Crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders

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Crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders, classic homemade chicken tenders with an island-inspired twist, have quickly grown to be a weeknight fave here at the PWWB house! Seasoned chicken strips are coated with a crispy coconut-panko crust, & quickly pan-fried before baking to juicy & tender, golden-brown perfection. Made with 3 forms of coconut (coconut flour, unsweetened shredded coconut, & coconut oil), this coconut chicken recipe is layered with rich coconut flavor, despite coming together in 30 minutes or less. Craveable, crispy, coconut crusted chicken = major dinnertime win!

Dunking a coconut chicken tender in cilantro-lime cashew crema.

Pin this Crispy Coconut Chicken recipe for later!

Earlier this year, I got the strangest craving for coconut chicken tenders.

Strange, not because of the chicken tenders (I mean, yum!) OR the coconut (coconut lover, here!), but because I honestly don’t think I’d ever had them together before. It was so randomly specific, especially for something I’ve never eaten before.

I had to have them…like, ASAP.

So I got to work! I sliced up some chicken breasts, made a quick breading out of coconut flour, panko breadcrumbs & unsweetened shredded coconut, gave them a quick pan-fry in coconut oil & finished them in the oven.

The result? Absolutely worthy of the craving.

Golden brown coconut chicken tenders in a paper-lined wire basket with cilantro-lime cashew crema. The basket sits atop a blue & white striped linen.

These crispy coconut fried chicken tenders have quickly become a weeknight fave at the PWWB house. They are:

  • COCONUTTY. 3 different forms of coconut are used in these tenders, creating layers of good, coconutty flavor (without having that SPF-tasting effect, promise!).
  • PERFECTLY GOLDEN-BROWN & CRISPY AF. A combination of panko breadcrumbs & unsweetened shredded coconut creates a coconut crust that’s both light & crisp, offering mega-addictive crunch factor.
  • JUICY & TENDER. The tenders get a quick pan-fry & finish baking in the oven, keeping them perfectly juicy.
  • SUPER QUICK & EASY. They’re made entirely with pantry staples (aside from that chicken, of course), & take about 30 minutes to prep. Weeknight dinner heaven!
Crispy coconut chicken tenders on a blue-speckled plate with salad greens and cilantro-lime cashew crema for dipping.

We love ’em so much, & I know you’ll be obsessed as soon as you give ’em a go yourself. They’re a total crowd-pleaser & offer a fun change of pace to your standard weekly go-tos. ♡ Read on to learn more about these Crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!

Coconut-Crusted Chicken Ingredients (many are probably already in your pantry!)

Something I really love about this crispy coconut chicken recipe is the fact that, aside from the chicken itself, all of the ingredients are pantry staples!

Crispy coconut chicken ingredients arranged on a white surface.

(Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below)

The cast of characters includes…

  • Chicken breasts – I like using boneless skinless breasts. If you want to use chicken “tenderloins” – you do you!
  • Simple spices like garlic powder, paprika, salt & pepper.
  • Eggs
  • Coconut flour, which is a light & fluffy flour-like product made from finely ground dried coconut meat. Coconut flour is readily available these days, as gluten-free & paleo baking has become more & more popular. You can find it in the baking aisle at most conventional grocery stores. It’s the secret to adding tons of coconutty flavor to these coconut chicken tenders. If you don’t have coconut flour on hand, all-purpose flour will work in a pinch!
  • A combination of unsweetened shredded coconut & panko breadcrumbs, which provide the perfect balance of coconutty flavor & light & crispy texture.
  • & coconut oil, which really drives home the coconut flavor. If you don’t have coconut oil on hand, you can easily swap it out with another high smoke point vegetable oil, such as avocado or grapeseed.

NOTE: It’s pretty common for a coconut shrimp or coconut chicken recipe to call for the use of sweetened coconut in its breading. I find this sweetness to be quite overpowering in savory dishes, so I opt for unsweetened coconut when I’m making coconut crusted chicken. It offers a nice coconutty flavor without cloying sweetness. Unsweetened shredded coconut (sometimes labeled “desiccated”) is readily available these days in the baking aisle at most conventional grocery stores. This is the kind I like best.

