A healthy recipe for parmesan crusted chicken tenders featuring chicken strips, panko breadcrumbs, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Don’t forget marinara sauce on the side for dipping!
When it comes to dinnertime favorites, chicken parmesan has always been right there at the top of my list. In fact, let’s just kick this one off with a little game, shall we? Raise your hand if you don’t love Parmesan cheese. Nobody. Hmmm. Ok, now let’s try this one — raise your hand if you don’t love Parmesan Crusted Chicken. You guys see what I’m doing here, right? Obviously, no one in the room is raising their hand, because everybody loves chicken parmesan. And, I mean everybody. The women, the men, even those picky little children…all of them.
Because, really, what’s not to love? Juicy chicken, coated in a crispy, salty Parmesan crust and topped with a savory marinara — it’s total and complete perfection. And you may have trouble believing this one, but I’m pretty sure I’ve found a way to make it even better. A healthier, even more kid-friendly version of Parmesan crusted chicken has arrived, and y’all better brace yourselves because you, my friend, are about to be a straight-up dinnertime hero.
If I’m being 100% honest, the origin of this recipe actually began not with chicken parmesan in mind, but rather every kid’s favorite food, chicken tenders. Man, do my kids love fried, bite-sized chicken….I mean, really, who doesn’t. Fried chicken is totally amazing. But, as a mom of two little ones, I feel a responsibility to try and keep dinnertime at least somewhat nutritious. I wanted to come up with a chicken tender recipe I didn’t have to fry, but mostly one I didn’t have to feel guilty serving up to my kids.
Oh, and I wanted them to be super tasty. That was kind of important as well.
With a block of Parmesan cheese in the fridge and Panko breadcrumbs on the shelf, inspiration struck and chicken parmesan tenders were officially on the menu. I took my original chicken parmesan recipe and adjusted it just ever so slightly to eliminate the shallow-fry in oil. This not only made for a healthier parmesan crusted chicken but one that was easier for my littles to eat. No fork and knife needed here, folks. This chicken was made for dipping. Like, literally made for dipping. Marinara? Yes, please. Click here for my quick marinara sauce recipe.
HOW TO MAKE CRISPY PARMESAN CRUSTED CHICKEN IN THE OVEN
To make crispy crusted chicken in the oven, the temperature is important, but Panko sure doesn’t hurt either. Panko stays much crispier than plain breadcrumbs and is a much better option if a crunchy coating is the goal.
Also, cooking the chicken at a temperature at 375° ensures a heat environment hot enough to get a nice, crisp coating on the chicken, without drying out the interior. Lastly, turning the chicken half-way through the cooking process ensures both sides get exposure to direct heat from the oven, preventing one side from being crispy and the other soggy.
This is a dinnertime upgrade the whole family can get down with, and even the pickiest of picky children will love these parmesan crusted chicken tenders. Just ask my kids. Bonus for them. And, the bonus for you? They’re baked, they’re healthy, and you don’t have to feel once cinch of guilt when it comes to serving up this kind of chicken tender. Oh yeah, and they’re delicious. Let’s not forget about the deliciousness. Please, enjoy.
Parmesan Crusted Chicken Tenders
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup milk
- 3/4 cup plain Panko breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 pound chicken breast tenders, patted dry with a paper towel
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 cup prepared marinara sauce ( for dipping)
Preheat the oven to 375° and have ready a rimmed baking sheet lined with nonstick aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Have ready three breading trays. In the first tray combine the flour, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. In the second tray, whisk together the eggs and milk. In the third tray, stir together the Panko and Parmesan cheese.
Dredge each tender in the flour mixture, then in the egg mixture. Then, back into the flour mixture, and back into the egg mixture once more. Lastly, dip the tender in the Parmesan/Panko mixture and transfer to the baking sheet. Take care not to overcrowd the pan.
Drizzle the strips evenly with olive oil on both sides. Bake for 13 minutes. Then, carefully remove from the oven, flip over all of the strips and return to the oven to bake for 13 minutes more. Serve with marinara sauce on the side and enjoy!
Because Parmesan causes the strips to stick to the pan, the nonstick foil/parchment paper is essential for making this recipe.