Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders
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I have a mixed relationship with chicken tenders. On the one hand, I pretty much grew up on the frozen variety of these guys and even today a frozen chicken tender tastes incredibly familiar to me.
But they are also boring, in my opinion, and generally they are breaded and fried with all kinds of junk.
We can make them a little healthier by baking them instead of frying them and kids will love them no matter what. To change up the flavor profile a bit, I used unsweetened coconut flakes to completely coat the chicken tenders. The coconut toasts slightly as the tenders cook leaving you with a slightly sweet chicken tender that’s perfect for dipping!
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) Working with one chicken breast at a time, place it between some plastic wrap and pound it until it’s the same thickness, roughly 1/4 inch thick. Then slice the chicken into about 2-3 inch tenders. Repeat until all your tenders are ready.
3) In a shallow dish, pour in your unsweetened coconut. Whisk the eggs with a few tablespoons of water in a bowl. On a plate, spread out the flour and seasoning and stir together.
4) Working with a few tenders at a time, dust in the flour mixture, then transfer to the egg wash, and finally completely coat in unsweetened coconut flakes. Pack on the flakes so they are well-coated on the chicken. Transfer coated chicken tenders to a baking sheet.
5) When all chicken tenders are done, bake chicken for 18-20 minutes, flipping once halfway through, until chicken is cooked through and coconut is toasted and browned on top. Test a tender by cutting it in half and bake longer, if needed.
6) While chicken bakes, you can stir together the chili ketchup and/or honey mustard.
7) Serve tenders out of the oven with the dippings sauces!
Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders – Prep Time
There are few important notes here to make sure you chicken tenders come out as good as possible. First, you want to make sure that they are somewhat uniform. More important than length is thickness, so I recommend pounding out each chicken breast a bit before slicing it into strips.
You want to shoot for about 1/4-inch thick and there’s no need to whack the heck out of it. A light pounding will do the trick.
You need a standard breading mix for this recipe. If you wanted to make these gluten-free, Bob’s Red Mill makes a bunch of gluten free flour options that you could easily use.
Whatever flour you choose, do season it well with salt, pepper, and some chili powder for a little kick.
Once your chicken strips are cut, just dust them lightly in the flour mixture. This dries off the chicken and also helps the other stuff stick to it.
Then dip the tenders in some egg wash (2 eggs whisked with 2-3 tablespoons water) and then straight into the coconut mixture.
Typically, you might use breadcrumbs here but I used 100% unsweetened coconut flakes. Those words are very important. Make sure your coconut is unsweetened or you’ll end up with tenders that are too sweet. Also, make sure you get the shredded flakes. If the coconut is too fine, it’ll have a weird texture and might just burn in the oven.
When you put the chicken in the coconut, really press on them. You want them very heavily coated in coconut.
Then transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper!
Baking the Chicken Tenders
You can line up a bunch of chicken tenders on one baking sheet but do leave a small bit of space between each tender.
These will need to bake for 18-20 minutes at 375 degrees F. until they are browned nicely and cooked through. Slice into one to test it.
Also, flip the tenders halfway through cooking so they bake evenly.
These are just about perfect!
I mixed up two sauces for my tenders: a chili ketchup sauce and a honey mustard sauce.
The chili ketchup was my personal favorite!
These would be a great meal with a side salad or something or you could make them as easy finger foods for a game day appetizer!
No need to bust out the fryer. These baked coconut chicken tenders are where it’s at!