Coconut Chicken

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Delicious and simple baked coconut-crusted chicken tenders with an easy five-ingredient honey mustard dipping sauce.

Ultra-crispy baked Coconut Chicken tenders with a quick five-ingredient honey-mustard dipping sauce.

Serve Coconut Chicken with a simple side dish like this Roasted Broccoli, Cucumber Salad, or Panzanella Salad.

Coconut Chicken with honey-mustard dipping sauce

Coconut Chicken

These tasty Coconut Chicken fingers are a favorite in my home. To keep them on the more nutritious side, they’re baked instead of fried, but don’t worry — they’re still ridiculously crispy and crunchy!

They’re deeply coconut flavored — if you love coconut you are going to love these chicken fingers! And to round things out nicely, we’ve got a (super-quick) five-ingredient honey-BBQ mustard dipping sauce. It’s the perfect complement to Coconut Chicken!

Process shots: preparing chicken to marinate and mixing ingredients for the batter.

Let’s Talk Chicken Tenders

Ok, first things first. We use chicken tenders for this recipe. You can use chicken breasts, but you’ll need to cut them into thin strips — so they’re the size of tenders. Depending on the breast size, you can get three or four tenders from one breast.

To prepare the chicken tenders, you’ll need to remove the tendons. This may seem like a tedious task (I used to hate it), but wait till you see and try this easy hack! For more deeply embedded tendons, I like to cut them out with a sharp paring knife. Once you remove the tendons, cut out any other gristle or fat and then pat dry the tenders with a paper towel.

There are two options at this point:

  • Marinate the chicken tenders. Don’t worry — the “marinade” isn’t a whole cacophony of ingredients; in fact, there’s only one ingredient: coconut milk! The coconut milk further emphasizes the tropical coconut flavor in the chicken and also acts as a tenderizer to make the chicken ultra juicy and flavorful. Even as little as 20-30 minutes can make a difference! 
  • Use as-is. If you want to skip the marinating, no problem. You’ll still get crispy and tasty coconut chicken! Pat the chicken tenders well with a paper towel and proceed with the recipe.

Process shots: preparing and toasting the coconut and panko

Coconut Chicken Breading Notes

Once the chicken is prepped, it’s time to dredge it in the batter, then the breading, and then pop it in the oven. Here’s a quick rundown of the batter and breading steps:

First, the batter:

  • Egg and coconut milk. These two ingredients contribute flavor and are the main components of liquid in this batter.
  • Dijon mustard. This ingredient adds complexity to the flavor.
  • Flour. A little flour thickens the breading to ensure it stays on the chicken.
  • Spices. I like to add the spices to the batter, rather than the breading, to ensure the chicken gets that spice blend all over it. We use pretty standard spices here — paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt & pepper.

Then, the two-ingredient breading:

  • Panko. Panko bread crumbs are similar to regular bread crumbs, but they create a much crunchier, lighter, and more delicate result. Using panko ensures a more crispy and crunchy end product than bread crumbs. And when you are baking chicken instead of frying, the panko makes a huge difference!
  • Sweetened coconut flakes. We use sweetened coconut flakes to add a touch of sweetness to the chicken — it’s delicious. Instead of leaving the coconut in flakes, we quickly pulse it in a food processor or blender to break it down. This ensures a more even breading that doesn’t flake or fall off as easily. 

QUICK TIP

Once all the tenderloins are battered and breaded, spray them generously with cooking spray (we use coconut oil cooking spray to keep with the coconut flavoring of this recipe). This promotes crisp, even browning in the oven.

Process shots: coating, dredging, spraying and baking the chicken tenders

Making Coconut Chicken Crispy without Frying

No, you’ll never get chicken tenders as crispy and crunchy by baking instead of deep frying, but we can still get some mighty crunchy chicken! Here are the secrets to crispy chicken without frying:

  • Bake on a wire cooling rack. If you have a wire cooling rack, place it right on top of a sheet pan and bake the chicken on top. This allows more even circulation of heat in the oven, and that ensures crispier chicken all around. When chicken is flat on the pan, it ends up just being crispy on one side. If you don’t have a wire cooling rack, the chicken will still bake up nicely on a sheet pan, as long as you flip it halfway through.
  • Generously spray with cooking spray. The cooking spray not only ensures the chicken doesn’t stick to the pan or wire cooling rack, but it also contributes to the crunchy texture.
  • Bake the panko and coconut. By quickly baking the coconut and panko before breading the chicken in it, we accomplish two things: 1. Toasting the coconut and panko adds more flavor, and 2. We’re making both ingredients even crispier ahead of time. With a coating that is already crunchy before being added onto the chicken, the end result is that much more crunchy!

