Lemon Pepper Baked Chicken Tenders

Baked Chicken Tenders (packed with flavor)

lemon pepper baked chicken tenders | hearth health happiness

If you’ve checked out any of my other recipes, you’ve probably noticed that I LOVE finding ways to make my favorite Southern dishes a little lighter. Which means we get to enjoy them more often (yay!). Of course, nothing beats some good fried chicken…extra crispy for me. Back during my cross country days, I used to love Mrs. Winner’s fried chicken nights before meets. For some reason, that was my pre-race fuel – which makes me yearn for the days I could eat whatever I wanted and not worry about it later. With Cliff and I both trying to stay fit, we’ve enjoyed a few baked chicken tender recipes, including one from Trisha Yearwood. What’s fun about breading is the seasoning – there are so many variations that make one very delicious product. We put our own citrus-y, tangy twist on ours and I hope your family will enjoy, too. 

lemon pepper baked chicken tenders | hearth health happiness

Lemon Pepper Baked Chicken Tenders

Melanie Lorick
Baked tenders that won't have you missing the fried version. Delightfully flavored with lemon, black pepper, thyme, and Parmesan cheese, these tenders will have you asking for seconds.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 406 kcal


  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • ¾ cup soy milk or other plant-based milk
  • 1 lemon juiced, half reserved for buttermilk and half for breading
  • ¾ cup Panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp salt (we prefer pink Himalayan)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  • Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.
  • Whisk together milk and lemon juice from half a lemon and set aside.
  • Combine dry ingredients (bread crumbs, thyme, salt, pepper, shredded cheese) in a shallow, medium-sized bowl. Add lemon juice and zest and stir to combine.
  • Add "buttermilk" to a bowl large enough to dredge chicken tenders. One at a time, dip tenders in buttermilk before dredging through breading mixture. As the breading mixture clumps, use your fingers to press the breading more firmly onto each tender.
  • Place tenders on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown on the exterior and no longer pink in the middle.
  • Serve warm with your choice of sauce.


You are welcome to substitute regular buttermilk for the plant-based buttermilk listed earlier. If you do, the lemon juice from 1/2 lemon is no longer necessary, unless you would like to add to the breading (for an extra lemony flavor). 


Serving: 0.25lbCalories: 406kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 32gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 126mgSodium: 1896mgPotassium: 246mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2g
Keyword baked chicken tenders, chicken, lemons
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Pro Tip:

Dried herbs are more potent than fresh. In fact, dried offer up to 3 times the concentrated flavor compared to fresh! If substituting in a recipe, use a third as much dried than its fresh counterpart. 

A few points about this healthy baked chicken tenders recipe...

  • If you need to omit dairy or milk-based products, you can remove the Parmesan cheese. 
  • You are welcome to substitute the fresh thyme leaves for dried, or substitute a different herb that better suits your palette. 
  • Garlic fans – feel free to add just a bit of garlic powder. I wanted the dish to be more “lemon forward,” so omitted from this dish. That is completely up to you. 
  • We drink plant-based milk, so use the buttermilk alternative: plant-based mix whisked with fresh lemon juice. Don’t forget to allow it to sit for a few minutes before incorporating into the recipe. 
  • Did you know that ordering regular chicken tenders in a restaurant can yield more than 600 calories and 36 grams of fat? You can feel better oven “frying” with the best of them. 

Looking for another classic Southern dish with a healthier twist? Try my baked fried green tomatoes with a roasted red pepper garlic aioli. What favorite dishes have you found can be baked instead of fried, or just as delicious using an air fryer? We have yet to venture into the world of air frying, but hope to give it a try when we have a larger kitchen and more storage. Let me know what recipes you’re enjoying! 

Until next time, cheers to your #hearthhealthhappiness! 

4 thoughts on “Lemon Pepper Baked Chicken Tenders”

  1. This looks so good! My kids love chicken tenders but I’m always looking for ways to make them a little healthier and with fewer funky ingredients.

    1. hearthhealthhappiness

      Thanks so much! We’ve really enjoyed these…I have a weakness for chicken tenders, so appreciate having more baked options vs. fried. If you end up giving these a try, I hope your family finds them tasty! Have a great weekend! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Sweet Potato Burgers - hearth health happiness

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