This post was most recently updated on October 1st, 2021
Make restaurant style chicken tenders at home! Can you guess what secret ingredient I use to make the CRISPIEST fried chicken tenders? You probably already have a container of it in your pantry! Crispy, flavorful and fried until perfectly golden brown. You’ll love these tenders!
Watch our step by step video!
If you’ve ever found yourself intimidated by making fried chicken, homemade crispy chicken tenders or chicken nuggets is a great place to start. Chicken tenders fry up much more quickly and cook much more evenly than drumsticks. I’ve tried many different methods over the years and came up with one that my family goes nuts over using a secret ingredient that you probably have in your pantry. Restaurant style chicken tenders made at home! With a family of 7, this is a huge money saver. I can feed our entire family for the price of two combo meals.
The key ingredient in making the CRISPIEST fried chicken is corn starch. I’ve been making fried chicken using corn starch for years, and every time I branch out and try out a recipe that doesn’t call for corn starch, I am disappointed. The coating just isn’t the same!
A simple 50/50 ratio of corn starch and flour works great, and it is something that you probably already have in your pantry. Many view corn starch as only an ingredient for baking or making sauces, and it works great for those uses. I use it in my bakery style sugar cookies.
If you’re looking for a crowd pleaser to make for the entire family, whip up a batch of these crispy chicken tenders and serve them with garlic fries, my favorite dipping sauce (scroll down for recipe) and a vegetable platter!
What are chicken tenders?
You might think that a chicken tender is simply a chicken breast cut into strips, but it’s actually a different piece all together. A chicken tenderloin is a small strip of meat located on the chicken breast. True to their name, the tenderloin is more tender than the chicken breast. It also has more flavor. That being said, boneless skinless chicken breasts are packed with vitamins and are more lean. They are more affordable than tenders too. I’ve made this recipe using chicken tenders or sliced up chicken breasts and they both come out delicious. I prefer tenders, but chicken breasts work great too.
How to Make the CRISPIEST Fried Chicken Tenders
Chicken Tender Ingredients
- 1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast tenders
- 3/4 cup dill pickle juice
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup corn starch
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 1/4 teaspoons seasoning salt
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- canola oil or vegetable oil for frying
- dipping sauces
The first thing you need to do is soak the chicken tenders in pickle juice, milk and an egg. Yes, pickle juice. It adds so much flavor and moisture and the tenders only soak for 30 minutes, so definitely take the time to do that.
When the chicken has about 5 minutes of soaking time left, go ahead and mix the dry ingredients. Corn starch, flour, seasoned salt, paprika, garlic powder and a bit of cayenne pepper.
Place them all in a plastic sealable bag and dip 6 tenders at a time. Seal the bag, give it a good shake and transfer the chicken tenders to a rack. Repeat until all of the tenders have been dipped and shaken.
I prefer to dip and shake everything at once instead of frying small batches and continually dipping more chicken in the corn starch mixture. This way, I only have to wash my hands once and it makes the frying process even quicker!
Frying the Crispiest Chicken Tenders
A good rule of thumb for frying chicken is to keep the oil between 350 and 375 degrees. The temperature of the oil will fluctuate as the cold chicken is added, so just keep an eye on it. The best way to have success deep frying chicken is to monitor the oil using a thermometer. Fry 5-6 tenders at a time. I fry mine in a large pot or cast-iron skillet, but a deep fryer is ideal for regulating the temperature.
Tip: If you don’t have a thermometer (I use an electric thermometer, but a candy thermometer works too), you can test the oil by dipping a bamboo skewer into the oil. Make sure it touches the bottom of the pan. If you immediately see bubbles coming up against the skewer, the oil is ready. Drop the temperature from medium high to medium and do a test batch with one chicken tender. The tenders shouldn’t brown immediately. If they do, the oil is too hot. Lower the oil and wait a few minutes before testing another chicken strip.
Just LOOK at that crispy coating!
Once the chicken has cooked for 5-6 minutes and is golden on both sides, remove and place on a platter with paper towels to drain. This recipe makes 16-18 crispy fried chicken tenders, so you can easily fry all of them in 3-4 batches.
The Best Dipping Sauce for Chicken Tenders
Ranch, honey mustard sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup—what is your favorite dipping sauce? I actually prefer a tangy version that is similar to fry sauce! So delicious to dip chicken strips in.
Tangy Chicken Tender Dipping Sauce
1/2 c. mayo
2 Tablespoons bbq sauce
splash Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. pickle juice
Mix ingredients and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Stir before serving.
Crispiest Fried Chicken Tenders Recipe
The Crispiest Fried Chicken Tenders
- 1 1/2 lbs. chicken tenders 16 tenders (or chicken breast cut into strips)
- 3 cup canola oil for frying
- 3/4 cup dill pickle juice
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup corn starch
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
- cayenne pepper pinch
- Mix pickle juice, milk and egg in a large bowl. Add chicken tenders and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Mix dry ingredients in a plastic bag.
- Place tenders in plastic bag, 6 at a time. Seal bag and shake.
- Remove tenders and place on a rack. Repeat with remaining tenders.
- Heat oil to 350-375 degrees.
- Fry tenders, 5 at a time, for 5-6 minutes or until golden brown.
- Place cooked tenders on a paper towel lined platter.
Delicious! Marinade kept it super moist, and such a good idea to use pickle juice 😄 Didnt try the sauce because we’re suckers for buffalo sauce.
So glad you liked it! And the pickle juice adds such great flavor, right?
