Pan Fried Naked Chicken Tenders

Pan Fried Naked Chicken Tenders

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Let me start by saying I was never a huge fan of chicken. Well, unless it was wrapped in bacon, on a pizza, or smothered with sauce and cheese. These pan fried naked chicken tenders, however, have changed my mind.

Chicken is low key easy to overcook. I hear a lot of people say chicken prepared at home is dry, tough, or bland. And by a lot of people, I mean me. Or at least until I started cooking chicken using the method I’m going to teach you in this recipe.

This naked chicken tenders recipe will be your new favorite way to cook chicken tenderloins or chicken breast on the stove or in a pan.

We’ll be using chicken tenderloins for these pan fried chicken tenders, but the methods will work all the same for breasts. I’ll include notes on time differences or modifications where applicable.

The Best Way to Cook Chicken Tenderloins

Chicken tenderloins, in my opinion, are the way to go if you haven’t quite mastered cooking chicken. They cook faster and are easier to work with in recipes where chicken needs to be the star.

Not to mention, they absorb flavor from marinades and seasoning in what seems like minutes. This is great when you forget to prep ahead of time. Just mix some things together, add the chicken, and in 30 minutes you’ll have super flavorful chicken ready to go.

More on simple marinades in a minute.

how to cook chicken in a pan

How to Cook Chicken Tenderloins in a Pan

Now that I’ve confessed my love for tenderloins, let’s talk about how to cook perfect chicken in a pan. This method will give you a charred, slightly crispy exterior with a juicy center. It’s really similar to perfectly grilled chicken.

The secret is adding the chicken to a hot pan over medium-high heat and leaving it untouched for a few minutes. Time will vary based on the size of the chicken, but I’ll talk more on that below. For these naked chicken tenders, go with four minutes.

how to cook chicken tenderloins

After the first side has cooked, simply flip the chicken and leave it alone for about half the time the first side cooked. In this case, two minutes.

The next step is the easiest. Simply turn off the heat, cover the chicken tenders, and let them sit for 6 minutes. If you have the time, let them rest another 5 minutes to let the flavors fully develop.

It’s important to mention size differences here. If you’re using large chicken tenderloins or chicken breasts you cut into strips, cook times may vary. Also, the recipe calls for medium-high heat which could be different from stove to stove. A meat thermometer is a great investment to ensure your meats are always cooked to safe internal temperatures.

naked chicken tenders recipe

But Can I Fry Something without Oil? 

The short answer: fo’ sho.

The longer answer: A little oil goes a long way. In the naked chicken tenders recipe below, the marinade calls for one tablespoon of olive oil. That, combined with a bit of dry seasoning produces a magical crispy exterior and adds minimal calories when spread across the entire recipe.

chipotle ranch pan fried naked chicken tenders

That said, oil isn’t entirely necessary. A few of the chicken marinade recipes in the next section don’t call for oil at all (other than cooking spray). The moisture from the marinades create enough of a buffer to avoid sticking. Unless you’re going marinade-free or have terrible pans, you should be good to go without oil.

easy chicken marinades recipes

Simple Chicken Marinade Recipes

The recipe card uses a chipotle ranch seasoning, but the world is your oyster with your naked chicken tenders. Here are four of my favorite chicken recipes from the blog that you could marinate your naked tenders in:

  1. Cilantro Lime Pan Fried Chicken Thighs
  2. Carolina BBQ Crockpot Shredded Chicken
  3. Honey Chipotle Crockpot Pulled Chicken
  4. Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta (the chicken only) 

shredded chicken sandwich on a plate with fries

Additional Marinade Recipes for Naked Chicken Tenders

If you’re unfamiliar with my work, I create recipes for the nutrition coaching leader, Stronger U Nutrition. The graphic below has five chicken marinade recipes to try.

Don’t feel like you’re restricted to the blends below. Instead, use the general structure of each to plug and play your own seasoning or sauces. Get creative and have fun!

SU Chicken Marinade Recipes

And be sure to follow Stronger U on Instagram or Pinterest for more recipe graphics and nutrition-centered content.

Okay, that’s plenty of ideas. Below you’ll find the recipe card for naked chicken tenders to save or print for when you’re in the kitchen.

 
chipotle ranch pan fried naked chicken tenders
4.57 from 51 votes
Print

Naked Chicken Tenders (Chipotle Ranch Version)

The best way to cook chicken tenderloins on the stove. They're juicy, flavorful, tender, and super easy to make. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword naked chicken tenders
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Marinate Time 30 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes
Servings 6 naked chicken tenders
Calories 95 kcal
Author Mason Woodruff

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken Tenderloins or breasts, cut into strips
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil or your choice cooking oil
  • 2 Tbsp Ranch Dip Mix
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Chipotle Pepper Powder or chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. Mix the dry ingredients (you can season however you'd like) before mixing with the oil. 

  2. Add the chicken tenderloins and seasoning blend to a resealable bag or container. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, ideally longer for more flavor.

