If you're looking for an easy weeknight meal, these gluten free chicken tenders are always a crowd pleaser! They're breaded in almond flour crackers and lightly fried in olive oil making them a little healthier than the classic. Perfectly paired with a hot honey mustard dipping sauce too and made paleo and kid friendly.
Today is the day I finally let the internet in on my super secret chicken tender recipe. I've been using this recipe for years to make the beloved comfort food slightly healthier and easier but still packed with flavor. And now you guys can too!
I've made these chicken tenders for my husband, daughter, friends, and even a few strangers and it's always a hit. Partly because they're just down right delicious but also because they only require 3 ingredients and come together in under 30 minutes - what's not to love.
They're made with no flour, just crackers and are pan fried to golden perfection!
Why you will love this recipe
- Breaded in almond flour crackers
- Pan fried lightly in olive oil, no vegetable oil!
- Only requires 3 ingredients
- A healthier take on the classic chicken tender
- Great for meal prep
- Takes less than 30 minutes to make
- Made gluten free, dairy-free, and paleo friendly
- Whole30 too!
- Kid approved
Ingredient and notes
See below for details on the gluten free chicken strips ingredients and the hot honey mustard dippings sauce.
- Chicken tenders - I like to buy chicken tenderloins but you can also use boneless skinless chicken breasts and cut them into strips or use chicken thighs.
- Egg - Used as an egg wash for the chicken tenders so the crackers will stick. This is optional but it really does help to keep the breading on the chicken when pan frying.
- Almond flour crackers - My favorite are Simple Mills sea salt almond crackers. Any type of cracker will work though. Just be sure you can crush them up easily.
- Olive oil - My preferred oil to pan fry. The smoke point is high enough to get a nice golden brown crisp. You can also use avocado oil or coconut oil.
- Mustard - Used for my favorite dipping sauce. I used Primal Kitchen's spicy brown mustard. Dijon or brown mustard work best.
Step by step directions
These gluten free chicken tenders will be your new favorite weeknight meal! You need a bag to crush up the crackers or a food processor or blender, a shallow bowl, and a pan for frying.
Step 1 : Crush up the crackers. First, crush the crackers up into fine pieces. I like to use a large ziplock bag and a rolling pin for this. It's oddly satisfying to crush them up by hand!
You can also blend up the cracker with a food processor or blender. You will get finer cracker pieces this way.
Pour the crushed crackers into a shallow bowl.
Step 2 : Bread the chicken. Whisk the egg thoroughly in a separate bowl. This is your egg wash. Dip the chicken pieces in the egg wash and allow any excess to drip off.
Then place the chicken strips in the bowl with the crackers. Coat well by flipping the tender over in the crackers to ensure both sides are coated.
Step 3 : Pan fry the chicken tenders. Because we are "lightly" pan frying these tenders, you only need about 2 tablespoon of olive oil per batch of tenders. This recipe should make about 3 batches using a standard 8 inch pan.
Heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Once hot, place each breaded chicken tender inside the pan. Be sure not to over crowd the pan.
Cook the tenders for 5 minutes before flipping them over to cook for another 2 - 3 minutes. The crackers should turn a golden brown and the chicken underneath will be a creamy white when done.
Transfer the tenders to a rack or pan to cool down and then repeat with the next batch. Keep in mind, you will need to add 2 tablespoon of olive oil every time a new batch goes into the pan.
Step 4 : Prepare the sauce. To make the sauce, simply add all the ingredients and spices to a small bowl and mix well with a spoon or spatula. The honey and mustard should mix well to create a golden tan color.
How to serve
These chicken tenders are best enjoyed warm with dipping sauce like the hot honey mustard, ketchup, ranch, etc. This way is great for a casual dinner in or as a fun appetizer.
You can also serve the tenders cold on a salad. I recommend cutting them up into pieces and placing them on a salad with a chopped up hard boiled egg, avocado slices, diced red onion, and dressing of your choosing. The hot honey mustard would make a great dressing too - just add a little olive oil to it to think it out slightly!
Expert Pan Frying Tips
- Use an oil with a lower smoke point like olive oil or avocado oil to reduce the likelihood of burning. I also think this is a safer option when frying food at home, especially in an open pan on the stove.
