These Crispy Paleo Chicken Fingers are a grain-free peek into my childhood. Growing up in Buffalo chicken fingers were a staple, but going gluten-free and consequently paleo, I have forever been on the hunt for the perfect, crispy tenders. I have perfected my recipe over the years and I am finally sharing with you.
We all had those foods we heavily mourned over, then forever lusted after when we first went gluten-free. Being a true Buffalo girl, growing up in the land of pizza, chicken wings and epic bar food, that food for me was chicken fingers. I have no shame in admitting that. I can fully remember the day I discovered my gluten intolerance, being so sad that I would never have chicken fingers again. A loss of great proportions. That said, I literally feel like I have spent the last nearly 13 years of being gluten-free, testing, making and perfecting my chicken finger game. I take my chicken fingers very seriously.
For the longest time, back in the day, I simply coated in egg and the gluten-free AP flour du jour and I baked them. I was still afraid of fat and thought by baking, this would be “healthier”. It worked. Thy were good. But, my homemade fingers were never really all that crispy and they never were appropriately golden brown. Then, I discovered the art of pan frying in a solid, healthful, high-heat appropriate oil option. I brought in my go-to grain-free blend of almond flour and tapioca starch and voila we have the most crispy, golden brown chicken fingers, just like I grew up with. If you don’t want to futz with pan frying, you can opt for baking these, just don’t skimp on the fat, for the full experience and all the flavor.
These Crispy Paleo Chicken Fingers are amazing straight-up, original-style or if you really want to get a peek into my Buffalo childhood and basically east the best food combo ever – go with the classic combo of hot sauce and blue cheese (or ranch). Recipes included below.
Generally, we serve these straight-up as an appetizer or football snack, or for a full-on meal, on top of a big pile of greens, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes, drizzled with homemade blue cheese or ranch dressing and a little sprinkle of high quality sheep’s milk chunky blue cheese.
- 2 lbs boneless, skinless organic, free range chicken breast*, cut into 1-inch thick tenders/strips
- 2 large eggs (preferably local, pasture-raised)
- 2 teaspoons water
- 1 cup blanched almond flour
- ¼ cup tapioca starch (arrowroot will work, but I like tapioca better)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
- pinch of ground cayenne (optional)
- ½ cup ghee, tallow, lard, refined coconut oil or other high-heat appropriate cooking oil (give or take more or less)
- ½ cup hot sauce (I recommend original Frank's)
- 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter (or ghee. for dairy-free use olive oil or avocado oil)
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Ranch or Dressing Blue Cheese Dressing (see below)
- In a bowl whisk together the eggs with 2 teaspoons water. In another bowl, whisk together the almond flour, tapioca starch, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne (if using) and salt.
- Gently dip each chicken tender into the egg mixture, evenly coating all sides. Then transfer to the flour mixture and coat all sides. Shake off extra. Set aside on a parchment lined baking sheet until you've coated all the tenders.
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottom skillet, I use the cast iron, over medium heat (you’ll want about 1-inch of oil, so more or less as needed). You want the oil hot enough to sizzle and make the tenders golden brown, but not so hot that they burn.
- Working in batches, do not crowd the pan, cook the tenders until golden brown and crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes, then use tongs and gently turn over, cook another minute or two. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet when they are done and allow to drain while you cook the others. Add more oil to the skillet, as needed. Serve the fingers warm.
- For Buffalo-Style: in a small saucepan or in a microwave safe bowl, mix together and heat the hot sauce, butter and garlic powder. Heat until butter is melted. Whisk to combine.
- In a large, sealing container, add the buffalo sauce and working in batches, add the finished chicken fingers. Put the lid on the container, shake well to coat the fingers, remove and continue with the remaining fingers.
- Alternatively, you can bake these chicken fingers in the oven. Heat the oven to 450° F. Generously and evenly coat the base of a rimmed baking sheet with a few tablespoons of oil (coconut, ghee, tallow, etc). Add 2 tablespoons of butter (or ghee, for dairy-free just add a little more oil). Place the baking sheet in the oven to heat. When the butter has started foaming and before it begins to brown, gently lay the chicken strips onto the baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes, until the bottoms are crispy and golden brown. Use tongs to gently turn them over and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until both sides of the tenders are evenly browned and the chicken is cooked all the way through. You can add more butter and oil as needed.
- 2-3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (I use a raw sheep’s milk Roquefort)
- ¼ cup yogurt (I use goat or sheep’s milk)
- ¼ cup mayonnaise (I went with homemade)
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Add all of the ingredients to a small bowl, stir well to combine. Store any leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.