  3. Heat a large saute pan or skillet (make sure you have a cover for the pan) over medium-high heat with nonstick cooking spray.

  4. Add the marinated chicken tenderloins to the hot pan and leave untouched for 4 minutes.

  5. Flip and leave untouched for another 2 minutes.

  6. Turn the heat off, cover, and leave the chicken alone (don't peek or anything) for 6 minutes. Depending on the size of the chicken tenderloins you use, these times may vary slightly. Make sure the juices run clear and/or use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken reaches a safe internal temperature (165F). 

  7. Remove the cooked chicken from the pan and serve with salad, on sandwiches, with veggies, or on their own with a dipping sauce. 

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

  • 1 tender has 1 Smart Point.
  • Nutrition info may vary depending on how many tenders you have in one pound and how you season them. 
Nutrition Facts
Naked Chicken Tenders (Chipotle Ranch Version)
Amount Per Serving (1 tender)
Calories 95 Calories from Fat 18
% Daily Value*
Fat 2g3%
Carbohydrates 4g1%
Protein 15g30%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

When you make your naked chicken tenders, take a picture of your creation and tag me on Instagram. I’ll be sure to share it with the world! I also appreciate feedback in the form of recipe reviews. Let me know how I can make this recipe or future recipes better.

More Healthy Chicken Recipes You Might Like

My Buffalo Chicken Empanadas are the perfect way to use leftover chicken. You can put a spin on the sauce to make all kinds of empanadas—barbecue, cheesy, pizza, and whatever else you can dream up! 

buffalo chicken empanadas on a white plate with ranch dip in the corner

And if you’re looking for a more complete dish, my chicken bacon ranch mac and cheese is a reader favorite. 

lower carb chicken bacon ranch mac and cheese

blackened naked chicken tenders on a cutting board data-pin-description=”You’ll love what others have called the best way to cook chicken. These low calorie naked chicken tenders are super easy to make on the stovetop and the recipe includes nearly 10 different flavor options.”
This naked chicken tenders recipe will be your new favorite way to cook chicken tenderloins or chicken breast on the stove or in a pan.


44 thoughts on “Pan Fried Naked Chicken Tenders”

  • If we are letting them sit for the 5 additional minutes, should they remain covered in the skillet? Making these tonight with BBQ rub; can’t wait!

  • 5 stars
    I feel like I’ve made chicken every single possible way and somehow I ALWAYS manage to dry it out. But not this way!! These turn out so tender that I can shred them out of the pan if I’m making a casserole or bulk type recipe. I’m not gonna lie, my favorite marinade is a simple pickle juice brine, but I pat them off and spray with oil if I go this route and they still end up nice and browned on the outside.

  • 5 stars
    My fiance refuses to eat chicken cooked on the stove. He thinks the chicken starts to taste like rubber. I asked if we could try this recipe and he was hesitant at first but loved it! The chicken seriously tastes like it is fresh off the grill. We use this recipe for chicken tenders and chicken breasts once or twice a week now. I’ll never go back to cooking chicken in the oven because it has so much more flavor when following this recipe!

  • 5 stars
    This turned out so tender and juicy! My favorite way to make chicken now!

    I will stay with tenderloins because I also tried with thin cut breasts, and they weren’t nearly as juicy!

  • 5 stars
    I’ve been meal prepping chicken for years by just roasting it in the oven. But it was always lacking something. This recipe takes maybe 5 extra minutes of prep, and it’s so worth it. Tender, tasty, and i don’t want to throw it out after one day. Best meal prep chicken recipe ever. Yes, i said it.

  • 5 stars
    This method of cooking chicken is Life. Changing. You don’t necessarily need any marinade, just seasoning. Juicy chicken every time.

  • 5 stars
    I have never cooked such juicy and tender chicken breast! Super simple and easy recipe. I’ll be making this all the time! Thank you Mason!

  • 5 stars
    This chicken recipe is my new favorite! I have made the honey sriracha tenders this week 3 times already and have some marinating in my fridge right now for dinner tonight. The marinate makes the chicken sweet, with a little spice and it’s perfect for my meal prepping. The way they are cooked keeps the chicken super moist and suddenly, I enjoy eating chicken every day again!

  • 5 stars
    Wow, this recipe is so awesome. I’ve always been afraid to make chicken for fear of drying it out and I followed the steps to the T….the entire family loves the naked chicken tenders. Two thumbs up….P.S. Cheeseburger Quesadillas recipe is one of my kiddos favorites!

  • 5 stars
    I usually always dry out chicken cooking it on the stove. This chicken was THE BEST I have ever had. My husband will not eat chicken cooked any other way anymore. The chipotle ranch recipe is my all time favorite!!!!! I have shared this recipe with all of my friends!!!

  • 5 stars
    This chicken has changed my lifffffe – I’ve been eating healthy for years getting sick and tired of dried out grilled chicken and then tonight i tried it your way – GAME CHANGER my friend – keep crushing it!

