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Fried Chicken Tenders – EXTRA CRISPY

These EXTRA CRISPY Fried Chicken Tenders are easy to make at home and every bit as delicious as your favorite restaurant. Learn the secrets that the chefs use for making golden, perfectly seasoned, crunchy batter!

Be sure to serve these with my easy honey mustard sauce and homemade french fries!

A white plate with fried chicken tenders with sweet and sour sauce.

Fried Chicken Tenders

If there’s one thing I know how to do,  it’s how to fry up a batch of golden brown CRISPY chicken!

No need to run out and stock up on buttermilk, you can make these with exactly what you have on hand at home right now. Let’s get into everything you need to know!

How to Make EXTRA CRISPY Fried Chicken Tenders

Use a Dry Brine Method – NO Buttermilk!

To dry brine chicken means to salt it and let it sit uncovered in the fridge for several hours. This accomplishes 4 things:

  1. It allows the salt to penetrate through the chicken which gives it plenty of flavor.
  2. It also makes it extra juicy on the inside as the salt extracts the moisture which is then reabsorbed by the chicken.
  3. The salt also breaks down the tough muscle proteins, which makes the meat more tender.
  4. It keeps the outside of the chicken dry which allows it to grip all of the breading and make it extra crispy.

I choose to dry brine the chicken instead of soaking it in buttermilk, (which is a common alternative method for fried chicken), simply because I sometimes just find it to be easier.

Note: You can still have delicious chicken tenders if you have to skip the dry bringing step due to lack of time.

Remove It From the Fridge for 20 Minutes Before Frying.

This allows the chicken to cook evenly, but it prevents the oil from getting too cool when the chicken is added.

Thoroughly Dry The Chicken Before Breading.

  • If you don’t have time to dry brine the chicken, (or even if you do), it’s important to ensure that every piece of chicken is nice and dry before you begin to bread it.

Dip it in Egg Whites Only.

  • For these chicken tenders, we want super crunchy, textured fried chicken. The protein in the egg whites helps to grip and hold on to the breading. It’s also lighter and not too wet, which makes sure that it doesn’t soak through the breadcrumb mixture.
  • Keeping the egg yolks is fine for Chicken Parmesan, but using only egg whites is the secret weapon in this recipe. Make sure you beat it until it becomes airy and frothy.
  • If you would prefer to use the entire egg instead of just the whites, use your hands to slide off excess eggs from the chicken so that they’re not overly coated.

Bread Generously. Textured Breading is Good.

  • As you bread the chicken, you’ll see it start to become more textured from transferring chicken to and from the plate. Texture in this breading is exactly what we want. (Just try to keep it dry.)
  • It’s important to generously coat every nook and cranny of the chicken.

Showing how to dip chicken tenders in egg whites and then breading to make fried chicken tenders.

Breaded chicken tenders before and after deep frying.

Temperature For Frying Chicken

  • Perfect fried chicken is cooked in canola or vegetable oil that’s gradually heated to 350°-375°.  Using an oil thermometer is key here. OR, use you can use a deep fryer.
  • Throughout the cooking process, you may find that you need to decrease the temperature and increase it back up again later. As the chicken keeps cooking, the oil gets hotter. When new chicken is added, it gets cooler. Maintain a temperature that feels right for that nice golden brown color.
  • If your oil gets dirty, add some additional oil to the pan to clarify it a little bit. Note that this will temporarily cool the temperature of the oil.

Reusing the Oil

  • I’m going to go with Cook’s Illustrated on this one, who advises that the oil used for frying chicken can usually be used 3-4 additional times prior to discarding. They also advise as to how you can clean the oil first if needed.
  • Note that some of the flavor from the fried chicken will transfer to the next batch of whatever you fry up. This can be a good thing as it gives that food even more flavor.
  • I like to fry up a batch of my homemade french fries with my leftover oil. I leave the oil in my dutch oven with the cover for a few days until I’m ready to use it again. (Just don’t do this with cast iron as it will rust.)

Air Fryer Method

Disclosure: Nothing beats the flavor and texture of deep frying this chicken, but here are the instructions for air frying, if you must. 😉

  • Preheat the air fryer to 375°. If yours runs hot, heat to 350°.
  • Place the breaded chicken on the air frying basket, do not overlap them and fry in batches if needed.
  • Use Canola Oil Cooking Spray to generously coat the outside prior to air frying.
  • Air fry for 10-15 minutes. Flip and spray with more Canola oil.
  • Cook for 10 more minutes.
  • Ensure the internal temperature has reached 165° prior to serving.

Dipping Sauces For Serving


Storage

Refrigerator

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
  • Reheat in a 375° oven for 15 minutes.

Freezer

  • You can also flash freeze on a baking sheet for 1-2 hours and store in a freezer bag for 1-2 months.
  • Reheat in a 375° oven for 20-25 minutes.

Leftover chicken tenders are great in my mashed potato casserole with crispy chicken!

A hand holding a fried chicken tender and dipping it in sweet and sour sauce.

