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. Others dredged in flour or dipped 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

If you make these Homemade Baked Chicken Tenders, please leave a comment and give this recipe a rating! Ratings and comments help other busy parents and families discover this recipe. Plus, I love to hear from you and always do my best to respond to every comment.

Oh and if you do make this recipe, snap a photo and tag me on Instagram so I can see!

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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