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).
- Lime juice
- Zesty Italian dressing (or just plain Italian dressing)
How to Make Easy Grilled Chicken Tenders Without the Grill!
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?
Add your honey…
and lime juice…
Screw the lid on the jar and give it a good shake.
If you are making your grilled chicken tenders with chicken breasts, cut them into strips.
Here is our chicken, all ready for the marinade ingredients.
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.
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).
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!
This is after about twenty minutes.
30 minutes later… now we’re starting to get somewhere!
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.
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.
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.
- 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 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.
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:
- Serve them with a dipping sauce like our chipotle ranch dressing.
- Do a side of crispy fries or mashed potatoes.
- Serve with a side salad, a simple vegetarian dish like zucchini and squash, or roast vegetables.
- Place them on a bed of rice or pasta, like my cilantro lime cauliflower rice.
You may also enjoy these chicken recipes:
You may also like this Cracker Barrel Copycat recipe:
- 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.