- Don't put too much oil in the pan. As you probably know, oil can "pop" when it's too hot and yes it hurts. I recommend only using 2 tablespoon of oil per batch of chicken tenders. It's just enough to cook the tenders but you won't have excess oil heating up in the pan to "pop".
- Wait until the pan is hot to place the chicken in. This allows the chicken to "fry" in the oil instead of just soaking it up.
- Use the right tools. A spatula or tongs are best to flip the chicken over. Try not to use a fork if you can - it's not long enough.
- Watch the heat carefully. If you start to see the pan smoking or the chicken is getting too dark, reduce the heat to medium-low.
How to reheat chicken tenders
If you have left over tenders, store them in an airtight container in the fridge. They will keep for up to 5 days.
When ready to enjoy, heat them up in a skillet with ½ tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. This allows the breading to remain crispy and not soggy like if you were to microwave them. You can also pop them in a toaster oven for 3 - 4 minutes. Again, this allows the breading to remain nice and crispy!
Can I air fry the chicken tenders?
Yes, these chicken tenders can be air fried for an easy, low mess option. I recommend placing a sheet of aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray in the bottom of the air fryer basket for easy clean up.
Air fry at 400 F for 12 minutes flipping the chicken tenders half way through. As with all things chicken, make sure the tenders are cooked to an internal temperature of 165 F before serving.
Frequently asked questions
These pan fried chicken tenders take about 7 minutes to fry in a pan.
The key to using a little less oil is to keep the pan at medium heat. If the pan is too hot, the oil will pop and evaporate away. With less oil, you want the chicken to cook in the little oil there is so keep the temperature around medium heat.
Allow them to cool down completely before storing in an airtight container. They will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. When ready to enjoy, reheat on a skillet with ½ tablespoon oil or in a toaster oven for a few minutes. This allows the breading to remain crispy and not soggy.
Yes, you can freeze these tenders. Allow them to cool down all the way and then place them in a freezer bag. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter or in the fridge when ready to enjoy and reheat in a pan on the stove or heat in a toaster oven.
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Gluten Free Chicken Tenders
For the chicken tenders
- 2 cups crackers - I used almond flour crackers
- 6 tablespoon olive oil - divided
- 1 egg
- 1 ½ lbs chicken tenders - you can also use a chicken breast and cut it into strips
For the hot honey mustard dipping sauce
- 2 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ teaspoon chipotle powder
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Crush up the crackers in a zip lock bag with a rolling pin or in a food processor or blender. If using a zip lock bag, make sure it’s closed tightly and there is no air in the bag. Run the rolling pin (or you can use a jar or can) over the bag a few times to crush up the crackers into fine pieces. If using a food processor or blender, blend well until the crackers are super fine. Place them in a shallow bowl and set aside.2 cups crackers
- Add 2 tablespoon olive oil to a pan and place it on the stove over medium heat to warm up.6 tablespoon olive oil
- While the pan is heating up, whisk the egg in a separate bowl well. Dip each chicken tender in the egg mixture and allow the excess to drip off. Then transfer the tender to the bowl with the crackers and coat well. Flip the tender over a few times in the cracker bowl to make sure both sides are well coated.1 egg, 1 ½ lbs chicken tenders
- Once the pan is hot, place the “breaded” chicken tender in the pan. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan.
- Allow the chicken to cook for 5 minutes before flipping each tender over with a spatula to cook for another 2 - 3 minutes. The cracker breading should be a golden brown color and the chicken underneath will be a creamy white color.
- Transfer the chicken tenders to a rack or plate to cool down slightly and repeat the process with the remaining chicken. Every time you add another batch of tenders to the pan, add 2 tablespoon of olive oil. This recipe should yield 3 batches of tenders.
- While the tenders are cooling down slightly, prepare the hot honey mustard dipping sauce by adding all the sauce ingredients to a small bowl. Mix well with a spoon or rubber spatula to combine the mustard and honey. The mixture should turn a tan golden color.2 tablespoon spicy brown mustard, 1 tablespoon honey, ½ teaspoon chipotle powder, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Serve the tenders while still warm with the dipping sauce and enjoy!