These homemade Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders are insanely delicious! They’re bursting with bright & zippy, lemony-flavor and then coated/dipped in a dreamy honey butter sauce…marinated in seasoned buttermilk for the juiciest tenders. Psst, skip that chicken spot and make a batch of these crazy-good tenders at home!

lemon pepper chicken tenders on speckled platter with bowl of honey butter sauce

Hey y’all! Hope you’re holding up alright. Me? I’m well, been doing some of that good ole springtime cleaning and all. The conclusion is that I own too many things, mainly kitchen-related items, but you knew this already. I’ve also been testing some new Spring-inspired recipes, too! Love this season! ☀️

Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders!!

Bihhh. Many of you already know of my love for all things lemon, yes? Great, no need to tap into that again. I love me some lemon pepper chicken wings, whew. However, the only thing that can top them is, well, these lemon pepper chicken tenders! The more lemony-pepp chicken to consume…the better!

They’re sooo freakin’ delicious, I’m obsessed. All that zippy, puckered up, bright, and peppery goodness in chicken tender formation. Let’s be real, folks like to talk ish about tenders, but they are a real crowd favorite. Think of all the fast-food chains and other places that thrive on selling tenders (you know ’em 👀), ha! Well, get ready to whip up these scratch-made chicken tenders at home!

BBR recipes worth hollering at: jamaican beef patties, cozy braised short rib ragu, these jerk meatballs in coconut curry sauce, one-pan lemon herb butter ravioli, these lemon sweet rolls or maybe a shrimp and grits combo, gahh!

black hand dipping lemon pepper chicken tender into honey butter sauce

What You’ll Need To Make This Recipe

(Note: the full ingredients list, including measurements, is provided in the recipe card directly below.)

  • Chicken tenderloins: We’re making chicken tenders, this is expected. You’ll need around 2 pounds, and this yields about 14 tenders.
  • Buttermilk: Every fried chicken recipe should include a buttermilk brine imo. Buttermilk imparts a lovely taste and yields juicy chicken, chef’s kiss.
  • Lemon pepper seasoning: The star of the show! I particularly use lemon pepper seasoning that contains salt, but you can use sodium-free lemon pepper seasoning. If doing so, be sure to season the flour dredge with salt.
  • Lemon zest & juice: For the lemon flavors to be front and center, the addition of lemon zest & lemon juice gives these tenders top tier flavoring! 🙌🏾
  • Hot sauce: A little flavored heat in the buttermilk brine is clutch.
  • Spices: I use some garlic powder and smoked paprika as well. These additional spices help round out and balance the lemon pepper chicken tenders.
  • Flour: Needed for the flour dredge before frying. I use all-purpose flour, but feel free to use gluten-free flour if that suits your needs.
  • Oil: Yes indeed, we’re frying chicken the old school way…in a deep, pot of oil. I recommend using peanut or vegetable/canola oil.

Honey Butter Sauce For Dipping, Yes Plz!

Aww sookie sookie. As if these lemon pepper chicken tenders weren’t enough, there’s a super simple honey butter sauce to dip them in. This sauce comes together so easily in a saucepan and makes for the perfect companion to dunk these chicken tenders! Real talk, chicken tenders + sauce= an important pairing.

Honey butter sauce ingredients: butter, honey, lemon pepper seasoning, lemon zest, and minced garlic. You’ll love the big, bold flavors of this sauce. It’s got ample richness, sweetness, and more lemony notes along with garlic.

How To Make Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders

(Note: please see the recipe card directly below for the complete written instructions.)

>> Don’t let these chicken tenders spook you, they’re easy to make at-home!

