Crunchy oven-baked chicken tenders

Ellie Krieger

THE WASHINGTON POST – Shaking the notion of kid food from the Etch-a-Sketch of our minds not only clears the slate for children to explore a world of different flavours, it also removes any judgement adults might feel for digging into foods such as chicken nuggets, pizza or mac and cheese.

Those dishes can hit the spot for anyone at any age, and depending on how they are prepared, they can also be good for you.

These crispy chicken tenders with the accompanying dipping sauce are a prime example. Healthfully baked, they get their crunchy exterior from a coating of crushed, crispy rice cereal and almonds, which is gently seasoned with paprika, garlic, salt and pepper.

Part of what makes the chicken strips so tasty is a buttermilk bath, which tenderises them a bit, helps keep the meat moist, and provides a surface for the coating to adhere to. The buttermilk soak also simplifies the prep and makes the final result lighter compared to the typical dredge in flour and egg.

The coated tenders are then baked on a wire rack set over a sheet pan, which allows for optimal airflow for all-around crunch. The tenders here are served with a three-ingredient, tangy-sweet honey mustard sauce, which provides just the right pop of flavour, but they also happen to taste really good with ketchup, if you prefer. No judgements here.

Crispy chicken tenders with honey-mustard dipping sauce. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST


These healthfully baked chicken tenders get their crunchy exterior from a coating of crushed crispy rice cereal and almonds, gently seasoned with paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. The tenders are extra-tender inside, thanks to a quick brine in buttermilk, which also helps the crispy coating adhere.

The buttermilk soak simplifies the prep and results in lighter-tasting tenders compared to a traditional flour-and-egg dredge. The tangy-sweet honey-mustard dipping sauce delivers just the right finishing pop of flavour.

Make Ahead: The chicken tenders need to be brined in the buttermilk for at least 20 minutes (or up to two hours) before cooking.

Storage Notes: Leftover honey-mustard sauce can be refrigerated for up to  three days.


For the chicken

One-and-a-half pounds chicken tenders or skinless, boneless chicken breast pounded to half-inch thickness and cut into one-inch wide slices

One cup low-fat well-shaken buttermilk

Thee cups crisp puffed rice cereal (ideally, brown rice cereal)

Half cup sliced almonds, chopped

Two teaspoons sweet paprika

One teaspoon granulated garlic

Half teaspoon kosher salt

Half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the dipping sauce

One-third cup Dijon mustard

Two tablespoons honey

Two tablespoons mayonnaise


In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with the buttermilk, toss to coat, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or up to two hours.

When ready to cook, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminium foil, then place a wire rack on top.

Put the rice cereal in a resealable plastic bag, squeeze out excess air and, using a rolling pin or mallet, crush until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Transfer the crushed cereal to a shallow bowl or dish, such as an eight-inch square baking dish. Add the almonds, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Working with one or two pieces at a time, remove the chicken from the buttermilk marinade, letting any excess drip back into the bowl.

Dip the chicken in the crumb mixture and coat well, pressing lightly on the chicken so the crumbs adhere on all sides.

Transfer the chicken to the prepared rack and roast for about 12 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. (Discard the remaining buttermilk marinade and crumb coating.) While the chicken is cooking, in a small dish, stir the mustard, honey and the mayonnaise until well combined.

Serve the chicken tenders hot or warm, with the sauce on the side for dipping.


Calories: 339; Total Fat: 15g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 75mg; Sodium: 596mg; Carbohydrates: 23g; Dietary Fibre: 3g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 29g.