We may earn money from the products/companies mentioned in this post. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, read our Terms & Disclosures.
Ever wish you could indulge in moist, tender, yet totally crunchy chicken fingers without all the grease or gluten? This healthy carb, gluten free chicken tenders recipe is your solution…and they are so good, you won’t even think of them as a sub. In fact, these Whole 30 chicken tenders are about to become a family favorite!
As we move toward healthier recipes and wiser food choices, we’ve missed some of our favorite treats…namely crispy chicken tenders.
If you’re a chicken tender aficionado, then you know just how hard it is to get that satisfying crunch without compromising your healthy eating way. I took that as a personal challenge and created these gluten free chicken tenders that my kids beg for and my husband devours.
This recipe fall solidly in the column of healthy food alternatives win. They’re so good! Easy to make, crunchy, filled with flavor, so-good-you-won’t-even-miss-them-from-your-favorite-restaurant amazing.
Look at that plate. What’s not to love? I’ll have two or three of these beauties for lunch with a crunchy pickle and that mouth-watering sauce and I’m practically singing because I’m so happy. So how does this magic happen?
What Are Chicken Tenders?
First things first: what are chicken tenders exactly?
Most people think they are a food, often also called chicken fingers (and no, they aren’t really made from a chicken’s fingers). They associate this food with crunchy breading over white meat that’s been deep fried.
However, the “tender” is actually a part of the chicken; it’s the mean below the breast that kind of hangs there. It’s full name is tenderloin. This tender part of meat is about 5″ x 1 1/2″ long and that is where we get our chicken tenders shape from, even if we don’t always make them from the tenderloin (source).
To make your own, you can also just slice chicken breasts into thin strips. It’s pretty easy, although a lot of meat departments sell tender shaped strips these days.
How To Make Gluten Free Breadcrumbs
Gluten free breadcrumbs? Yes, it’s true. And they are so delicious! And no, you’re not buying some special ingredients. You’re making them. But they aren’t hard.
The secret ingredient isn’t bread, though. Not even low carb bread. It’s quinoa.
That’s what makes these gluten free, healthy carb, and Whole 30 chicken tenders healthy in addition to being delicious. You see, quinoa is loaded with essential amino acids, calcium, magnesium, B-vitamins, protein, fiber, and a few other goodies as well. We love it around here, which is why you’ll see it popping up on our family meals (my kids favor my Quinoa Lentil Chili!).
All you need to make your healthy chicken tenders breading is quinoa and a few spices!
Simply follow the package direction for your quinoa (we like to make several cups at a time and have extras for another meal, which is easier than making it fresh each time).
Next, spread your cooked quinoa out on a non-stick cookie sheet. Make suer it a very thin layer here, because basically what you’re doing is using your oven as a dehydrator for the quinoa to make it nice and crunchy.
After 25 minted at 300 degrees, you’ll give it a good stir and return it to the oven but cut the heat off. The residual heat will continue to toast your gluten free breadcrumbs for another 20 minutes (you can do longer if they don’t seem crispy).
At this point they are ready to use. I like to coarse crunch our quinoa so it’s got some fine crumbs and some larger pieces still to give it that southern fried texture, but if you like a finely breaded chicken cutlet you can use a grinder.
You’ll add salt, pepper, and paprika to your breading for these Whole 30 chicken tenders. Our favorite is coarse ground black pepper and smoky paprika, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
If I’m using this for a chicken parmesan dinner instead of just an easy, oven baked, healthy chicken tenders recipe, I’ll add some garlic salt in lieu of regular salt and some Italian seasoning to the mix. It’s a very versatile recipe.
Store any unused crumbs in an airtight container after they have cooled completely.
- Make your quinoa. See how I do it on the recipe card below. (I usually make up 2 cups or so at a time and have leftovers that I’ll use for another recipe.)
- Spread your cooked quinoa out on a cookie sheet. Do a nice, thin layer so that it can really dry out. Put it in the oven at 300 for 25 minutes. Take out the quinoa, stir it, then place the tray back in the oven. Even though it’s no longer on, the residual heat will continue to toast up your soon-to-be ‘bread’ crumbs.
- After another twenty minutes or so, pull the try out and use your coffee grinder or mortar and pestle to crush your toasty grains into breadcrumbs. I personally coarse chop it, because I like the crunchier texture of a thicker breading.
- Put your crumbs in a completely airtight container for storage if you’re not going to use immediately. I have actually made up large batches and frozen them, but I do like them fresh best.
Whole 30 Chicken Tenders Batter
Battering your chicken tenders is very easy. It’s pretty much the same as if you were making traditional souther fried chicken.
You’ll have a bowl of finely ground, gluten free oat flour, a bowl of your healthy chicken tenders breading made with quinoa and spices, and a bowl of egg whites (or you can use whole eggs, beaten well).
Dip the chicken in the egg, then into the oat flour, then back into the egg, then into the quinoa breading. Make sure they are well covered and then lay them on a cookie sheet. See, easy!
Healthy, Low Carb Chicken Tenders Dipping Sauces
Wondering what sauces will pair with with these healthy chicken tenders? Here are some of my classic favorites:
- 1-1 1/2 cups oven toasted quinoa (see post above on how to make)
- 1 cup egg whites
- 1/2 cup oat fiber
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 chicken breasts sliced into cutlets
Pull out 1-1 1/2 cups of your awesome quinoa crumbs and place in a wide bowl. Add in 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper. Optional (for those not on the paleo diet): add in 1 TB grated parmesan cheese.
Put 1 cup of egg whites in another wide bowl.
In a third bowl, place 1/2 cup oat fiber or oat flour (I’ve done it both ways and it really just depends on what I have on hand). If you need more, add it when you do.
Slice up 1-2 chicken breasts into what will be your fingers. I don’t like to do them too small, but I don’t want them too big either. If my chicken breast is too thick, I’ll pound it out a little, but rarely do I take that extra step; I usually just cut it in smaller pieces.
Dredge your chicken in egg white, then in the oat fiber or flour mix. Put it back in the egg whites, then roll it in your bread crumb mix.
Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 250 for 20-30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.
If you're a Trim Healthy Mama, this recipe is an E. It's also Paleo and Whole 30 compliant.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 642Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 176mgSodium: 687mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 7gSugar: 3gProtein: 75g
- Pull out 1-1 1/2 cups of your awesome quinoa crumbs and place in a wide bowl. Add in 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper. Optional (for those not on the paleo diet): add in 1 TB grated parmesan cheese.
- Put 1 cup of egg whites in another wide bowl.
- In a third bowl, place 1/2 cup oat fiber or oat flour (I’ve done it both ways and it really just depends on what I have on hand). If you need more, add it when you do.
- Slice up 1-2 chicken breasts into what will be your fingers. I don’t like to do them too small, but I don’t want them too big either. If my chicken breast is too thick, I’ll pound it out a little, but rarely do I take that extra step; I usually just cut it in smaller pieces.
- Dredge your chicken in egg white, then in the oat fiber or flour mix. Put it back in the egg whites, then roll it in your bread crumb mix.
- Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
- Bake at 250 for 20-30 minutes.