Do you use sweet pickle juice or dill pickle juice?
I like using dill. 🙂
Do you make your pickle juice, or pour it off of dill pickles?
Hi Don! Yep! I pour it off the pickles. There is always pickle juice left in the jar from store bought pickles so I save it for making this recipe.
Made these tonight and we Loved them! I marinated the chicken all day. And I found a chick fil a sauce recipe to dip them in 🥰😋 perfection!!!! Thanks for sharing.
Yay! And I’m going to need to find that Chick fil A sauce recipe for dipping!
Do you think this would work in an air fryer?
Hi Laurie! I’m still new to air frying so I’m not sure what the time/temperature would be for making these. I’m sure you could though!
I made this last night. Very good and moist. Husband said this is a recipe to do again. It wasn’t KFC crispy, different but good. Guess it was the corn starch.
Yes, I have yet to figure out KFC, but we do like this recipe! Crispy and has a bit of a tang from the pickles! Glad you guys liked it, too!
Gail Patterson says
I think you’ll have to double dip for the extra crispness. I haven’t tried these yet, but the recipe looks like the best I’ve seen. I’ll let you know how double dipping goes!
Made these tonight and they were AMAZING!! Boyfriend says they were the best chicken tenders he’s ever eaten in his life. I doctored the sauce just a bit but it was perfection!!!
Monica, that is AWESOME. I’m so glad they worked out for you and that he loved them so much! They are a favorite over here with our family. We like using the same technique to make nuggets, too!
Maybe try popping the battered chicken strips in the fridge for a bit. Haven’t tried it with this recipe but it has worked for others.
Abolutely THE BEST chicken I have ever made!!! My family LOVES it!! I’m so glad I found this recipe on Pinterest!!!
Oh, I’m so glad! It is our favorite, too!
Made this chicken last night for dinner, and it was a HIT! No complaining from the kids at all (which is a big deal in our house)! I also made the tangy sauce, and it was loved all around! My 6 year old refuses any and all condiments but LOVED this sauce. Which brings me to my question- if I made a large batch of this sauce and stored in a condiment bottle, how long do you think it would last?
Hi Cydney! This made my day! So we’ve made the sauce and kept it in the refrigerator for about 5 days before we finished it. I haven’t tested it any longer than that. Sorry I’m not more help!
This came out so good. I had heard of brining the chicken but never tried it before. We’ve been trying to get good crunchies on our chicken and finally got them!! Thanks for sharing.
This made my day! So glad to hear!!
I’ve been searching for the perfect chicken tender recipe and thus is it! Batter stays in the chicken, very crisp and flavorful.
Yay! I’m so glad!
I tried it and it was delicious the best chicken fingers I ever tasted thanks for the recipe and the sauce was delicious too.
Thank you for letting me know. I’m so glad you like them!
They were so tender and juicy!!!
Yay! So glad to hear!
Hello which pickle juice do you use? Sweet or dill?
This came out deliciously! Coating was crisp, chucked was juicy. I made a honey mustard that was really good with it. Thanks!
I’m so glad!!
Made these tonight and what a hit ! Great batter and oh so tender. My husband and College age son loved these. This will be my go to recipe for sure.
Julie! Thank you for the feedback! So glad they were a hit with the family. They are my kids’ favorie dinner, too!
Dina Hampton says
So good! Best I have ever made.
I made these this evening and were awesome..will be making these again and I made the dipping sauce as well
Yay! So glad to hear.
Kathy Clarkson says
Do you think would work baked? I don’t like fried foods.
Hi Kathy! I’m not sure that I’d recommend baking these. I’d probably use a recipe with a breadcrumb coating for baked chicken tenders.
Thank you for this recipe! I made this and my family loved it!
I’m wondering if instead of frying in oil, if you can use air fry oven? My regular oven has an air fry setting. How would you recommend doing this? Thanks for any advice you could give!
Hi! In still getting used to air frying and haven’t tried it with this recipe yet, but I need to! Glad you guys liked it!
These are amazing and SO easy to make! I’ve been working from home, so I have the luxury to pop into the kitchen for a quick lunch every day. I was able to make, and eat, these all within my hour lunch break. I will definitely be moving this one to my “Make it Again!” Pinterest board 🙂
Yay! So glad that you loved them!
Katrina Paul says
Made this tonight- we made the sauce last night and marinaded the chicken overnight. So yummy!
Absolutely the best and simplest fried chicken recipe ever. My family absolutely devours the chicken and has become a go to recipe in our household! Just add some of Churches Chicken sauce and ~muah~ PERFECTION!!!!
So glad to hear!!
These were the best strips I’ve made. Thanks for the recipe
So glad to hear! Love it!!
Stephanie L Krueger says
Hi..can these be cooked in an air fryer?
Hi Stephanie, I haven’t tried making them in the air fryer, but I’d imagine you totally could.
C j nicholson says
Made these several times using your recipe. We love it!
I’m so glad! Thanks for letting me know!
These are delicious and I’ve made them 3-4 different times, but I can never get them crispy enough and the batter falls off the chicken! 🥴 We still devour them but I’d love to know if this happens to you or find out what I am doing wrong! 🤦🏼♀️
Bam awesome loved this recipe
Awesome! So glad you liked them!
Absolutely loved this recipe! My picky 4 year old also asked for seconds! That NEVER happens!
Yay!! I have picky eaters too so that’s a huge win!
Thankyou for sharing this recipy. My husband and I loved it. Great flavor.
So glad to hear that!