Given the chance, my kids would eat chicken tenders every single night — yes, even my kids! I usually reserve that ubiquitous box in the freezer for babysitters or an occasional afterschool snack when I’m desperate for a punch of protein.
I’m not wild about prepackaged food with a list of unpronounceable ingredients. However, we eat healthy most of the time and an occasional fast food option that garners no complaints and can be a lifesaver.
That box in the freezer was fine and dandy until our little one was diagnosed with a wheat allergy. Overall, we stick to a fresh food approach here at Casa Rice and found GF bread she likes, so it wasn’t that big of a change-up. Enter box in the freezer— both the gluten-free fish sticks and chicken tenders were vetoed. Have you noticed how many “gluten-free” items are packed with even more undecipherable ingredients that it’s full of gluten counterpart?
After some kitchen tinkering, here is my winning gluten-free chicken tender recipe. And it’s a double-winner because it works for the entire family. With a little upgrade on the plating these tasty tenders work for the grown-ups as well. So, here is my back to school gift to you — dinner tonight and lunchbox leftovers tomorrow.
Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders
Makes 10 chicken tenders
Note about chicken: Be sure to seek out chicken tenders, not sliced chicken breasts. The tenders will be more, well…tender. The sliced breasts with need to cook longer and become rubbery. Lately, I’ve had more luck finding organic chicken tenders at Von’s over Whole Foods — go figure. There are about 8-10 tenders per pack, this recipe doubles nicely if you want to make more.
10 organic chicken tenders
1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs or medium ground cornmeal*
1 teaspoon old bay seasoning
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter (divided)
2 tablespoons evoo (divided)
Set oven to 150 and grab a cookie sheet to place your tenders on after they are cooked to keep warm.
Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the egg in another. Set a cast iron skillet (9” – 10”) over medium heat.
Dip each tender in the egg mixture and then in the dry mixture, evenly coating each piece.
Your pan should be hot and ready to go. Add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of evoo to the skillet. It should sizzle! When the butter is melted and foamy add five of the dredged tenders. Cook 6-8 minutes a side. They will be golden brown when you flip. Place the cooked tenders on a cookie sheet fitted with a rack and slide in your prepared oven. Now add the rest of the butter and oil and repeat with the next batch.
Season with a pinch of salt before serving.
* Checking the ingredient list for the breadcrumbs I noticed it listed cornmeal and sugar, so I tried just cornmeal and it was great. Another option is GF panko breadcrumbs if you can find them — funny, they had them in Gloversville, but not in Santa Barbara?
For the grown-up version, I nestled the tenders on a bed of arugula dressed with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette and shaved some Parmesan ribbons on top. Delicious!