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Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders

Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders

I love coconut.  Chicken fingers are also pretty awesome, but I can’t tell you the last time I ate a real chicken finger.  It’s just not worth the way I would feel after eating them.  Instead of banishing chicken fingers completely from my life, I have found ways to healthify them.  This means making my own so I can control the ingredients and how they are made.  You are absolutely going to love these Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders as much as I do!

Chicken tenders are a food that can please the whole family.  Kids love them and adults devour them.  The crispy coating is what makes chicken tenders so amazing.  However, that deep fried coating is also what makes chicken fingers so high in calories and unhealthy saturated fat.  No thank you!  I was determined to find a way to make a healthier chicken tender that still had all of the flavor and crunch.

The first thing I knew I needed to do was bake the chicken tenders instead of frying them.  This would save lots of calories and fat, and would also keep the tenders from being overly greasy.  The trick to getting crispy baked tenders is cooking spray.  I sprayed a foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray as a base, and I also sprayed the tops of the chicken tenders with cooking spray.  Do not skip this step, or you will miss out on the crunch.

Next, I healthified the coating.  My go-to for getting crunchy foods is whole wheat panko bread crumbs.  They are bigger than regular bread crumbs, so they have the ability to get crunchier.  Plus I love that we are getting a little more whole grains into our diet.

I decided to add shredded coconut to jazz things up a bit.  I absolutely love coconut and the unique flavor it brings to foods.  To keep this dish on the healthier side, make sure you are using unsweetened coconut.  The regular sweetened flakes, as you can imagine, contain added sugars that you really don’t need.

I started by getting my dipping bowls ready.  This included a beaten egg in one bowl, and my panko mixture in another bowl.  To the panko, I added the coconut, salt, pepper, and a little bit of garlic powder.

Next, I cut my boneless chicken breasts into strips.  You can certainly buy pre-cut chicken tenders, but you are going to pay more for having that work done for you.  It’s your call.

Then, I dipped each strip into the egg, then the panko mixture.  I laid the strips on the baking sheet.  Once all of the strips were coated, I sprayed them with cooking spray and they went into the oven to bake.

In my opinion, the sauce is what really makes these chicken tenders so amazing.  Plus it is the simplest sauce ever.  I just mixed some Dijon mustard with apricot preserves.  A little tang and a little sweetness are the perfect combination for the coconut coating.

I served these tenders with the dipping sauce, some sweet potato fries, and a big green side salad.  Everyone devoured these tenders.  I hope you enjoy!

Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders

Yield: 6 servings

Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves

Instructions

  1. Beat the egg in one small bowl.
  2. In another bowl, add the panko bread crumbs, coconut, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. Cut the chicken breasts into strips. 
  4. Dip each chicken strip into the egg, then the panko mixture.  Lay the strips on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Once all of the strips are coated, spray them with cooking spray.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
  6. While the tenders are baking, make the dipping sauce. In a small bowl, combine the Dijon mustard and apricot preserves. Stir well.
  7. When the tenders are done, serve them up with the dipping sauce and your favorite veggies.
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