Sometimes I am such a kid at heart. I get the biggest cravings for simple mac n’ cheese or chicken tenders. Back in my pickier childhood days, all I would ever order at restaurants was their chicken tenders. Even if the restaurant was Italian or Mexican, they would always have the standard chicken tender meal for those picky kids or adults with no desire to branch out from the ordinary.
So what do I do when I get these throwback cravings? I definitely don’t go to the store and pick up a box of Kraft macaroni or a bag of frozen chicken tenders. Except for rare occasions I stay away from the pre-packaged meals in the freezer aisle. It is much easier to make everything at home in about 30 minutes. These chicken tenders are just as crunchy, crispy, and delicious as if you were eating them from a restaurant, but they aren’t deep fried and battered with who-knows-what. A few simple swap-outs and these can be a healthier comfort food that you don’t feel so guilty about.
If you have kids, you can’t go wrong with these chicken tenders. After you make them this way you will never go back to the bag of frozen pre-made stuff. My little “secret” is polenta, which is really just coarse- ground cornmeal. A lot of recipes or restaurants use regular cornmeal in their breading to get that crunchy coating. I like to use the coarser-ground polenta, because you don’t have to use as much flour in the breading mixture, it coats more of the chicken using less breading, and it holds up much better when you are pan frying the tenders and turning the pieces over. Everyone hates when they bread something and it all falls off in the pan. I also started pan-frying these in coconut oil, because it heats up much better at high temperatures, which is what you need to really get a good golden-brown and crispy chicken tender. Not to mention that coconut oil has so many other benefits as compared to vegetable or frying oil.
When I do make these, I usually cut up a bulk amount of chicken breasts into tenderloins and make big batches to freeze. Then we can take them out as needed and heat them up on the go. They are great even the day after when I take them to work, and most importantly they stay crispy! You can also repurpose these into other meals, like chicken fettuccine alfredo, or make them into some amazing boneless buffalo wings. I tend to keep it simple, however, and pair these tenders with a simple and delicious homemade honey mustard dipping sauce. You can cut even more fat and calories in the dipping sauce if you like by substituting greek yogurt for the mayonnaise. Of course these would go great with just about any flavor of sauce. However you decide to make these, there is nothing better than making them fresh and homemade in your kitchen, and saving some money while you’re at it!