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We Tried 7 Brands of Chicken Tenders. You Might Be Surprised by Our #1 Pick!

Taste of Home logo Taste of Home 5/2/2018 Lisa Kaminski, Associate Digital Editor
© Provided by Taste of Home

I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for the frozen food section. Yes, I love to cook and bake from scratch (these from-scratch slow cooker meals are some of my favorites), but the junk foodie in me also loves a good frozen pizza or chicken tender—especially chicken tenders. What can I say? Served up with some dipping sauces and a few fries, they're one of my favorite snacks for Netflix nights. And I'm sure I'm not alone!

To make these movie marathons all the more enjoyable, I wanted to find the best chicken strip out there. Of course, there are so many brands (and variations) out there, but I put some popular ones to the test. I had a group of testers try Applegate Naturals Homestyle Breaded Chicken Breast Tenders, Banquet Chicken Breast Tenders, Great Value Crispy Chicken Strips (that's a Walmart brand), Market Pantry Crispy Chicken Strips (those are exclusive to Target), Perdue Chicken Breast Tenders, Trader Joe's Breaded Chicken Tenderloin Breasts and Tyson Batter Dipped Chicken Breast Tenders. Let's see how these did.

Honorable Mention: Applegate Naturals

a plate of food on a table © Provided by Taste of Home Score: 6/10

One of our more notable tenders in this test came from Applegate Naturals (you can find this at most supermarkets). This brand boasts no GMO ingredients, no fillers, no artificial ingredients, no preservatives and no nitrites. If you're going to indulge junk food, it may as well be the healthiest and best junk food for you, right?

Taste testers really enjoyed the real chicken tender cuts inside. They were juicy and satisfying, however, we wished that the coating had just a bit more crunch. Maybe an air fryer would help crisp it up. Whatever the case, we still found these tenders to be pretty satisfying and the perfect base for dipping sauces—mayochup anyone?

Runner-Up: Market Pantry

a plate of food on a table © Provided by Taste of Home Score: 7.3/10

Coming up next was Target's store brand Market Pantry. These chicken tenders had a great crunchy exterior. For those of you that love that crispy breading, these are the tenders for you. My crew of testers absolutely loved the coating which was perfectly peppery for just a bit of bite—not too strong, though!

Inside we found real, white meat chicken. It was super juicy and worked so well with the extra crunchy interior. For some folks (carb fans like myself), these were real winners. However, one brand edged out Market Pantry by a fraction of a point.

Best in Show: Great Value

a close up of food on a table © Provided by Taste of Home Score: 7.7/10

In our top spot was Walmart's Great Value Crispy Chicken Strips. Let me tell you, these chicken tenders delivered. Inside was real white meat chicken—a must for a great tender. These chicken breast strips were then coated in what we thought was the perfect breading. It was golden brown, crunchy and seasoned just right. We found that this crispy coating was more than just salt and pepper—we detected a bit of garlic in there (and isn't everything better with a hint of garlic?) as well as some paprika. This gave the coating just a little something extra, though it in no way overpowered the chicken. These Great Value tenders have the perfect ratio of chicken to breading which creates a chicken strip that is, as one tester wrote on her score sheet, "totally on point."

The Takeaways

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Not all tenders are created equal

When it comes to chicken tenders, I think of strips of chicken (or the actual chicken tenderloin) breaded and fried to crispy perfection. It's real meat, no fillers and as minimally processed as possible. Most folks in the taste test were of the same mind on this. However, a few of these brands labeled their products as chicken tenders, but what we really got was a tender-shaped chicken nugget—meaning the chicken was chopped up fine, processed and shaped into some sort of strip. This is not the same. And for this reason, a handful of brands fell to the lower ranks pretty quickly. They may have tasted OK, but a chicken tender and a chicken nugget just aren't the same to us junk food fanatics.

Budget brands are a good bet

What surprised us the most in this test was that generic brands faired so well—especially against some of the bigger names in chicken. Both our top spots went to store brands. This isn't unusual for generics to creep up into the top spot—we've seen it happen with cookie dough and salsa in the past—but it is unusual to see the two top spots taken by store brands. Personally, this is great news! This brands pack more tenders into every package and they cost less overall. That's a big win!

And if you want more budget-friendly meals, check out these 70 dinners you can make from scratch.

Related Gallery: The Easiest Chicken Sheet Pan Dinners You'll Ever Make



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