  1. Buttermilk soak. Listen, the very best fried chicken most definitely includes a good *buttermilk brine*…please don’t let anyone tell you different! Letting the chicken marinate and sit in a buttermilk bath creates flavorful + moist chicken. My buttermilk brine includes buttermilk, lemon pepper seasoning, lemon juice + zest, hot sauce, garlic powder, and smoked paprika.
  2. Seasoned flour dredge. After sitting in the buttermilk brine, the chicken will get sopped up and coated in the seasoned flour. This is the big factor that gives fried chicken that signature, crunchy crunch coating on the outside. The flour is also seasoned so that flavor is ensured at every stage prior to the chicken going into the fryer. Seasoning is life, mmmkay!
  3. Fry it up, baby! We’re nearly finished. I like to use a deep fry thermometer to ensure that my oil is precisely on point. It’s one of my trusty kitchen items that I highly recommend having in your arsenal. However, you can use the old school method of inserting the end of a wooden spoon into the center of the oil. If there are little bubbles around it, then the oil is hot and ready. Otherwise, let it continue to heat up.
  4. Make the sauce. While the fried chicken is cooling, make the sauce. This comes together in a saucepan and then is ready to go.
  5. Serve it up! At this stage you can add the tenders into a large bowl and pour the sauce over, tossing to coat. Otherwise, serve the sauce in individual, teensy bowls for everyone to dip on their own. Enjoy!

What You Need To Fry Chicken At Home

  • Deep fry thermometer: A handy tool to monitor precise temperatures.
  • Dutch oven: These enameled cast-iron pots are perfect for conducting and evenly distributing heat. They are the most used types of vessels in the BBR kitchen and what I consider to be my holy grail pieces of cookware!
  • Kitchen spider: This tool allows for getting things easily out of the hot pot.
  • Shallow pie plate: My fave for flour dredging- a bowl/deep plate works, too!

Storing Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders

Just being honest, these chicken tenders are best served right away for the best taste and texture. Fried chicken is always at its very best this way, but you can store, if needed. Keep any leftovers inside of an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days, freezing is not recommended.

>> Reheat in the oven at 325°F for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through.

lemon pepper chicken tenders on speckled platter with lemon slices

Ingredient Substitutions, Tips + Tricks, & FAQs

As with many recipes, you may have additional questions regarding things to do (or change) for these lemon pepper chicken tenders. Like other BBR recipes, I always recommend sticking to the recipe as it is written in the recipe card, below. However, here’s some extra tidbits in case you need ’em:

  • Can I make these using an air fryer? Because these chicken tenders are dredged in flour, no. I have not tested this method, but it may be possible to forego the flour and coat the tenders in plain panko breadcrumbs instead, and then air fry that way. I recommend baking in the air fryer at 400°F for around 4-5 minutes on each side. To be precise, check for chicken doneness using an internal thermometer that should read at least 165°F.
  • Use fresh lemons. Friends, I know pre-bottled lemon juice has its convenience when needed for some things. Y’all, this recipe ain’t one of them. For the best lemon pepper chicken tenders, you need both lemon zest and freshly squeezed juice. That signature, all-natural lemon taste is the ingredient spotlight in this recipe. Both the fresh lemon juice and lemon zest add so much vivaciousness here and give them lemony realness.
  • Can I use other chicken parts? This recipe is for chicken tenderloins, specifically, and has been tested as such. This goes for ingredient quantities and cooking time. While you surely can make lemon pepper chicken using other parts- please be advised that doing so is at your own discretion and risk.
  • Buttermilk soak, how long? If pressed for time, the shortest amount of time advised is at least 3 hours. However, for best results, I recommend keeping the chicken in the buttermilk brine overnight. This gives the chicken plenty of time to sit and for the connective tissues in the chicken to break down and tenderize. Tons of flavor builds up the longer the chicken marinates (but be mindful, no more than overnight, 8-10 hours).
  • Can I use gluten-free flour? Yes, absolutely! To keep things gf-friendly, use your fave gf flour in place of all-purpose flour as a 1:1 ratio.
  • Let it rest, woosah. After frying, let them rest on a wire rack. This allows for any excess oil to drip off and for the juices within the chicken to settle.
  • How much oil do I need? Just enough for the oil to come halfway up the pot, enough for the chicken to float. Splattering may occur with too much oil.
  • How do I get rid of oil? After frying, let the oil cool all the way back down to room temperature. Afterwards, use a funnel to strain the oil back into the same container it came from. Then discard like normal. Boom.

