Gluten Free Chicken Dippers
Details and Cooking Instructions
These dippers are not your average chicken tenders! I love to find ways to cook our favorite restaurant picks at home. It’s usually healthier AND saves money. We cook mock fast food or mock take out almost once a week. I know that some people would rather just pay someone else to cook the food – I get it. Maybe it’s because I love to cook and eat wholesome foods, but I am frequently disappointed with food we get from restaurants, mostly related to the quality and taste, but sometimes for the inflated price (like that $35 piece of dry salmon I got from the waterfront restaurant).
Most kids (and a lot of adults) like to order the chicken tender basket when you go out to eat. How many times did my daughter order chicken tenders that came out dry and were obviously frozen 15 minutes before they were ordered? Also, I don’t even know that the tenders are made from the chicken breast – they could very well be “meat product.” Also, If you or your child is following a true gluten free diet, and you are avoiding cross-contamination, then you can’t order the chicken tenders because the oil comes in contact with wheat flour on other fried products.
The pecan meal adds such a wonderful flavor to the coating. I you can’t find pecan (or almond) meal at your local store, you can make it yourself by grinding up pecan pieces in a small blender or Cuisinart. The meal should look like sawdust and be uniform in texture (no chunks). I used Ian’s gluten free Panko breadcrumbs for my breaded chicken dippers and for breading fish. I like the crunchy and chunky texture of Panko breadcrumbs vs traditional breadcrumbs. Instead of gluten free flour, I use corn starch for the initial coating because I think it sticks better.
You can bake these crispy chicken tenders (400 degree oven on a cookie sheet), however I think that the splurge to fry these in olive oil is worth the extra calories, due to the increased tenderness and flavor. Baking these keeps them drier, however they will be lower in fat and still taste good. You’re not deep frying, so the breadcrumb coating can burn if the oil is too hot. I flip the tenders a few times while cooking to avoid burning. When frying, I used a lid to cover after each turn, to avoid getting hit with splattering oil. I start on a medium-low heat, because I don’t want to burn the coating. I cooked these in two batches of 4 tenders. I didn’t serve them until all the tenders were cooked, so I kept the first batch in a warm oven drawer, on a cookie sheet, while the second batch cooked. I serve with honey mustard dressing for dipping because that’s our favorite. These dippers can be reheated in the oven (400 degrees) and they maintain their crunchiness and flavor!
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- corn starch
- 1 egg
- 1/2 c milk
- 1/4 c pecan meal
- 1/2 c gluten free panic breadcrumbs
- 1 lb chicken tenders (breast meat)
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 tsp. salt-free chicken seasoning (like Weber or Mrs. Dash)
- Have 3 separate bowls for dipping chicken tenders as follows: cornstarch, milk and egg wash, panko breadcrumbs with pecan meal and seasonings.
- The amounts of the dipping and dredging ingredients are not quite exact, as you can add or use less, depending on how much chicken is used. I did not measure the cornstarch, but I estimate that it was close to 1/4 cup.
- Put cornstarch in one bowl. Beat egg and mix with milk in one bowl. Combine breadcrumbs, pecan meal, and seasonings in third bowl.
- For breading each tender, take the following steps: 1. Coat each side with cornstarch and shake lightly to remove loose particles. 2. Dip tender in milk and egg wash to fully coat each side and let extra drip back into bowl. 3. Place in breadcrumb mixture and flip to coat each side. 4. Place uncooked tender on plate and repeat until all tenders are coated.
- Heat olive oil in cast iron skillet or frying pan to medium heat. Do not get oil too hot, or breading will burn! I start on medium-low and increase slightly as needed.
- Cook tenders in batches, about 4 at a time, depending on the size of your pan. I used a large cast iron skillet. Cover with splash guard or lid, as needed, for popping hot oil.
- Turn tenders, at least once, and cook for about 4 minutes per side (total of 8-10 minutes). Cook to internal temperature of at least 165 degrees!
- Place cooked tenders on plate or platter lined with paper towels (there shouldn't be a lot of grease to absorb).
- Serve hot with favorite dipping sauce or ketchup.