Ultra juicy, ultra crispy fried chicken tenders are easier to make than you’d think and use cupboard staples. Toss with sticky hot honey sauce, for a serious crowd-pleasing winner perfect for entertaining, game day or a fakeaway night in.
I like to think of these lovely chicken tenders as elevated chicken nuggets. They’re just so incredibly moreish – as fried chicken tends to be. These are wonderful for entertaining because they’re easy enough to eat casually with your fingers and always go down a storm. Plus, because tenders are small, they cook quickly so are less fussy than making regular fried chicken.
The sweet, spicy, sticky, sour hot honey sauce takes them to another level and is so easy to make yourself – you just need three ingredients and you can make it as the chicken cooks.
Prefer not to deep-fry? You can make them in the air fryer! Cook for 10 minutes at 400F/200C, flipping halfway through and drizzling them liberally with oil.
- Chicken tenders. If you can’t find chicken tenders, use chicken breasts (or thighs) and slice them into strips. Always use free-range.
- Yogurt. Typically, chicken tenders are marinated in buttermilk, but I find plain natural or Greek yogurt to be a perfect alternative. It’s something I tend to have on hand anyway, and there’s no wastage (like there often is with buttermilk as it’s not a versatile ingredient).
- Flour + baking powder. Regular plain flour is fine, or you could use self-raising flour and skip the baking powder. You can also use gluten-free flour.
- Oil. You want to use oil with a high smoke point for deep-frying (so not olive oil). Vegetable oil like avocado, rapeseed or canola oil is great.
- Spices. The dried thyme, ground turmeric, paprika and salt are used to season both the marinade AND the crispy coating.
If you’re making your own hot honey sauce, you’ll need honey, chilli flakes and lemon juice.
How to make them
Mix your yogurt marinade in a large bowl, then add the chicken tenders and toss to completely coat them. Set aside while you prep the crispy coating (you can marinate the chicken in the fridge for up to 24 hours if you like).
Mix the ingredients for your crispy coating, then toss the chicken through, making sure to cover every part with the flour mixture. You can get your hands in there and kind of scrunch up the chicken into the flour mixture – this will give you lots of lovely craggy bits which will get super crispy when you fry them.
Heat your oil to 390F/180C – the best and easiest way to check your oil is at the right temperature is to use a thermometer. They’re cheap and readily available from Amazon and are one of my most-used kitchen pieces. Set yourself up with a wire rack set over a baking tray. Carefully lower your tenders into the hot oil.
Fry the chicken for about 5 minutes, using a fish slice to move the pieces around in the oil to ensure even cooking. Carefully transfer the cooked chicken to the rack. Depending on the size of your pot, you can fry 3 to 4 pieces at once but it’s important to not overcrowd the pot – this will help to keep the coating nice and crispy. Make the hot honey sauce while the chicken is cooking, then toss the crispy chicken with the sauce, plate up and serve.
Tips for foolproof deep-frying at home
I know that deep-frying can feel a little scary, but I promise it’s a lot easier than you might think, especially if you follow these tips.
- Monitor the temperature of your oil. This is why it’s SUPER helpful to have a probe thermometer. You can guess that the oil is at the right temperature by doing the wooden spoon in the oil trick (place the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil and if it bubbles up rapidly around it, it’s good to go). But you’ll get the best results if you know for sure. This is because if the oil is too cold, the coating won’t crisp up and you’ll end up with soggy tenders. And if it’s too hot, the coating will burn before the chicken has a chance to cook.
- Don’t overcrowd your pot. This is tied to the temperature of the oil too. Adding the chicken into the oil will lower the temperature, so if you put too many pieces in at once, the temperature will drop too far and by the time it comes back to temperature, the soggy damage will already be done. Even if it takes a little longer, it’s worth just frying a few pieces at a time.
- Move your chicken around in the oil. I like to use a fish slice to do this. It will help the chicken cook evenly and ensure it’s lovely and crispy all over.
Watch how to make them
Got a question?
If your oil is at 390F/180C – it SHOULD be perfectly cooked through in 5 or so minutes. If you’re worried, just cut into a piece to check it’s white all the way through. Or, use your probe thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken – when cooked, it should be at least 165F/75C.
You can! I’ve done this while catering for a party of 40, and it worked perfectly. Fry the chicken as per the recipe, but don’t toss it with the hot honey sauce. Let the fried chicken cool completely on the wire rack, then transfer it to containers and pop into the fridge. The next day, you can reheat it for 8 minutes at 350F/150C fan on a wire rack set over a baking tray in the oven (this will let the air circulate and crisp up the coating). After that, continue with the recipe and serve.
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It’s filled with my absolute favourite takeaway dishes you can make at home!
From a quick pad thai and saag paneer, to Korean fried chicken, beef rendang and chicken satay, you’ll love exploring the book.