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Chicken tenders (or fingers, take your pick) are a kid (and adult) favorite, at least at our house. As with all of our favorite foods, I’ve found healthier alternatives to the traditional versions as we’ve adopted a healthier diet.
Can Chicken Tenders Be a Health Food?
The first step to making fried chicken healthier is to use healthier chicken. I wrote extensively about the importance of choosing excellent protein sources in this post. The gist of it is, if the animals that you’re eating are healthy, your food will be healthier too. Chicken is an important source of B vitamins, minerals, and iron. Since I don’t have a great local source I usually order mine from Wellness Meats or Butcher Box.
The second step is to use healthier breading ingredients. Since our family usually avoids most grain products, I use seasoned almond flour to coat the chicken for these chicken fingers. It gives the chicken a nice nutty flavor, without sacrificing the crispiness essential to fried chicken.
The third step is to use a healthy fat source for frying. I prefer not to use peanut oil or canola oil, so I usually use tallow (rendered beef fat) or coconut oil. Both contain healthy fats and have a high smoke point, making them excellent for frying.
All the Ways to Enjoy Homemade Chicken Tenders
Most obviously, chicken fingers are meant to be dunked in a delicious sauce and eaten just like that. My family’s favorite dipping sauce is homemade honey mustard. But since I make a lot of my own condiments, we’ve tried a lot of different combinations and enjoyed them all. Try:
You really can’t go wrong!
The other excellent way to enjoy chicken tenders is chopped up and tossed on top of a salad. Using them in a salad lets me combine the veggies and protein all in one dish, so I don’t have to worry about cooking separate sides.
I specifically designed my Spring Salad with Berries to be topped with homemade chicken strips and drizzled with honey mustard dressing. It’s pretty delicious.
If your family loves traditional chicken fingers, give this healthier version a try! I promise, it’s easy and delicious and you won’t be disappointed.
Healthy Chicken Tenders Recipe
- 3 medium chicken breasts
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp water
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 2 cups tallow (or coconut oil, for frying)
- honey mustard (for serving, optional)
- Turn the oven on warm and place a baking sheet inside it.
- Cut the chicken into strips or nuggets.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water.
- Add the chicken strips, mix well, and set aside.
- In another bowl, mix together the almond flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Heat the tallow or coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, remove the chicken from the egg mixture and dredge it in the almond flour mixture.
- Place the chicken in a single layer in the pan of heated oil.
- Cook 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through.
- Remove from pan and place on the warm baking sheet in the oven while additional batches are cooking.
- Continue cooking chicken until it is all done.
- Once everything is cooked, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and serve with honey mustard sauce.
Ever made a healthy version of chicken tenders? Share below!
Discussion (56 Comments)
Is there a substitution for almond flour? My son also has nut allergies, almond being one of them. The recipe looks delicious! Thanks for your hard work:-) I’m going to try your beef cabbage stir fry soon. It looks amazing;)
Katie - Wellness Mama
Coconut flour is good if he can have that. The texture will be different but it will work
coconut is a tree nut….
My son has peanut and tree nut allergy and eats coconut fine. In reality, coconut is not a tree nut!!!!! Investigate!!! I was thrilled for my son to be able to have coconut!
*The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) states: “Coconut is not a botanical nut; it is classified as a fruit, even though the Food and Drug Administration recognizes coconut as a tree nut.
Unfortunately my favorite food is fettuccine alfredo: grains and butter and cheese and milk. Not exactly the healthiest meal…
try baking powder first then redid for flour, it’s the way it’s done in chinese cooking
I’m sorry I ment corn starch not baking powder
My fiance and I made fried chicken legs using coconut flour! We did it the same way and it was so good!
Cierra Dawn James Page
Recommendations for substitution on almond flour?
Is there any substitute for almond flour? My daughter has a tree nut allergy.
I know this is an older post but I am wondering if there is an alternative also. I do not have either of these allergies or sensitivities but it seems you have to choose between nut-free and grain free. Is there anything that isn’t one or the other?
How do you keep the almond flour on the chicken? It comes off in chunks and then burns.
Did you dip in egg first?
I have this question too. Every time I try to “fry” with almond flour, I can’t get it to stick to the meat, and I end up with flour balls and naked chicken. lol
Made these tonight. They were so good! I also made the honey mustard dressing without the salt and pepper and loved it. Re: oil – I just poured enough to fill the pan up to about 1/4″ and fried the chicken that way. It did result in some of the later pieces having the burnt remains of the prior pieces on them but the flavor of the “breading” was strong enough to overtake the burnt taste. 🙂
Could you bake the chicken instead?
Thanks. I was wondering the same thing
How long would you bake it? 20-25 mins?
@Natalie I think the 2 cups are so the oil comes up high enough to fry the chicken. I’m sure if you use a narrower pan you could get away with using less.
2 Cups??? That seems like a lot of very expensive oil. I’m sure it can be done with much less. Otherwise, sounds delish! I make a great honey mustard dressing for my family w/ organic olive oil, mustard, honey, red wine vinegar and s&p. I just shake it up in a container and it turns out great!
You definitely wouldn’t need that much, but that is enough to almost submerge and I re-use the oil so it doesn’t go to waste…
How many times would you re-use the oil? Thanks.
3-5 depending on what i used it for…
How do you store to reuse? Would you only reuse it for frying? How long does it keep? I’ve never heard of reusing oil, but I like it because frying seems like such a waste!
Thank you! I made this tonight with the sweet potato fries and it was delicious 🙂