Introducing Crispy Lemony Chicken Tenders with Tzatziki: a versatile and delightful dish that combines the crunch of crispy chicken tenders with a zesty lemony twist. Whether you’re hosting a gathering or looking for a quick and satisfying meal, these tenders can be served as appetizers, the star of a main course, or even in a sandwich. The tenders are marinated in a flavorful blend of buttermilk and lemon, creating juicy and tangy bites. Paired with a creamy Tzatziki sauce made with Greek yogurt, cucumber, and herbs, this dish offers a symphony of flavors and textures.
Why this recipe works
The secret to these Crispy Lemony Chicken Tenders lies in the marinating process. By soaking the chicken tenders in a buttermilk and lemon mixture, we ensure that they stay moist and tender while infusing them with a burst of tangy flavor. The addition of paprika, salt, and black pepper enhances the overall taste profile, adding a subtle hint of warmth to the dish. Coated in a light and crispy flour coating, these chicken tenders become irresistibly golden and crunchy when fried to perfection.
What are Crispy Lemony Chicken Tenders
Crispy Lemony Chicken Tenders are succulent pieces of chicken marinated in a zesty blend of buttermilk, lemon, and spices. They are then coated in a flour mixture and fried until golden brown and crispy. The result is a delightful combination of tender chicken with a crispy exterior, infused with the refreshing essence of lemon.
Best ingredients for Crispy Lemony Chicken Tenders
- Chicken tenders: Opt for high-quality chicken tenders, preferably organic or free-range. These will have better flavor and texture compared to heavily processed chicken products. Chicken tenders are already a tender and juicy cut, making them perfect for this recipe.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk serves as the base for marinating the chicken tenders, imparting tenderness and tanginess to the meat. Look for thick and creamy buttermilk, either store-bought or homemade.
- Lemon: Fresh lemon zest and juice are essential for infusing the chicken tenders with a bright and refreshing flavor. Use a fresh lemon and grate the zest to extract the aromatic oils. Squeeze the lemon to obtain the fresh juice that adds a tangy kick to the marinade.
- Paprika: Paprika adds a subtle smoky and sweet flavor to the chicken tenders. Look for high-quality paprika that is vibrant in color and has a fresh aroma. The paprika enhances the overall flavor profile and adds a lovely hue to the coating.
- Salt and black pepper: These staple seasonings are essential for enhancing the taste of the chicken tenders. Use good quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season both the marinade and the flour coating.
- All-purpose flour: The all-purpose flour acts as the coating for the chicken tenders, providing a crispy and golden exterior. Choose a high-quality all-purpose flour for the best results. You can also use a combination of all-purpose flour and breadcrumbs for added texture and crunch.
- Vegetable oil: Vegetable oil is used for frying the chicken tenders to achieve that coveted crispy texture. Opt for a neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point, such as canola or sunflower oil. Make sure to use enough oil to submerge the chicken tenders halfway for even frying.
How to make Crispy Chicken Tenders with Tzatziki
Please note: This is just an overview – the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Marinating the chicken.
In a bowl, whisk together buttermilk, lemon zest, lemon juice, paprika, salt, and black pepper until well combined. Place the chicken tenders in a shallow dish or a ziplock bag and pour the buttermilk mixture over them, ensuring they are fully coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight for optimal flavor.
Step 2: Preparing the Tzatziki sauce.
Grate the cucumber using a box grater, then squeeze out excess moisture using a clean kitchen towel. In a medium-sized bowl, combine Greek yogurt, minced garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and lemon juice. Mix well until all the ingredients are evenly combined. Add the grated cucumber, chopped fresh dill, and mint (optional). Stir thoroughly to incorporate the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste preferences. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Step 3: Coating and frying the chicken.
Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge. In a separate shallow dish, combine all-purpose flour with a pinch of salt and pepper. Dip each chicken tender into the flour mixture, ensuring that it is evenly coated. Carefully place a few chicken tenders into the hot oil, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry them for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until they turn a beautiful golden brown and are cooked through. Adjust the heat if needed to maintain a constant temperature.
