This Nashville-inspired fried comfort food just got a healthier, oven-baked makeover. One of my favorite things to do is take a really decadent recipe and give it a healthier spin for everyday meals.–Elizabeth Van Lierde

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

There are a whole bunch of reasons our recipe testers gobbled these crispy chicken tenders up. They loved that this recipe took a classic childhood favorite and made it healthier and with a grown-up twist.

Robin Currie added, “We loved these hot honey chicken tenders. They were crispy, crunchy, and had plenty of flavor; everything you want in fried chicken, but baked!”

What You’ll Need to Make This

  • Honey–Use mild-flavored honey for this recipe. Avoid very strong-flavored honey, such as buckwheat or chestnut, as their flavor will be overpowering.
  • Fresno chile–These red chiles have a medium heat level and could be substituted with jalapeno or serrano peppers. If you prefer a much spicier hot honey, substitute a Thai chile or another hot chile pepper.
  • Chicken breast–If you can get a package of chicken tenders, go ahead and substitute them. They’ll be even more tender than slicing boneless chicken breast.

How to Make This Recipe

  1. Make the hot honey. Combine the honey and chile slices in a saucepan and heat gently for 30 to 40 minutes. Whisk in the smoked paprika and keep warm.
  2. Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and set an oiled wire rack inside.
  3. Prepare the chicken tenders. Slice the chicken into strips. Whisk eggs in one bowl and combine the panko, spices, and oil in a separate bowl.
  4. Cook the chicken strips. Dip each chicken tender into the egg, then coat with the panko mixture and set on the baking rack. Bake, flipping once, until chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F.
  5. Serve. Drizzle the baked chicken tenders with hot honey and serve immediately.

Common Questions

What’s the difference between chicken breasts and tenders?

They both come from (nearly) the same place, so what’s the difference? First, as seen in this superb recipe, you can use chicken breasts to make chicken “fingers.” However, there’s a specific part of the chicken that is just perfect when it comes to this kind of preparation.

A “tender” is a small strip of meat that attaches the breast to the bone. It’s still breast meat, technically, but it’s also more tender and, some say, more flavorful.

You can buy them from your butcher or save them every time you cut up a chicken. Freeze them until you have enough to make a meal. Just take care with cooking times as they’ll cook faster than strips of breast meat.

What should I serve with these?

To truly please your inner child, we highly recommend serving these with baked fries. We also love these served with our spicy barbecue pickles.

Can I make these into nuggets?

Sure. Cut your chicken breasts into nugget-sized pieces and follow the recipe. The cooking time will be a little shorter, so start checking them for doneness after 20 minutes.

Helpful Tips

  • Before baking your chicken strips, oil the rack well so the chicken doesn’t stick to it.
  • These chicken strips are best eaten immediately after making them. Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. To reheat, place them on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and heat in a 400°F oven until warmed through and crispy.
  • If you’re serving young children or those sensitive to heat, offer a separate dipping sauce, like ranch dressing or honey mustard.
  • Leftover hot honey is fantastic on buttermilk fried chicken or drizzled over white pizza.
  • This recipe is suitable for dairy-free diets.

More Great Chicken Tender Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

5 panko breaded chicken tenders drizzled with deep red hot sauce and chile slices, with a bowl of more spicy honey.

Hot Honey Chicken Tenders

4.50 / 2 votes
These chicken fingers are great to make when you’re looking for something classic and easy. They're crunchy on the outside, succulent on the inside, and drizzled off with a hot honey glaze.
David Leite
CourseMains
CuisineAmerican
Servings4 servings
Calories462 kcal
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 Fresno chile, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • Non-stick baking spray
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions 

  • In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk honey and Fresno chile slices together. Heat gently for 30 to 40 minutes to infuse flavors.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: To save time, proceed with preparing the chicken while the honey simmers. It will be ready around the same time as the chicken finishes baking.

  • After the flavors have infused, whisk in the smoked paprika, keep honey warm while preparing chicken.
  • Cut chicken breasts into long, tender-size pieces, about 1 1/2 inches (36 mm) thick.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F (204°F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, place an oven-safe rack on it, spray rack with non-stick spray.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: Be sure the rack is well oiled so the crust doesn’t stick and come off when you turn the chicken.

  • In a shallow bowl, whisk eggs together. In another shallow bowl, combine panko, salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, and olive oil. Mix together until crumbs are coated evenly with olive oil; this will help the chicken become crisp and golden.
  • Working with one chicken tender at a time, dip it into eggs, then dredge in the crumb mixture, pressing crumbs into each piece. Place dredged chicken pieces on rack, making sure there are 2 inches (5 cm) in between each chicken piece. Repeat with remaining chicken tenders.
  • Sprinkle any remaining crumb mixture onto chicken pieces.
  • Bake chicken for 15 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until chicken is crispy and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  • Drizzle warm hot honey over chicken tenders before serving.

Notes

  1. Storage and reheating–These chicken strips are best eaten immediately after making them. Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. To reheat, place them on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and heat in a 400°F oven until warmed through and crispy.
  2. Alternative dipping sauce–If you’re serving young children or those sensitive to heat, offer a separate dipping sauce, like ranch dressing or honey mustard.
  3. Leftover hot honey–Leftover hot honey is fantastic on buttermilk fried chicken or drizzled over white pizza.
  4. Dietary–This recipe is suitable for dairy-free diets.
    Everyday Entertaining

    Adapted From

    Everyday Entertaining

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    Nutrition

    Serving: 1 servingCalories: 462 kcalCarbohydrates: 36 gProtein: 39 gFat: 18 gSaturated Fat: 4 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 255 mgSodium: 1226 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 20 g

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

    Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
    Recipe © 2021 Elizabeth Van Lierde. Photo © 2021 Elizabeth Van Lierde. All rights reserved.




    About David Leite

    I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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    2 Comments

    1. Adulthood Expectation: You get over chicken nuggets (or chicken tenders, mac cheese et al.) by the time you reach a certain age.

      Adulthood Reality: Ordering the McNuggets meal in the largest size at weird hours.