Homemade Buttermilk Chicken Fingers: You’ll Never East Store-Bought Again

Supersize Me was on TV the other night. Despite the fact that it was created six years ago, I’d never seen the documentary until this year, a few months ago when I streamed it to my computer during my one-month free trial with Netflix.

A close up image of crunchy and savory chicken fingers.

This past Sunday night, I caught the couple minutes where the main character weighs in after a few days of eating a McDonald’s-only diet, something he tried and documented for a full month, gaining weight and hurting his health just as you’d expect. I also caught the scene where he orders chicken nuggets, and the movie does a quick aside, complete with a cartoon illustration, of how chicken nuggets are made.

It’s not pretty. A while ago (was it last year?), I also watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (I’m guessing a lot of you did, too?), and saw him explain to children where chicken nuggets come from.

And of course I’ve seen this image (click at your own risk and don’t say I didn’t warn you) floating around the Internet and people’s Facebook profiles. I know where commercial chicken fingers or tenders come from; you probably do, too.

A top view image of delicious chicken fingers on a paper plate.

But like with everything else we already know is bad for us, chicken fingers have one small thing going for them, and sometimes that’s all it takes to win us over: they taste good. So what are you supposed to do?

Enter homemade, boneless, skinless, marinated, covered-with-homemade-breadcrumbs and then baked chicken tenders. I have to say, I love remaking something with good ingredients, taking a fast-food idea and redeeming it with whole foods, whether it’s a chicken panko recipe or french fries.

It’s like recovering a chair you got from a garage sale, not that I’ve ever done that, or like renovating a living room, not that I’ve ever done that either. I imagine those things to be all that this is: encouraging, exciting, empowering.

Not only is this homemade version of chicken fingers better for you — not to mention you know which part of the chicken it comes from — but it’s also delicious: crispy and flavorful, perfect for dipping in honey just like we used to. I made mine with a side of roasted sweet potato circles (just wash the sweet potatoes, slice them into rounds or half circles, bake with coconut oil for about an hour).

A close up semi top view image of chicken fingers on a white paper plate.

Whether you care about the health benefits or not, these are chicken fingers you can feel good about eating — and while eating, and I think that’s pretty great.

Chicken Fingers

1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken tenders, trimmed of fat (I like the organic, antibiotic-free version from Trader Joe’s)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup organic buttermilk
a couple teaspoons garlic powder
1 cup flour (I used whole grain spelt)
1 cup toasted bread crumbs (I toasted 3 slices organic spelt bread and threw them in the food processor)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Oil for greasing the baking sheet and brushing on the chicken

In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, egg and garlic powder. Pour this mix into a large, resealable bag, and add the chicken.

Seal bag and refrigerate for two to four hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In another large, resealable bag, combine flour, bread crumbs, salt and baking powder.

Remove chicken from fridge, and remove pieces from marinade, placing them into the bag of bread crumbs. Seal bag and shake to coat all the pieces.

On an oiled baking sheet, lay the crumb-dredged chicken pieces in a single layer. (I used two baking sheets.) Brush the tops with melted oil or butter.

Stick in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, turning the pieces once halfway through.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

22 thoughts on “Homemade Buttermilk Chicken Fingers: You’ll Never East Store-Bought Again”

  1. YUM! These look exactly like the chicken fingers I would eat with my high school girlfriends on our weekly visits to Bakers Square. I would drown mine in honey mustard. I’ll have to make these next time I get a craving, because not only are restaurant chicken fingers iffy, they’re also so expensive! Which is weird, esp. since they cheapen the process w/ pink chicken goop anyway.

  2. i LOVE homemade chicken tenders- i can’t even think about the stuff they sell in fast food places.UGH! i use panko – makes it nice and crispy!

  3. You know you are never too young for chicken fingers!! Last night I made gluten-free chicken fingers and they were amazing! I coated them with fat-free mayo and honey mustard and then rolled them in gluten- free crumbs and baked them! D’lish!

  4. Did you also notice that on the Jamie Oliver show, even though the kids saw how it was made, and watched him fry it, they STILL tried it! I make homemade chicken tenders for my kids all the time. Mostly I bake them, but sometimes I will do a shallow fry in Canola Oil for 3 minutes per side

  5. I love chicken tenders! Thanks for coming up with a healthier version. For people like me who don’t keep buttermilk handy, I did a little research and a few sites that recommend adding 1T of white vinegar or lemon juice to milk, stir and then let stand for 5 minutes.

  6. Forgot to say you have to add enough milk to get one cup. Then after it stands for 5 minutes you just use however much milk your recipe calls for, which in this case is the whole cup.

  7. Kim, That’s awesome that you have a homemade chicken finger recipe in your back pocket—way to go! I would have to argue that whole eggs and good-ingredient breadcrumbs are still healthier in the sense of nutrients than cereal and egg whites are… however, I applaud your home cooking and let’s be honest, I would totally try yours if I came over for dinner. And probably love them. Besides, anything’s better than the pink goop from fast food places, hello? : )

    Jacqui, Dude. I had those same Baker’s Square fingers. With honey mustard. too many times to count! And hey good point about the prices! Another point for home cooking!

    Duo Dishes, : )

    Heather, Ha! Stop yourself! Make these! : )

    Blissful, I know, right? Hope you get to try these!

    JessieV, I have some organic panko in my pantry I wouldn’t mind trying sometime. Maybe I will!

    Jarrelle, Sounds great!

    Jenn, YES! It was so disturbing! And good alternative you suggested–quick frying on the stove. Thanks!

    Vicki, I’ve definitely done that before, good point. I hardly have buttermilk on hand either, so thanks!

    Tim, Ha!

  8. Chuck Hughes did a great take on chicken nuggets from his show on the Cooking Channel – Chuck’s Day Off. He blended chicken thighs, eggs, and other goodness in a food processor (I know, food processor). Then he made little “nuggets” and put them in flour before putting them in oil. His nephews loved them.

    I was so intrigued by that that I tried it for myself and my son. I have to admit that it was pretty damn good. Added a dash of pepper sauce and a bit or orange zest and you are good to go.

  9. I love chicken tenders. And I still haven’t seen Supersize me! But I did recently see Food, Inc. for the first time and it definitely changed my habits for the better. I didn’t necessarily learn something new, it was just convincing enough to stick.


    You said to click at my own risk, but dude. My lunch is wanting to change locations. Guh-ross. I’m sure you’re chicken tenders are delightful. That’s the only way to we do chicken tenders or nuggets. Totally worth the little bit of work involved.

  11. Wow, I’m glad I didn’t click on the picture!

    What is it about chicken tenders that make them SO appealing? Every once in awhile I get a craving for chicken tenders and I do the exact same thing! It satisfies the craving without including all the junk.

  12. Does anyone remember a McDonald’s campaign a few years ago about a new chicken dish (I think chicken tenders?) with the slogan, “Made with Real Chicken.” It surprised me that no one thought to ask themselves, “What were we eating, before?”

    It’s always fascinating to see how many of these “fast food” dishes can be made from scratch at home. It takes a little longer, but it taste better… and it’s healthier.

  13. Philip, Huh. That sounds interesting! I am psychologically grossed out by the idea of raw chicken in my food processor, only because of how it would look… but the idea of it I like. : )

    Susan, Food, Inc., is such a good documentary. Totally changed the way I see meat. So glad you got to see it!

    Kendra, Ahahahaha! I did warn you! You are so right, picture or not, the little bit of effort to home-make them is so worth it.

    Elaine, Ha! I know!

    Sanura, So. Gross. And it is fascinating! You’re right!

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