Best Homemade Baked Chicken Tenders

The best homemade baked chicken tenders — crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Made with just six ingredients and minimal mess, these easy chicken tenders are freezer-friendly, dairy-free, and can easily be made gluten-free. Loved by kids and adults alike!

homemade maked chicken tenders drizzled with honey mustard sauce on a baking sheet at 45 degree angle

I’ve made a lot of homemade baked chicken tenders. Some with panko, some with cornflakes. Some dredged in flour, some in buttermilk. Some with eggs, some without. I’ve tried at least ten different variations over the last couple of years, many of which my children returned almost entirely uneaten or partially chewed.

Anyone else’s kids ever chew up a piece of meat and then spit it out? My kids generally aren’t overly picky, but holy crap if their chicken is even the slightest bit dry, it’s almost always sent back in one form or another.

These homemade baked chicken tenders are truly the best of the best — always a hit with the little ones, and never spit out. Made with just six ingredients and minimal mess, they’re crispy and golden on the outside and juicy on the inside — pretty much the baked chicken tenders of your dreams.

They also freeze amazingly well, which is why this recipe calls for not one, but two pounds of chicken. Now I’m not going to force you to freeze half, but let me tell ya, having a freezer stash of these babies has saved the day on more than one occasion in our house. I’m all for eating more, and cooking and cleaning less.  

On a busy night, these chicken tenders can go from frozen to fully-cooked in under 25 minutes, leaving you just enough time to heat up some frozen veggies and whip up this easy honey mustard sauce before they come out of the oven. 

Dip ‘em  in your favorite sauce, toss some on top of a salad, or fold them into a wrap. However you eat ‘em, these chicken tenders are so versatile and won’t disappoint! 

Overhead photo of baked chicken tender with a bite taken out and drizzled with honey mustard sauce on a baking sheet

Are homemade chicken tenders healthy?

Not only are these homemade chicken tenders easy to make, they are healthy, too! Baked, not fried, these chicken tenders are made from real ingredients and have no preservatives or additives like most fast-food and store-bought brands do. To make these homemade chicken tenders even healthier, substitute whole wheat flour in the batter and whole wheat panko for the breading.

How to make homemade baked chicken tenders

Making baked homemade chicken tenders is easy! All you need is uncooked chicken (chicken breast or tenderloins work best), a simple batter, and bread crumbs. Here are the essentials you need to know:

Double-toasted bread crumbs are essential for crispy, golden brown baked chicken tenders. Preheat your oven to 390F. Spread panko onto a rimmed baking sheet and lightly spray with oil (optional, but keeps them from drying out). Bake bread crumbs for 5 minutes, or they are golden brown in color. Transfer panko to a bowl and set aside. 

Use a thick, rich batter to help the chicken tenders retain moisture. In a small mixing bowl, combine egg, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, flour, salt, and pepper and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the chicken to the batter and toss to coat.

Crumb the chicken with minimal mess. Using tongs, transfer one piece of chicken to the panko bowl, sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and gently press down to help the breadcrumbs stick. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and repeat until all chicken tenders are breaded. Lightly spray the tenders you will be baking right away with cooking oil.

Bake at high heat. Bake chicken tenders in a 390F oven for 15-20 minutes (20-25 minutes if frozen) depending on their size. Thinner chicken tenders will take closer to 15 minutes, and thicker ones up to 20 minutes. 

How to make gluten-free chicken tenders

To make gluten-free baked chicken tenders, substitute your favorite gluten-free flour in place of the all-purpose flour in the batter, and use gluten-free panko instead of traditional wheat-based panko for the breading. 

How to make homemade chicken tenders in the oven

To make crispy, homemade chicken tenders in the oven, preheat your oven to 390F. If baking immediately, lightly spray a baking sheet with a little oil. Transfer tenders to the pan, and lightly spray with oil again. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until opaque and internal temperature reaches 165F. 

How to make homemade chicken tenders in the air fryer

Preheat your air fryer to 350F. Place chicken tenders in the bottom of the fryer basket, leaving a little room between each for airflow and optimal crispiness. Cook about 12-15 minutes (16-20 minutes if frozen), or until internal temperature reaches 165F.

How to freeze homemade chicken tenders

Place uncooked chicken tenders onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and put the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 1-2 hours. Once firm, transfer tenders to an airtight freezer bag, pressing out as much air as possible.

Cook time for frozen chicken tenders 

For crispy, baked chicken tenders, place frozen, uncooked chicken tenders on a wire cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. Bake at 390F for 20-25 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165F.

