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What are the different names for chicken tenders?

Chicken tenders go by many different names depending on the region and context. Some of the most common names for chicken tenders include:

Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders is the most universal and widely recognized name for the boneless chicken strips made from the tenderloin portion of the chicken breast. The term “chicken tenders” can apply to the raw uncooked strips as well as the popular breaded and fried preparation.

Chicken Fingers

Chicken fingers is a very common variation of chicken tenders, especially in casual dining restaurants. The term conjures the image of long, thin strips resembling fingers, whereas tenders can be cut in various shapes and sizes. Chicken fingers also implies a breaded or battered coating.

Chicken Strips

Chicken strips is similar to chicken tenders, but can sometimes refer to chicken breast meat cut into strips rather than specifically the tenderloin portion. Chicken strips may have a coating or marinade or be plain uncoated meat.


Tenderloins are strips cut from the tenderloin portion of chicken breast. When served as an entree, tenderloins are almost always breaded or fried. Tenderloins may also refer to plain uncooked strips for recipes.


In some regions like the Southern US, “fingers” is used as shorthand for chicken fingers or tenders. An order of “fingers” likely refers to fried, breaded chicken strips.


Like fingers, tenders is sometimes used as shorthand for chicken tenders. This is especially common at restaurants or chains that specialize in chicken tenders.

Popcorn Chicken

Popcorn chicken features small, bite-sized pieces of chicken breast with a crispy breading resembling popcorn in shape and texture. While not precisely the same as tenders, popcorn chicken is a popular variation.


Chicken nuggets are chunks of boneless chicken breaded in various shapes. While tenders are cut from whole tenderloins, nuggets are more processed. However, some restaurants use the terms nuggets and tenders interchangeably.


Strips is a generic term that can apply to any long, thin cuts of chicken breast cooked in various ways. Chicken strips may have a breading or sauce or be plain grilled or fried meat.


Chicken fritters are chunks of chicken breast meat combined with other ingredients like eggs and flour then fried. The meat itself is similar to nuggets or tenders but the preparation method differs.


In rare cases, chicken tenders may be referred to as tendersloins (a portmanteau of tenderloins). This term is not common but highlights the fact that tenders come from the tenderloin.

Regional Variations

Some chicken tender names are region-specific. Here are a few examples:

  • Finger steaks (Idaho, Montana)
  • Chicken biskits (South)
  • Chicken planks (Pennsylvania)
  • Chicken lollies (Australia)

Restaurant Brand Names

Major fast food chains often have proprietary names and slogans for their chicken tenders products:

  • Chick-fil-A Chicken Strips
  • McDonald’s Chicken Selects
  • Burger King Chicken Fries
  • Popeyes Rip’n Chick’n Strips
  • KFC Chicken Little Tenders

Prepared vs Raw Names

There is sometimes a distinction between the names for raw uncooked chicken tenders and the final fried, breaded preparations:

Raw Prepared
Tenderloins Chicken tenders
Chicken strip steaks Chicken fingers
Plain strips Chicken strips


The many names for chicken tenders arise from regional dialects, culinary contexts, restaurant marketing, and whether the chicken is raw or cooked. But chicken tenders, fingers, nuggets, and strips all have in common that they are boneless cuts cooked from chicken breast meat. The specific tenderloin cut and strip shape define true chicken tenders.

Chicken tenders are beloved because they offer the convenience, kid-friendliness and versatile flavor of breaded, fried chicken in an easy to eat, dip-able shape. The tenderloin cut keeps the strips uniformly thick and extra juicy compared to nuggets. While preferences vary, fan favorites like honey mustard, barbeque, buffalo, sweet chili, honey sriracha are popular sauce choices.

The simplicity and potential for creativity in seasoning and sauces make chicken tenders an American classic. Whether you refer to them as fingers, strips, tenders or something else, these crispy, juicy strips of white breast meat can liven up any plate.

Chicken tenders are a versatile ingredient that can be used in everything from appetizers to main entrees. Here are some of the most popular ways to serve chicken tenders:

Main Dish

Chicken tenders shine as an easy main course option. Crispy, breaded tenders with fries or another side make a complete meal kids and adults love. Adding sauces and dips amplifies the flavor.


Appetizer-sized portions of breaded tenders with multiple dipping sauce options is a sports bar classic. Plain grilled tenders can also be a lighter, healthier app.

Salad Topper

Chopped or grilled chicken tenders liven up any salad as a protein-packed topping. The tender texture and flavor make them a salad bar staple.


A pack of ready-to-eat chicken tenders in a lunch box or after school makes for a satisfying protein-rich snack. They travel well and need little prep.

Sandwich and Wrap Filler

Chicken tenders pair deliciously with greens, tomatoes, cheese and crunchy toppings as a sandwich or wrap filling. Grilled, crispy or buffalo style all work.

Soup Ingredient

Bite-sized chicken tenders add hearty protein to soups and won’t overcook like chicken breast. Try in pastas, ramen, chicken noodle or tortilla soup.


Chicken tenders hold up well when skewered for grilling or broiling. Mix with veggies and sauces for easy kabobs kids will love.

Meal Prep Base

Cook extra chicken tenders to use throughout the week in tacos, pastas, salads, snacks and more. They reheat beautifully.

