Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders – Savory chicken tenders dipped in a crunchy pecan coating. Don’t miss all our favorite dips and drizzles below! (Gluten free, paleo friendly)
Am I the only one whose kids LOVE eating things with their hands? My kids are so much more enthusiastic about finger foods than they are anything that requires a knife and fork. And, I’ve got to admit, it’s a lot more fun for me as the mom when I don’t need to remind everyone to “please use your utensils, not your fingers.”
Enter: chicken tenders! These pecan chicken tenders blur the lines a bit because you can absolutely use a knife and fork if you like, but you can also just jump in with your hands to dip or dunk them in your favorite sauce.
Tender chicken + savory, crunchy pecan crust + allll the yummy sauces and dips = happy kids. Happy kids = happy mom!
Here’s how to make these tasty pecan chicken tenders, as well as our favorite ways to serve them…
How to Make Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders:
These pecan chicken tenders are easier than they look! We skip frying in favor of baking & use a few tricks to make the whole process streamlined and easy. I use a shortcut method to traditional dredging (coating your chicken). Instead of dipping in flour, then an egg batter, then the crumb coating, I mix up a thicker batter, eliminating one of the steps. It works WONDERS and the breadcrumbs stick really well. Here’s how the process goes:
- First, I grind pecans to make the pecan crumb coating. I put them in a shallow bowl or plate.
- Second, I make my thicker batter, with a combination of egg, mayo, dijon mustard, and a few seasonings.
- Third, I make an assembly line to coat the chicken. I coat the chicken. I dip each chicken tender into the batter, then the pecan mixture.
- Then, I place all the coated chicken strips on a prepared baking sheet (see my tip below for extra crispy tenders!).
- Finally, I mist them all with a little spray oil (I use 100% avocado oil or olive oil) and bake!
While they’re dynamite on their own, you can also dip, dunk, or drizzle your pecan chicken tenders with something yummy. Here are some of our favorites:
- Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce – This is my favorite with chicken tenders. Sweet and tangy honey mustard sauce is such a nice flavor combo with the toasty pecans. See the recipe card for my favorite recipe!
- BBQ Sauce – Pick your favorite! Something sweet and smoky is really nice with the pecan coating.
- Ranch – A little unconventional, but sometimes something creamy is just the ticket. (You might like my BBQ Ranch with these!)
- Ketchup – I won’t judge. My kids like their chicken best with ketchup. And I like it best when they eat their dinner 😉
AS FOR SIDE DISHES, you might like…
- A simple green salad
- Steamed or roasted green veggies (like broccoli, asparagus, or green beans)
- Crispy Smashed Potatoes (pictured)
- Broccoli Salad with Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
- Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes (These are AMAZING)
- Green Beans with Balsamic Bell Pepper Relish
FAQ + Tips for the BEST Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders:
How to Get Extra Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders – My secret is a great topping, and LOTS of air circulation. I achieve this by putting an oven-safe metal cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. The air can circulate all around the tenders, so you don’t get any soggy spots and don’t have to flip them a bunch during cooking.
What are chicken tenders? The tenderloin is a thin, extra tender section on the underside of a chicken breast. You can buy them on their own these days. If you can’t find them, see the next tip!
Can I use chicken breast instead? Yep! If you’re using chicken breast, you’ll want to pound it out to about 1″ thickness (I put it between two sheets of parchment and bang with a rolling pin to flatten mine out). Then, slice it into strips about 2 inches wide. (You may also want to halve them lengthwise if they’re quite long)
Can I freeze these? Yes! They’ll reheat well from the freezer. I freeze them fully cooked. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat in the freezer until they’re mostly solid (this helps prevent them from sticking together). Then, transfer to an airtight freezer safe bag. Freeze 1-2 months! (See the recipe card for how I bake them from the freezer.)
Lighten the recipe up! For sure, pecan crusted chicken tenders are a more substantial dinner. If you’d like to lighten them up, you can do 1 cup pecans and 3/4 cup breadcrumbs. (Since we’re gluten free, I make my own. You’ll need half the amount listed in this recipe, which walks you through the process.)