Grilled Chicken Tenders are the culinary bridge between my inner kid, who was a picky eater and ordered chicken fingers in every restaurant, and my outer adult, who is picky about her chicken fingers: the chicken must be moist and juicy, the flavor on point, and I’m probably in a hurry so please don’t ask me to spend more than a few minutes cooking them.
Grown-ups and kids alike can rejoice over this easy grilled chicken recipe!
I unlocked the trick to grilling chicken tenders that boast golden, grill-marked outsides and moist, juicy insides.
They’re also well-seasoned. The flavor, while mild and kid-friendly, still permeates all the way to their centers. No bland chicken for us!
You’ll find helpful tips and suggestions for how to serve these easy grilled chicken tenders too. Sure, they are perfect for a fast, healthy meal on their own, but I’ve been especially loving them as a stand in for meal-prep recipes like salads or wraps, where I’d ordinarily use basic shredded chicken, like what you’ll find in this stovetop method for How to Cook Shredded Chicken, this Crock Pot Shredded Chicken, or this Instant Pot Chicken.
And if it’s raining today (or you don’t own a grill) I have some tips for alternative cooking methods for the chicken tenders too.
Why Kids and Adults Love Grilled Chicken Tenders
If you typically grill whole chicken breasts or if you have picky eaters, consider trying grilled chicken tenders tonight.
- Chicken Tenders are FAST. Where a chicken breast may take 12 minutes or more to grill, chicken tenders cook in around 6 minutes.
- Shorter Marinade Time. Because the chicken is cut smaller, the marinade can permeate them more quickly. Prep the tenders first and by the time the grill is preheated, they’ll be ready to cook.
- Restaurant Fun. I find tremendous satisfaction in cooking a recipe I’d normally only get in a restaurant at home. Homemade chicken tenders are no exception.
- Kid Approved. If you’ve looked at any restaurant’s kids’ menu, you know chicken tenders are regarded as having universal kiddo acceptance.
- Healthy. Unlike fast food chicken tenders, the ones you make yourself are lean and healthy.
The Secret to Keeping Chicken Moist When Grilling
I stole a trick from Thanksgiving turkey to keep the chicken perfectly moist while grilling: BRINE your chicken before you cook it.
Brining consists of soaking the chicken in a salt water solution, often with extra flavors like spices and herbs added.
Like a marinade, it gives the chicken flavor, and it also harnesses the power of science to keep the chicken more moist during cooking.
When you soak meat in salty water, the solution travels through the meat via osmosis (thank you grade-school science).
The meat will absorb both the flavor of the brine and some of the water. You end up with a juicier final result.
I recommend marinating the chicken for at least 30 minutes, and you can let it sit for up to 8 hours. After 8 hours, the meat may begin to break down too much and have an odd texture.
Time and Temperature for Grilling Chicken Tenders
To keep your chicken tenders moist, it’s important to make sure your grill is at the right temperature and not to overcook them.
- I find that a grill between 375 and 400 degrees F is the right temperature for grilling chicken.
- For chicken tenders, you’ll need about 6 to 8 minutes total. Flip the chicken tenders once halfway through.
- You’ll know when the chicken tenders are done when the juices run clear when they are sliced.
- It’s a little tricky to insert an instant read thermometer since the tenders are small, but if you can the chicken should register 165 degrees F.
- For great grill marks: Make sure your grill is fully preheated before adding the chicken. Try to disturb the chicken as little as possible during cooking.
How to Cook Grilled Chicken Tenders
Use this recipe as a springboard and feel free to play around by adding different seasonings.
Italian seasoning is a favorite of ours. For a Mexican twist, try chili powder or cumin.
- Chicken Tenders. Juicy, fast-cooking, and great for healthy meals. Chicken is lower in calories than other types of meat and a wonderful source of lean protein. If you don’t have tenders, you can slice boneless, skinless chicken breast into 1 to 1 ½-inch strips.
- Salt Water Marinade (a.k.a. Brine). For the important salty marinade I mentioned above, I used a mixture of soy sauce, water, a little bit of seasoning (salt and pepper are sufficient, and you can play around from there), and honey.