Air Frying Coconut Chicken

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F. Add the tenders to the fryer basket in one even layer. You may need to do this in batches; don’t overlap chicken.
  2. Cook for 5-8 minutes, flip the tenders, spray with cooking spray on the other side, and cook for another 5-8 minutes or until golden brown and cooked to 160 degrees F. (Carryover heat will take them to 165 degrees F.)

QUICK TIP

There will be variation in cooking in the air fryer based on the particular model and on the actual size of chicken tenders. (Smaller/thinner tenders cook much quicker than thicker/larger tenders.) Keep an eye on them and test with a thermometer to avoid dry chicken. If using very small and thin tenders, cook time may be even shorter than the suggested amounts.

Creating the honey-mustard dipping sauce

Dipping Sauce Tips

The sauce is a must-have for coconut chicken — it has so much flavor and makes the chicken truly unforgettable! I have a few tips to share:

  • Use good mayo. I highly recommend real, full-fat mayonnaise for the best possible dipping sauce. Hellmann’s/Best Foods® is my favorite brand (not sponsored). 
  • For this sauce, we’re using yellow mustard, not Dijon–which won’t taste quite right here. Dijon is for the breading batter, and yellow mustard is for the dipping sauce.
  • Sweeten to taste. I wouldn’t consider this sauce overly sweet, but it does have a touch of sweetness. If you prefer a less sweet sauce, add the honey slowly and to taste.
  • Don’t forget to season. A little pinch of salt and pepper goes a long way in rounding out flavors and balancing ingredients.
  • Add a flavorful honey BBQ sauce. We like Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ® sauce best in this recipe (not sponsored).

Dipping Coconut Chicken in the honey-mustard sauce

More delicious chicken recipes: 

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Coconut Chicken

4.86 from 7 votes
Easy, ultra-crispy, baked Coconut Chicken tenders with a quick five-ingredient honey-mustard dipping sauce.
Print Recipe

Coconut Chicken

4.86 from 7 votes
Easy, ultra-crispy, baked Coconut Chicken tenders with a quick five-ingredient honey-mustard dipping sauce.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Healthy
Keyword Baked Coconut Chicken, coconut chicken
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 501kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $10.93

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 1 pound (16 oz. 485g) chicken tenderloins (~7-9 tenders)
  • 1 cup (245g) full-fat coconut milk, optional -- See Note 1

Breading Mixture

  • 1 cup (71g) sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup (80g) panko breadcrumbs Note 2
  • Coconut oil or olive oil cooking spray

Batter Mixture

  • 2 tablespoons (18g) white, all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons (32g) full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon (17g) Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon EACH: garlic powder, paprika, fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: onion powder, pepper

