This blackened chicken tenders recipe is easy and delicious! Blackened chicken is a New Orleans and Cajun cuisine specialty. Tenders are coated in a special spice blend then seared to perfection. Serve these spicy chicken tenders as a main course or with your favorite sides and dipping sauces!
Easy blackened tenders
I’m back with another blackened recipe! This cajun method of coating food in a spicy blackened seasoning mix and cooking it over high heat has been one of my favorite ways to cook proteins lately!
Growing up I LOVED fried chicken tenders. That plus macaroni and cheese were basically all I ate for years. While I still love a good fried chicken tender, these pan seared chicken tenders are a little bit healthier and a whole lot more flavorful!
- Why you'll love this recipe
- What are chicken tenderloins?
- Ingredients & Substitutions
- Equipment needed
- How to remove the tendon from a chicken tenderloin?
- How to cook chicken tenderloins in a skillet
- Expert tips for cooking chicken tenders
- Storage & make ahead
- What to serve with blackened chicken tenders
- Frequently Asked Questions
- More blackened recipes
- Blackened Chicken Strips Recipe
Why you'll love this recipe
- Spicy Cajun kick. The special blackening blend of spices has the perfect amount of heat and bold cajun flavors.
- Fast and easy! Chicken tenders cook up quickly and are ready in under 15 minutes.
- Adjustable spice. Make these blackened tenders as spicy or mild as you want by adding more or less cayenne pepper.
- Versatile. These Cajun chicken tenders are great as a stand alone main course paired with a dipping sauce, or for sandwiches, pasta, salads, bowls, and more!
What are chicken tenderloins?
Did you know that chicken tenders aren't just cut up chicken breast strips?
Chicken tenderloins (also known as chicken tenders) are the pair of smaller, more tender muscles located next to the breast on a chicken.
They live up to their name since they are even more tender and juicy than chicken breasts!
These blackened chicken tenders are cooked with the blackening cooking method, first developed in New Orleans. They are coated in delicious Cajun spices and cooked at a high temperature to make that distinct blackened flavorful crust.
The blackening seasoning used to blacken food is a spice blend of paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme, and dried basil. Some spice mixes also contain chili powder, white pepper, or sugar. To read more about blackening seasoning, its uses, its origins, and a recipe to make your own, check out Cajun Blackening Seasoning.
Blackened chicken tenders are great served on their own or in salads, sandwiches, or wraps. I love eating them dunked in a dipping sauce like Cajun Garlic Aioli, Chipotle Lime Sauce, Cajun Ranch, or Cajun Remoulade Sauce.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Make a big batch of homemade blackening seasoning so you have some on hand for blackening chicken, fish, pork, shrimp, beef, or vegetables!
- Chicken tenders - These boneless skinless chicken chicken strips are small and tender, helping them cook up quickly. If you would rather chicken breast, check out Blackened Chicken Breasts.
- Blackening seasoning - This delicious blend of cajun seasonings is the key ingredient to blackening food. Make it extra spicy by adding an extra cayenne pepper, or mild by only using half . Substitute smoked paprika for regular paprika if needed, but the smoked paprika adds a great smoky flavor! Make a full back of Cajun Blackening Seasoning so you can have it on hand! You can substitute for Cajun Seasoning in a pinch.
- Avocado oil - Using a high heat oil like avocado oil for blackening foods cuts down on smokines. You can also use clarified butter. Substitute for olive oil, but it may get smoky.
- Produce - Garlic is added at the end of cooking the chicken so it doesn’t burn. Lemon and parsley are optional toppings, but add a nice acidity and brightness to balance out the blackened flavor and butter.
- Dipping sauces - Optional, but what's a chicken tender without a dipping sauce?! Try New Orleans Remoulade, Cajun Ranch, Garlic Aioli, or Chipotle lime Sauce.
See the recipe card below for the complete list of ingredients and measurements.
How to remove the tendon from a chicken tenderloin?
Chicken tenders have a tendon running them that can be chewy when left in. You can remove them more easily by following these steps!
- Locate the tendon. It will be white, rubbery, and sticking out of the larger end of the chicken tender.
- Get a firm grip. Using a paper towel, get a firm grip on the tendon.
- Use a fork. Place the tendon between the tongs of a fork (but don’t pierce the tendon) to hold the chicken tender in place.
- Pull it out. Gently but firmly, pull the tendon out. The fork should hold the meat together while the tendon is pulled out clean.
This can take some practice! Don’t worry if some of your chicken tenders split into 2 pieces, they will still be delicious! It also helps to pat the chicken dry before doing this so you can get a better grip.
How to cook chicken tenderloins in a skillet
STEP ONE: MIX
Mix together all ingredients for blackened seasoning and set aside.
STEP TWO: PREP
Pat tenders dry and evenly coat in blackening spice mix.
STEP THREE: SEAR
Sear tenders in a hot cast iron skillet until blackened on each side and the inside reaches 165°F (74°C).
STEP FOUR: FINISH
Add butter and garlic to the pan and stir to coat chicken.
Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
PRO TIP: An instant read thermometer is one of my MOST used kitchen utensils! It's great for blackening fish since fish can overcook quickly, and this thermometer will quickly read the temperature.
Expert tips for cooking chicken tenders
- Remove the tendon. They can get chewy when cooked, so it’s best to remove them. Hold the tendon with a paper towel for grip, and hold the tender in place with a fork. Pull the tendon out and discard.
- Pat tenders dry. Drying the surface of the chicken is an important step to ensure you get a good sear.
- Stove top is best. Since chicken tenders are small, they will cook up quickly on the stove. Plus pan searing them gives the best flavor.
- Preheat the pan! Using a fully hot skillet is essential to getting a blackened sear on your chicken tenders.
- Don’t crowd the pan. If you are blackening a lot of tenders, work in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. This will create steam, and make it harder for chicken to blacken.
- Use an instant read thermometer. A thermometer is the best way to make sure your chicken tenders are thoroughly cooked, but not overcooked! Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the tender. If they are at 165°F (74°C) or above, they are don. Remove tenders from heat when they reach this temperature.
- Let them rest! Let chicken tenders rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes before cutting into them.
Storage & make ahead
How to store leftovers: Store leftover blackened chicken tenders in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
How to freeze: Freeze cooked chicken in an airtight container for 3-4 months.
How to reheat chicken breasts: For best results, reheat chicken in a hot skillet. Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat and add chicken tenders. Cook for 1-2 minutes until chicken is warmed through, stirring occasionally. You can also reheat in the microwave for about 1 minute. Be careful not to overcook.
Make ahead: You can prepare the blackened seasoning a few days in advance to save time. Season chicken with blackened seasoning the night before. Pat dry with paper towels before cooking, as the seasoning will cause some moisture to form on the chicken.
What to serve with blackened chicken tenders
Blackened chicken tenders can be served as a main dish with sides, or used for topping salads, pasta, or on sandwiches. Here are some ideas on how to use these delicious tenders.
- Served with dipping sauce like Cajun Garlic Aioli, Cajun Ranch, Chipotle Lime Sauce, or Cajun Remoulade.
- Add them to pasta with Cajun Alfredo Sauce or Roasted Garlic Alfredo Sauce.
- With sides like Roasted Broccoli and Potatoes and Brie Mac and Cheese.
- Chopped up on a salad with Cajun Ranch or Cajun Remoulade and Homemade Croutons.
- Make a blackened chicken sandwich with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and Cajun Ranch dressing.
- In Roasted Garlic Alfredo pasta with Blackened Corn.
- Tossed in homemade pesto in a quinoa bowl.
See the full list of side dishes for blackened chicken in What to Serve with Blackened Chicken.
Best sauces for chicken tenders
Frequently Asked Questions
Blackened chicken recipes usually have a moderate amount of spice. If you make your homemade blackening seasoning, you can add more or less cayenne pepper to adjust the heat level!
The traditional method of blackening food uses a cast iron skillet. Cast iron holds heat well and can get really hot, making it the perfect surface to blacken chicken, fish, and pork. If you don’t have one, try a stainless steel pan instead.
The biggest reason for dry chicken is overcooking it. Use a leave-in meat thermometer while cooking your chicken tenders so you can remove them from heat as soon as they reach 165°F (74°C).
Chicken tenders will cook on the stove in about 10 minutes over medium high heat. Cook 5 minutes on each side until a sears crust forms and the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
More blackened recipes
Blackened Chicken Strips Recipe
- MIX: Combine all ingredients for the blackening seasoning together in a small bowl and mix well.
- PREP: Pat chicken tenders dry with a paper towel. Removing the tendon is optional, see note. Season the chicken tenders evenly. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
- SEAR: Once the pan is fully heated, add avocado oil and swirl to coat. Add the seasoned chicken tenders to the skillet in a single layer. If they all don’t fit in the pan at once, do 2 batches. Cook tenders for 5 minutes on each side, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C), and the outside has a blackened crust.
- FINISH: When all tenders are cooked, add them back in the pan with butter and garlic. Sauté garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Toss tenders in garlic butter, and remove from heat.
- SERVE: Serve chicken warm with veggies, on a salad, or with dipping sauce.
- How to remove tendon from chicken tender: Grab the tendon with a paper towel and put the tines of a fork around the tendon. Pull the tendon out with the fork holding back the chicken tender.
- To easily halve this recipe, make the full blackening seasoning recipe, then use half. It’s much easier than trying to half each individual amount. Then you will have some already made for next time!
- How to store leftovers: Store leftover blackened chicken tenders in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- How to freeze: Freeze cooked chicken in an airtight container for 3-4 months.
- How to reheat chicken breasts: For best results, reheat chicken in a hot skillet. Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat and add chicken tenders. Cook for 1-2 minutes until chicken is warmed through, stirring occasionally. You can also reheat in the microwave for about 1 minute. Be careful not to overcook.
- Make ahead: You can prepare the blackened seasoning a few days in advance to save time. Season chicken with blackened seasoning the night before. Pat dry with paper towels before cooking, as the seasoning will cause some moisture to form on the chicken.