It is going to be so much fun to show just how to cook chicken tenderloin and have it come out perfect - no matter what you are cooking it for! We are going to show you how to make your chicken tenderloin pieces 6 different ways in this single post - and share the best ways to use this super versatile cut of meat.
Whether it's 10-minutes in the oven, on the stove, in the Instant Pot, or with the air fryer, once you know how to cook chicken tenderloins you know how to make a WHOLE LOTTA YUM meal in no time!
How to Cook Chicken Tenders - 6 Ways!
In our home, we love chicken tenders! This particular cut of meat is often cheaper than other chicken cuts and they cook up super fast - often in 10-minutes or less! Plus, when you know how to cook chicken tenderloin pieces, you can even cook them from frozen when you need something in a pinch.
We use chicken tenderloins in our home at least once a week - often several times between lunch and dinner. They make meal prep a breeze, especially when we can cook up a batch or two to store in the fridge for the week to use in things like chicken cobb salad or Buffalo chicken dip.
Since chicken tenderloins are a blank canvas, you can easily season them to adapt to any recipe you want. Whether you are keeping things simple with just salt and pepper, getting adventurous with Cajun or Mexican seasoning, or going for something savory with a mix of herbs, once you know how to cook chicken tenders you will always be just 10-minutes away from a quick and easy dinner.
Complete your quick and easy chicken tender dinner with these air fryer potato wedges and air fryer broccoli, or your own favorite quick sides, for a complete dinner in under 30-minutes any night of the week.
Chicken Tenderloins: How to Cook
What you consider the BEST way to cook chicken tenderloins may simply be determined by what cooking methods you want to use and how you are planning on serving them. Here are the 6 different ways to cook a chicken tenderloin that we are going to look at today:
- Pan fried chicken tenders
- In the oven
- In an air fryer
- Boiled on the stove
- In a pressure cooker
- On the grill
What are Chicken Tenderloin?
Chicken tenderloin pieces, also known as chicken tenders, are the most tender meat found on the chicken. It's found near the breast meat but is not quite the same thing, although many home cooks will use chicken breast meat in place of chicken tenderloins.
When you first learn how to cook chicken tenderloin, it's important to start with a basic recipe that you can then build on. For our first chicken tender recipe, that's exactly what we are going to do as we prep our chicken for a quick bake using common ingredients that will complement many recipes and sides.
- chicken tenderloin (or chicken tenders)
- butter - melted or olive oil
- chicken rub - store bought
How to cook chicken tenderloins and which recipe you choose will determine which of the supplies you need, but to get you started, here is what we will be using in this recipe.
- An Air Fryer- We have an Omni Plus oven style air fryer and a small 3.2L Farberware basket style air fryer.
- Instant Pot
- Dutch Oven
- Baking Sheet
How to Cook Chicken Tenderloin on the Stove
Cooking chicken tenderloin on the stove aka pan fried chicken tenders is a very quick and easy method that will work great for making small batches or for meal prep. Because chicken tenderloins are so small, they will cook up quickly when cooked on the stovetop.
Made without breading, our pan-fried chicken tenderloins are the perfect way to saute your chicken to a juicy and crisp finish without weighing you down.
How to cook chicken tenderloins using a pan fry method is super simple.
- Pat the chicken pieces dry
- season with your favorite rub
- cook on a preheated pan for 3 minutes per side.
Perfect in salads or wraps, your pan-fried chicken tenders will be ready when they have cooked to an internal temperature of 165F.
Also see: Pan Fried Blackened Chicken Tenders
Baked Chicken Tenders
How to cook chicken tenderloins in the oven is another one of our readers favorite recipes because it's simple yet gives you wonderfully flavored chicken. When you need dinner to be simple yet flavorful, baked chicken tenders are the way to go.
- Turn your oven to 400F and make sure the oven rack is in the center position.
- Lay the raw chicken tenders on a baking sheet. Brush one side of the chicken tenderloin pieces with olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle the chicken rub on the side that was just brushed with olive oil or melted butter. Flip the chicken tenderloins over and continue brushing with the oil or butter and sprinkle the 2nd side with additional chicken rub.
- Bake the chicken for a total of 10 minutes, flipping after 5 minutes, if preferred (flipping not required), and then continue cooking on the other side until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Checking the temperature of the chicken with a digital meat thermometer is highly recommended since ovens can sometimes cook differently.
MASTER TIP: Change up the flavor of your baked chicken tenderloins by opting for other seasonings including taco seasoning, lemon pepper, McCormicks spice blends, or just salt and pepper.
Boiled Chicken Tenderloin
Perfect for dishes that call for precooked chicken, our boiled chicken tenderloins recipe is ready in just 15 minutes! This easy-to-follow recipe works for both fresh or frozen chicken tenderloin pieces.