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon honey BBQ sauce (like Sweet Baby Rays)
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  • OPTIONAL MARINADE: Pat chicken tenders dry with a per towel and trim any fat and then remove tendons (try this easy hack!). Add to a large bag or container and pour 1 cup coconut milk over. Toss with tongs to coat the chicken. Cover container or seal bag and refrigerate for at least 20-30 minutes, up to overnight. When done marinating, discard coconut milk; holding one tender at a time, run your fingers down the tender to remove excess coconut milk. Dab with a paper towel. (It's okay if some coconut milk remains.)
  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Set out a large sheet pan and wire cooling rack.
  • BREADING: Add the coconut flakes to a blender or food processor and process to crumbs. Pour the crumbs on the sheet pan along with the panko. Spread in an even layer, spray with cooking spray, and then add to the preheated oven and bake for 3-4 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Dump the toasted panko and coconut into a shallow bowl and stir to combine. We'll use this sheet pan again to cook the chicken; add the wire cooling rack on top of it and spray it generously with cooking spray.
  • BATTER: Add all of the batter mixture ingredients to a large, shallow bowl. Whisk to combine. Press the chicken tenders, one at a time, into the batter mixture and evenly coat all sides. Repeat to dredge all the tenders in the batter. Tenders should use up all the batter and be well coated with the mixture.
  • BAKE: Next, dredge each tender in the breading. Again, coat them all generously; you should use most of the breading. Place coated chicken tenders on top of the wire cooling rack on the prepared sheet pan. Press any leftover breading on top and then generously spray the tenders with cooking spray on one side. Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and carefully flip the tenders to the other side. Generously spray with cooking spray and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the chicken registers 160 degrees F on a food thermometer. (Smaller tenders should be done at 5, medium at 7 and large at 10 minutes.) Remove from the oven and taste test. Add a light sprinkle of salt on top of the tenders if needed to make the flavors come alive.
  • SAUCE: Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce by whisking together all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. (I add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.) Whisk, taste, and adjust the ingredients to personal preference.
  • SERVE: Serve chicken tenders right out of the oven with lots of sauce on the side for dipping! These don't stay crispy when stored, so I recommend cooking only enough for one meal.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: These tenders are still very tasty without being marinated in coconut milk. If you'd like to forgo the coconut milk marinade, you probably don't want to open an entire can for one recipe, so you can adapt and use 2 tablespoons mayo instead of coconut milk in the breading. Be sure to use full-fat coconut milk; we use Imperial Kitchen® in this recipe. Lite or low-fat coconut milk will be too watery.
Note 2: Panko bread crumbs are similar to regular bread crumbs, but they create a much crunchier result. They can be found near breadcrumbs, flour, or cornmeal in the grocery store.
Note 3: Calories do not include the dipping sauce as the amount you use will vary.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 501kcal | Carbohydrates: 35.3g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 25.1g | Cholesterol: 129.2mg | Sodium: 432.8mg | Fiber: 3.4g | Sugar: 9.5g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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24 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Great recipe, and absolutely fantastic images. Love how warm and inviting the food looks, makes me hungry.

  2. 5 stars
    This was seriously SO good Chelsea. I made it tonight, and I couldn’t get enough of it. And the sauce? JUST like chick-fil-a. I think this might be my new favorite recipe. It will definitely be added to our dinner rotation. I can’t wait to eat the leftovers 🙂 And I’m 100% honest when I say that all of your recipes always turn out so good. I always know I can trust them to be delicious!

    1. Yay!! I am so, so happy to hear that you guys loved this Katie! Thank you so much, that really means SO much to me to hear that!! I hope your sweet Oliver is doing better, he’s been in our prayers!

  3. Delicious all around, Yum!!! I did use boneless breasts cut into strips, just not fond of biting
    Into those little white tendons in the loins….. Had theses for dinner on toasted Hawaiian hamburger buns, smeared with the sauce and crunchy lettuce. Hubby said, keeper!

  4. is it okay if i just spoon that sauce on everything? haha. kidding, kinda. but really —> LOVE IT!

  5. My hubby has an unnatural obsession with chicken tenders! He could eat them every night! Excited to have a new recipe to keep things interesting for me 😉 Thanks!

  6. 4 stars
    Just made this today for lunch for hubby and myself and it was delicious! The only reason i didn’t give it 5 stars is because it took us (together) over an hour to make and I wasn’t expecting that based on the estimated time. This recipe will still be in our rotation because it is seriously so good, but we will reserve it for days when we aren’t short on time.

  7. Ok so my chicken is currently in the oven so I haven’t tried that yet, but I just wanted to send a huge THANK YOU to you. I make honey mustard a lot, and I always say to myself that it’s lacking something, but everyone eats it so that fine. But THIS HONEY MUSTARD..omg the honey BBQ sauce is what makes it. Idk why I never thought of it. Thank you so much!!!

    1. You are so kind! Thank you so much for your comment 🙂 I’m thrilled you enjoyed the sauce!!

  8. Hey there! Trying this for dinner tonight, but realized I forgot coconut milk. Your recipe says optional, but it doesn’t say what else I could use or if I can skip marinating these. Thanks in advance!

  9. We did not have coconut oil so we used vegetable oil. It was all so good. The sauce was perfect and the timing in the bake was exactly correct.

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