Pan Fried Naked Chicken Tenders

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.

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.

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.

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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

Side note: If you’re not a fan of chicken tenderloins but didn’t want to go to the trouble of cutting chicken breast into strips, you could use a pre-cut option like I used for my garlic parmesan chicken tenders.

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. Spicy Buttermilk Baked Chicken Tenderloins
  2. Cilantro Lime Pan Fried Chicken Thighs
  3. Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken
  4. Mexican Shredded Chicken 

If you wanted some options that don’t even require marinating, check out my air fryer chicken nuggets recipe guide. It has 7 seasoning blends like lemon pepper, garlic parmesan, and even a Chick-Fil-A copycat. 

And if you’d like crispy chicken tenders, you could use my crispy pan fried buttermilk chicken breast recipe and just swap the breasts for tenderloins.

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

Naked Chicken Tenders (Chipotle Ranch Version)

Yield: 6 naked chicken tenders
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Marinate Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 47 minutes

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


  • 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


  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. 


  • 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 Information:
Yield: 6 tenders Serving Size: 1 tender
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 95Total Fat: 2gCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 15g

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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 and Baked Chicken Tacos are great ways to use leftover chicken. And you can get creative with the base recipes to make all kinds of flavors! If you’re looking for complete dishes, my chicken fajita pasta bake, air fryer Greek chicken and potatoes, and spicy baked chicken thighs with ranch potatoes are reader favorites. 

95 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!!!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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 !

  • 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.

  • 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!

      • I have frozen tenderloins. Could I just go ahead and put the seasonings and olive oil in a zip lock bag with the chicken and let them thaw/marinade in the fridge all day until I cook them tonight? Thanks so much!! ❤

        • The marinade won’t do anything while the chicken is frozen. You might just let it thaw and pop it in a quick marinade for 20-30 minutes before cooking. I know it’s an extra step, but that’s how I’d do it. Good luck!

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!!!

  • 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!

  • Made these the other night. Most moist chicken I’ve cooked. Will be cooking tenders like this from now on

  • 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.

  • I’ve made these twice in the last week. They are super fast to make and a great quick protein. Tonight I paired with Trader Joe’s cauliflower mash and steam in bag broccoli, talk about a quick satisfying dinner!

  • This is now a weekly staple at my house! My husband requests this all the time, which is a huge deal. My five year old also devours it. The flavor or amazing, without being overwhelming for little kiddos. I have definitely forgotten to marinade ahead of time, and while it’s not as flavorful without sitting the 30 minutes, it still turns out great. I follow the recipe to a tee and haven’t had a miss yet!

  • I LOVE THESE. I’ve tried all 4 marinades suggested and every one has turned out. These are great to add to wraps, salads, or just eat plain since the taste is that good! I would also suggest letting the chicken sit in the marinade overnight. I’ve noticed this really helps bring out great flavor! And for people that like a little spice- try making a marinade using the spice recipe in Mason’s Nashville hot chicken burger recipe. So good!!!

  • This is my favorite and most used/the most versatile recipe you have. I like to season with italian seasonings and use them in a chicken parm sub. I’ve made it multiple times and it’s a crowd favorite at my house.

  • Despite the fact that I burned these“Naked Tenders” horribly, I scraped off the char and they were so juicy!!!! The flavor was super yummy. Served these with the air fryer carrot fries and it was a win in my house.

  • I made these tonight for dinner, I had about 2 lbs. of chicken but didn’t have enough to season to double to marinade recipe (chipotle ranch) so I just added an extra tablespoon of olive oil and they were still delicious!

  • This is hands down my favorite way to make chicken. So flavorful and juicy and super kid friendly. The whole family is happy when this is on the menu! This was my first Mason recipe and I’ve trusted his recipes ever since!

  • I have made these so many times since finding this recipe. I’ve used the seasoning listed, used bbq dry rub and some others on the fly. They are all good. This is my GO TO way to cook chicken tendies now. So juicy.

  • These are awesome! My son came over to hang out and I made these. He loved them. The only thing I did different was I used my George Forman grill and timed them for 4 mins. Both sides done at once and still juice and tender.

  • This is now the only way I make chicken tenders and chicken breasts on the stove. They turn out perfect every time. Thanks Mason!

  • This recipe helped me finally figure out how to make juicy chicken tenders that are cooked all the way through every time. I make them plain so I can pair with a bunch of random things (really good on salad with your choice of dressing). So easy and delicious!

  • Love this recipe! So so yummy! The chicken isn’t dry and it’s so versatile, it’ll go with anything! The only reason I’m not giving it five starts is my hubby and daughter thought it was a little spicy

    • We used the Chipotle ranch marinade and they came out with a nice subtle flavor– I didn’t have a clean pan on me, so instead of pan-frying, we used a George Forman grill for about 4-5 min on each side. Served them with some copycat Wingstop fries (masonfit) and some sauce (copycat chick fil a from laurenfitfoodie) and it was a 10/10 meal

  • The day that I used this recipe, I did not plan ahead well and marinate first, but the tenders were still delicious! Served with cauliflower rice, cheddar cheese, and guacamole.