Tips for reheating chicken tenders

Can you pop them in the microwave? Sure you can, but be warned, they won’t be crispy. 

Reheated chicken tenders crisp up better in the oven. For best results, place frozen chicken tenders on a wire cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. Bake at 390F for 20-25 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165F.

Overhead photo of baked chicken tenders drizzled with honey mustard sauce on a baking sheet
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Recipe

Best Homemade Baked Chicken Tenders

The best homemade baked chicken tenders — crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Freezer-friendly and made with just six ingredients and minimal mess! 

  • Prep Time:
    15 minutes
  • Total Time:
    30 minutes
  • Makes:
    ~18 tenders
  • Prep Time:
    15 minutes
  • Total Time:
    30 minutes
  • Makes:
    ~18 tenders
  • Ingredients

    • 2 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
    • Oil spray
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
    • ¼ cup flour
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 2 pounds chicken tenderloins or chicken breast pounded to ⅔-inch thick and sliced lengthwise

    Simple Honey Mustard Sauce

    • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Instructions

    1. Toast the Panko. Preheat your oven to 390F. Spread Panko onto a rimmed baking sheet and lightly spray with oil (optional, but keeps them from drying out). Bake bread crumbs for 5 minutes, or they are golden brown in color. Transfer Panko to a bowl and set aside. Leave the oven on if you plan to bake some immediately. 
    2. Batter the chicken. In a small mixing bowl, combine the egg mayonnaise, dijon mustard, flour, salt, and pepper and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the chicken to the batter and toss to coat.
    3. Prepare your pans & preheat the oven. If you will be baking the chicken right away, lightly spray a large baking sheet with oil. If you will be freezing some or all of the chicken tenders, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.   
    4. Crumb the chicken. Using tongs, transfer one piece of chicken to the Panko bowl, sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and gently press down to help the breadcrumbs stick. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and repeat until all chicken tenders are breaded. Lightly spray the tenders you will be cooking right away with cooking oil.
    5. Bake and/or freeze.
      To freeze: Place uncooked chicken tenders onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and put the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 1-2 hours. Once firm, transfer tenders to an airtight freezer bag or container.
      To bake: For best results, place chicken tenders on a wire cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. If you don’t have a cooling rack, lightly spray your baking sheet with a little oil. Lightly spray the tops of the chicken tenders with oil and bake at 390F for 15-20 minutes depending on their size (20-25 minutes if frozen), or until internal temperature reaches 165F. 
    6. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. Remove chicken tenders from the oven and serve immediately.

    For the sauce:

    Combine mayonnaise, honey, and mustard in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Season with pepper to taste.

    Notes

    Favorite Equipment

    Ingredient Notes

    • To make gluten-free chicken tenders: Substitute your favorite gluten-free flour in place of the all-purpose flour in the batter, and use gluten-free panko instead of traditional wheat-based panko for the breading.

    Ingredient Prep

    • Toast the Panko and store in an airtight container until ready to use 
    • Make the batter up to 1 day in advance
    • Make your dipping sauces up to 1 week in advance

    Little Helpers

    Involving little ones can decrease picky eating and increase appetite and willingness to try new foods. Here are a few ways they can help: 

    • Toddlers: Measure and spread the panko onto a baking sheet; whisk the batter together; help spoon bread crumbs onto the chicken; help make dipping sauces
    • Little Kids: All of the above plus they can make the batter and sauces; help with crumbing the chicken and transferring tenders to baking sheets for baking and/or freezing
    • Big Kids: Give them the recipe and let them ask for help when needed! 

    Leftovers

    Store leftover chicken tenders in an airtight food storage bag or container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, place on a wire cooling rack on top of a baking sheet in a 250F oven/toaster oven for 5-7 minutes, or until warmed through. Chicken tenders can also be microwaved for 30-45 seconds but, be warned, they won’t be crispy.

    Nutrition Notes

    Nutrition information based on a 4-ounce serving and does not include dipping sauce.

    Nutrition

    • Serving Size: 4 ounces (approx. 2 tenders)
    • Calories: 188
    • Sugar: 0 g
    • Sodium: 446 mg
    • Fat: 5 g
    • Saturated Fat: 1 g
    • Unsaturated Fat: 4 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
    • Carbohydrates: 10 g
    • Fiber: 0 g
    • Protein: 23 g
    • Cholesterol: 83 mg

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    homemade maked chicken tenders drizzled with honey mustard sauce on a baking sheet at 45 degree angle with title text overlay

    Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

    I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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