Who doesn’t love chicken fingers? I guess technically they’re considered kid food, but adults love them too. I’ve been testing and perfecting this recipe for crazy mixed-up oven fried chicken fingers for a few weeks now, and I don’t think my family was the least bit upset that they had to try several different versions before I got them just the way I wanted.
Oven fried chicken fingers are a little tricky, because deep frying is what makes restaurant chicken fingers so tasty. It takes the right combination of flavorful marinade, crunchy crumb coating and a light oil spray to create crispy, delicious chicken fingers without a deep fryer.
I like to use chicken tenderloins for this recipe, because they are just the right size. You can use chicken breast halves and cut them into strips of about two ounces each. If the chicken pieces are too large, they will stay soggy and not get crispy in the oven.
The chicken fingers need to stay in the marinade for at least two hours or as long as 24 hours. You can start marinating the chicken the night before, or in the morning if you’re making chicken fingers for dinner. Really this is great, because it gives you more time to look forward to eating them!
The marinade is a combination of buttermilk, Cajun seasoning, Frank’s hot sauce and garlic that gives the chicken a spicy, salty, tangy flavor that is subtle and not overwhelming. Buttermilk is a classic marinade for fried chicken not only for the flavor, but because the acid in the buttermilk tenderizes the meat.
I call this recipe “crazy mixed-up chicken fingers” because the crumb coating is a combination of plain panko breadcrumbs, whole wheat panko breadcrumbs, corn flake crumbs, crushed French fried onions, Cajun seasoning and parsley. I love this combination of flavors and textures! It creates a savory, crunchy coating so frying is not necessary.
When you’re ready to bake your chicken fingers, use tongs to remove each piece of chicken from the marinade, and let the excess marinade drip away. If there’s too much buttermilk on the chicken, you will not get a crunchy crumb coating.
Roll the chicken pieces in the crumb mixture, pressing the crumbs into the surface so the chicken is well coated. Put the chicken pieces on a baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray.
The last step before baking is to spray the chicken fingers with oil or cooking spray. I use olive oil with my Misto oil sprayer. Here they are, ready to go in the oven!
Bake the chicken fingers for 15-18 minutes until they are golden brown and crispy. While the chicken is in the oven, you can mix up your favorite dipping sauce, because isn’t dipping sauce one of the things we love most about chicken fingers? If I’m going all out, I’ll make three sauces: Cajun barbecue dipping sauce (recipe below), honey mustard sauce and homemade ranch. If you don’t want to use dipping sauce, serve the chicken fingers with Frank’s hot sauce and/or a squeeze of lemon.
A secret mix of ingredients creates a crunchy crumb coating for these oven fried chicken fingers. Perfect for kids, but adults love them too!
- 2 pounds (about 12 large) chicken tenders (also called tenderloins)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 3 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, divided
- 2 tablespoons Frank’s hot sauce
- 2 teaspoons crushed or pressed garlic
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup cornflake crumbs
- ½ cup crushed French fried onions
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- Cooking spray
- Olive oil sprayer with olive oil (optional)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- Thaw the chicken, if frozen, and trim any fat or tough membranes. Mix together the buttermilk, 1 ½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning, Frank’s hot sauce and garlic. Place the chicken in a large Ziploc bag, pour on the buttermilk mixture, and seal tightly. Let the chicken marinate for at least 2 hours or as long as 24 hours.
- Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Place an oven rack just above the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Mix together the panko, whole wheat panko, cornflake crumbs, crushed French fried onions, 1 ½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning and parsley. Using tongs, remove each chicken piece from the marinade, and let the excess liquid drip away. Dip or roll each chicken tender in the crumb mixture, pressing so the crumbs adhere to the entire surface.
- Place the chicken on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the tops and sides of the chicken tenders with cooking spray, or spray with olive oil using an olive oil sprayer.
- Bake the chicken for 15-18 minutes, or until browned and crispy. Serve with Cajun barbecue dipping sauce or your favorite dipping sauce.
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