These Baked Chicken Fingers with Apple Cider Sweet-and-Sour Sauce are appreciated by kids and adults alike. Dip the crispy chicken fingers into the tangy-sweet apple cider sauce or use your favorite dipping sauce.
Baked chicken fingers are never going to taste the same as fried ones. Nor do I want them to. They are both delicious in their own right, especially if the baked chicken fingers are truly crispy and crunch-worthy. This baked chicken fingers recipe with apple cider sweet-and-sour sauce nails it.
I went through many renditions of homemade chicken tenders before I landed on this one. I needed baked chicken fingers that could compete with fried ones. Where they aren’t viewed as a “healthy” version, but rather as a crave-worthy and exciting one. I wanted crispy baked chicken fingers that crunch with every bite and have the breading actually stay on the chicken. Yes, I have high expectations, but don’t we all when it comes to this childhood favorite?
Here, the combination of panko breadcrumbs and cornmeal creates an undeniable crunchy exterior. So much so, I had to dial back the cornmeal because they were too crunchy. Said no one ever about baked chicken fingers. Next, I skip the traditional flour step in the breading; the chicken goes from the egg mixture straight into the panko-cornmeal-spice mix. Not only does this save a step and a dish, but most importantly prevents the breading from falling off the chicken. Mind-blowing, I know.
I paired the chicken fingers with an apple cider sweet-and-sour sauce in an ode to a chick-fil-a-style sauce. I’m well aware of who I am up against in the chicken tender department, and I would be remiss not to include a sweet-and-sour sauce that complements the chicken tenders perfectly and has the perfect consistency for dipping.
CHICKEN TENDERS. Chicken Breasts instead of chicken tenders also work great! Either slice them into strips similar to chicken tenders or large chunks for chicken nuggets.
APPLE CIDER SWEET-AND-SOUR SAUCE. Any sauce you traditionally enjoy eating with chicken tenders will do. This perfectly sweet barbecue sauce is an excellent alternative.
Before you begin: Tips for making these crunchy chicken fingers
BRINING. Now, if you truly want a chick-fil-a type of chicken tender, I highly recommend you salt the chicken 6-48 hours before you bake them. This is an extra step and is optional. After all, we have to account for life, in general, and life should not stand in the way of you and homemade chicken fingers. Just sayin.’
Perfect Side Dishes for chicken tenders
- Simple Spinach Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing
- 4-Ingredient Shredded Carrot Salad
- Sweet and Spicy Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries
- Grilled Carrots with Jalapeno, Lime, and Cotija
Baked Chicken Fingers with Apple Cider Sweet-and-Sour Sauce
These Baked Chicken Fingers with Apple Cider Sweet-and-Sour Sauce are super crispy with a hint of spice and appreciated by kids and adults alike. Dip the crispy chicken fingers into the tangy-sweet apple cider sauce or use your favorite dipping sauce.
- Prep Time: 18 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 2 servings 1x
- Category: Lunch, Dinner
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American
For the chicken fingers:
- 1/2 lb raw chicken tenders
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the breading:
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg white
- 1/2 cup (40g) panko breadcrumbs, whole wheat, or regular
- 1/4 cup (40g) cornmeal
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For the apple cider sweet and sour sauce:
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) apple cider
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup (50g) packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 3 teaspoons whole wheat or all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 lime, cut into 3 wedges
- Brine the chicken, optional. Place the chicken in a gallon plastic bag or glass container and add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using your hands, rub the chicken tenders until the salt is evenly distributed across all of them. Zip the bag or cover the container and place the chicken in the refrigerator for 6-48 hours.
- Prepare the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and place a cooling rack on top.
- Make the breading. In a shallow bowl or storage container, beat the egg and egg white. In a separate shallow bowl or storage container, combine the panko breadcrumbs, cornmeal, salt, garlic powder , and red pepper flakes.
- Coat the chicken. If you didn’t brine the chicken, sprinkle the chicken with salt on both sides. Set up an assembly line with the chicken tenders, eggs, panko mixture, and prepared baking sheet. Dip each chicken tender into the eggs, shake off any excess, and then thoroughly coat it in the panko mix. Place each breaded chicken tender on the cooling rack arranged in the baking sheet, leaving 1/2-inch space between pieces.
- Bake the chicken tenders. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, turning once at the 15-minute mark, until the chicken is lightly browned and crispy on the outside and fully cooked to 165°F (73°C) interior temperature.
- Prepare the apple cider sweet-and-sour sauce. Meanwhile, in a 3-quart saucepan, whisk together the apple cider, vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, flour, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and whisk until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.
- Serve. Serve the chicken tenders hot with apple cider sweet-and-sour sauce and lime wedges.
Recipe inspired by Erin French’s Sweet and Sour Apple Cider in The Lost Kitchen.
DO AHEAD. The Sweet-and-Sour Apple Cider Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week.
STORAGE. The Chicken Fingers are best eaten immediately. They can be kept warm in a 200°F oven if serving for a party appetizer.
- Serving Size: 1/2 lb chicken tenders + 2 tablespoons sauce
- Calories: 372 calories
- Sugar: 13.6g
- Sodium: 951mg
- Fat: 7.6g
- Saturated Fat: 2.2g
- Carbohydrates: 41.7g
- Fiber: 2.5g
- Protein: 43.1g
- Cholesterol: 166mg
Keywords: apple cider sweet and sour sauce, crispy baked chicken tenders