These blackened chicken tenders feature a bold spice rub that can be prepared ahead of time for a quick, easy, healthy (keto!) dinner.
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Chicken tenders are an easy protein to make during the week because they cook quickly! We love the flavorful punch of blackening seasoning on these tenders to top our favorite rice, salads or pasta. You'll love this recipe because it's easy, low-carb, and full of protein.
What Does It Mean When Chicken is Blackened?
Blackening is a cooking method in which fish or chicken is brushed with fat, coated liberally in a blend of spices and seared over high heat to toast the spices and create a crusty, blackened finish. Although the crust has a deep color, the chicken is not burnt. The flavor is bold, but not too spicy! We love blackened chicken tenders and we love blackened salmon!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Blackened seasoning: smoked paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
- Chicken tenderloins: you could swap this for chicken breasts. If you use breasts, I recommend cutting them in half width-wise so they're thinner and cook quicker.
- Fat: I prefer a fat with a high flash point like avocado oil, but butter or olive oil work well too (it will likely smoke more).
How To make Blackened Chicken Tenders
- Mix the blackened seasoning: combine all of the spices in a small bowl or dish. Pat the chicken tenders dry with paper towels and bursh the melted butter or oil on top.
- Dip: press each piece of chicken into the seasoning and push down to create a thick, even coat across both sides.
- Sear and cook: Brush the bottom of a heavy-bottomed or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with butter or oil. When the oil is hot, place the chicken tenders in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes without moving to create a blackened crust. Flip the chicken tenders over and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 160-165°F.
Tips For Making Blackened Chicken Tenders
- You may need to work in two batches if your pan is too small. Over-crowding the pan can steam the chicken rather than sear it. Wipe any black/burnt bits off the pan between batches.
- Use a meat thermometer to tell when the chicken is done. They cook quickly and over-cooking the chicken will result in tough and dry meat.
Blackened Chicken Tender FAQs
Chicken is often dry when it's over-cooked. It's already a very lean protein, so overcooking it results in tough, dry chicken. Use a meat thermometer to ensure you remove the chicken from the pan before this happens, especially with chicken tenders, because they cook quickly.
You can serve roasted vegetables like green beans or broccoli alongside the chicken with rice or you can use the chicken tenders to fill or top your favorite recipes like wraps, salads, pastas, tacos and more.
These chicken tenders have a little heat to them, but I don't love spicy food and I think they're delicious! I recommend starting with less cayenne pepper and adding more as needed.
Place the seasoned chicken tenders in the basket of the air fryer in an even layer and air fry at 400°F for 10-12 minutes.
Storage and Freezer Instructions
To store: place any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freeze: place the cooked chicken in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge then reheat the blackened chicken tenders in the microwave or over the stove until warmed all the way through.
More Keto Chicken Recipes
- Sheet pan everything bagel chicken and veggies
- Crispy garlic chicken bites
- Pesto chicken
- Buffalo chicken zucchini boats
Easy Blackened Chicken Tenders
- 2 teaspoons EACH: smoked paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon EACH: dried oregano, onion powder, kosher salt and black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil, olive oil or butter*
- 1 1/2 lbs chicken tenders trimmed
- Place the smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, onion powder, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl or dish. Pat the chicken tenders dry with paper towels and spread the avocado oil or butter on top.
- Dip each piece of chicken into the seasoning and push down to create a thick, even coat across the chicken on both sides.
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and brush lightly with the same butter or oil used to coat the chicken. You’l know the pan is hot enough when a drop of water sizzles on the surface.
- Place the chicken tenders onto the hot skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes without moving to create a blackened crust. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. You may need to work in two batches so you don't overcrowd the pan and cause the tenders to steam. If there are any browned or burned bits in the bottom of the pan, wipe them down with a paper towel between batches and add more oil before cooking.