What to Serve With Chicken Tenders

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Fried Chicken Tenders

5 from 14 ratings
These EXTRA CRISPY Fried Chicken Tenders are easy to make at home and just as your favorite restaurant. Learn the secrets that the chefs use for making that perfectly seasoned, crunchy batter!

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher Salt + Pepper
  • 3 egg whites
  • 48 oz. canola oil, for frying

Breading

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs,, plain or Italian
  • 1 ½ teaspoons seasoned salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Cut the chicken breast into strips that are about ¾ inch thick and 5 inches long. Pat completely dry. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper on each side. (Use about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt per pound of chicken)
  • Optional Step #1: Dry brine the seasoned chicken breast by letting it sit uncovered in the fridge for 4 hours on the bottom shelf. This keeps it dry on the outside which allows the breading to stick to it well. It also allows the salt to penetrate through the chicken which allows the inside to become juicy, tender, and flavorful.
  • Optional Step #2: If possible, remove the chicken from the fridge 20 minutes before frying for even cooking throughout.
  • Combine the breading ingredients and set aside.
  • Crack egg whites into a small bowl, save the egg yolks for another dish if desired.
  • Beat the egg whites until fluffy and frothy.
  • Place saran wrap over the chicken and use the rough side of a meat mallet to pound the meat and create texture on the outside, this allows the breading to work it's way into the crevices and creates grip to hold on to the breading.
  • Dip each piece of chicken into the egg whites, then coat it generously in the breading mix, allow every cook and cranny to get thoroughly coated.
  • Add oil to a dutch oven, fill it no more than halfway. Heat to 350-375 degrees. (You can also use a deep fryer.)
  • Fry the chicken tenders in batches of 3 so that the oil doesn’t get too cool by adding too much chicken, and so that the chicken doesn’t crowd each other.
  • Each side will take about 4 minutes to sufficiently brown. Remove and place on paper towel lined plates to allow any excess oil to absorb. This will keep it extra crispy.
  • PRO TIP: Transfer chicken from paper towels to a wire rack in a 200° oven to keep them warm while you fry the remaining batches.
  • Ensure the internal temperature has reached 165° prior to serving.

Notes

Try serving these with my easy honey mustard sauce!
Air Fryer Method:
Disclosure: Nothing beats the flavor and texture of deep frying this chicken, but here are the instructions for air frying, if you must. 😉
  • Preheat the air fryer to 375°. 
  • Place the breaded chicken on the air frying basket, do not overlap them and fry in batches if needed.
  • Use Canola Oil Cooking Spray to generously coat the outside prior to air frying.
  • Air fry for 6 minutes. Flip and spray with more Canola oil.
  • Cook for 3-4 more minutes.
  • Ensure the internal temperature has reached 165° prior to serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 126kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 7mg, Sodium: 201mg, Potassium: 51mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 38IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 3mg, Iron: 1mg
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61 comments on “Fried Chicken Tenders – EXTRA CRISPY”

  1. Absolutely incredible. I’ve never been able to duplicate the crisp, but this is a winning combination. Thank you! 

  2. This recipe was great . Easy to follow and the food came out perfect , I even made the potato wedges to go with it .. excellent!!  . I followed it exactly as it was . My family and I enjoyed it . Looking for to making more of your recipes .

  3. Can you freeze these and then fry them from frozen when ready?

  4. Question on dry brining – you say four hours but I don’t get to go home for lunch. Is it a problem if I prepared them in the morning and they sat for like 8-9 hours in the fridge? This looks delicious, excited to try them!

  5. Question: How much salt do you put on the chicken when you brine it? I don’t see that in the post. Sorry if I just missed it somewhere. Lightly salted? Lots of salt? ( I use pre cut chicken breast tenders from the store.) I’m afraid I’ll over salt it and it’ll be too salty. 
    Btw, I’ve made the recipe (without brining) and they’re definitely the best I’ve ever made. The egg whites are definitely the key! They taste as close to Chik-filet as I’ve ever had! 

    • Hi Meredith! I’m so glad that you like this recipe! The amount of salt to use is noted in step 1: ” (Use about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt per pound of chicken)”

  6. I’ve tried chicken fingers so many times and I’ve never been happy with the result until now. These were perfect and looked like something you’d get at a pub. I can’t wait to make them again!! I served them with roasted garlic brussel sprouts, white rice and made an Asian inspired sweet and spicy sauce and the family loved it. Next time I’ll plan ahead and do the dry brine!! Can’t wait to see how amazing they are then! Thanks so much for the recipe ♥️

    • That sounds like such a yummy meal, my mouth literally watered! I’m so happy the chicken fingers were such a hit Nicole, thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review!😃

  7. My family kept saying they were the best chicken tenders ever- even an hour after dinner they could not stop talking about them.  

    • Wow sounds like such a victory Kate, nice work! I love when my family responds like that, best feeling ever! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review!💖

  8. Love your recipes 😋 🤩🥰

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