In a previous post I stated that, “I freaking love chicken tenders.” I maintain the truth of that statement. This is one of my favorite dishes that my mother makes. She just made this recipe up and it’s not related to any specific culture or anything like that. What kills me is that no matter how many times I tried to recreate this recipe, I always fell short. I couldn’t figure it out. Why were my copycat attempts never quite as good as her original recipe? I tried every technique I saw on food television and read online, but still nothing.
Finally, I know the secret and it’s far simpler than I would have imagined. As it turns out, my mistake was that I added my spices to the dry bread crumbs or flour (depending on the recipe), when I really should have added them directly to the chicken. It’s such a simple step, but it makes all the difference and it makes perfect sense. When breading chicken tenders, you never really use all of the breading, which is why you lose a ton of the spices mixed in with the breading. By adding the spices directly to the chicken, you ensure that you maximize the impact of the spices. It’s strange that I never really discovered this idea before, but there you have it.
Makes about 24 – 20 chicken tenders at about 142 – 170 calories each.
Crispy Fried Chicken Tenders with Cajun Spices
Cajun spiced, fried, chicken tenders.
- 3 pounds of chicken tenderloins (about 20 – 24 pieces at about 90 – 75 calories per piece)
- 2 large eggs (70 cal. each)
- 1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning
- 1 tablespoon onion powder (about 20 cal.)
- 1.5 cups of seasoned bread crumbs, but you may need a little more than this to get a good coating. You will have some left over though, which is why it ends up only being 1.5 cups. (about 110 cal. per 1/3 cup or 495 cal. total)
- 1 cup of vegetable oil (120 cal. per tablespoon, only absorbs about 1/2 cup at 960 cal. total)
- Large bowl
- Large or medium frying pan
- Kitchen shears or sharp knife
- Three large plates
- Paper towels
- Tongs or some way to flip the tenders in oil without piercing them
- Cup, teaspoon, and tablespoon measurements
- Open up the chicken tenderloins and place them in a large bowl. Give them a rinse if you feel like they need it and dry them off.
- Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut off the little piece of cartilage on the underside of the larger end of the chicken tender. You don’t absolutely have to do this, but sometimes this little piece of cartilage can toughen up and get chewy when cooked.
- Crack two eggs right into the bowl with the chicken tenderloins.
- Add in the onion powder and the Cajun seasoning.
- Mix the ingredients together until the eggs and spices cover all of the chicken uniformly.
- Put the breadcrumbs into a plate and start to bread the chicken by patting down one side at a time into the breadcrumbs until completely coated. Then set them aside on another plate. It’s ok to stack them. A secret technique to doing this is to really press down on the chicken in the breadcrumbs. This helps to not only bread the chicken, but it also tenderizes and flattens it out for more even cooking.
- You can leave the chicken breaded like this for a little while if you aren’t ready to fry. You can also put them in the fridge or the freezer if you want to use them later.
- Get your oil hot and ready on the stove in a medium to large frying pan. You don’t want the oil to start smoking, so keep the heat at medium-high (or 350 degrees F). Then place about four pieces of chicken in at a time.
- Wait for the chicken to reach a deep golden brown on one side before flipping them over. This should only take a few minutes (maybe 4 or 5 min.). Don’t flip them over too many times and don’t use a fork to puncture the chicken. It’s not a big deal, but puncturing the chicken will let out some of the juices and that can dry out the chicken as well as cause the oil to splatter back at you.
- Place the finished chicken tenders on a large plate with paper towels to absorb the excess oil and serve immediately while hot/warm. You can also try pairing these tenders with my homemade BBQ sauce or a Cucumber Yogurt Sauce. Lastly, these tenders are delicious even if re-heated. I suggest re-heating in a toaster oven, but the microwave will serve just as well.