Grilled Chicken Tenders (No Grill Needed)

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A copycat version of Cracker Barrel’s grilled chicken tenderloins, these juicy grilled chicken tenders are marinated in a zesty flavoring that no one can resist!


Okay, y’all, listen to me here: you are going to love these grilled chicken tenders! This is a widespread copycat version of Cracker Barrel’s grilled chicken tenderloin dish and they are absolutely amazing. I’ve been making them on a regular basis for the past 20 years and they are a beloved family favorite.

Fortunately, this grilled chicken tenders recipe is super quick and easy to make. All you have to do is marinate the chicken tenders in the deliciously zesty marinade and then cook them on the stovetop or grill. These grilled chicken tenders are as flavorful, juicy, and tender as the name suggests.

So, what’s in this flavoring? You’ve got lime juice, zesty Italian dressing, and honey. They combine to make a marinade that’s to die for (trust me on this, folks).

I like to serve my grilled chicken with a simple side salad (check out Texas caviar and my Greek salad) or some vegetables like grilled asparagus.

Ingredients for grilled chicken tenders.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Lime juice
  • Zesty Italian dressing (or just plain Italian dressing)
  • Honey
  • Chicken

How to Make Easy Grilled Chicken Tenders Without the Grill!

adding Italian dressing to jar

Prepare the Marinade

First, I usually mix my marinade in a quart-sized mason jar. Begin by pouring in your dressing.

The original recipe said to strain and discard the spices but I really like them in here and I have never once actually noticed them on the finished chicken. They either cook up or magically disappear. Either way, why add another step if we don’t have to?

adding honey to marinade

Add your honey…

adding lime juice to marinade

and lime juice…

Marinade for grilled chicken tenders in jar.

Screw the lid on the jar and give it a good shake.

cutting chicken breasts into strips.

If you are making your grilled chicken tenders with chicken breasts, cut them into strips.

Chicken cut into strips.

Here is our chicken, all ready for the marinade ingredients.

Pour marinade on the chicken in ziplock bag and refrigerate.

Now what I do is put all of my chicken in a big gallon ziplock bag and just pour the chicken marinade in there with it. Seal the bag and stick it in your fridge for at least an hour.

Chicken tenders grilling on stovetop.

Grilling the chicken tenders

After at least an hour, dump the entire contents of the bag into a large skillet.

You are going to be thinking “Wow, this is awful watery, there is no way it is going to look like hers” but oh yes it will!! Hang in there with me, this just takes a little patience (actually it takes about thirty minutes or so).

chicken tenders cooking

This is how it will look after ten minutes over medium heat. Just hang in there and let it cook.

I keep my stove eye/burner dial on five. Good thing is, you don’t have to fret over this, just go check on it about every ten minutes and turn it and you’ll be fine!

Chicken tenders cooking.

This is after about twenty minutes.

cooking tenderloins

30 minutes later… now we’re starting to get somewhere!

Sauce will thicken around the 30-min mark.

A little after the 30-minute mark, the sauce thickens and begins to caramelize.

It’s getting really thick on the bottom now and this is where I start moving my meat around a lot, getting it all nice and browned.

Grilled chicken tenders on serving plate.

Once it gets dark, I take every piece of chicken and one by one rub it around in that marinade before taking it out of the pan and putting it on my platter.

Plate of grilled chicken tenders.

These grilled chicken tenderloins are full of flavor that I like to serve them with a simple side dish. Tonight we’ll have it with butter stewed potatoes. YUM!


Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat them either on the stovetop or in the oven or air fryer. You can also keep leftovers in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating as mentioned.