- To boil your chicken tender pieces, simply place 1 pound of fresh tenderloins in a large pot and submerge in water (or chicken stock). Place the lid on the pot and bring to a boil.
- As soon as the pot boils, reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken tenderloins pieces reach 160F.
- If you are using frozen tenderloins, simmer for 3-5 minutes.
On the Grill
Grilling chicken tenders is a quick and easy way to cook them in under 10 minutes, plus you get to be out and enjoy the sunshine.
- Marinating the chicken tenderloins for 20-30 minutes is recommended before getting started on the grill.
- Preheat your grill on high and then cook them for 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through, or until the internal temperature of the chicken tenders are 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a Pressure Cooker
Let's look at how to cook chicken tenderloins in the Instant Pot - perfect for fresh or frozen pieces of chicken.
- Pour chicken broth into the bottom of the instant pot or pressure cooker.
- Place fresh or frozen chicken tenderloin pieces inside and add the lid.
- Turn Instant Pot to Manual/Pressure Cook (depending on model) and set for 6 minutes
- After it's done cooking, do a natural release for 5 minutes before pressing the button to release the rest of the pressure.
- Pressure cooked chicken tenderloin pieces are perfect for meal prep, in casseroles, or shredded.
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
How to cook chicken tenderloins in an air fryer is definitely one of our reader favorite methods! Air Fryer chicken tenders are the BEST way to enjoy flavorful low-carb and gluten-free chicken tenders when you are looking for a breading-free recipe.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400F.
- Coat your chicken tenders with oil then sprinkle or brush the chicken rub on the chicken.
- Press the rub into the chicken meat.
- Air fry for 8-9 mins, flipping after 5 minutes. Technically, chicken tenders are so thin it's ok to skip the flip, but we prefer it.
- Cook to an internal temperature of 160F.
Also see: Air fryer BBQ chicken tenders, Air fryer chicken tenders with flour
What to Serve with Chicken Tenders
Now that you know how to cook chicken tenderloin, you are doing to need some sides to make them into delicious meals.
Personal favorites include potatoes wedges, cauliflower mac and cheese, and baked rashes.
Or, you can use your cooked chicken tenderloins in any recipe that calls for pre-cooked chicken such as Greek salad, chicken green chili casserole, and chicken bacon ranch soup.
More Chicken Tenderloins Recipes
Here's a handful of other chicken tenderloins recipes to try from our site and other recipe sites!
- Air fryer frozen chicken tenders
- Keto air fryer chicken tenders (parmesan crusted)
- Crispy fried chicken tenders - by Feast and Farm
- Slow cooker Garlic Butter Chicken and Veggies - by The Magical Slow Cooker
Chicken tenderloins dry out when they get overcooked, so the best way to not dry them out is to not overcook them.
One of the best ways to do that is to use a digital meat thermometer. This will allow you to remove your chicken from the oven or skillet right at 160F, or even a few degrees sooner as they will continue to cook for a few minutes.
Since chicken tenders cook so fast, it's very easy to overcook them. The best way to cook chicken tenders is to use a digital meat thermometer, the internal temp of chicken tenderloins should be 160 F. How long that takes depends on the cooking method you're using. Cooking chicken tenderloins is quickest by either air frying them or pan frying.
The best way to make chicken tender is cooking chicken tenderloins to an internal temperature of 160 F. Other ways to make chicken tender include marinating them before cooking or brining them.
Many of our readers are following low-carb and/or keto lifestyles, and you may be wondering if any of these chicken tenderloin recipes are compatible with those eating plans.
In short - yes! We work hard to ensure as many of our recipes as possible comply with a variety of healthy lifestyles and our chicken tender recipes are no different.
One thing to watch for when following our recipes is hidden carbs in any rubs you may choose or in other ingredients, you may decide to add (such as shredded cheese or condiments/sauces).
Come connect with us on Instagram! Be sure to tag us (wholelotta.yum) when you make a recipe. You can also find us on Facebook, and Pinterest.
For your recommendation on cooking frozen chicken tenderloins at 400° for 10 min (5 min per side), were you assuming the frozen tenderloins had been thawed first? I flipped mine at 6 minutes and it wasn't even close to being thawed or browned on the one side (oven had spent plenty of time at 400°, after the preheat indicator went off, before putting the tenderloins in). Or when you say "tenderloin", do you mean full size, raw frozen tenderloins, or those breaded, slightly bigger than chicken nugget, appetizer type "tenderloins"? I'm trying to figure out why this didn't work.
Hi Karl, Yes! That would be the cooking time for defrosted chicken tenders that were previously frozen. You can cook them from frozen but they'll take longer, best guess is 12-14 minutes but they might not brown. Tenderloins and tenders are often used interchangeably. I'll get the recipe updated to make that more clear. Thank you!