  • 5 stars
    let me start off by saying I was born in St. louis. chicken was chicken. fast forward to moving far south of the mason dixon…not all chicken tenders are created equal. my husband is a zaxbys, abners, etc fa-na-tic. he LOVED these tenders…like…requests them. we’ve tried taco, chipotle ranch, garlic…all so good. you killed it sir.

  • 5 stars
    I eat a lot of chicken, and I have been baking it for years but I wanted to spice things up a bit so I gave this recipe a try recently. OMG I cannot recommend enough. My husband asked if I could make this chicken every night, ha! I followed the recipe exactly and everything came out great! Very tender texture with full-on flavor, like straight out of a restaurant! Thanks for the recipe, Mason- this is quickly becoming a staple at my house!

  • 5 stars
    This may seem like such a simple recipe but honestly I think it’s soooo helpful! Chicken can be such a cheap and easy protein source for people but it can also be one of the most boring protein sources because so many people don’t put a lot of thought into how they’re cooking it and it dries out easily! This recipe makes delicious not boring chicken and honestly has really helped me branch out in my chicken cooking ways and make not so boring chicken anymore and actually enjoy my cheap and easy protein because it’s so much yummier! Thank you!

  • 5 stars
    Followed this recipe and used the honey sriracha marinade. I was so surprised that I really only need that much to marinade in the chicken! If you like it to be more spicy, add some more sriracha. But the way the recipe calls for is actually perfect. I’ve never been able to cook chicken so well and this was extremely helpful! Super tasty.

  • Follow the time exactly and these will come out perfectly! I was so tired of baked chicken and the flavor in these tenders are so great fresh or day after as a salad topper! I marinated the chicken with olive oil, ranch seasoning and chili powder! These are truly a game changer !

  • 5 stars
    Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!! These chicken tenderloins cook up so tender and moist. Leaving them in the pan at the end is the magic ingredient. The marinades are very flavorful, but these would come out delicious even if totally naked. These are great to prep in bulk. Mason not only provides great tasting recipes, but often shares his tips and tricks.

  • 5 stars
    My favorite way to prep chicken! Tender and juicy even when you microwave the leftovers…I used to hate the consistence of the chicken I would make when I warmed it up for lunch, but not anymore!

  • These naked tenders are my absolute favorite! They come out perfect every time! I marinate over night for even more flavor! Thanks Mason for all of the great recipes!

  • The chicken I have to work with tonight are chicken breast tenderloin strips…. About 2″ sliced. So anxious to make your lovely receipt but not sure how to adjust cooking/searing time/degrees. Keep on and thanks so much for what you’re sharing!

    • I would reduce the time by a minute or two on the first step. If the chicken looks like it’s cooking through to the top side, you might flip, reduce the heat, and skip the second stint over the high heat. Hope that helps!

  • 5 stars
    Mason…. you should be knighted for this recipe alone. I went from plain chicken+rice to amazingly juicy tasty chicken for basically the same macro’s!!!! Truly life changing

  • 5 stars
    Where has this been all my life?!?! I won’t make chicken any other way now. No more dried out gross chicken for lunch. These are so juicy and full of flavor. Honey Sriracha is my favorite!

  • 5 stars
    Great recipe for chicken tenderloins! Definite game changer! I was getting bored cooking my chicken the same way every week and this definitely changed things up! 10/10 would recommend!

  • 5 stars
    These are seriously the best! I make them every week for my husband and I. We sometimes use them for salads, or snacks. They’re so flavorful and juicy. I personally can’t do too much heat so I leave out the chipotle pepper but it’s truly not even that hot… I’m just a sissy. Husband devours his! You must make these!!!

  • 5 stars
    The best “naked” a man could offer. Juicy and flavorful. I can’t tell you how many different ways I’ve used this.

  • HI! So excited to try this! How would you recommend re-heating these if there are leftovers, or do you not recommend doing so? Thank you!

    • I like an air fryer or oven at a lower temp if you have the time. They do a great job of heating all the way through without turning the outside to rubber. Microwaving is probably fine if you’re in a pinch, but you might want to cut the chicken into pieces beforehand so you can quickly heat them. Hope that helps!

  • Cooking on electric stove. When you say “turn off the heat”, should I also remove from burner? Burner stays hot a while, not sure if that would mess things up. Thanks!

    • Leave them on the burner. If you have a stovetop that retains heat more than others, you may need to take them off or reduce the rest time. You won’t really know until you try your first batch, though.

  • Hi plan on serving these tonight to my Bookclub friends. I’d like to not be cooking while they are here. Okay to leave covered in oven to stay warm? My electric range goes down as low as 170 Degrees – if this is ok , what temp do you suggest?

    • If you’re prepping an hour or two beforehand, you might place them in the oven covered without any heat. Constant heat might make them a bit dry/tough. You can briefly reheat them prior to serving.

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