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What is the difference between chicken strips chicken tenders and chicken fingers?

Chicken strips, chicken tenders, and chicken fingers are all popular chicken dishes, but they actually refer to slightly different preparations of chicken. Understanding the distinctions between these terms can help you better navigate menus and recipes.

Quick Answer

Chicken strips are usually made from chicken breast meat, cut into long, thin strips and breaded or battered. Chicken tenders refer specifically to the tenderloin or strip of white meat on the underside of a chicken breast. Chicken fingers are made from tenderloin or breast meat cut into finger-shaped pieces then breaded or battered.

What Are Chicken Strips?

Chicken strips are thin cuts of chicken breast meat that are battered or breaded then deep fried or baked. They are usually made from the breast meat or sometimes tenderloins.

To make chicken strips, the chicken breast is cut lengthwise into long, relatively thin strips, usually about 1/2 inch thick and 2-3 inches wide. The shape of chicken strips resembles french fries or onion rings.

After cutting, the chicken strips are coated in a breading or batter, then fried or baked until golden brown and crispy. The breading adds texture and flavor to the exterior while keeping the interior moist and tender.

Chicken strips are extremely versatile and can be served as an appetizer, side dish, or main course. Some of the most popular ways to enjoy them include:

  • By themselves with dipping sauces like ranch, honey mustard, or barbecue sauce
  • In wraps or sandwiches
  • On top of salads
  • In nachos
  • In burritos or tacos
  • On pizza

Compared to nuggets, chicken strips offer more surface area of crispy exterior since they are generally longer. They also tend to be meatier and less processed than nuggets.

What Are Chicken Tenders?

Chicken tenders specifically refer to the tenderloin or strip of white breast meat that runs along the underside of a chicken breast. The tenderloin is naturally more tender and juicy than other parts of the breast.

When preparing chicken tenders, the tenderloin is removed from the breast intact rather than being cut into pieces or strips. The tenderloin may be left whole or sliced into shorter strips before breading and cooking.

Chicken tenders can be prepared in much the same way as chicken strips – breaded or battered then fried or baked. However, some distinguishing characteristics of chicken tenders include:

  • They are always made from the chicken tenderloin, while chicken strips can come from other parts of the breast.
  • They are usually thicker than chicken strips.
  • They are often served in longer pieces rather than cut into bite-size nuggets.

Chicken tenders are extremely popular menu items at restaurants, diners, and bars because their size and shape make them perfect finger food. They are great for dipping into sauces or condiments.

What Are Chicken Fingers?

Chicken fingers refer to chicken pieces made from the breast meat or tenderloins that are cut into long, thin strips approximately the size and shape of a finger. They are then breaded or battered and fried or baked.

Chicken fingers are essentially the same as chicken strips and chicken tenders, but always cut into smaller finger-shaped pieces before cooking. This makes them convenient to eat by hand, especially for kids.

The main differences between chicken fingers, strips, and tenders are:

  • Chicken strips – Made from breast meat or tenderloins cut into elongated, stick-like strips.
  • Chicken tenders – Specifically made from the whole chicken tenderloin.
  • Chicken fingers – Tenderloin or breast pieces cut into smaller finger-sized strips.

So chicken fingers are simply strips or tenderloins that are cut into smaller, easy-to-eat pieces. The terms chicken fingers, strips, and tenders are often used interchangeably, especially when it comes to frozen or processed chicken products.

Nutrition Comparison

Chicken strips, tenders, and fingers are very similar nutritionally since they all come from the breast or tenderloin meat. In general, expect the following nutrition facts for a 3-4 oz serving:

Calories Protein Fat Carbs
130-170 25-30g 3-8g 5-10g

The exact calorie and nutrient counts will vary depending on factors like whether the chicken is breaded or fried, or prepared baked or grilled. Plain grilled chicken tenders will be on the lower end for calories and fat, while heavily breaded and fried chicken strips or fingers will be higher.

Chicken tenders, strips, and fingers are all considered good sources of lean protein. The breaded varieties do increase carbohydrates and fat, but can still fit into a balanced diet in moderation.

Cost Comparison

Chicken tenders are often more expensive than chicken strips or fingers. This is because tenders specifically utilize the tenderloin, which is the most tender cut of meat from the chicken breast. Tenderloins are smaller in size compared to the whole breast, so there is less meat yield overall from each chicken.

Chicken strips and fingers are more economical since they can be cut from any part of the breast. This allows for more flexible portioning to get the optimum yield from each chicken breast. With strips and fingers, less tender cuts of breast can be included along with the tenderloins.