  • This is great to make as a bulk protein recipe for the week to throw into salads, sandwiches, or just eat them by themselves. The chipotle ranch version is my favorite and it is very easy to prep them. I usually let it marinate for an hour or so before pan frying. These also work great if you want to throw them on the George foreman for a more grilled take on this.

  • Finally, chicken that doesn’t bore me to death! There’s nothing I hate more than plain chicken when I’m trying to eat healthy. This makes it much more fun to eat chicken, and it’s so easy to prep and make! I’m a huge fan of the mustard balsamic and chipotle ranch! 10/10 would recommend making it in bulk then saving the extras for salads, wraps, etc!

  • These are BY FAR some of the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had! I make a huge batch and keep them to use during the week!

  • Seriously best chicken recipe. Great flavor and moist! It’s also good for meal prepping and goes with so many dishes

  • I was just so over cooking chicken because it was always so bland and dry by the time I heated it back up. Until I tried this!! Seriously amazing.

  • These are amazing. I made them and didnt realize how simple it was ! i had everything in my house already, so i didnt have to go out and buy any ingredients. I love this way of pan frying to keep the chicken as juicy as possible. I hate it when chicken dries out, and this does NOT happen with Mason’s recipe!

  • This is my go-to chicken recipe that I use almost every week for meal prepping. It works perfectly (I used to always overcook my chicken) and it’s quick! I like to make a batch to dice and add to salads and wraps, but I’ve used the seasoning options as a main dish also.

  • Subbing for Celiac

    I think the ranch dip mix is what really elevates the flavor of these tenders. It turned out amazing, and my fiance asks me to make them at least once a week! As far as tips for this one, LISTEN TO HIM WHEN HE SAYS NOT TO TOUCH THE CHICKEN! it will give you the most moist and delicious tenders ever. I promise.

  • Follow the directions given for prepping and cooking! Take the time to marinade or season, it makes a difference. Use whatever you have in the spice cabinet to save a trip to the store. Make extra and chop up and throw in the fridge to put on salads or into burrito bowls throughout the week.

  • THESE ARE A MUST MAKE!! If you want the most juicy chicken EVER follow the directions to the freakin T! You won’t regret making these! The best part I make these for meal prep just as juicy when I reheat them! The honey Sriracha mine and my husband favorite!

  • These were delicious and so easy to make. Came out very flavorful, tender & juicy! Definitely a make again!

  • This chicken is legit! It is the most tender and flavorful chicken we’ve ever made at home. I love how each step is broken down to make it easy to follow. If you haven’t tried any of Mason’s recipes, start here and you’ll never look back!

  • Mason’s recipes are the best. There is nothing I won’t try of his! Seriously. I am not one to alter a recipe too much. Plus these chicken tenders don’t need any changing. I would like to recommend trying them out in the air fryer though. If you are new to his social media or his blog go ahead and favorite it. You will come back to his sites over and over for answering the age old question, “what’s for supper/dinner”.

  • This recipe is a staple in our house weekly! I usually let the tenders marinate overnight then cook them up for lunches during the week. So easy & super yummy!

  • These are so easy, my teenage girls have both made these tenders. And we all agree that we never make enough for 4 people! Delicious and perfect for weekly food prep

  • The marinade is so simple but gives such an amazing flavor to the chicken! I made these last week and have made them again 3 times since!

  • Threes are my alll time favorite chicken tenders, and my favorite way to cook chicken! They are done in 12 min (besides marinating) and they are so juicy delicious. Perfect for meal prep as well!

  • Super easy and tasty chicken tenders! I love making these in batches for meal prep for my husband and I. Always the juiciest chicken that pairs well with pretty much anything!

  • I have made these (honey chipotle) for my lunch meal preps for work many times! I always get compliments on how good they look and smell and I can vouch that they taste even better. I eat mostly chicken for my protein and am always looking for new ways to spice it up so I don’t get bored. This recipe is one I have made several times because it’s delicious and super simple, two of my favorite things.

  • I loved these, but I am wondering what would happen if you replaced the oil and the chili powder with some buffalo sauce for a spicy altermative.

    That said, I had them over a salad last night and with rice today. Both were amazing.

  • Have you tried baking these? Thinking about using one of the marinades listed above and following the baking instructions for the spicy buttermilk baked chicken recipe

  • Where has this been all my life! These are now my go-to chicken recipes – the chipotle ranch is my fave and must use it three times a week, it is so good!!

  • Love the flavor of these! Instead of cooking stove top, I have my husband grill these and it’s our go-to for week day meal prep!

  • So excited to find this recipe so I don’t have to use oil to fry my chicken! I didn’t have the ingredients for marinade so I subbed Italian seasoning and pizza seasoning along with the pepper and some salt. And they were still delicious.

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