My mom has always made the best fried chicken in the whole world. It’s deliciously crispy on the outside, and juicy and tender on the inside. Everyone in my family loves it, and it gets requested often when my siblings come into town to visit, or when someone gets to choose their favorite dinner for their birthday. It’s a true family classic, and comfort food at its finest.
While most fried chicken tenders recipes seem like a huge undertaking, this pan-fried version is as simple and quick as they come—it’s ready in under 20 minutes! Like these breaded oven fried chicken thighs, it’s perfect for those busy weeknights when you’re short on time, but still want to get something fresh, wholesome, and homemade on the table for your family. The chicken is coated in a light egg wash, dredged in a savory mixture of flour and spices, and pan-fried in olive oil, resulting in a quick, easy version of a comfort food classic. [Editor’s note: for a grown-up twist on this childhood classic, we suggest you whip up a batch of hot honey for your tenders.]–Melissa Bahen
Pan-Fried Chicken Tenders
- Mild vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons paprika, hot, smoked, or regular
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast tenders*
- Dipping Sauces, such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, spicy bourbon maple syrup, or other desired dip
- Into a large, nonstick skillet, pour enough oil to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Set over medium heat.
- In a shallow dish or pie plate, whisk the eggs and water together until well combined.
- In a medium container with a tight-fitting lid or in a large re-sealable plastic bag, combine the flour, paprika, onion and garlic powders, salt, and pepper.
- Working in batches, coat the chicken tenders in the egg mixture, shake off any excess egg mixture, then place in the container or bag of seasoned flour. Tightly close the container or seal the bag, and shake gently to thoroughly coat the chicken tenders with flour.
- Working in batches, if necessary, place the coated chicken tenders in the skillet, and cook until golden on the bottom, 6 to 7 minutes. Flip the chicken tenders over, and continue to cook until golden on the other side, 4 to 6 minutes more. If you have a reliable food thermometer, the temperature of the chicken should be 170°F (77°C) when it is cooked all the way through.
- Use tongs to carefully remove the fried chicken from the pan, place on a plate or serving platter lined with paper towels, and serve hot, with your favorite dipping sauce.
*WHAT EXACTLY ARE CHICKEN TENDERS?You could, obviously, take a couple of chicken breasts and thinly slice them. You know, so they look like chicken strips. But if you’ve ever bought boneless breasts, then you’ve probably seen filets. Also know as tenders, these are the strips of meat that connect the breast to the breastbone. They’re the perfect size for this recipe, as well as being, well…rather tender.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
These pan-fried chicken tenders are really flavorful and crispy – they didn’t have that dense greasiness that so many chicken tenders embody. I was hugely impressed.
My kid? You’d have thought he won the lottery. He pronounced them a “Gabazillion out of 10” and was doing his happy bacon dance with a tender in each hand. These are terrific with ranch, and also ketchup/mayo magic sauce, as we call it in this house. High praise from everyone in the family makes these a winner!
When your better half says “You better make these again,” you know it’s a good recipe. I used a few boneless chicken breasts that I cut into strips. As I fried them, I used my instant-read thermometer to keep an eye on the internal temp. I turned them over after 2-3 minutes per side, and removed them when they hit 160°F, as I knew they would continue cooking as they rested. The result is wonderfully moist pan-fried chicken tenders. We served them with some Dijon mustard and a bit of ranch dressing for dipping. A couple of baked potatoes and roasted Brussels rounded out the dish!
I love chicken tenders. Every time I buy breasts, I slice off that piece and freeze them until I have enough to make these tasty little babies. While this pan-fried chicken tenders recipe isn’t ground-breaking, it’s very good. And I say that because it’s nearly identical to the recipe I’ve made for years, and the same as my Mum did when I was a kid. Pretty much fool-proof and delivers exactly what you expect. I served them with a couple of dips—gochujang, mango chile, and buffalo sauce. The leftovers were used in wraps and reheated very well.
Everyone loved these pan-fried chicken tenders. While I would tweak the seasoning for myself, as is, they stood up to the test of a family who has eaten their fair share of fried chicken tenders.
The technique is simple enough for most cooks to follow and complete even on a weeknight! In place of the lidded container for the flour batter, I used an old gallon zip storage bag. It was much easier to handle. Just make sure you don’t lose any tenders in the flour…I almost did.
Also, if you have a reliable food thermometer, use it. The tenders definitely cooked quicker than expected, and the crust didn’t brown uniformly so you could overcook the tenders if not paying attention to the internal temperature.
The coating didn’t stay crispy, but they heat up well without turning soggy or rubbery. I reheated them from room temperature in the toaster oven and the next day from the refrigerator in the microwave with similar results. I served these with au gratin potatoes and green salad.
This pan-fried chicken tenders recipe is so weeknight friendly and easy, even the most fry-phobic cook can love it. What stops my love for fried chicken in the tracks most often is not just planning to brine it, but deep frying creates a conflict between desire for crispy sizzled chicken and the resulting oil to dispose of, splatter to avoid, all the reasons I instinctively hesitate to fry. This is a much simpler approach, as pan-frying is not nearly as intimidating. We probably learned it as beginning cooks in our mother’s kitchen – egg wash, toss in seasoned flour, plop into the pan, turn over once or twice as it browns and voila!
This recipe can scale nicely – I made a half batch for two people so that we also would have leftovers to reheat the next day for lunch (can you say ‘fried chicken sandwich’ any quicker than yes?). Setting up the flour was actually my first step – picking a pair of rectangular trays, one for the wet wash and one with a lid for the flour mixture. I was able to fit all the tenderloins (9 pieces for my 1 1/4 pounds) at once in each tray, and with the lid firmly on I could give it a vigorous shake and all the surfaces were coated evenly. I suspect if I had more chicken I could have coated several more pieces.
The chicken tenders recipe timing works just about perfectly. The only thing I might try next time is once I have my seasoning set up, take a small piece of chicken, wet and dredge and fry it up as a sample to test the seasoning level. I took each ingredient and used the perkiest version I had (hot, smoked paprika, toasted/roasted garlic and onion powders), but I think I’d like a tiny bit of heat, the clean heat you get with a bit of cayenne, maybe to match the black pepper – but that was just us. You could just offer some hot sauce at the table.
The next day, the leftover portions were the easiest fried chicken sandwiches ever, so it was extra nice to have that bonus meal.