Here is a general price comparison among the three chicken products:

Product Average Price
Chicken tenders $7-9 per lb
Chicken strips $5-7 per lb
Chicken fingers $5-7 per lb

Of course, prices will vary between fresh vs frozen, natural vs processed, and by brand or source. But tenderloins consistently command a premium price over strips and fingers due to their tenderness and desirable texture.

How Are They Cooked?

Chicken strips, tenders, and fingers all lend themselves well to methods like breading and frying or baking. Some popular cooking methods include:

Breaded and fried

Dipped in egg and seasoned flour or breadcrumbs, then fried in hot oil until crispy. This method works well for chicken fingers designed to be hand-held snacks.

Baked breaded

Breaded with crumbs then baked in the oven. A healthier alternative to frying with less fat and calories.


Seasoned with spices or marinades and grilled, either whole or cut into strips or fingers first. Grilling produces excellent flavor and keeps the chicken moist.


Cooked in a pan with a small amount of oil over high heat to caramelize the exterior while keeping the interior juicy.

Baked plain

Baked in the oven with minimal seasoning to keep flavors simple and light. Works well for meal prep or topping salads.

Experiment with different breadings and seasoning blends to introduce new flavors and textures. Just keep cooking times brief, especially for tenders and fingers, to prevent them drying out.

Are They Interchangeable?

For the most part, chicken strips, tenders, and fingers can be used interchangeably in recipes. Some guidelines:

  • Strips will generally be the cheapest option since they allow flexible portioning of breast meat.
  • Tenders provide the most tender texture but are more expensive.
  • Fingers work well in hand-held preparations like sandwiches or wraps.
  • If fingers are too short for a recipe, like stir fries or kebabs, strips would work better.
  • Plain grilled tenders or strips both make excellent salad toppers.

The main difference is the shape and size the chicken is cut into before cooking. The flavors and textures of the finished dish will be very similar.

When buying pre-made frozen products, chicken fingers are often cut smaller to make them more convenient as snacks or kids’ meals. Chicken strips may have more variance in size and shape. And tenders will appear as whole tenderloins or halves.


Visually, breading can make it difficult to distinguish between some chicken strips, fingers, and tenders once they are cooked. However, here are some generalities:

  • Strips – Uniformly thick strips, like french fries or onion rings. Often around 1/2 inch thick.
  • Tenders – Tapered, whole muscle pieces. May be curved if the whole tenderloin is used.
  • Fingers – Short, narrow strips around 3/4 inch wide. Pieces will be more square-shaped.

If the product is baked or fried plain with no breading, the difference is much more apparent:

  • Strips look just like mini chicken breast fillets.
  • Tenders are whole tenderloins with a naturally thin, tapered shape.
  • Fingers are nearly square chunks cut from breast meat or tenderloins.

common FAQs

Can you make chicken fingers from strips?

Yes, you can cut chicken strips into smaller pieces to make chicken fingers. Chicken fingers are basically just shorter, smaller strips.

What’s better, chicken strips or tenders?

Chicken tenders are usually considered more premium because they contain the most tender part of the breast. However, chicken strips can be just as tasty, and are often more affordable. It comes down to personal preference.

Should you cook chicken strips and tenders the same way?

Yes, chicken strips and tenders can be cooked using all the same methods. The only difference might be slightly reducing the cooking time for tenders since they are thicker.

Can you bread chicken tenders without frying?

Yes, breaded chicken tenders can be baked in the oven instead of fried. Use high heat like 425°F to help the coating get crispy. Spritz with oil for added crispness and color.

Are chicken fingers and chicken nuggets the same?

Not exactly. Chicken fingers are strips or chunks of breast meat or tenderloins. Nuggets are usually more processed, made from blended chicken meat.


While chicken strips, tenders, and fingers are very similar in preparation and taste, there are some differences between these popular products:

  • Strips are cut from breast meat into long thin strips.
  • Tenders are whole tenderloins or strips cut from them.
  • Fingers are tenders or strips cut into smaller finger-shaped pieces.

Tenders are seen as more premium but strips and fingers offer more budget-friendly options. All three can be cooked using similar wet or dry breading methods. They make excellent snacks, appetizers, or additions to entrees.

So whether dining out or cooking at home, consider going with your preferred shape and portion size. Strips offer versatile thin strips, tenders the utmost tenderness, and fingers the perfect poppable nibbles.