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If you’re looking for a quick, easy, low-carb meal that’s full of bold flavor, you’re going to love this Popeyes blackened tenders recipe!
It starts with lean chicken tenderloins that are coated in a homemade spice blend and pan-fried to mimic the deep frying method that they use at the restaurant.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. How could any Popeyes recipe be healthy? It’s fried chicken! I mean, remember that viral Popeyes chicken sandwich from a few years back? Not exactly healthy.
And I’ll admit, these blackened tenders aren’t something that’s typical of Popeyes. Turns out, they are so awesome! No breading, no carbs, all protein.
They fit so easily into a healthy diet! Trust me, you’re going to love these Popeyes blackened chicken tenders.
Ingredients for this Blackened Tenders Recipe
Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy chicken recipe:
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts. Many grocery stores carry chicken tenderloins already packaged. If you can find them, you can skip the step of cutting the chicken into strips.
- Homemade blackened seasoning. In a pinch, you could buy premade blackened seasoning at the grocery store. But in a recipe like this, where you really want to get the balance of spices right, it’s best to make your own spice blend.
- Vegetable oil. Although these tenders don’t have any breading, they’re still deep fried at the restaurant. So we’re going to pan fry them in vegetable oil to get them nice and crispy outside while keeping them tender on the inside.
The Blackened Seasoning
Blackened seasoning and the cooking method called blackening have their roots in the Cajun cuisines of New Orleans. It’s hot and spicy, big and bold!
Here’s what you’ll need to make the homemade spice blend:
- Smoked paprika. Sometimes called Spanish paprika, smoked paprika is different from regular paprika, so be sure to read the labels!
- Cayenne pepper
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Chili powder
- Dried oregano
- Dried thyme
The measurements in the recipe card are enough to coat one pound of chicken.
If you love spicy food and want to keep this blackened spice blend around for future use, double the recipe and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
How to Make these Blackened Chicken Tenders
First, combine all of the spices together and place them in a large bowl.
Then, coat the chicken in the spice blend. No flour, no egg, no breading! Just the chicken and the spice blend. So easy!
Now, pan fry the chicken in the oil. Because the chicken strips are smaller, they won’t need as long to cook as a regular chicken cutlet.
Cook them on medium heat (not medium-high heat), which will give them a good sear on the outside and juicy meat on the inside.
Alternative Cooking Methods for Blackened Chicken Tenders
If you’re looking to reduce the fat in this recipe even further, you can make these blackened tenders in the air fryer or the oven. Choose a cooking technique that works best for you.
Air Fryer Instructions
Replace the pan frying method by using your air fryer.
Simply coat the chicken tenders in the blackened seasoning and place them in the air fryer. Give them a generous coating of nonstick cooking spray and let the air fryer do its thing.
Full instructions are in the recipe card below.
Conventional Oven Instructions
Another way to reduce the amount of oil in this recipe is to use your oven.
Place the chicken on an ungreased sheet pan and drizzle it with vegetable oil or olive oil. Depending on the size of the tenders, your cooking time should be around 20-25 minutes.
See the recipe card below for full instructions.
Variations on this Blackened Chicken Tenders Recipe
Here are some small ways to tweak this delicious recipe:
1. Cooking oil. Although I recommend vegetable (canola) oil for it’s flavorless profile and high smoke point, you could also use avocado oil or even peanut oil for frying.
2. Spice blend. For a less smoky blackened flavor, swap out the smoked paprika for regular paprika. To increase the smokiness of the spice blend, use chipotle powder in place of the chili powder.
3. Chicken. If you’re a dark meat fan, try using boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts.
Serving Suggestions for Blackened Chicken Tenders
There are so many ways to enjoy these bold and spicy chicken tenders! Here are some of my favorite ways:
1. Keep it keto. Serve these Popeyes blackened tenders with a side of ranch dressing for dipping and some cool, crunchy vegetables like celery sticks or green beans.
3. Make a salad. Cut the chicken into bite sizes pieces and toss it into a fresh green salad with a cooling avocado ranch dressing.
4. Make it a sandwich. If you really want to treat yourself, pile these blackened tenders onto a buttery brioche bun and serve with a side of fries.
How to Store leftover Blackened Chicken Tenders
Any leftover tenders can easily be stored in an airtight container or aluminum foil in the refrigerator. They will be good for 2-3 days.
Reheat them in the microwave or in a conventional oven.
You’re going to love this Blackened Chicken Tenders recipe! And when you make it, I’d love to hear about it! Drop a rating or leave a comment below. Enjoy!
For more low carb recipes, try these:
- Creamy Shrimp and Avocado Salad
- Herb Crusted Chicken Recipe (Texas Roadhouse Style)
- Roasted Fish with Cherry Tomatoes (One Pan Recipe)
For more easy chicken recipes, try these:
- Best Ever Chicken Piccata (Easy One Pan Recipe)
- Creamy Stuffed Chicken with Boursin Cheese & Spinach
- Korean Fried Chicken Recipe with Soy Garlic Sauce
Blackened Chicken Tenders Recipe (Popeyes Copycat)
- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- Combine all of the spices in a shallow bowl.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet or other nonstick skillet.
- Slice the chicken breasts into strips. Coat the chicken in the spice mixture. (Alternatively, put the spice blend and chicken into a large freezer bag and shake to coat.)
- Pan fry the chicken in the oil until golden brown, 6-7 minutes per side.
- Remove the chicken onto a wire rack. Serve warm with ranch dipping sauce.
Air Fryer Instructions
- Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees.
- Coat the chicken in the blackened seasoning. Place chicken into the air fryer basket. Coat generously with nonstick cooking spray.
- Cook chicken 5 minutes. Flip. Cook an additional 4 minutes. For larger pieces of chicken, extend the cooking time by 2-3 minutes.
Conventional Oven Instructions
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Coat the chicken in the blackened seasoning. Place chicken on an ungreased baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil or vegetable oil.
- Bake for 20 minutes. For larger pieces of chicken, extend the baking time by 5 minutes.