Why You’ll Love These Chicken Tenders ♡

  1. They’re deeelicious! Plain and simple, folks. These lemon pepper chicken tenders are beaming with all the lemon pepper flavor you could imagine! Since they’re seasoned with lemon pepper seasoning and brined in fresh lemon juice + zest, that bright flavor is singing throughout.
  2. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. Aight, I had to say that lol. Real talk, these tenders are so very easy to make right in the comfort of your own home. These tenders have that fast-food restaurant vibe, but homemade.
  3. Dip, dip, hooray! That honey butter sauce is the pinnacle of swoon-worthy, yums. The contrast of flavors in it versus the tenders just hits so right.
lemon pepper chicken tenders on speckled platter with honey butter sauce on the side

Peeps, these Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders are all that and a bag of chips (hmm, are we still saying that?) …Ha! Listen, be sure to tag @butterbeready in your BBR recipe creations, I sure love to see it when you do. Until next time! 🤟🏾

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lemon pepper chicken tenders on speckled platter with bowl of honey butter sauce

Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders

  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 20m
  • Cook Time: 5m
  • Total Time: 25m
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: Appetizers & Snacks
  • Method: Deep Frying
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These homemade Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders are insanely delicious! They’re bursting with bright & zippy, lemony-flavor and then coated/dipped in a dreamy honey butter sauce…marinated in seasoned buttermilk for the juiciest tenders. Psst, skip that chicken spot and make a batch of these crazy-good tenders at home!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 lbs chicken tenderloins (about 14 tenders)
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (see notes for gluten-free needs)
  • peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

For the honey butter sauce:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup pure honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Then place the tenders in a large resealable plastic bag or a large container that can be fitted with a lid. Cover the tenders with buttermilk, 1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning, lemon zest, lemon juice, hot sauce, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika.
  2. Use your hands (fitted with disposable gloves, if desired) to massage everything together, making sure all chicken is fully coated in the mixture, and then seal/cover. Transfer the vessel into the refrigerator to let marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight for best results.
  3. In a shallow pie plate, combine the remaining 2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, and flour. Whisk the mixture together to thoroughly combine- then set the seasoned flour aside.
  4. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. For optimal precision, use a deep fry thermometer to heat the oil up to 350-370°F.
  5. Back to the chicken, set a baking sheet aside. Take a piece of chicken from the buttermilk brine, shaking off any excess, and coat the chicken into the seasoned flour mixture. Be sure to generously coat the chicken, filling in all un-floured gaps and crevices. Shake off any excess and set the dredged chicken onto the baking sheet. Repeat this process until all chicken tenders are fully coated.
  6. While the oil is heating, allow the chicken to rest on the baking sheet.
  7. Once the temperature is reached, carefully place the chicken into the hot oil. Note: I like to add about 4-5 chicken tenders in at a time to avoid overcrowding. Fry the chicken until golden brown and crispy, about 2-3 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches at least 165°F. Then place the fried chicken onto a clean baking sheet fitted with a wire rack (or lined with paper towel).
  8. Repeat the process until all chicken tenders have been fried. Make sure the oil is back up to 350°F in between each batch of frying chicken. Let the chicken tenders rest while you prepare the sauce.
  9. To make the honey butter sauce: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted through, pour in the honey. Add in the lemon pepper seasoning, lemon zest, and minced garlic. Stir the mixture well to combine and allow the pan to come up to a slight boil. Once achieved, remove from heat.
  10. Place the chicken tenders into a large bowl and pour the honey butter sauce over them, toss to coat. Alternatively, you can serve the sauce in small bowls for individual-style, dipping pleasure instead. Serve the lemon pepper chicken tenders immediately. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Please read the blog post in its entirety for more tips + tricks.
  2. Gluten-free flour can be substituted for all-purpose flour.
  3. If using lemon pepper seasoning that does *not* contain any salt, use some kosher salt- to taste, in the flour dredge.

Keywords: lemon pepper, lemon pepper chicken, chicken tenders, honey butter sauce, lemon pepper chicken tenders, homemade chicken tenders