I am over the moon with coconut. Head over heels, batting my eyelashes, can’t get enough, wish it would call me more often, think the sun rises and sets by…coconut.
So, as you might imagine, toasted coconut takes my love to the tenth power, multiplied by infinity. Alarming levels of love and dependency are reached. The normally tender, chewy flakes become a bit crunchy…crumbly even. The sweetness turns richer, nuttier.
Enter coconut crusted chicken tenders. Exit all sensibilities.
There’s loveliness about traditional chicken tenders, chicken fingers, whatever you fondly call moist strips of chicken fried golden and crisp-crumbed. In fact, they’re some of life’s simple pleasures. They feel indulgent, satisfying, fun in that pick-upable way. Tossing and toasting them with flakes of coconut mingles their normally savory, salty flavor with sweetness.
I’m so pleased with how well these turned out. Because while I expected to like them purely based on ingredients used and the general enjoyment I get from making bar food healthier, I didn’t realize they’d have such a unique depth of flavor. I expected, well, simple coconut flavor. What I got was nuttier, more salty caramel flavor.
Fellow coconut lovers, you’re welcome.
Coconut Crusted Chicken Tenders
I began with chicken breasts, and sliced them into long, one inch thick strips.
I let them relax in a bath filled with two lightly beaten eggs.
Then I tossed them in a pile of panko breadcrumbs mixed with sweetened, shredded coconut, a generous pinch of salt, and pepper.
First, I lightly fried them in a pan for 3 minutes on each side, just so they’d develop that golden crust, and then I finished cooking them in the oven. I love this fry-bake method because it uses less oil to get the tenders cooked through, but still produces that delicious crunchy coating. It’s the same way I make buffalo chicken tenders, which are equally as tasty.
Coconut Chicken Tenders
- 1 lb chicken tenderloins or chicken breasts, sliced into long, 1″ thick strips
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Create an assembly line for easy coating of each tenderloin: Place all chicken strips on one plate. Next to that, place flour in a wide, shallow bowl. Lightly whisk eggs in another wide, shallow bowl. Combine panko, coconut, salt, and pepper in a fourth and final wide, shallow bowl. Now, take one chicken strip and toss it in the flour, shaking off the excess. Then, dredge the floured strip in the egg bath. Next, gently toss the chicken strip in the panko/coconut mixture, pressing to coat on each side. Place the coated strip on a plate or cookie sheet until you have finished coating all of the chicken.
Next, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat on your stove top. Add one tablespoon oil, swirling to coat. Add half of the chicken strips in a single layer, leaving space between each one. Cook for about 3 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove the chicken to a foil lined baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Add the remaining one tablespoon oil to the pan and then the second half of the chicken strips and cook for 3 minutes per side. Remove that second batch and place on the baking sheet. Set it in the oven for 10 minutes, so that the chicken tenders can cook through.