthier?). This recipe is quick anc easy, yet also delicious. And, my husband, who is a little picky, absolutely loves these, which makes me think that they would be a good choice for any comfort eater 🙂

  • Love these! Great party food.

  • Can this chicken be baked instead of frying? Thank you.

    • Yes Celeste, I think they are best fried, but if you’d prefer to bake them, I’d suggest 350°F for 15-20 minutes.

      • If you have a convection oven, try this trick: Follow the recipe as above. Place a cooling rack sprayed with non-stick or brushed with olive oil on top of a cookie sheet or rimmed pan. Arrange the chicken on the cooling rack, and into the convection oven. This allows the chicken to “air fry” in the convection oven. This works really well with fish too.

        • — Scott on January 11, 2018
        • Reply
  • These were delicious! And the texture was great: moist and tender on the inside, crunchy on the outside. I’m looking forward to using the leftovers in salad tonight. (FYI: I just re-used the same batch of oil without a problem.) I’ve also had great luck with your Tandoori Chicken!

  • This is a tasty recipe. One practical suggestion: When chopping the nuts fine in a processor, add the sugar that is added in the next step. The sugar helps preventing nut paste.
    I love your recipes, Jen!

  • Thanks for this great recipe! I actually modified this and used it to make a fantastic snack/appetizer that my wife introduced me to in New Mexico. Instead of using chicken I used roasted green chilies…They came out perfect! If you ever want to spice things up and get away from boring old chicken trying doing the chile thing, it is amazing.
    Thanks again!

  • I made these this evening using almonds instead of pecans, and they were delicious. We had them with a broccoli cheese soup so I omitted the 5 grain mustard sauce. The sauce sounds delicious and I will try it another time. Jenn, your recipes never disappoint!

  • Hi Jenn, I love all of your recipes, but this one was one of my faves! Deelish and I used the leftover chicken on salads. 🙂

  • My husband was in the middle of telling a story when he tried these last night. He immediately stopped and started raving about these chicken fingers. He couldn’t even remember the story he had been telling. I have made numerous recipes from your website and they are all a huge hit in our house. Thank you so much!

    • — Hailey Dickinson
    • Reply
  • What are the measurements of ingredients?

    • Scroll down beneath the step-by-step photos or click on the “recipe” tab at the top.

  • I made these and I am happy to say my three children loved them! It was simple to make and a family meal that I didn’t have to fight with my kids to eat! I will make it again for sure!

  • This is THE recipe that drew me to your blog. My family has chicken tenders so often, and I was looking for something different. This was a winner! Thank you so much for helping me to extend my chicken finger menus–my whole family thanks you, too. My husband likes the pecans, my daughter loves how well they go with her favoite condiment which is honey mustard, my son loves the crunch and I love making everyone happy with a delicious meal. These are perfect!!!

  • I couldn’t find whole grain mustard at my local grocer. Would Dijon be ok to sub?

    • Hi Sarah, Yes, that’s fine. Enjoy!

  • We Loved this dish and all your recipes have been a huge success in this household. The easy to follow recipes and pictures make cooking with you such a pleasure. Thanks Jenn from Sydney Australia

  • Oven temp and total baking time for pecan-crusted chicken tenders please:)
    P.S. LOVE your recipes!!

    • Hi Florence, These are best cooked on the stovetop in a frying pan; but if you want to bake them, I’d say 350°F for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!

  • I usually freeze your tilapia fingers as a quick middle of the week meal. Will this freeze and reheat ok?

    Thanks,
    Pam

    • Hi Pam, Yes, they should freeze beautifully.

  • These are made weekly in my house! My son is a super-picky eater and he loves them!

  • A sophisticated chicken tender! As always, your recipe was a hit with my family. Loved the sauce, too.

  • I wasn’t totally thrilled with these to be honest. It may have been the lower heat needed to cook the pecan without burning; it may have been the panko with it’s porous texture, or it may have been the natural oiliness of nuts, but the finished product seemed a tad too oily for my liking. The sauce with it’s heavy component of mayo amped the experience. The flavor of the pecan didn’t really shine through as I though it would, though that may have been the fault of the nuts. I bought them from a good grocer, so not sure. This isn’t one I would recommend :/

  • I made these delicious tenders last night. My whole family loved them, including two very picky tweens. I will be adding this one to the rotation for sure. Thanks, Jenn!

  • thank you for sharing this recipe with us. Just looking at the pictures makes me hungry! I was wondering if i could bake the tenders instead of pan frying it.

    • Hi Fardusa, Yes, that would work…they won’t be quite as crispy but they will still be delicious.

  • If I use breast how thick or thin should they be?

    • Judy, If you are using boneless skinless chicken breasts, I would first pound them to a 1/2″ thickness, then cut them in 1-1/2″ strips.

  • I made these last night–baked, not fried. Awesome! Made a half batch from 2 chicken breasts (to feed 2 people). They came out crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside. I don’t have a food processor, so I just whacked some pecans in a ziplock bag with my rolling pin until they crumbled a bit. Baked for 12 minutes at 375, was prepared to turn them but didn’t have to. Yummy!

  • I just made these delicious tenders with your butternut squash soup and biscuits. My family raved….thx for all the wonderful recipes.

  • I followed recipe exactly, but my crust came off on some of the tenders. I’m making it again tonight because, truly, my 2 teens loved it! Please let me know what I can do to prevent nuts from coming off. Also, could you give general times to cook on each side? They were not done the first time I flipped.

    • Hi Cathy, Hmmm…You’ve stumped me! I have not had that happen. As long as you’re doing the three step breading method, the breading should adhere. I’d suggest trying to grind the nuts up a little finer. Also, when you’re coating the tenders in the bread crumb/panko mixture, press down firmly on the tenders and flatten them a bit. This will help the coating adhere and also help the tenders to cook faster. And I’d say it’s about 2 minutes per side. Hope that helps…please come back and let me know how they come out. Thanks!

  • Hi Jennifer!

    I made these chicken tenders last night for my husband and daughter – they loved them along with the honey mustard sauce!! My 10 year old daughter doesn’t like nuts but she never knew I used pecans in the breading. My husband made himself a sandwich today for lunch with the leftovers. Your recipes are so easy to follow and come out perfect every time.

    Jennifer

  • What are chicken ‘tenders’?

    • Chicken tenders are made from chicken tenderloins, which is the most tender part of the breast. They are usually sold separately. If you can’t find them, you can always use regular chicken breasts and slice them in strips.

  • I have 2 questions:
    1. Will this work with another type of nut (such as almonds)?
    2. How would you recommend baking these instead of frying?

    Thanks! They look great!

    • Hi Eliana, I have never tried them with another type of nut but I think it will work best with pecans. To bake them, just put them on a foil lined baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

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