Herbed Chicken Tenders with Tomato Sauce

AppetizerDinnerItalianChicken Breast

Chicken tenders, baked with an herbed breadcrumb coating, served with simple Italian tomato dipping sauce.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

What is a Chicken Tender?

I wonder who came up with the name “chicken tenders”? Hmm, perhaps it sounds more appealing than “the piece of meat we strip off the breast when we make cutlets.”

In any case, chicken tenders can be useful to have around, especially stored in the freezer for when you want a quick meal.

As the name implies, they are tender, having been cut from chicken breasts, and a little soaking in buttermilk helps tenderize them even further.

Making Chicken Tenders From Scratch

Where to buy chicken tenders

Chicken tenders are sold packaged as such, or you can make your own by saving and freezing them when you prepare chicken cutlets. Just find that little strip on the side of the chicken breast half and cut it or pull it off.

Making Baked Chicken Tenders From Scratch

There are so many ways one could play with this recipe. What we present here are simple, basic, breaded and baked chicken tenders, with a classic Italian tomato sauce for dipping. (These little guys make great finger food.)

I make my breadcrumbs from scratch, because we often have leftover hard ends of French or Italian loaf bread hanging around, which are so easy to chop up and pulse in the blender.

Herbed Chicken Tenders with Tomato Sauce

How to Make the Tomato Dipping Sauce

Sure, you could use store-bought marinara sauce for dipping, but it’s so easy and quick to make your own — and it tastes better! Just sauté some chopped onions and garlic, and add tomato paste and canned tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes. Blend it all up in a blender, and it’s ready to serve.

The sauce can also be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to a week. If you have any leftover, it’s great for serving with pasta or layering into a casserole.

WAYS TO ADAPT THIS RECIPE

I’m using Italian seasoning with the breadcrumbs, you could just as well pick one herb, like thyme, and go with that. Or add some grated Parmesan.

For a lemony flavor you could soak the chicken in a little lemon juice instead of buttermilk.

More Easy Chicken Dinners

Updated October 30, 2018 : We spiffed up this post a little to make it sparkle! No changes to the recipe.

Herbed Chicken Tenders with Tomato Sauce Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Soaking time: 15 to 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

You can make a substitute for buttermilk by adding a tablespoon and a half of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 1/2 cups of milk and letting the mixture stand for 10 minutes.

A mixture of dried herbs often used in Italian cooking such as marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil

Ingredients

For the chicken tenders:

  • 2 pounds chicken tenders (about 12 pieces)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (See Recipe Note)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning herbs (See Recipe Note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the tomato dipping sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Method

1 Soak tenders in buttermilk for 15 to 30 minutes. While the tenders are soaking, make the tomato dipping sauce.

2 Make the tomato dipping sauce: Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions, stirring often, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the tomato paste, mix well and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. The tomato paste should darken to a brick-red color.

Add the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Cook this for 5 minutes if using tomato sauce, 10 minutes if using crushed tomatoes.

3 Blend the dipping sauce: Put the sauce into a blender and purée until smooth. Hold your hand over the blender lid to keep it from popping off, and start the blender at a low setting and work up to the highest.

The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

4 Heat oven to 500°F. Line a sheet pan with foil and set an oven-safe metal cooking rack inside. Baking the tenders on this rack will help get them crispy on all sides.

5 Coat the tenders with breadcrumbs: Mix together the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and salt in a shallow bowl. One by one, remove the chicken tenders from the buttermilk and place in the bowl with breadcrumbs, coating them on all sides with the breadcrumbs.

Place on the wire rack set inside the sheet pan, spaced slightly apart.

6 Bake the tenders: Drizzle a little melted butter over each chicken tender. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the pieces are lightly browned.

7 Serve with a bowl of the sauce for dipping.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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27 Comments / Reviews

No ImageHerbed Chicken Tenders with Tomato Sauce

Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Sumera

    I love eating a chicken leg piece coated with bread crumbs so crispy so tasty hmm hmm wow…………………..

  • Lyndal Christophersen

    I made this chicken tender recipe for supper tonight and everyone loved it. The sauce was delicious and something new for the kids to try instead of boring ketchup. I added some homemade salsa in replacement of some of the tomato sauce to kick up the zest. I would definitely make this recipe again. Lyndal

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Sam

    Hi, Would this work with just using slices of chicken breast instead of the tenders?

  • Tina

    I made these last night for dinner – they were wonderful. They are extremely easy, and perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. I used panko breadcrumbs, and the tenders turned out with a great crunchy crust. Didn’t even bother making the tomato sauce – just used BBQ instead (the husband used Ranch). We didn’t have buttermilk on hand, so used your tip to mix lemon juice with milk – worked perfectly! :)

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • pat

    I tried this recipe. The coating was soggy and sticky, not crispy at all. Flavor was good, but I was hoping for a crispy coating.

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