Herbed Chicken Tenders with Tomato Sauce

Freezer-friendlyItalianChicken Breast

Chicken tenders, baked with an herbed breadcrumb coating, served with simple Italian tomato dipping sauce.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

I wonder who came up with the name “chicken tenders”? Hmm, perhaps it sounds more appealing than “the piece of meat we strip off the breast when we make cutlets”.

In any case, chicken tenders can be useful to have around, stored in the freezer for when you want a quick meal.

As the name implies, they are tender, having been cut from chicken breasts, and a little soaking in buttermilk helps tenderize them even further.

There are so many ways one could play with this recipe. What we present here are simple, basic, breaded and baked chicken tenders, with a classic Italian tomato sauce for dipping. (These little guys make great finger food.)

I make my breadcrumbs from scratch, because we often have leftover hard ends of French or Italian loaf bread hanging around, which are so easy to chop up and pulse in the blender.

I’m using Italian seasoning with the breadcrumbs, you could just as well pick one herb, like thyme, and go with that. Or add some grated Parmesan.

For a lemony flavor you could soak the chicken in a little lemon juice instead of buttermilk.

Chicken tenders are sold packaged as such, or you can make your own by saving and freezing them when you prepare chicken cutlets.

Chicken Tenders

Just find that little strip on the side of the chicken breast half and cut it or pull it off.

Herbed Chicken Tenders with Tomato Sauce Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4-6


Chicken Tenders

  • 2 lbs chicken tenders (about 12 pieces)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk*
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning herbs**
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted

Tomato Dipping Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

*You can make a substitute for buttermilk by adding a tablespoon and a half of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 1/2 cups of milk and letting the mixture stand for 10 minutes.

**A mixture of dried herbs often used in Italian cooking such as marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil



1 Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions, stirring often, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

2 Add the tomato paste, mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes more. The tomato paste should darken to a brick-red color.

3 Add the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Cook this for 5 minutes if using tomato sauce, 10 minutes if using crushed tomatoes.

4 Put the sauce into a blender and purée until smooth. Hold your hand over the blender lid to keep it from popping off, and start the blender at a low setting and work up to the highest.

The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

The Tenders

1 Soak tenders in buttermilk for 15-30 minutes. While the tenders are soaking, make the sauce (see sauce directions above).

2 Mix together the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and salt in a shallow bowl.

3 Heat oven to 500°F. Line a roasting pan with foil. Brush the top of the foil with vegetable oil to help prevent sticking, or use a Silpat sheet. One by one, remove the chicken tenders from the buttermilk and place in the bowl with breadcrumbs, coating them on all sides with the breadcrumbs. Place on the roasting pan.

4 Drizzle a little melted butter over each chicken tender. Place in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, and the pieces are lightly browned.

Serve with a bowl of the sauce for dipping.

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Chicken Tenders with Tomato Sauce

26 Comments / Reviews

No ImageHerbed Chicken Tenders with Tomato Sauce

Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Lyndal Christophersen

    I made this chicken tender recipe for supper tonight and everyone loved it. The sauce was delicious and something new for the kids to try instead of boring ketchup. I added some homemade salsa in replacement of some of the tomato sauce to kick up the zest. I would definitely make this recipe again. Lyndal

  • Sam

    Hi, Would this work with just using slices of chicken breast instead of the tenders?

  • Tina

    I made these last night for dinner – they were wonderful. They are extremely easy, and perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. I used panko breadcrumbs, and the tenders turned out with a great crunchy crust. Didn’t even bother making the tomato sauce – just used BBQ instead (the husband used Ranch). We didn’t have buttermilk on hand, so used your tip to mix lemon juice with milk – worked perfectly! :)

  • pat

    I tried this recipe. The coating was soggy and sticky, not crispy at all. Flavor was good, but I was hoping for a crispy coating.

  • Jack Larkin

    I just made these. I thought they were tasty, and they were well received too!

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