Casserole Addition

Chopped cooked chicken tenders bulk up and add moisture to casseroles like enchiladas, lasagna, pot pie and more.

Pizza and Flatbread Topper

Chicken tenders lend flavor and texture to homemade or store-bought pizza and flatbreads. Adds a twist to margherita or pepperoni.

Fajitas and Quesadillas

Sliced or chopped grilled tenders pack tons of flavor into fajitas, tacos, quesadillas and more Tex-Mex dishes.

Chicken tenders are endlessly versatile, kid-friendly and a healthier option compared to things like chicken nuggets or heavily breaded chicken dishes. These tender yet substantial strips of lean breast meat can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion.

The biggest debate around chicken tenders isn’t what to call them—it’s how best to cook them! There are two main camps when it comes to preparing chicken tenders:

Breaded and Fried

The classic crispy, crunchy coating seals in juiciness and amps up the flavor of the mild chicken. Easy to pick up and fun to dip in sauces. Can be made lighter with panko or cornflake coating.

Grilled or Baked

Allows the tender, subtly sweet flavor of the chicken to shine. A healthier option, especially with spice rubs or marinades versus heavy breading. Imparts nice char or crispness.

Methods like air frying or baking tend to strike a balance between the two styles. And creative cooks are coating tenders in crushed chips, nuts, cereals and other crunchy toppings for novel textures.

When it comes to sauces and spices, anything goes with chicken tenders! Popular seasoning choices include:

  • Barbeque sauce – sweet, tangy, smoky
  • Buffalo hot sauce – tangy, spicy
  • Ranch dressing – cool, herby
  • Honey mustard – sweet, savory
  • Blue cheese dressing – bold, creamy
  • Sweet chili sauce – sticky with a kick
  • Chicken gravy – rich, savory, homestyle

Spice rubs, herb blends, chile powders, garlic, lemon pepper and Cajun seasonings also pair well. Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors outside the usual ketchup, ranch and barbecue—possibilities are endless!

When shopping for chicken tenders, you’ll typically find three options:

Fresh Packages

Vacuum-sealed packs of raw chicken tenderloins, usually found by other raw chicken cuts. Offers most flexibility to bread and cook from scratch.

Frozen Bags

Frozen, pre-cut and breaded chicken tender shapes ready to be cooked from frozen. Convenient for quick meals but less customizable.

Prepared Deli Items

Fully cooked, hot and ready to eat chicken tenders in the deli or prepared foods section. Ideal for busy weeknights or events.

You can also commonly find ground or chopped chicken designed to mimic the texture of tenders. This makes a convenient substitute for casseroles or chicken salads.

When buying fresh tenderloins, select packages that are well sealed with little liquid inside. The color should be white to pale pink with a fresh scent. For prepared or frozen tenders, inspect for signs of freezing and thawing like ice crystals or limp breading.

Chicken tenders are incredibly easy to cook at home. Here are some tips for foolproof oven baked chicken tenders:

Defrost and Pat Dry

If using frozen tenders, defrost fully before baking. Pat dry fresh or frozen tenders before breading to help coating stick.

Coat in Breading

For crispy texture, coat tenders in flour, dip in egg wash, then press into panko or cornflake crumbs. Use seasoned flours or crunchy toppings for flavor.

Place on Sheet Pan

Arrange breaded tenders in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Leave space between each to crisp up.

Bake at 425oF

Bake at 425oF for 12-18 minutes, flipping halfway through, until browned and cooked through. Adjust time as needed for amount.

Toss in Sauce

Toss just-cooked tenders in your favorite sauce. Serve hot with sides of extra sauce for dipping.

Grilled chicken tenders have a lighter flavor perfect for tacos, salads and more. Follow same defrosting and patting dry steps. Toss tenders in a little oil then grill 4-5 minutes per side until charred and cooked through.

Chicken tenders are incredibly versatile in recipes. They can replace chicken breast in nearly any dish calling for boneless chicken. Their tender texture even holds up well in soups, casseroles and pastas. Here are some favorite ways to use chicken tenders:

Tender Tacos

Chopped grilled chicken tenders, pico de gallo and fixings in soft tortillas. Fresh and fast.

Tender Parmesan

Chicken tenders baked with marinara and mozzarella make saucy, cheesy subs or pasta topping.

Popcorn Tendies

Toss bite-sized tenders in an air fryer or oven with spices and hot sauce for easy snacking.

Tender Stir Fry

Stir fry chopped tenders and veggies in teriyaki or sweet chili sauce for a quick and healthy dinner.

Tenders and Waffles

Chicken and waffles get a fun twist with chicken tenders replacing fried chicken. Serve with maple syrup.

Tenderloin Soup

Simmer tenders in chicken broth with veggies and pasta or rice for an easy soup.

BLT with Tenders

Crispy chicken tenders add a tasty twist to the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

Tenders Pizza

Top pita or naan with sauce, cheese, chopped tenders and whatever veggie toppings for personal pizzas.

With their kid-friendly flavor, dip-able size and countless uses, chicken tenders are a dinnertime slam dunk. Keep a pack of tenders in the freezer for emergency easy meals, or pick up a rotisserie pack for busy weeknight sides and soups. However you cook them up, chicken tenders simplify tasty, protein-packed dinners.