In my pursuit for something my children will eat that’s reasonably priced and healthy, I’ve tried many a keto chicken tender in my days. Most recipes were basically pork rind breading, which I don’t mind but my wife hates, so I can’t do that. I’d tried almond flour but it’s messy and tastes too much of almonds, and the same goes for coconut flour, except you get to enjoy/explain the tropical flair your dinner has to your annoyed family.
It was, however, while I was eating a cheese stick that I had fried in a pan out of desperation that my idea came to me. We, as ketoers, eat a lot of cheese – why not try that as a breading? My wife had made some chicken a week prior with this awesome breading on it, and though that had breadcrumbs and flour, I felt I could omit those with some good-think-smarts. The nobility of keto kitchen crafting aside, my ultimate goal was to be able to eat fried chicken again and tell myself it’s healthy.
Aldi, my bastion of light in a landscape paved with the horrors of life (sorry, not sorry), had fresh chicken breasts on sale for cheap-dollars per pound, so I bought that. I prefer thigh meat because breast meat tastes like a stale mummy fart, but you work with what God gives you. I also picked up the rest of my ingredients at Aldi, which is great because God I hate going to multiple stores.
3-4 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch-thick strips
1 block of Parmesan cheese
1 green shaker can of Parmesan cheese (the powdery stuff)
4 eggs, whisked well
Spices – I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and cayenne, but you could use whatever you wanted to on your chicken.
Oil for frying – I used peanut, which isn’t the most purely healthy oil, but it’s a lot better than canola, vegetable, or corn oil. You can get refined coconut oil, which would be best, but lard, tallow, or bacon grease would be fine too.
Begin with prep – grate the block of Parmesan as fine as you can get it, into a wide, shallow dish (baking dish or cake pan works). Pour about half the contents of the shaker-Parm into another wide, shallow dish, and finally the whisked eggs into a third container. Butterfly the chicken and then cut them into thin strips, about 1 inch-thick. Season the strips with your spice mixture, and then get ready to assembly line these little buggers. Now is a good time to start heating your oil while you get the chicken strips ready. I used a Fry Daddy, but you can just as easily use a deep cast iron pan or a dutch oven on the stove. You want it to be at 350 degrees Fahrenheit/176 Celsius, and you’ll likely need to fidget with your flame to keep it at that temp.
First, roll the strips in the shaker can Parmesan, then dip them in the egg wash, and finally roll them around in the grated Parm until they’re good and coated. Place them on a wire rack above a baking sheet until they’re all ready to fry.
Once your oil is hot enough, begin by softly lowering around 4 or 5 strips at a time into the hot oil without overcrowding your pan. Your strips might be bigger or smaller than mine, so just use your judgement here. I fried mine for about 7 minutes, and the first batch came out good but a bit dry. The next batch I cooked for 6 minutes and they were perfect, but make sure you’re temping them so they’re hitting 165 degrees. As always, the thinner or smaller the piece, the faster it will cook.
Place each batch back on the wire rack to cool and drain. If you don’t have a wire rack/baking sheet setup, you can just put them on paper towels on a plate. That’s it, the best keto chicken tenders I’ve ever had. You can eat them as they are, or apply a delicious keto sauce. We like ranch, which they sell in most grocers and gas stations, but if you want a different experience, might I suggest white bbq sauce?
Bonus recipe: Extreme white bbq sauce 100-emoji handclap-emoji
This is my go-to for roasts and pork tenderloins, but you can put it on anything and it’s delicious. It’s low carb, super fast to throw together, and really good.
1 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp black pepper, possibly more to taste (I like a lot in mine)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard or horseradish mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
Mix it all together and put it in the fridge for about an hour or two before using. It’s fine to eat immediately, but it’s best cold and after it’s had a chance to mingle the flavors.
That’s it! I hope you enjoy them – my kids ate them, even my son who doesn’t eat anything but chips and pancakes.