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Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders

May 13, 2024
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea

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Indulge in our Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders—crispy, juicy tenders smothered in a sweet and tangy strawberry BBQ sauce. It's Southern comfort with a fruity kick!

Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders

Savor the goodness of our Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders! These crispy, juicy chicken tenders are drenched in a sweet + tangy strawberry barbecue sauce that'll have your taste buds dancing. It's such a nice blend of savory and fruity flavors, with a Southern twist. Whether you're firing up the grill for a backyard bash or craving a tasty snack, this recipe is bound to please! Gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free + make-ahead options.

Up close shot of chicken tenders.

I love embracing my Southern roots—And when it comes to comfort food, nothing beats my all-time favorite ----- chicken wings. With spring in full swing and the weather heating up, I decided to infuse some strawberry goodness into the mix, and that's how these Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders came to be!

I adapted this recipe from my original Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders and Crispy Buffalo Chicken Tenders. For the sauce, I combined BBQ sauce with strawberry preserves, and let me tell you, the flavor is out of this world! It's smoky, slightly sweet, fruity, and pairs perfectly with the crispy tenders. It's downright delicious!

If you're as crazy about chicken as I am, you're always on the lookout for new chicken inspiration, especially dishes with sticky, delicious sauces. You've got to give my Spicy Gochujang Chicken Tenders, Sticky Peach Chicken Wings, Air Fryer Honey Garlic Chicken Wings, and Sticky Coca-Cola Cauliflower Wings a try!

Jump to:
Ingredients on a yellow table.

What Do Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders Taste Like?

  • Infused with a subtle smokiness + sweet strawberry notes
  • Super juicy and tender chicken
  • Crispy, crunchy, and packed with comforting Southern taste.
  • A delicious balance of flavors that'll leave you wanting more.
  • Finger-licking good ---- Prepare to lick your fingers clean!
Chicken tenders lined on a baking sheet with wire rack.

How To Make Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders

Just coat + bake the chicken tenders until crispy, and prepare the incredible strawberry BBQ sauce (I always make extra to have on hand in the fridge! Haha).

Ingredients

Here is everything you need to make these Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders:

CHICKEN TENDERS:

  • Chicken breast. Cut into strips. I like to use organic chicken for the best flavor and quality!
  • Spices + seasonings. Sea salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley, dried thyme, dried oregano + dried basil.
  • Eggs. Acts as a great binder for the wet marinade when coating chicken. 
  • Almond milk. You can also use whole milk or your fave plant-based milk, if desired.
  • All-purpose flour + cornstarch. Helps adhere the breading to the chicken and creates a light, crispy crust when cooked. I use Bob’s Red Mill organic flour.
  • Organic cornflakes. Adds an extra layer of crunchiness to the breading, elevating the texture!
  • Breadcrumbs. You can use store-bought or make your own Seasoned Toasted Panko Bread Crumbs.
Baked chicken tenders on a baking sheet.

SAUCE:

  • BBQ sauce. Homemade or store-bought
  • Butter. I recommend unsalted. For a dairy-free option, you can use vegan/dairy-free butter.
  • Strawberry preserves/jam. This adds such a nice rich strawberry flavor throughout the sauce. My faves are St. Dalfour and Bonne Maman.
  • Organic chicken stock. I use low-sodium

OTHER:

BBQ chicken tenders in a wok.

SHOP MY FAVORITE TOOLS FOR COOKING, ESPECIALLY FOR THESE CHICKEN TENDERS!

Here, I’ve curated a list of cooking + baking essentials that I use to achieve my favorite baked goods or cooked meals, especially with these Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders. Everything from my fave baking sheet, skillet, mixing bowls, cooking tongs, cooking utensils, and more. SEE THEM HERE!

Chicken tenders on a white plate with a fork, drinks, and strawberries.

Do I Use Cornstarch or Flour for Crispy Chicken?

OK, so this is one of the hot debates as it relates to which one creates the crispier chicken or chicken tenders. While cornstarch does add an extra layer of crispiness to your chicken, using flour still works too!

But to be honest, the best-kept secret is the combination of both cornstarch and flour, which creates the crispiest results. Of course, if you're looking to make this chicken recipe gluten-free, then substitute the cornstarch or flour with arrowroot starch or a great all-purpose flour.

