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Easy Grilled Chicken Tenders

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Easy grilled chicken tenders, simply marinated and grilled in the pan or on a grill. Perfect to serve as they are, sliced on a salad or in sandwiches.

Why grill chicken tenders?

These juicy and flavorful chicken breast tenders are of my favorite things to cook in the grill pan or on a grill. Why? Well, first because I love chicken and then because they are so quick to cook. Either you marinade them for hours or just for 30 minutes before cooking, the grilled strips will still be moist and wonderful.

grilled chicken tenderloins on an ikea kitchen cloth and lemon wedge beside it.

And the best thing? They are so versatile. You can serve them as they are with some potato wedges, rice, or bread on the side. You can slice and serve them on salad for a super-healthy low-carb dinner. You can let them cool, make sandwiches, take them on a picnic or work the next day. Really, the possibilities are endless.

A great meal for any day of the week, but also perfect for long summer days when you decide to use the grill outside.

What are chicken tenderloins?

Chicken tenders, strips or tenderloins are all the same thing, little strips of meat (muscle) attached to the underside of the chicken breast. They are about 3-4 cm/ 1 ½ inches wide and about 12 cm/ 5 inches long.

They are often removed from breasts and sold separately. Actually, when you buy the breasts, they will probably not have the tenderloins attached most of the time. However, if you buy bone-in breasts, you will find the tenderloins on the underside.

Are they anything different from the actual breast?

No, not really. As they are a muscle which the birds don’t use very often, these strips are even tenderer than the breast itself. This and the fact that they are much smaller, means that they need a shorter cooking time, but otherwise, the taste and texture is the same.

At least, I have never noticed any difference myself and I do cook a lot of breasts and tenders. You might want to have a look at our favorite and super-fast recipe for Cast-Iron Chicken Breast.

Can I use breasts instead of tenders for this recipe?

Yes, you can. Cut the breasts into strips about as long and thick as the tenderloins are. Marinate and cook as instructed.

collage of two pictures of tenderloins charred on the grill and served with lemon wedges.

Marinade for chicken tenderloins

We all love the marinade I am writing about today. However, rest assured that you can marinate the chicken strips before grilling any other way you like. You can make any other “wet” marinade, or you can use your favorite dry rub, the tenderloins will taste great. What we also love: 1-2 tablespoons gochujang (super spicy) OR hoisin sauce (sweet and tangy), it really doesn’t get any faster than that.

For making today’s recipe, I’ve combined lemon juice, honey, sweet and smoked paprika powder, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Simple but delicious. To finish I sprinkled the cooked meat with fresh chopped parsley and sesame seeds. You might think that sesame is just for the pictures, but do use it, if you have it in the pantry, the flavor is wonderful.

You can add dried herbs like thyme, rosemary or oregano, about 1 teaspoon.

close up image of one grillled chicken tenders shiny and charred.

How long to marinate the meat?

  • At least 30 minutes.
  • If you have 2-4 hours’ time to let it marinate is great, but it’s not mandatory, the strips will still be delicious.
  • I feel that if I leave them to marinate for more than 4 hours, the lemon flavor will be too strong. But that is just a matter of personal taste, I suppose.
  • Also, consider that the acid in the lemon juice might affect the texture of the meat if you leave the meat in the marinade for too long. The outside layer of the meat will turn whitish, it will look like it had been slightly boiled or cooked already. So, don’t over-marinate the tenderloins.
  • Usually, I let them marinate for about 2-3 hours, and turn them in the marinade halfway through.
collage of two pictures of chicken strips, a bowl with marinade and meat marinated in another bowl.

How to grill the chicken breast tenders?

  • Mix the marinade and marinate the meat for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Turn the meat in the marinade halfway through.
  • Or use a Ziplock bag to marinate the meat, this way you will not need to turn it anymore. But I am not a fan of using and then discarding yet another plastic bag, so I would rather use a bowl or a small, shallow baking dish.

Grill pan:

  • Heat the pan very well on medium-high heat.
  • Add the strips and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side until the juices run clear and the meat reaches an internal temperature of 74 degrees Celsius/ 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a digital meat thermometer (Amazon affiliate link).
  • Transfer to a (warm) plate and let rest for about 2 minutes before serving.

Grill outside:

  • Preheat the grill to about 190 degrees Celsius/ 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Brush it lightly with oil.
  • Cook the strips for about 3-4 minutes on each side until the juices run clear and the meat reaches the internal temperature mentioned above.
collage of two pictures of raw and then cooked chicken strips cooked in a grill pan.

Other cooking options

Cast-iron skillet:

  • Great pan to use if you don’t have a grill pan. The chicken will not have those nice slightly charred marks anymore, but it will still be delicious and moist.
  • Heat the skillet on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium.
  • Add strips and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side until the juices run clear and the poultry reaches the indicated internal temperature.

Oven:

  • Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius/ 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • Arrange the tenders on it and bake for about 16-18 minutes, turning halfway until cooked through. Check internal temperature or cut one in the middle.

Air fryer:

grilled chicken tenderloins served with lemon wedges, bowl of sesame seeds beside it.

How to serve the grilled tenderloins?

close up of chicken strips with grill marks on them.

How to store?

The grilled chicken tenders keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Perfect to make ahead and use for salads and sandwiches.

You can also freeze them for up to 3 months in good freezer bags or freezer containers. Let thaw slowly in the fridge and reheat well before serving.

More chicken breast recipes:

many chicken strips served with lemon wedges piled on a white plate.
many chicken strips served with lemon wedges piled on a white plate.

Easy Grilled Chicken Tenders

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 13 minutes

Easy grilled chicken tenders, simply marinated and grilled in the pan or on a grill. Perfect to serve as they are, sliced on a salad or in sandwiches.

Ingredients

  • 500 g/ 1 lb. chicken tenders
  • juice of ½ lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika powder (Note 2)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (Note 3)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt (or Kosher)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper (Note 4)
  • about 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, optional
  • about 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, optional

Instructions

Marinate chicken:

  1. Mix lemon juice, honey, grated garlic cloves, both kinds of paprika, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl or shallow baking dish (ceramic or glass).
  2. Add chicken tenders and turn several times to coat all over. Cover the bowl or dish. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Turn in the marinade halfway through.


Grill pan:

  1. Heat the pan very well on medium high heat.
  2. Add the strips and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side until the juices run clear and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 74 degrees Celsius/ 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a digital meat thermometer. (Amazon affiliate link)
  3. Transfer to a (warm) plate and let rest for about 2 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and sesame seeds if desired.


Outdoor grill:

  1. Preheat the grill to about 190 degrees Celsius/ 375 degrees Fahrenheit and brush it lightly with oil.
  2. Cook the chicken tenders for about 3-4 minutes on each side until the juices run clear and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 74 degrees Celsius/ 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Let rest for 2 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and sesame seeds if desired.

Notes

  1. The nutrition is calculated considering only 2 tablespoons oil as a lot of the marinade will remain in the bowl.
  2. My smoked paprika is sweet as well. You can use hot to taste.
  3. I prefer a mild-tasting olive oil, something fruity, not too bitter. A neutral-tasting vegetable oil is fine as well.
  4. Add about 1 teaspoon dried herbs to the marinade. Rosemary, thyme or oregano are great.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1/4 of the dish
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 304Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 96mgSodium: 386mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 1gSugar: 10gProtein: 36g

Nutritional information is not always accurate.

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