Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders will be your new favorite way to make chicken

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My almond chicken obsession was becoming a bit much.

Whenever I needed a quick lunch, or didn't know what to eat, or wanted to be kind of healthy but not go all in on a lame salad, I opted for almond-coated chicken tenders over kale slaw and sweet potato noodles from Fresh Kitchen (locations in Tampa and St. Petersburg).

It's still my go-to bowl, but I realized I should pull back a bit, mostly because it was not an efficient use of my precious funds. I am no stranger to cooking, I thought. And I could definitely make the star of that bowl, the almond chicken, at home.

I tried a couple of recipes before deciding I liked the method from EatingWell's recipe best. It uses sliced almonds and just a little bit of flour, and that's it, to form the nutty coating. No bread crumbs required, making these tenders even lighter and crispier than I anticipated.

The end result is very appealing, a simple bite that harkens back to the chicken nuggets you noshed as a kid. It's a great thing to make for a week's worth of work lunches, good in everything from a bowl of rice to a crisp salad.

Honestly, I could eat about 10 of these on their own in one sitting, with little ramekins of ketchup and mustard nearby for deep dunking. My mouth may be salivating as I write this.

Lately, I've been pairing the tenders with fresh, saladlike sides that counteract the hot, salty chicken. Here are my three favorites.

 

Side ideas

Broccoli-carrot slaw: Shred some broccoli and whole carrots into a bowl. (Or buy a premade dry broccoli slaw from the grocery store.) Add 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine, and if the slaw is too dry for your liking, add more yogurt.

Simple salad: Place 1 handful romaine lettuce in a bowl. Top with my new favorite addition to salad: pickled banana peppers. (I just buy a jar at the store.) Add any other vegetable you'd like, such as shredded zucchini, diced tomato or thinly sliced radish. Dress with something creamy; I typically mix mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese) with lemon juice and olive oil for a dressing that lasts the week.

Cabbage and corn: This side has a real crunch factor. Into a bowl, shred 1 head red cabbage and 1 small red onion. Add two handfuls cooked corn — I cut mine straight from the cob, but you can use frozen in a pinch. Squeeze the juice from 1 lime over the bowl, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders

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Ingredients

  • Olive or canola oil cooking spray
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • Whole grain mustard and ketchup, for serving

Instructions

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Set a wire rack on the baking sheet and coat it with cooking spray.

Place almonds, flour, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a food processor; process until the almonds are finely chopped and the paprika is mixed throughout, about 1 minute. With the motor running, drizzle in oil; process until combined. Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish.

Whisk eggs in a second shallow dish. Add chicken tenders and turn to coat. Transfer each tender to the almond mixture; turn to coat evenly. (Discard any remaining egg and almond mixture.)

Place the tenders on the prepared rack and coat with cooking spray; turn and spray the other side. Bake the chicken fingers until golden brown, crispy and no longer pink in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Serves 4.

Source: Adapted from Eating Well