These baked coconut chicken tenders are a wonderful, healthy, gluten-free alternative to the traditional heavy, fried tenders. They’re crispy and crunchy and they melt in your mouth. The best!
If you know me, you know that I’m a relatively healthy eater — aside from my sweet teeth (saying tooth would do my sugar cravings injustice). But that was not always the case. Ohhhhh no.
Through my adolescence, there were only two things I would eat out at a restaurant: potato skins or chicken tenders. My everyday lunch through middle school? Two boats of tater tots, 4-6 soft, gooey cafeteria cookies, and 2 fruitopias.
How on earth am I still alive?!?! Quite honestly, I have no idea.
Somewhere along the line in highschool, I started to clean up my diet — probably because of the onset of my tummy troubles — but my love of chicken tenders (and potato skins. Can’t forget the potato skins) never really went away, even if I did start opting for other, healthier options.
Then, years and years later, came the gluten diagnosis. I can’t tell you how many times I kicked myself in the butt for not eating all of the gloriously fried and breaded things that I could get my grubby little hands on when I was still “able”. But perhaps this whole gluten-free thing is a blessing in disguise: it caused to me to experiment and look for other, homemade options to satisfy my cravings, which ended up being MUCH healthier, and dare I say tastier.
Enter coconut chicken tenders.
These coconut chicken tenders are divine. I like to think that even my 13 year old self would opt for these babies over all of the other chicken tender options in the world, without even considering the health aspect.
The coconut crust gives them an incredible crunch and texture, while the almond flour mixture + egg creates the perfect cocoon for the chicken, allowing it to cook through while retaining all of it’s moisture. And they’re baked, not fried, which means you can feel good about feeding them to your family, AND they won’t wreck your waistline.
High-five for sneaky health food!
Also: the accompanying spicy honey mustard sauce? ohmygoshhhhhh I could drink it. I may have been caught a time or two with my finger “in the jar” (that is, if a time or two really means more like 37583750834 times). It is literally the easiest sauce in the world to make. I’m not quite sure why I never thought to make it sooner. I’m not one for super sweet condiments, so this honey mustard is more on the mustard-with-just-a-touch-of-honey side of things, but as always, feel free to adjust to your taste.
A little tip on the prep: dedicate one hand to the wet ingredients, and one hand to the dry ingredients. Otherwise your fingers will become a mess and you honestly won’t be able to tell the difference between a tender and your index finger.
My method is this: left hand is dedicated to raw, uncoated chicken and egg; right hand is dedicated to almond flour mixture and coconut. Pick up left, dredge with right and drop into egg, dredge in egg with left and drop into coconut, coat in coconut with right and lay on the pan.
Even the best of us (ahem) get mixed up every-third-tender, so as soon as your fingers start to get coated, take a second to rinse your hands and dry them really well
You know, I don’t think I even miss regular chicken tenders anymore. For realzies.
Give ‘em a shot. I bet you’ll give up your super-fried ways as well!
- Chicken tenders:
- 2 large chicken breasts, cut into long, thin strips
- ½ cup almond meal
- 3 Tablespoons gluten-free all purpose flour*
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened coconut flakes
- Chopped cilantro, for garnish
- Spicy Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce:
- ¼ cup yellow mustard
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.
- Set out 3 shallow bowls. In the first bowl, combine the almond meal, gluten-free all-purpose flour, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper. Place the beaten eggs in the second bowl, and the coconut in the third bowl.
- Using one hand for the wet ingredients and one hand for the dry ingredients (see description in post), dredge a chicken strip into the almond meal mixture, then into the egg mixture, then into the coconut flakes. Make sure the contents of each bowl completely cover each strip.
- Place coated chicken strip on the pan, leaving a ½ inch space between each strip.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all of the chicken is coated.
- Bake the chicken for a total of 25 minutes, turning each strip over after about 15 minutes.
- While the chicken is baking, combine the mustard, honey, and pepper to make the dipping sauce, stirring well.
- Garnish strips with cilantro (if desired) and enjoy!