Once cooked, transfer the chicken tenders to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil. Repeat the frying process with the remaining chicken tenders. Serve crispy lemony chicken tenders with delicious Tzatziki sauce.
Storing and freezing tips
If you have leftovers or want to make these crispy lemony chicken tenders in advance, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, place them in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 10 minutes or until heated through. However, keep in mind that the tenders may lose some of their crispiness upon reheating.
To freeze the chicken tenders, allow them to cool completely, then place them in a freezer-safe container or bag. They can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months. To reheat from frozen, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and bake the tenders on a baking sheet for 15-20 minutes or until heated through and crispy.
Top tips for the best Crispy Chicken Tenders
- Marinate for maximum flavor: For the most flavorful crispy lemony chicken tenders, allow them to marinate in the buttermilk and lemon mixture for at least 1 hour or, even better, overnight. This helps the flavors to infuse into the meat.
- Maintain the oil temperature: It’s important to fry the chicken tenders at the correct temperature. Too low, and the coating will become soggy; too high, and the outside will burn before the inside is fully cooked. Keep an eye on the heat and adjust as needed.
- Fry in batches: To ensure crispy and evenly cooked chicken tenders, avoid overcrowding the pan. Fry them in batches, giving each piece enough space to cook properly. This allows for better heat circulation and ensures that the tenders maintain their crispiness.
- Use a thermometer: If you want to be precise about the oil temperature, use a cooking thermometer to monitor it. The ideal frying temperature for chicken tenders is around 350°F (175°C). This helps achieve a golden-brown exterior while keeping the chicken juicy and fully cooked.
- Patience is key: While frying the chicken tenders, resist the temptation to constantly flip them or move them around in the pan. Let them cook undisturbed for a few minutes on each side to develop a crispy crust. This patience will reward you with perfectly crispy and flavorful chicken tenders.
Crispy Lemony Chicken Tenders are incredibly versatile and can be served in various ways. Here are a few serving suggestions to get you started:
- As a main course: Serve the chicken tenders with a side of Tzatziki sauce, alongside some fresh salad greens or roasted vegetables. They make a delicious and satisfying meal.
- In a wrap or sandwich: Wrap the chicken tenders in a warm tortilla or stuff them into a soft bun with lettuce, tomatoes, and a dollop of Tzatziki sauce for a flavorful and portable lunch option.
- Appetizer or party snack: Cut the chicken tenders into bite-sized pieces and serve them with toothpicks as a tasty finger food at parties or gatherings. The Tzatziki sauce makes a fantastic dip.
- Salad topping: Slice the cooked chicken tenders and add them to a bed of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and feta cheese. Drizzle with Tzatziki sauce for a refreshing and protein-packed salad.
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Can I use chicken breast instead of chicken tenders?
Yes, you can. Chicken tenders are a convenient option because they require minimal preparation. However, you can certainly use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slice them into strips of similar thickness.
Can I bake the chicken tenders instead of frying them?
While frying gives the chicken tenders their signature crispy texture, you can bake them as a healthier alternative. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C), place the coated tenders on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Flip them halfway through for even browning.
Can I make the Tzatziki sauce ahead of time?
Absolutely! The flavors of the Tzatziki sauce actually develop and meld together over time. It’s even better when made a few hours or even a day ahead. Just keep it refrigerated until ready to serve.
Can you freeze tzatziki sauce?
Yes, you can freeze Tzatziki sauce. However, keep in mind that freezing may cause some changes in the texture of the yogurt, resulting in a slightly watery consistency once thawed. To freeze Tzatziki sauce, place it in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag, leaving some room for expansion. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw the sauce overnight in the refrigerator and give it a good stir before serving to recombine any separated liquids.
How long does Tzatziki sauce last in the fridge?
When properly stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, Tzatziki sauce can last for about 3 to 5 days. However, it’s important to note that the freshness and quality of the sauce may gradually decline over time.
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