Thursday, April 14, 2011

Crunchy Saltine Chicken Tenders

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips, seasoned and dusted with flour, dipped into beaten egg, and rolled into well crushed saltine crackers - a southern favorite!

Crunchy Saltine Chicken Tenders

I guess we all have a go-to chicken strip recipe since you can really stretch out a chicken breast by cutting it into strips. Two or three large chicken breasts literally will make a huge platter of strips. When made at home with whole chicken breasts purchased on sale, they are economical and a super thumbs up kid favorite (even for us big kids)!

Crunchy chicken tenders can be done in a number of ways - coated with plain self rising flour, or dusted and then rolled in panko bread crumbs, cornflake cereal, and even potato chips - but I think my most favorite way to cook them is this one. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into tenders and seasoned, lightly dusted in flour and then dipped in beaten egg and rolled in crushed up saltine crackers. My mama used to love to use finely crushed crackers and cracker meal, so it's old school I guess, but then so am I!

You can also still use the cracker coating but change this up a bit by flattening the breast for a chicken fried chicken, or by cutting them into larger tenders or planks. Add variety by using your favorite seasonings or adding different herbs to the flour.

Most people seem to pan fry strips, but next to a full out deep fry, I love first cooking them in the oven, followed by a flash fry in my deep fryer, just to add the color. This method ensures the tenders are cooked through and I feel like I'm reducing the fat, yet still getting that wonderful fried chicken flavor and crunch we all love so much... but with a little less guilt. I've also included some alternative suggestions for cooking them at the bottom of the recipe. If you do choose the oven route, you'll definitely want to do a quick flash fry either at the beginning or end, just to give them that added flavor and golden color pictured above.

Serve these tenders with a glass of iced tea, a nice mixed garden salad, and the always fabulous Mississippi Comeback Sauce, the lovely spicy honey mustard dipping sauce I just featured, or a dressed up store-bought barbecue sauce, or homemade marinara dipping sauce.

Recipe: Crunchy Saltine Chicken Tenders

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 35 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

  • 1-1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama) , or to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup of self rising flour
  • 1 sleeve of saltine crackers, crushed (Nabisco Original recommended)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven safe rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and spray rack with non-stick spray; set aside. Cut the chicken breasts into strips and season both sides lightly with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Cajun seasoning. Dredge into the flour to coat lightly. Dip each strip into the egg, then roll in the crushed saltines. Set on the prepared rack. Transfer to oven and bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Meanwhile preheat deep fryer to 375 degrees and drop the tenders in batches into the fryer, only long enough to brown, about 30 seconds. May also pan fry start to finish; see notes below for other cooking methods.

Serve with Mississippi Comeback Sauce, barbecue sauce, spicy honey mustard, homemade marinara, jalapeno dipping sauce, or your favorite dipping sauce, a nice side salad, and a glass of southern iced tea.

Cook's Notes: I prefer to flash fry these, using the oven to bake them first and then finishing them in the deep fryer, just to add color. It only takes seconds to brown them and the deep fryer reduces the absorption of oil, yet tastes like you fried them start to finish. If you don't have a deep fryer, heat about 1-inch of canola or vegetable oil over medium to medium-high heat in a deep sided skillet or a Dutch oven. Carefully slide the tenders in the oil, frying until browned, about 3 minutes per side, then transfer to the wire rack for baking. Place into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through. You can also completely pan fry. I find them more greasy and the cracker coating tends to over-brown to my liking with pan frying.

Variations: Also works well with pork chops and a firm white fish - catfish, grouper, haddock, cod, halibut and swordfish are good options. May also substitute panko bread crumbs, crushed corn flake cereal, pretzels or potato chips for the saltines. Flash frying for color for potato chip crusted tenders is optional as they tend to color fairly well in the oven. A couple of suggestions from our Facebook readers - try cheesy crackers like Hot and Spicy Cheez-its or Goldfish crackers, coat them with crushed French fried onions (like French's), or try a combination of saltines, goldfish cracker, and a little Parmesan cheese for a change! For a change, can also cut the tenders into nuggets.

Tailgate Tip: Cut chicken into thin strips and fry as above. Thread chicken on wooden skewers for an easy handle. Serve cold, or toss on grill over indirect heat, just to warm through if desired. Serve with one of the above dipping sauces.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on April 14, 2011

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  1. I may try this very soon; I have boneless chicken breasts in the freeaer!

  2. oh, that is some yummy deliciousness right there! And I love the bake/deep fry method, never would of thunk it! anne

  3. I love oven baked chicken tenders. They are so quick and easy after work. I don't think I've made them with just yummy saltine crackers. I will be trying these soon!

  4. Mary - I can almost feel the crunchiness from here.

  5. I love chicken tenders--makes me feel like a little kid when I eat them. I'll have to try your method of baking first then a flash fry for color.

  6. its so hard to actually get chicken to stay crisp in the oven but it looks like you did the perfect job! I love this version using saltines and will be trying it soon for my 2 yr old son!

  7. I don't know why I haven't tried saltine coating on chicken before now. I cook pork chops this way, pan fried all the way and they are fabulous. So now I have to try your chicken strips! Thanks Mary!

  8. This sounds wonderful, I'll try it this week!

    Thank you!

    Have a wonderful day!

  9. I made this AGAIN for dinner tonight & my husband just loves these saltine chicken tenders! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe:))))

  10. You're so welcome!! And thanks so much for taking the time to come back & leave a comment - I appreciate that!

  11. I like using a combination of saltine crackers, goldfish crackers, and Parmesan cheese :)

  12. For supper tonight!!!! Love your site! I use it frequently!!!

  13. Hope you enjoyed the crunchy tenders Jess!

  14. Replies
    1. Of course! In the notes I included "May also substitute panko bread crumbs, crushed corn flake cereal, pretzels or potato chips for the saltines." They are all good!!

  15. I've been making these at least 2x a month for the last year or so! They are so good! There is very little foods that get children of any age along with adults of any age excited the way chicken tenders can! Last week I used half Saltines and half finely crushed French's Fried Onion Straws for a Lil xtra sumn sumn...Spectacular!!!

    1. Oh yes indeed - those fried onions are awesome as a coating!

  16. These are great! I just made them for the second time, by request! Has anyone tried coating the and then freezing? My thought was that I could then bake and flash fry. Any thoughts?

    1. Thanks so much! I have not personally prepared them for the freezer but I see no reason why you couldn't! Just prepare and coat, then put them on a baking sheet lined with non stick aluminum foil or parchment and flash freeze. Transfer to a freezer bag or freezer container. You should be able to bake them straight from frozen, though you may need to go a tad longer - just be sure to check them so as not to overcook them!


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