These chicken tenders result in a crispy lightly “breaded” chicken tender that you just can’t get from a regular oven. Instead of bread crumbs, it uses a mix of crushed pork rinds and cheese to keep this recipe low-carb and keto friendly. With a simple egg wash this recipe is even fine for those of you doing carnivore (though carnivore folks may wish to skip on the seasoning).
- Pork Panko — which is really just crushed-up pork rinds. If you have some plain/salt-only pork rinds at home you can blend them up yourself to make some yourself, but I personally really hate cleaning the blender. I thought they were kind of expensive at first but after blending up some pork rinds myself I realized there is a LOT of air in pork rinds so you don’t really get that much out of a bag of normal pork rinds. Add to that the fact that keto can involve a lot of cooking to get a clean healthy meal and I’m happy to buy something more convenient. It’s a great breadcrumb replacement and also works great in keto meatloaf.
- Parmesan Cheese – This is optional, and if you’re dairy-free or paleo feel free to leave this out. It is mostly to add some flavor, saltiness, and variance in the texture of the “breading”. Freshly grated parmesan is delicious but you can use the cheap pregrated stuff too. Be aware that many of the pre-grated brands use cellulose powder mixed in as an anti-caking agent and bulking agent. This is basically refined wood pulp. I am unsure of the effects of this, but I have read a few anecdotes from folks that say this makes them feel worse when they eat it. As always, listen to your body and buy what you can afford. I personally avoid it most of the time because I feel better with less dairy, but I do sometimes mix it in just to eat something different.
- Keto BBQ Sauce – My favorite for taste is the GHughes Smokehouse Sugar Free Hickory BBQ Sauce. It’s the most southern-style sauce I’ve found, however it is sweetened with sucralose which is my least favorite keto sweetener. The Primal Kitchen series of BBQ isn’t quite as tasty but the ingredients are fully paleo. Primal Kitchen has quite a few BBQ sauces now too with their other BBQ Pack.
- Plain mustard or spicy brown mustard.
- Make your own honey mustard by mixing a paleo mayo like Chosen Foods 100% Avocado Oil Classic Mayo with mustard(avoid any with sugar) and choczero keto honey. How much of each is up to you, but I generally like 2:1 on mustard to mayo and then slowly add enough honey until it tastes sweet enough to me. The Choczero honey can quickly become overpowering and get a bad aftertaste, so add just a little at a time.
- Air fryer, I recommend the Ninja Foodi XL 6-in-1 air fryer because it doubles as a grill and has a smoke containment system so you can easily use it indoors. It’s also one of the easier ones to clean. The XL size means you can easily do some batch cooking as well. Use the basket attachment instead of the grill attachment for this recipe.
- If you don’t have an air fryer follow the regular oven instructions below
KetoAim Crispy ‘N Juicy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
- 1 bag of Costco Chicken Tenders (Approx 4oz / 113g)
- 1.5 Cups of Pork Panko
- .5 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional, leave out if paleo or dairy-free)
- 2 tablespoons Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Garlic
- 1 egg
1.) There will be 3 stations: the egg wash, the “breading”, and the air fryer pan + basket.
2.) Crack the egg into a bowl and whisk it together. This goes to the left.
3.) Get a plate and mix the pork panko, parmesan cheese, paprika, and garlic together with a fork. This is in the middle. The air fryer basket/pan goes on the right.
4.) Dip each chicken tender into the egg, and then put it into the crumbs mixture. Press down on the chicken tender, then flip it over and press it down again. It might not feel like there’s a lot of coating but that’s okay. Lay the chicken tenders in the air fryer basket. It’s okay if they touch, in my air fryer they definitely do in order to fit. Repeat for all the chicken tenders.
5.) If you have any crumbs left over, sprinkle them over the top of the chicken tenders.
6.) Cook in the air fryer at 400F for 15 minutes. Check with a meat thermometer that the biggest chicken tender has reached at least 165F inside the thickest piece of chicken. Cook it longer if necessary to reach the temperature.
REGULAR OVEN INSTRUCTIONS
Although the air fryer will definitely give you the most crispy results, this recipe can be cooked in a regular oven as well at 400F for approx 18-20 minutes or until the thickest piece of chicken reaches 165F. This is useful if you’re trying to cook larger batches. I find it matters less for meal prep because these tenders tend to be a little less crisp when they aren’t fresh anyways. But if you’ve got the time the air fryer does make a difference.