Do You Egg or Flour Chicken First?

The greatest secret and tip to ensuring that your crust sticks unto your chicken pieces properly and permanently is to first dust your chicken in the flour-starch mixture and then dip it into the egg mixture, shaking off any excess before rolling it in the breadcrumbs.

BBQ chicken tenders on a white plate on a yellow table.

Tips For The Crispiest Tenders

To make sure your Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders get as crispy as possible with the use of a “coating”, follow these simple tips:

  • After rinsing your chicken pieces, be sure to pat dry completely until they are as dry as possible before adding seasoning.
  • Make sure each chicken piece has plenty of space on the baking sheet. The airflow helps things crisp up.
  • Add a wire rack atop the parchment paper so that chicken tenders can crisp up nicely on all sides without you having to do any "turning".
  • Cook chicken tenders until completely crisp prior to adding sauce so that they have minimal liquid and avoid soggy-ness.

Can I Air-Fry These Chicken Tenders?

Of course, both methods of making these Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders are effective. However, if you’re wondering whether you’d be able to also make these chicken tenders in an air-fryer—-then yes! Absolutely!

Simply do all steps the same and cook them in your air-fryer for the amount of time needed (somewhere between 10-15 minutes I believe). Once crisp, just toss them in the warmed BBQ strawberry sauce and wallah.

As you know, this recipe is for baked chicken tenders and honestly, they’re just as crispy as using them in the air-fryer (especially when you use a wire rack), so the choice is yours!

BBQ chicken tenders on a white plate with drinks and strawberries.

How to Serve Crispy Buffalo Chicken Tenders

You can eat these Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders hot out of the oven! I like to dip them in my favorite creamy sauces like ranch or Jalapeno Ranch Sauce, Ultra Creamy Blue Cheese sauce, or Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing!

You can also top a fresh salad with these tenders or wrap them into a tortilla or a sandwich, or pop them into a grain bowl! Whatever the decision----you'll love it! Of course, as I’ve stated before, these BBQ chicken tenders can be incorporated into so many foods like:

Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders Q + A's

How to store leftovers?

These crispy chicken tenders are best the day they’re made, since they’re so crispy. However, place any leftover ingredients in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

Why does the coating fall off my fried chicken?

Believe it or not, this has happened to me plenty of times. Moisture is the worst enemy in frying chicken. This is why dusting your chicken with flour as I've mentioned before should be enough to create a moisture barrier around the chicken; otherwise, the moisture created during the cooking process is going to create steam that will cause your breading to flake off.

Can I make these crispy chicken tenders ahead of time?

Absolutely! You can store these chicken tenders in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. Or, if you want to plan ahead, you can assemble the strawberry BBQ sauce and crushed cornflake mixture up to two days ahead of time. Keep the cornflakes in an airtight container at room temperature. Then bread and bake the chicken tenders just before serving. 

Can I make these chicken tenders gluten-free?

Yes! Yup! To ensure that this chicken tenders recipe is completely Gluten-Free, simply substitute the flour, breadcrumbs and cornflakes with GF-friendly ones. Also, you can substitute cornflakes with all-purpose flour for your favorite GF-friendly flour (i.e. GF All-purpose flour, 1-to-1 baking flour, etc.). Also, you can use arrowroot starch for a great GF-friendly option instead of regular cornstarch or flour.

Are chicken tenders and chicken strips the same?

Basically, if you see anything referred to as “chicken strips,” more than likely they are referring to chicken fingers, which are NOT chicken tenders. Chicken tenders are made from an actual cut of meat: mainly a part of the chicken breast.

How to make without egg?

If you'd prefer not to use eggs for "egg wash", you can always substitute with 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard or mayonnaise. 

How to make dairy-free?

For a dairy-free option, you can use vegan/dairy-free butter in place of regular butter.

Chicken tenders on a white plate with a fork, strawberries, and drinks.

More Delicious Chicken Recipes to Try!

If you're into these Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders, you'll love these other popular chicken recipes:

MADE OUR RECIPE(S)?

If you tried this Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. And don't forget to tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram  and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea! I love hearing from you!

Up close shot of chicken tenders.

Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders

May 13, 2024
No ratings yet
Savor the goodness of our Southern Strawberry BBQ Chicken Tenders! These crispy, juicy chicken tenders are drenched in a sweet + tangy strawberry barbecue sauce that'll have your taste buds dancing. It's such a nice blend of savory and fruity flavors, with a Southern twist. Whether you're firing up the grill for a backyard bash or craving a tasty snack, this recipe is bound to please! Gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free + make-ahead options.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients

CHICKEN TENDERS:

  • 2 lbs. organic chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 2 tsps sea salt
  • 2 tsps black pepper
  • 2 tsps smoked paprika
  • 2 tsps garlic powder
  • 2 tsps onion powder
  • 2 tsps dried parsley
  • 2 tsps dried thyme
  • 2 tsps dried oregano
  • 2 tsps dried basil
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup Almond milk (You can also use whole milk or your fave plant-based milk, if desired)
  • ¼ cup organic all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups organic cornflakes, crushed
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (You can make your own Seasoned Toasted Panko Bread Crumbs)

SAUCE:

  • 2 cups BBQ sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 2 Tbsps unsalted butter (For dairy-free option, substitute with vegan butter)
  • ¼ cup strawberry preserves/jam, organic
  • ¼ cup organic chicken stock

OTHER:

  • Organic cooking spray (I love using Olive oil spray from California Olive ranch)

Instructions

TO MAKE THE CHICKEN TENDERS:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and prep a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and a wire rack (this helps both sides to crisp up nicely).
  • In a large bowl, add the chicken strips and 1 teaspoon of EACH: sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, thyme, oregano, basil, and dried parsley, tossing everything together until well coated. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes so that everything marinates. NOTE: It's always best to marinate overnight in the fridge.
  • In the bowl of the beaten egg and milk and whisk together until combined.

TO MAKE THE BREADED COATING:

  • In a separate large bowl, add the crushed corn flakes, breadcrumbs, and remaining 1 teaspoon of remaining seasonings together and stir until combined.
  • In a separate bowl or plate, mix together the cornstarch and flour.

ASSEMBLE + BAKE:

  • Now, dip one chicken strip (tender) into the flour followed by the egg mixture (shaking off any excess) and then add it into the breadcrumb coating mixture-----tossing it around until strip is well coated. Then lay the chicken strip (tender) side by side onto the baking sheet (about an inch apart). Repeat until all chicken tenders are coated.
  • Lightly brush or spray tops of chicken with olive oil or cooking spray and bake them for 30-35 minutes or until chicken has fully cooked through.

TO MAKE THE STRAWBERRY BBQ SAUCE:

  • In a medium skillet (10-inch) over medium-high heat, add the butter and let it melt. Then add in the BBQ sauce, chicken stock, and strawberry preserves/jam and whisk everything together until it begins to boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and let everything simmer for another 1-2 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
  • Brush the baked chicken tenders generously with sauce until coated.
  • To serve, enjoy your Strawberry BBQ tenders with a side of bread, fries, or with your favorite side (i.e. grilled corn, potatoes, rice, veggies, etc.).
  • Bon Appétit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Place any leftover ingredients in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  • MAKE AHEAD: All ingredients (including BBQ sauce) can be made and individually stored as meal prep (up to 2 days prior) and assembled when ready to serve. Be sure to store crushed corn flakes + seasoning mixture in a nicely sealed zip loc bag, kept at room temp. 
  • CHICKEN: If you don’t have chicken breasts, you can always use chicken tenderloins which are already pre-cut into strips.
  • GLUTEN-FREE OPTION: To ensure that these chicken tenders are GF-friendly, ensure that you use GF breadcrumbs, flour, and you can use arrowroot starch which is a great GF-friendly option.
  • EGG SUBSTITUTE: If you'd prefer not to use eggs for "egg wash", you can always substitute with 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard or mayonnaise. 

Nutrition

Calories: 497kcal | Carbohydrates: 97g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 3083mg | Potassium: 522mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 50g | Vitamin A: 1092IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 174mg | Iron: 5mg

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Xx, Shanika in script writing

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  1. Hi
    It says this recipe is dairy free but it calls for unsalted butter. Can I substitute or leave it out completely?

    • Hi Sarita! So sorry for the confusion! There's a dairy-free option which allows you to sub with vegan butter! I hope this helps! 🙂

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