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Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders (Gluten Free, Paleo Friendly)

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)

Overhead view of Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders drizzled with Honey Mustard Sauce from One Lovely Life

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…

Close up view of Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders stacked on top of one another from One Lovely Life.

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:

  1. First, I grind pecans to make the pecan crumb coating. I put them in a shallow bowl or plate.
  2. Second, I make my thicker batter, with a combination of egg, mayo, dijon mustard, and a few seasonings.
  3. 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.
  4. Then, I place all the coated chicken strips on a prepared baking sheet (see my tip below for extra crispy tenders!).
  5. Finally, I mist them all with a little spray oil (I use 100% avocado oil or olive oil) and bake! 


What to Serve with Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders:

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…

Overhead view of Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders drizzled with honey mustard sauce served with crispy smashed potatoes and mixed greens salad from One Lovely Life

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.)

Close up view of Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders drizzled with Honey Mustard Sauce from One Lovely Life
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Overhead view of Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders drizzled with Honey Mustard Sauce from One Lovely Life

Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders (Gluten free, paleo friendly)


  • Author: Emily Dixon, One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 45 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders (Gluten free, paleo friendly) – Savory chicken tenders dipped in a crunchy pecan coating. Don’t forget to add your favorite drip or drizzle to go with them (see below for our favorites)

*Serves 4-5. They’re pretty substantial, so you may find you’ll have a smaller portion than you’d think!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 3/4 cups pecans (whole or pieces)*
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken tenders (or chicken breast, sliced into strips)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp gluten free flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Mix**
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • Oil spray or cooking spray (I like 100% avocado oil spray)
  • To Serve: Your favorite dipping sauce–honey mustard, ranch, BBQ sauce, ketchup, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If you have one, place a metal cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. (This will yield crispier tenders)
  2. Start by making the pecan topping. Pulse pecans in a food processor until you have fairly fine crumbs. (Don’t pulse them till they’re completely smooth, but you don’t want any huge pieces left). Transfer crushed pecans to a shallow bowl or plate.
  3. Make dredging batter, by whisking together egg, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, gluten free flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Whisk until smooth and place in a shallow bowl.
  4. If you haven’t already, place a wire rack (cooling rack) on top of a baking sheet. This will promote even browning/crisping. If you don’t have a rack like this, spray your baking sheet with cooking spray or oil.
  5. Batter your chicken one piece at a time by first dipping into the batter to coat well, then rolling in the pecan topping. Place on the baking sheet (on top of the rack if possible).
  6. Repeat with remaining chicken until all pieces are coated. Lightly spray the top of the chicken with spray oil or nonstick cooking spray.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees 12-15 minutes, or until chicken is completely cooked through. For even baking, flip over the tenders at the 6 minute mark.
  8. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce—honey mustard, ranch, barbecue sauce, ketchup, etc.

Notes

*To lighten the recipe up a bit, you can use 1 cup pecans and 3/4 cup breadcrumbs (gluten free or regular)

**For a paleo version, you can substitute arrowroot or almond flour. Do not use coconut flour. Alternatively, if you have no dietary restrictions, you can use white all purpose flour.

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.)

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Pecan Chicken, Pecan Chicken Tenders, Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders, gluten free chicken tenders, dairy free chicken tenders

4 Comments

  1. Wow, these were delicious! Crispy and soooo tasty. The pecans were sublime and the coating adhered really well. Great with the crispy smashed potatoes. We loved them!

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