Hot honey chicken tenders will take you back to childhood, but with a significant upgrade. A super crunchy coating, baked (not fried!), and then drizzled with sophisticated hot honey. A childhood favorite for adult tastes.
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
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHICKEN BREAST AND TENDERS?
They both come from (nearly) the same place so what’s the difference? First off, as seen in this superb recipe, you can definitely 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.
Called the tender, there’s 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’re cutting up a chicken. Freeze’ em until you have enough to make a meal. Just take care with timing as they’re likely going to cook faster than strips of breast meat.
Hot Honey Chicken Tenders
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
We loved these hot honey chicken tenders. They were crispy, crunchy, and had plenty of flavor; everything you want in fried chicken, but baked! Also, my non-honey-loving husband is now obsessed with hot honey!
We served these with charred Brussels sprouts, which were perfect with the honey.
This recipe proves that hot honey chicken tenders aren’t just for kids! The oven-baked preparation is healthier than frying, yet it maintains a nice crisp outside and a tender juicy inside. The seasonings added to the panko crumbs really elevate the flavor. While I didn’t find the honey to be particularly “hot”, it was nevertheless a tasty addition to the tenders.
Don’t skimp on the honey drizzle–there’s plenty and more is better! The chicken can be prepared while the honey and peppers are simmering, making this a quick meal. We served these with fresh ears of corn and a Caprese salad.
These hot honey chicken tenders were a hit. Despite chicken tenders being such a simple food, it is something that we all loved growing up and even into adulthood. This recipe gave the crunch we all look for in a tender coupled with the juicy meat in the center. In addition to the tenders themselves, the dipping sauce was divine. It provided a hint of heat to balance out the sweetness of the honey.
Something to note is to keep an eye on the honey while infusing the Fresno chile pepper. Even though the temperature was low, the mixture will start to simmer at about 25 minutes. You don’t want the mixture to caramelize so keep stirring and put the pan on a warming burner if available. In addition, when breading the tenders, I preferred using a larger bowl to prevent bread crumbs from overflowing on my prep counter.
All in all, this recipe is a great party pleaser. Or it can just be made for yourself and a significant other for a little snack throughout the day. Whatever your choice, this recipe is a winner.
Originally published August 26, 2021