Crispy Baked Buttermilk and Spelt Chicken Fingers

My husband freaking loves chicken fingers.

Vertical image of a plate of baked tenders, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

I swear, any time we go out and he wants a taste of comfort, it’s all about the fingers.

Honestly, I am so happy when he orders them, because it gives me the opportunity to steal at least one off his plate.

How can anyone resist?

There’s the crispy exterior, wrapped around the warm and juicy poultry meat within. The flavor is familiar and yet somehow not bland, and it goes so well with all of your favorite dipping sauces.

Did you eat chicken fingers when you were growing up?

I feel like these dippable tenders had to be a staple in many kids’ lives– especially served up with french fries, of course.

Whether they were made from scratch or came from a freezer-aisle box, the truth is that they kind of all tasted the same (sorry, Mom).

Vertical image of a plate of stacked chicken tenders on a towel next to condiments and apples.

While the outside was crispy and the interior was tender and juicy enough, there wasn’t a ton of flavor on the inside of them.

That’s why I would use so much ketchup for dipping, just to get that extra flavor.

To be honest, I’m still the same way to this day. I have yet to find a restaurant that serves a crispy tender that is really bursting with additional flavor.

But you’re in luck. That’s exactly where this recipe comes in.

There are two ways that these little strips of poultry are infused with flavor:

To start, there’s the marinade. The mixture that you soak the pieces of poultry in is one that is downright flavorful, made with tangy buttermilk that really helps the poultry to stay moist and tender as it cooks.

Vertical top-down image of a plate of baked tenders on a towel surrounded by condiments and fresh fruit.

However, instead of simply adding salt and pepper, there’s hot sauce and garlic powder in there as well. This gives the tenders a nice flavor on the inside, instead of simply tasting like plain ol’ baked chicken.

Then there’s the breading. This particular mixture uses spelt flour for a bit of extra character, along with toasted breadcrumbs to really bring that crunch. The whole thing is jazzed up with salt, pepper, onion powder, and paprika for a big burst of savoriness on the exterior.

After being baked to golden brown perfection, you’ll never be able to eat a typical chicken finger the same way again. Plus, this recipe is so darn easy, you can make it on any night of the week for friends and family alike.

Just remember the golden rule: the longer you marinate it, the better it will taste in the end. I always recommend marinating the meat for the maximum time as listed in the recipe, which is four hours in this case.

Vertical image of a hand dipping a chicken finger in ketchup, with more chicken in the background with fresh fruit.

You can certainly get away with whipping a batch of these up that still has plenty of flavor if you only have two hours to spare. But if you can, try to go for four.

These are great for game day, for snacking, for dinner, or even for a hangover breakfast topped with some salsa and a fried egg (not that I would know anything about needing a savory hangover fix in the morning or anything…).

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Horizontal top-down image of a plate of baked chicken fingers in the center, with condiments and fresh fruit on the sides.

Crispy Baked Buttermilk and Spelt Chicken Fingers


  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

Our baked buttermilk and crispy spelt chicken fingers aren’t like what your mom used to whip up when you were a kid.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 3 tsp garlic powder, divided
  • 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken tenders, trimmed of fat
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup toasted breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together egg, buttermilk, hot sauce, and 2 teaspoons garlic powder. Pour this mixture into a large, resealable bag, and add the chicken.
  2. Seal bag, ensure that all of the chicken pieces are thoroughly coated, and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  In another large, resealable bag, combine flour, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, remaining garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and baking powder.
  4. Remove chicken from fridge, remove pieces from marinade, and place them into the bag of breadcrumbs. Seal bag and shake to coat all the pieces.
  5. Coat a large baking sheet with 3 teaspoons oil. Arrange the crumb-dredged chicken pieces in a single layer without touching. Brush the tops with remaining oil.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes or until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer registers 165˚F, turning the pieces once halfway through.

  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Dinner

Keywords: Chicken, Chicken Fingers, Healthy Recipes, Finger Food, Baking, Game Day

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Beat Egg, Prep Poultry, Make Breadcrumbs, And Measure Remaining Ingredients

Horizontal image of bowls of unbaked chicken, buttermilk, and eggs.

In a small bowl, beat one large egg.

Trim the chicken tenders of any fat.

If you are making the breadcrumbs yourself, toast three slices of bread and add them to a food processor. Process until the bread is cut into crumbs. You should have 1 cup in total.

Measure out the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.

Step 2 – Marinate

Horizontal image of a whisk and a bowl with a light yellow liquid mixture.

Add the egg, buttermilk, hot sauce, and 2 teaspoons of garlic powder to a small bowl. I like to use Tabasco for this recipe, but you can use whatever type of hot sauce is your favorite. Stir to combine.

Horizontal image of an airtight bag with raw chicken and marinade on a dark surface.

Add the mixture to a large, resealable bag and add the chicken. Seal the bag, ensure that all of the pieces are thoroughly coated in the marinade, and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.

Step 3 – Dredge

Horizontal image of dredged unbaked chicken on a metal pan.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350˚F.

In a separate large, resealable bag, combine the flour, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, remaining garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and baking powder. Shake until the mixture is combined.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, and let any excess drip back into the bag. Add the chicken tenders to the breadcrumb mixture, seal the bag, and shake it to coat all of the pieces well.

Coat a large baking sheet with about 3 teaspoons of oil. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer without touching. Brush the tops with the remaining oil.

Step 4 – Bake

Horizontal image of a plate of stacked chicken fingers on a towel with apples and grapes.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until cooked through, and be sure to flip the tenders about halfway through cooking. An internal thermometer should register 165˚F when they are done.

Be sure to keep an eye on any smaller pieces and remove them from the pan with tongs as needed, as they will cook more quickly.

Don’t Forget the Dipping Sauce!

What kind should you use? This important decision is totally up to you.

You can make your own homemade ketchup or use any variety of mustard, like Dijon, spicy brown, or honey.

You can also use any of the creamier sauces like ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Horizontal top-down image of a plate of baked chicken fingers in the center, with condiments and fresh fruit on the sides.

In addition, you can always feel free to reach for one of my all-time favorites – barbecue sauce. I personally love to pair these particular chicken fingers with a spicy barbecue, because the flavors of the breading are really complemented nicely.

Do you need more baked chicken ideas for dinner this week? Here are some recipes you’ll love:

What’s your favorite sauce to dip chicken fingers into? Tell us in the comment section below, and be sure to come back to rate the recipe to let us know how much you enjoyed it!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on November 15, 2010. Last updated: September 20, 2019 at 19:57 pm.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

16 thoughts on “Crispy Baked Buttermilk and Spelt Chicken Fingers”

  1. For an even healthier (and still super tasty) version, use crushed Fiber One cereal (I like to add a little seasoning too) instead of breadcrumbs, and egg whites/egg beaters instead of whole eggs, and you can skip the buttermilk altogether (though mmm tasty buttermilk).

  2. 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.

  3. oh chicken tenders – i do love them! i can say i rarely hit up McDonalds, but every now and then I can’t stop myself :). these chicken tenders are definitely much better lookin, that’s for sure!

  4. i loved chicken tenders when i was growing up. i haven’t had them in a while, but i definitely want to try this recipe since they are baked rather than fried. yum!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  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.

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