Crispy Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders – Gluten Free is finger licking good! Add in some of our sweet coconut curry mustard or orange marmalade chili sauce and you’ll be chanting, “Winner Winner…”
And so it began… with this easy chicken recipe
This Crispy Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders – Gluten Free recipe has been lingering in the back of my mind for weeks! But who can blame me? Deep down, we all have a craving for some deliciously crispy, juicy, flavorful chicken tenders! But really, I’m a semi-responsible adult, I can’t just eat my kid’s Gluten Free Yummy Dino Buddies. Yes, I get these gluten free nuggets for me, not them… So, for the sake of adulting, I dropped the dino shape and added coconut!
With that, we now have these amazing Crispy Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders! All the while, I’ve been putting off the empanada and fried green tomato recipes, but I promise you the chicken is worth putting those off. The best part, my boys enjoy them! Yes, they’d prefer eating the head of a plastic T-Rex, but these chicken tenders are a nice change in the routine.
The Brainchild of Crispy Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders – Gluten Free
I’m obviously not the first person in the world to create Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders. When I Google it (the “regular” kind, not gf) I get a plethora of recipes including these Coconut Chicken Fingers from Half Baked Harvest. They look delicious, however, the Kelloggs Corn Flakes used in the their recipe are not gluten free because of the malt flavoring.
Where did I get this idea? Growing up in Crystal Lake, Illinois I was constantly hauled to my sisters’ volleyball practices and tournaments. Quite often it was rather monotonous, but occasionally we’d grab a bite to eat at the sports center sports bar called Spikes. It was there that they served the most amazing Coconut Chicken Tenders. I believe the restaurant has since closed, but over twenty years later, I still crave them.
It’s Much About the Brine
If you’re making these, or any fried chicken recipe, you should brine the chicken! Yes, it’s a pain, but just a couple hours is enough for chicken tenders – brine the morning of, or during lunchtime if you WFH. I’ve recommend brining for 2-4 hours and it looks like Allrecipes.com confirms this. A full chicken would take longer, but for tenders, wings, thighs, or breasts 2-4 hours is plenty.
What Is A Brine?
If you’ve never brined or heard of brining poultry, such as chicken or turkey, here’s the short of it. A brine is a salty liquid with herbs, spices, fruits, and aromatics (garlic, onion) used for soaking poultry. Often the mixture is boiled to help dissolve the salt and infuse the flavors of the other ingredients, but I only do that for Thanksgiving Turkeys. If your brine is boiled, you then have to wait hours until its cold to avoid cooking the bird or unintentionally propagating bacteria. I’m in it for the quick-ish and easy, so we skip the boiling!
Simply put, brining poultry creates a more delicious and flavorful outcome. When poultry is soaked in a this salty solution the salt essentially unbinds the proteins in the meat allowing water to fill in any excess cavities. This process then allows the meat to retain that moisture and additional flavors through the cooking process. Essentially, it is osmosis in action. If you have any questions on this, a science teacher can explain it a lot better than me! 😆
Battered vs Breaded
What’s the difference? Battered is more of an encasement, if that makes sense. As you can see from my Crispy No Beer Batter Fish Fry – Gluten Free recipe, the liquid batter more encases the product being fried. I also find that battered recipes usually hold their “crispness” better.
Breading requires an egg bath to allow the flour and/or other ingredients to adhere to the protein or “fry-tem.” While it’s bit more time consuming than battering, breading allows the crust to become more or less one with the exterior of the protein. Generally, breading also gives more texture.
In this Crispy Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders – Gluten Free recipe, we bread and bake! I’m sure you can fry it as well in a high heat oil, but why make a mess? I only bring this up because in my first test of this recipe I used a coconut batter. It was good, but it wasn’t great… In second attempt (which you see here) I changed to breading and it came out absolutely perfect!
How To Serve Crispy Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders – Gluten Free
So now that you’ve got these chicken tenders… how should you serve it? Trick question… There’s no wrong way to serve these! But let me give you some great ideas:
With a salad- I am actually eating leftovers of the chicken as I write this with a salad! It’s quite a nice pairing! I’m eating it with Taylor Farm’s Sweet Kale Chopped Salad, found nearly everywhere. Though if you really want to impress some guests, it’d pair very well with Cafe Sucre Farine’s Asian Chicken and Coconut Curry Noodle Salad, replace the chicken in the recipe with the Crispy Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders and you’re set!
Another fantastic option is with sesame rice and sautéed broccoli! I recently served this to guests with a near standing ovation using medium grain sushi rice cooked with 1 tsp of Sesame Oil and sprinkled with black sesame seeds.
And, of course, serve it with some good ol’ french fries!!! It’s quick, easy, and the magic coconut curry mustard pairs amazingly well with fries!
Tips and Tricks of Crispy Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders – Gluten Free
Bake In Advance: These tenders hold their crispness very well. In part this is due to the rice flour in both the flour coating and in the Rice Panko. To reheat, place the chicken back in the oven on 400°F for approximately 4-5 minutes per side. If you’re using an air fryer, make it about 3 minutes per side.
White Rice Flour: If you don’t have white rice flour, you can substitute brown rice flour, sticky rice flour, or King Arthur’s Gluten Free Measure For Measure Mix.
The chicken tenders will also stay good in the fridge for up to 4 days. They’re so delicious that I’ve had them 5 days later, but I wouldn’t use that as a rule of thumb.
Make sure the coconut is unsweetened. Sweetened coconut in my experience will brown and caramelized too quickly. Also, make sure its shredded and not flakes!
If baking these in the air fryer, air fry at 400°F and flip after approximately 10-12 minutes (or once the crust is golden brown). The second side will be shorter, closer to 8-10 minutes.
Do not over brine – letting it brine over 2-4 hours can turn poultry to mush in this recipe! You’d rather not brine than let the chicken chill in the brine overnight.
The Dipping Sauce
I understand, you want to get to making these Crispy Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders, this will be brief! The sauce, is not just any sauce… It’s pure deliciousness, Coconut Curry Mustard! It’s incredibly easy to make and so versatile! I use both Colman’s Mustard Powder and Maille Whole Grain Mustard, both easily found in the grocery store. The extra 1 minute it’ll take you to make it is SO WORTH IT!