How to make coconut chicken tenders:

Cooking up this coconut chicken recipe couldn’t be simpler! The process is a pretty standard breaded crispy chicken procedure. If you’ve made breaded-anything before, you already know how to tackle these crispy coconut flour chicken tenders! (& if not, don’t worry – it’s really simple!)

(Note: full Recipe Directions provided in the Recipe Card, below)

5 easy steps to gloriously crispy coconut chicken:

  1. Chicken prep: Since we use boneless, skinless breasts, we’ll first want to get them broken down into chicken tenders. I like to butterfly the chicken breasts (halving them lengthwise), then slice into 1-inch strips. Season those babies up & set them aside!
  2. Breading station: Grab 3 large plates or shallow bowls. Place coconut flour on one, whisk a couple of eggs on the second, & mix panko & unsweetened shredded coconut on the third. Give each plate/bowl a light seasoning of salt & ground black pepper – whenever you bread something you want to make sure each element has a little bit of seasoning for maximum flavor in your final dish.
  3. Coconut chicken tenders time! Give each chicken strip with a light dusting of coconut flour, followed by a light coating of egg, followed by a generous coating of the panko & coconut mixture. It’s important to shake off any excess flour/egg/breading after each step to ensure the chicken gets nice & crisp.
  4. Brown on the stovetop: Cook the chicken strips in a little bit of coconut oil, for just 1-2 minutes per side. The coconut crust will get crispy & golden brown, but the chicken will not yet be cooked through – that’s completely fine!
  5. Bake it off: Pop the browned chicken on a baking rack over a baking sheet & let them bake in the oven until the chicken is cooked through – 5-7 minutes max! 

Our Go-To Coconut Chicken Sauce for Dunkin’:

Chicken tenders would be incomplete without a delicious sauce to dunk ’em in, right?!

I LOVE serving these crispy baked coconut chicken tenders with cilantro lime cashew crema. Cashew crema is a total fridge staple in the PWWB house: addictively creamy, a little bit tangy, & oh-so flavorful (…with the added benefit of being totally dairy-free if you have a dairy sensitivity!). It’s made with very simple ingredients, takes less than 5 minutes to make & requires zero cooking. I make a batch almost every week to keep in our fridge & drizzle on everything. We’re seriously obsessed!

We make a couple different variations of cashew crema, but cilantro lime is my favorite for these coconut chicken tenders; the bright & zippy herby flavor complements the coconut really deliciously.

Crispy coconut chicken sauce = CHECK!

What else to serve with your crispy coconut chicken tenders:

Like any chicken tenders, crispy coconut chicken tenders are pretty legit on their own! If you’d like to add a side dish, here are some easy ideas:

  • Sliced avocado with a squeeze of fresh lime juice & a sprinkling of coarse salt. It’s simple, but always so satisfying!
  • A simple green salad tossed in whatever dressing you love. The PWWB Herby Green Goddess Vinaigrette would add a delicious extra punch of freshness that would complement the coconut crusted chicken beautifully!
  • Cilantro lime rice. Fluff plenty of lime zest, lime juice & finely chopped cilantro into freshly cooked rice (or quinoa, or cauliflower rice, or whatever grain you love most!). If you want to jazz it up a bit, you can make coconut cilantro lime rice (cook the rice in coconut milk) or my personal favorite, Green Rice.
  • If salty-sweet is your jam, whip up a quick tropical-inspired salsa: mix diced mango or pineapple with red onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, cilantro & plenty of lime juice. Easy!

& no matter what, don’t forget that dipping sauce! They wouldn’t be coconut chicken tenders without it!

Dunking a coconut chicken tender in cilantro-lime cashew crema.

I hope you try these Crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders soon! They’re nostalgic & new all at once, & they’re pretty darn easy to throw together. We love them so much, & I think you will too!

If you do give them a try, be sure to let me know!: Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡

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Dunking a coconut chicken tender in cilantro-lime cashew crema.

Crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders

  • Author: Jess Larson | Plays Well With Butter
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 24 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop, Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders, classic homemade chicken tenders with an island-inspired twist! Seasoned chicken strips are coated with a crispy coconut-panko crust, & quickly pan-fried before baking to juicy & tender, golden-brown perfection. A craveable, crispy, coconut crusted chicken recipe = major dinnertime win!


Scale

Ingredients

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • optional: 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour (or all-purpose as desired)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
  • additional kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place a baking rack overtop & spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. 
  2. Prep the chicken: Use a sharp knife to butterfly the chicken lengthwise, creating 2 pieces from each chicken breast. Depending on the thickness of the butterflied chicken pieces, you may wish to pound them to uniform thickness (by covering the chicken with a piece of plastic wrap & pounding it with a meat mallet or rolling pin). Slice the butterflied chicken into 1-inch strips. Season the chicken strips with kosher salt, garlic powder, paprika, & cayenne pepper (as desired). Set aside. 
  3. Prepare the dredging station: Grab 3 large plates or shallow bowls. Place the coconut flour on one, whisk the eggs on the second, and mix the panko and unsweetened shredded coconut on the third. Lightly season each plate with kosher salt and ground black pepper.
  4. Bread the chicken strips: Working one by one, give each chicken strip with a light dusting of coconut flour (shaking off any excess), followed by a light coating of egg (shaking off any excess). Place the chicken into the panko & coconut mixture, pressing to adhere & coat the chicken as completely as possible. Shake off any excess breading and set aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken strips.
  5. Brown the coconut chicken tenders: Melt 1-2 tablespoons of the coconut oil to a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is melted & hot, give the skillet a swirl to ensure its entire surface is coated in oil. Working 3-4 at a time, carefully add the chicken tenders to the skillet. Be careful to avoid overcrowding the pan as it prevents browning. Cook 1-2 minutes per side, just until the coconut coating is lightly browned – the chicken will not be completely cooked at this point, and that is fine! Transfer to the prepared baking rack. Use a paper towel to carefully wipe out remaining oil or any shredded coconut that may have fallen off the chicken, then repeat Step 5 with the remaining coconut oil & chicken tenders.
  6. Bake the chicken. Once all the chicken is browned, transfer the prepared baking sheet to the oven. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 5-7 minutes. 
  7. Serve immediately. Coconut crusted chicken is great with sliced avocado, a simple salad, cilantro lime rice + a tropical salsa, or on its own! We love dipping our coconut chicken into cilantro lime cashew crema, which is a fridge staple at our house. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Storage: Store any leftover coconut chicken tenders in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 
  • Reheat: The best way to reheat these coconut chicken tenders is to toast them in the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the coconut chicken tenders on a baking sheet and bake for 3-4 minutes per side, until toasty & warmed through.

Keywords: Coconut chicken tenders, chicken recipe, Healthy, weeknight dinner

If you love these Crispy Coconut Crusted Chicken Tenders, here are a few more easy weeknight recipes you’ll love:

Crispy coconut chicken tenders on a blue-speckled plate with salad greens and cilantro-lime cashew crema for dipping.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

Thank you so much for reading & supporting Plays Well With Butter. This post includes affiliate links for products I truly love & use on the reg in my own home. All opinions are always my own! Should you make a purchase using one of these links, PWWB will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you, which helps me continue to bring you great original & free content.

Don’t forget to pin this Crispy Coconut Chicken recipe for later!!!

Crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders with graphic text overlay for Pinterest.

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 4.27.20
    Paul said:

    Hey Jess
    Can this be made at home then taken to a barbeque? Will it keep?
    Thank you

    • 4.28.20
      jess said:

      Hey Paul! I think that if you try to make them right before you head to your BBQ/party, they should be okay. Aside from making them & packing them to transfer elsewhere right away, it’s not the most make-ahead friendly dish as the coconut crust will lose its crispiness. Does that help?

      • 5.18.20
        Paul said:

        Aloha Jess

        Thank you for your reply. Alright I guess I’ll look for something else from.your recipes to make.

        Let you know.