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Healthy Buttermilk Baked Chicken Strips is a family favorite!
The frozen ketchup dunker from your childhood just got a gourmet, healthy upgrade! Healthy Buttermilk Baked Chicken Strips have been marinated in buttermilk to juicy, tender perfection, then baked in a crispy and flavorful, panko and parmesan crust. The best part? Dinner is ready in about half an hour!
I freely admit to being a bit of a food snob. Chicken Milanese might sound sexier, but wherever you live in the world, and no matter what you call it, whether it’s fried chicken, nuggets, tenders, fingers, or chicken strips, juicy chicken surrounded by a crispy crust is a classic family favorite! And this healthier, baked version misses none of the tricks to make it the tastiest.
The secret is in the sauce. Or in this case, buttermilk and hot sauce.
Marinating your chicken in buttermilk with a dash of Tabasco creates the ultimate flavor enhancer and tenderizer for chicken.
What are chicken tenders?
Chicken tenders or tenderloins is a strip of the breast meat that is not really connected to the breast, so it can be easily separated. Similar to beef tenderloin, because of the location, this muscle does not move as much and is therefore more tender.
Because the tenderloin is still a lean white meat, it can be easy to overcook, and could dry out as a result. Marinating in buttermilk keeps these tenders flavorful and juicy.
What does buttermilk do to chicken?
The answer is two parts. First, the buttermilk with a dash of hot sauce imparts flavor. It isn’t a strong flavor, but more a depth of flavor with a hint of tang that compliments the seasonings in the breading to perfection.
Second, is the acid in the buttermilk. It breaks down the connective tissues in the tenderloins and makes them extremely tender and juicy.
How to make Healthy Buttermilk Baked Chicken Strips
Start by marinating the chicken tenderloins in buttermilk with a few dashes of hot sauce in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours. As long as you plan ahead, this extra step doesn’t add extra preparation time other then a minute or two, but makes a SERIOUS difference. You can use a mixing bowl or a ziplok bag to marinate your chicken in.
Can I make this recipe without marinating in buttermilk first?
Sure! Marinating in buttermilk is definitely the preferred method, but you will still get a great result with this breading and cooking method.
When you are ready to begin cooking, set up your dredging stations.
First, dip the chicken in flour, then an egg mixture that includes milk and mustard, then the breading.
The breading for these grown-up chicken nuggets has panko bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper, fresh thyme, fresh basil, and paprika.
What are panko bread crumbs and how do they differ from other bread crumbs?
Panko bread crumbs are airy, large flakes of crust-less bread that are great at creating texture and crunch. They are Japanese in origin, but have become very popular in recent years. The large, crunchy flakes are perfect for giving these Healthy Buttermilk Baked Chicken Strips a crisp texture like they had been fried, more so then traditional bread crumbs.
They can be found next to regular bread crumbs or/and in the Asian section of your grocery store.
Place the breaded tenderloins on a cookie sheet that has been treated with non-stick spray.
Bake the chicken strips for 15-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the tenderloins, just until the last bit of pink leaves the interior or until the center reaches 160 degrees if using a meat thermometer. The chicken will continue to cook up slightly as it rests. Always be careful not to overcook white meat chicken as the leanness makes it quick to dry out.
Serve with honey mustard, barbecue, or the sauce of your choice.
I love it when I can cook my sides in the same oven as the main dish. Here are a few of my favorites that can be roasted at the same time and temperature as these delicious chicken strips. Oven Roasted Asparagus, Baked Sweet Potato Fries, and Roasted Brussels with Bacon.
I LOVE questions, comments, and reviews. Leave me one below!
Healthy Buttermilk Baked Chicken Strips
- 2 pounds chicken tenderloins
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco or Franks Red Hot Sauce
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1.5 cups panko bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup parmesan cheese – grated
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons thyme – fresh, chopped 3/4 teaspoon dried
- 2 teaspoons basil – fresh, chopped 3/4 teaspoon dried
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika preferably smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper – fresh ground
Combine the chicken tenderloins, the buttermilk, and Tabasco in a covered mixing bowl or a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours, stirring at least once to make sure the chicken marinates evenly.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply non-stick spray to a large cookie sheet or baking pan.
Combine the flour mixture (flour and salt) in a small bowl or a plate.
Combine the egg dip ingredients in a small bowl.
Mix the breading ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl.
Remove a tender from the buttermilk and dip both sides first into the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Then coat in the egg wash, and finally, coat with the breading and lay on the cookie sheet.
Leave space between the chicken strips on the cookie sheet so they can brown and cook evenly.
Bake for 10 minutes and then flip. Bake for an additional 5-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the tenderloin, just until the chicken is not pink in the center or until 160 degree with a meat thermometer. Rest for 5 minutes before serving.