Today turned out to be about homemade gluten-free Chicken Tenders. Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken Tenders. Coconut-Crusted Tenders. Yes, both kinds. Yum!
And being at home with Mr. GFE. We had a nice, quiet day at home today. It was a scheduled holiday for him. Not so for me, but I made it one … and that was a great idea! We ate our respective breakfasts … cereal for him and a one-egg “omelet” with spinach for me. Then for a mid-morning snack, we ate the last of a weekend batch of the Cinnamon-Sugar-Crusted Popovers. That indulgence, of course, made us not want anything to eat for several hours.
When we finally did eat again, instead of a quick, light lunch, I decided to go for something more substantial, but still healthy enough. The refrigerator yielded about a pound of chicken tenderloins (i.e., boneless, unprepared chicken tenders), a small container of coconut flakes, and some cornmeal mix that I’d made for breading chicken earlier. Right then, I decided to make chicken tenders.
As an aside, perhaps the coconut idea appealed to me because I had recently read an article on using Girl Scout cookies as breading. I am not making this up. How does Fried Samoas Shrimp sound?
The recipe included 5 Samoas, 2 cups bread crumbs, 2 cups flour, 1 cup coconut flakes, 4 egg whites, and cayenne pepper … all as breading for 4—yes, 4—extra large shrimp. Wowser. Nutritional information was not provided, but the recipe said it served 5 … so if you stuck to a serving, you didn’t even get to enjoy one full shrimp! Of course, samoas are not gluten free, unless you make them yourself, which you can easily do, but I don’t think I’d crumble my cookies and use them to bread shrimp. I do love coconut shrimp but I’m not sure about the chocolate and caramel with my shrimp. Hmmm.
Back to the breading that I did choose to use … the cornmeal mix had seemed a little bland the last time I had used it with chicken. And, the coconut I had on hand was actually sweetened coconut, which I thought might be cloyingly sweet. So I added some chili powder to each.
My original idea was to bread the chicken tenders in the cornmeal mix and then dip them in the coconut, but just one attempt showed me that wouldn’t work. The coconut wouldn’t adhere to the chicken tender after it had been coated with the cornmeal mix. So I dipped half of the tenders in the cornmeal mix alone and the other half in the coconut mix alone. I just dipped the washed, and therefore, wet, chicken tenders into the cornmeal mix or shredded coconut.
I didn’t need to dip them in eggs or milk beforehand as the original cornmeal mix recipe stated. Just the wetness from the water worked perfectly well (and omitting those ingredients also makes these tenders dairy free and egg free, and obviously lower in calories).
Then I fried them all in some grapeseed oil and drained them before serving. (Note: This was my first time using grapeseed oil and I liked its lightness and neutral taste very much—plus, its added health benefits.) As you can see, because I cooked the two types of tenders together, they all ended up with a little coconut “breading.” We ate them with a little honey barbecue sauce and a few potato chips and really enjoyed them.
Although I’m providing some ingredients and directions, these are really sort of “improvise-as-you-go” recipes, or as a friend likes to say … “not really a recipe.” When she uses that term, she doesn’t mean anything negative at all. Instead, she is saying that so many cooking sessions start out as just a concept or basic method with lots of room for improvisation. Plus, even more importantly, such dishes can be super easy. You just kind of go with the flow when you make them.
She’s totally right. Seize that idea for your cooking and you’ll be a lot happier in the kitchen and end up making some great dishes as well. And, that’s true whether you eat gluten free or not.
The truth is you really don’t have to buy prepared gluten-free breading mixes to end up with delicious results, and just as importantly, you don’t even need a true recipe. I’ve purchased gluten-free offerings in the past like breadcrumbs at $4.00 for 4 ounces and they’ve ended up going to the birds, literally.
There are so many other breading possibilities that work beautifully and don’t break the bank. I’ve shared other options here before at gfe, including two possibilities for a similar recipe for our favorite baked chicken nuggets. One used crushed potato chips; the other used crushed gluten-free cornflakes with lots of added seasoning.
Ali (Nourishing Meals) shared some excellent gluten-free breading options a while back. I, and several others, contributed additional ideas in comments. Some other easy breading choices that I have used are Parmesan cheese, rice cereal (for babies), toasted and crumbled gluten-free waffles, and instant mashed potatoes. Tortilla chip crumbs and corn chips make great breading, too. Along those lines, be sure to check out Diane’s (The WHOLE Gang) Frito Fish.
So, the message with these chicken tenders is to think outside the box and don’t stress. That’s the gfe way. Now, go ahead, have a gluten-free chicken tender … with cornmeal coating, coconut breading, or perhaps your favorite gfe breading.
And, what is your favorite breading? Please share!
Homemade Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders Recipe
- Chicken tenders
For Cornmeal Breading
- 1 cup gluten-free cornmeal
- 1 cup gluten-free flour mix (I use my Two-Ingredient Gluten-Free Flour Mix)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ to ½ tsp chili powder, to taste
For Coconut Breading
- ½ cup coconut flakes, unsweetened preferably (more if needed)
- ¼ to ½ tsp chili powder, to taste
- Mix together either the cornmeal breading ingredients or the coconut breading ingredients (or both, separately) and pour into a shallow bowl.
- Coat wet chicken tenders with breading mix and fry on medium to medium-high about 8 - 10 minutes on each side..
The coconut I used was actually sweetened because that's what I had on hand. So I was worried that these tenders might be too sweet, but the chicken taste itself and the chili powder I added offset the sweetness by just the right amount.
Cornmeal breading recipe adapted from Southern Living.
Originally published February 16, 2010; updated July 14, 2020.