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.)

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Reviews & Comments

  • This is my go to chicken tender recipe. I leave out the sugar and pepper and reduce the salt by leaving out the step where the chicken tenders are seasoned with salt.

    • — Sol on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have made these a couple times. They are super simple to put together. The coating of pecan mixture really keeps them moist. This time I tried cooking them in our air fryer thinking I had nothing to loose. They turned out really well! Super moist yet cooked to perfection. We did not miss the “fried” aspect at all and will make them this way from here on out. We cooked them at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes in the air fryer.

    • — Mary Cusack on January 28, 2021
    • Reply

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