Recipe Notes

  • In a pinch, you can substitute the lime juice for lemon juice if you like. Another option is apple cider vinegar. I know I usually have lemon juice on hand but not lime. I happened to have this because I made Bananaritas the other morning. For any new readers, Bananaritas are not alcoholic and make a delicious breakfast.
  • You can prepare the marinade and chicken tenders the night before if you like and just keep them in your fridge until you’re ready for supper. Another thing I have done before is mix up the marinade and chicken and just freeze the whole bag. Then on a morning, before you head off to work, just pop the bag in the fridge to thaw out during the day.
  • If you’re using a grill to make your grilled chicken tenders, it will take about 10 minutes (turning halfway). You’ll want to make sure the internal temperature is 165 degrees before taking them off the grill.
  • A different serving suggestion: sprinkle with parsley and serve with lime wedges.
  • If you love garlic, add one clove of minced garlic or a teaspoon of garlic powder to the chicken marinade.
  • Make sure you don’t overcrowd your pan or move the chicken too much while cooking.
  • Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving, as this gives the chicken time to soak up the juices.

Recipe FAQs

What type of chicken do you use for this grilled chicken tenders recipe?

You can purchase chicken tenderloins or just do like I do and buy boneless skinless chicken breasts and cut them yourself. It’s cheaper to buy them this way and I just use my kitchen shears – by far the greatest utensil known to mankind. This is what I call a “fish and loaves” recipe because the chicken tends to plump up and be extra filling, therefore feeding a much larger amount than it normally would have. I used four chicken breasts and we easily have enough left for another meal (or some great lunches!).

What do you serve with your grilled chicken tenders?

The options are nearly endless, but here are some serving suggestions:

You may also enjoy these chicken recipes:

Cheesy Chicken And Rice Crock Pot Version

Fuss-Free Fried Chicken

Sticky Chicken

Easy Chicken and Dumplings Recipe

You may also like this Cracker Barrel Copycat recipe:

Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole Cheesy Copycat

chicken tenderloins

Grilled Chicken Tenders

A copycat version of Cracker Barrel's grilled chicken tenderloins, these grilled chicken tenders are marinated in a delicious zesty flavoring.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chicken
Servings: 4
Calories: 330kcal


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 1 cup zesty Italian dressing
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 3 teaspoons honey


  • Combine all marinade ingredients in a mason jar and shake well to combine.
    1 cup zesty Italian dressing, 2 teaspoons lime juice, 3 teaspoons honey
  • Place the chicken strips in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and pour over the marinade. Seal and marinate for at least an hour.
    4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • Pour all of the ziplock bag's ingredients into a large skillet and cook over medium heat until liquid evaporates and the remaining marinade becomes thick and caramelized, about 30 minutes (May take up to 40).
  • Coat each chicken piece in marinade by rubbing it around on the bottom of the pan before removing it.


Calories: 330kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!



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  1. Laura I forgot I was actually going to see someone I knew after telling that story! LOL

    Jodie Oh Jodi, I need to get you to a cracker barrel!! hehe! It really is good, and on just about any meat you can think of, too!

    Tomato Lady (still lovin your blog, btw!) hehe, I think you’re right, I did go a wee bit french ! hehe. You know those two years of high school french made me an expert, too! FRENCH FRIES! hehe. oh thank you so much!!! Its kind of a pipe dream about winning but OH LORD it would mean so much that I had to try! I only have a month, though!

    Lmerie Thank you for taking the time to read!! I really appreciate it!!!

    Off to more halloween parties at schools, the circuit never ends! LOL

    1. I just made these. Oh my gosh, so good. I keep true lime and true lemon crystals on hand, so I just used 2 little lime packets, and it was perfect!!

  2. I think you went French there for a minute, too. Super recipe, hilarious about the “surprise” for Mother. You deserve a prize–I’m not sure what that is but I’m going to follow the link and find out! Cheers!

  3. I’ve actually never heard of this recipe before. Your pictures and description were great, so I guess I’ll be trying them! 🙂

    1. 5 stars
      I made these for supper tonight and they were so delicious! Truly as good as cracker barrels, which I love. Sadly though, there are no leftovers.

    2. 5 stars
      I pinned this years ago and I STILL make this monthly sometimes twice a month! I’m a little heavy handed on my honey but it’s so good!!!! I came back to the pin to send it to a friend and had to tell you how great it is.

  4. Forget Cracker Barrell, we will be having restaurant style grilled chicken at home. This looks absolutely delicious. Thanks for the recipe. Happy Halloween! See ya at the party. Love the belly story, lol!


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