For the first time in years I ordered chicken strips and fries at a restaurant for myself (not for my kids this time). They were the classic dipped and fried kind and while they tasted good I was left with that not so great after feeling – you know when you eat a lot of fried food at once and your stomach just feels heavy after. So of course later that week I decided to make a healthier baked alternative that would be just as crispy and taste just as good as any fried version. It took several attempts (four batches) but I finally figured out all the tips and tricks to getting perfectly crispy oven baked chicken.
The first few times I tried a buttermilk soaking then proceeded to dip in eggs and cornflakes. While the flavor was good the crisp factor was lacking and the coating kept falling off the chicken while we were eating it. There wasn’t a way around not getting the excess buttermilk to soak into the cornflakes and the binding just wasn’t strong enough. So I nixed the buttermilk and went with a typical dredging of flour, eggs and cornflakes. It worked far better and was a lot more convenient nixing it too which left out the 30 – 60 minute soak time. Another thing I tested was to spray and not spray with olive oil spray and cooking directly on the pan or on a wire cooling rack on a pan. The olive oil spray is a must and of course the wire rack works best as it allows the hot air to circulate around the chicken (so you don’t end with a soggy bottom side). I also tested with different coatings – cornflakes or Panko bread crumbs. I thought there’d be haters of the cornflake coating thinking it was so 80’s so I tested Panko. But believe it or not I liked the cornflake version better. It has more flavor, but both are good if Panko is what you have on hand. Then lastly I tested differences between the honey mustard sauce adding more and less mustard, honey, Greek yogurt and light mayo until I got the flavor right where I wanted. I also tested with different brands of Greek yogurt because of course they definitely aren’t all created equal. Store brands aren’t great in my opinion (they are soupy once stirred) and while I typically live on Chobani’s plain yogurt adding it to smoothies, baking with it and everything in between it just doesn’t work as well as Fage when you are trying to get a thicker dipping sauce like so (that pictured is actually the Chobani version I just decided to thicken it up after I took pictures). It made more of a dressing consistency so I switched to Fage and voila.
You may be thinking what a waste testing 4 batches of chicken strips but I want you guys to get the best result the first time. So, I hope you love these as much as we did! And FYI If you aren’t a fan of honey mustard you may still love this sauce. Those that aren’t typically a fan were loving it. But if you hate honey mustard so much that you don’t even want to try it I’d definitely recommend serving it with a sauce of some kind because most of the flavor here comes from the sauce. The chicken itself isn’t super flavorful. So you favorite bbq sauce or a light ranch would do well here.
Crispy Baked Chicken Strips with Creamy Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
Yield: About 5 servings
- 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts , sliced on a bias into even strips
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder*
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 5 1/2 cups cornflakes , finely crushed or 2 cups plain Panko breadcrumbs**
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley
- Light olive oil cooking spray
Honey Mustard Sauce
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I highly recommend Fage***)
- 2 1/2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp light mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
- 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- Salt to taste
For the chicken:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large oven safe cooling rack with olive oil spray and set on a large rimmed baking sheet, set aside.
In a shallow dish whisk together flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper. In a separate shallow dish whisk together eggs until well blended. To a last separate dish add crushed cornflakes or panko, stir in parsley. Working with one chicken strip at a time, dredge well in flour then flip to opposite side and dredge well. Transfer to eggs, dip and soak, then flip and soak opposite side. Transfer to cornflake mixture and press into cornflakes, flip and coat opposite side while pressing well to get them to stick well. Transfer to wire cooling rack on baking sheet, repeat process with remaining chicken (leave space between each piece so it cooks even). Spray each piece lightly with olive oil cooking spray. Bake in preheated until center registers 165 on thickest piece, about 15 - 20 minutes (I'd say a thermometer is a must so you don't over-bake it which will leave you with dry chicken. I just use a $10 Weber one I have). Cool several minutes (coating will crisp it up even more as it rests a few minutes), season with more salt if needed, serve warm with Creamy Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce. Serve with Apple Cranberry and Almond Coleslaw if desired.
For the dipping sauce:
Stir together all ingredients in a small mixing bowl while seasoning lightly with salt to taste. Cover and store refrigerator until ready to serve.
*I know this seems like a lot of garlic powder but in the end you really only use about half of the flour/garlic mixture so only about 1/2 of this is what will be in the end result, same with the salt. It just works better to be working with a little excess of the flour mixture so it's coating everything evenly and well.
**I liked both versions but preferred the cornflake one more. If using cornflakes crush into tiny pieces in a gallon size resealable bag using a rolling pin or your hands.
***I tested with other brands and the dressing wasn't as creamy or as thick. Fage brand works best here.
Recipe source: Cooking Classy