- Vinegar. Acid is another trick that tenderizes the meat, because it will start to break down its fibers. For this easy marinade, I used apple cider vinegar, which is lightly fruity. Lemon juice, lime juice, or a different vinegar will work as well. Each imparts a different (but delicious) flavor.
- Whisk the marinade ingredients together.
- Pour the marinade into a bowl or ziptop bag. Add the chicken, then let it marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Grill the chicken tenders at 375 degrees F for 3 to 4 minutes per side.
- Let rest for a few minutes, then DIG IN!
More Ways to Cook Chicken Tenders
This recipe is geared for the grill, but it’s certainly not the only way to prepare them.
- Use a Grill Pan on the Stove. Use a grill pan like this one, and heat it over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Brush the pan with oil, then grill the chicken tenders as directed.
- George Foreman. If you have one of these handy appliances, it’s an easy option. Preheat the grill for about 5 minutes (with the top closed). Grill the tenders in a single layer for about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Use a Skillet. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, place the chicken tenders in the skillet. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
- Use the Oven. For baked chicken tenders, cook them on a baking sheet in the oven at 400 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
- For More Baked Options. Check out my delicious (and kid-friendly) Crispy Asian Chicken Tenders and Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders.
How to Store, Reheat, and Freeze Chicken Tenders
- To Store. Leftover tenders can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Reheat chicken in the oven at 350 degrees F until hot. You can also rewarm the tenders in the microwave or gently on the stove top. On salads, I eat them room temperature or cool.
- To Freeze. Place chicken tenders in a freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
What to Serve with Grilled Chicken Tenders
- Dip. The basil dip from this Zucchini Fries recipe would be scrumptious. This homemade Barbecue Sauce would be a crowd-pleasing choice too.
- Salad. For a fresh, healthy meal, pair these tenders with Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing.
- Veggies. A side of Roasted Carrots and Broccoli would be delicious with these tenders.
More Ways to Use Grilled Chicken Tenders
As I mentioned, I love making a big batch of these for meal prep. Here are some ways to use them throughout the week.
- Add them to a pasta dish like Pasta al Limone for a protein boost. Kids (and adults) would love them tossed in with this Adult Mac and Cheese too.
- Top your salads throughout the week with chicken tenders to make them more filling.
- Take your pizza game to a new level by adding diced chicken tenders as a topping (this Broccoli Pizza Crust is a great choice).
- Tuck a few chicken tenders inside a wrap sandwich for an easy and healthy lunch.
The possibilities are endless!
Recommended Tools to Make Grilled Chicken Tenders
- Instant Read Thermometer. The BEST way to ensure your tenders are cooked through.
- Mixing Bowls. You can mix and marinate in the same bowl.
- Measuring Spoons. Perfect for measuring your marinade ingredients.
With their fast prep, juicy-factor, and versatility, grilled chicken tenders are a new summer staple for us. I hope they become one for you too!
As always, if you try this recipe, please leave a comment to let me know how it turns out for you! Your comments and reviews are so important to my site.
Grilled Chicken Tenders
- 1 pound chicken tenders you also can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced into 1-inch strips
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Vegetable oil for grilling
- In a small bowl or larger liquid measuring cup, whisk together the water, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, pepper, and salt. Transfer mixture to a 1-gallon ziptop bag (or if you prefer to marinate the chicken directly in the bowl, whisk the ingredients together in a mixing bowl just large enough to hold the chicken snugly so that it is well submerged).
- Add the chicken to the bag and seal, gently pressing out as much air from the bag as possible. Turn and “squish” the bag so that the chicken is evenly distributed and all of the pieces are coated. Place the bag in a shallow dish to catch any accidental drips then place in the refrigerator to marinate. (If you are using a bowl, add the chicken to the bowl, toss to coat in the marinade, then cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator). Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
- When ready to grill, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium heat (about 375 degrees F). Oil the grill, then place the chicken tenders on the grill in a single layer without overlapping them, shaking off any excess marinade (discard the bag and remaining marinade). Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until the juices run clear and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.
- Transfer the chicken tenders to a plate or cutting board. Cover with foil and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes to allow the juices to reincorporate.
- TO STORE: Leftover tenders can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Reheat chicken in the oven at 350 degrees F until hot. You can also rewarm the tenders in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Place chicken tenders in a freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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