I created these Paleo chicken tenders because I have always loved fried food.
When I was little, I remember begging my mom to take me to get chicken nuggets and Happy Meals at McDonalds. Dipping those nuggets in ketchup and honey mustard was one of my favorite things. I still love the salty, savory, juiciness of the chicken, surrounded by the crunchy outer crust.
As I grew older, I knew that eating fried food wasn’t good for me. However, it wasn’t until I went Paleo that I really understood how bad it is.
Why your oil matters
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Restaurants use mostly low-quality industrial seed oils to fry their food. A lot of times, they use the same oil for 8-10 days before they switch it out. This means that not only is your food being fried in oils that cause inflammation, but they are being heated and cooled many times. That can’t be causing anything good in your body!
When people ask me for advice while they are first going paleo, I always tell them to try making their fried food at home.
Cooking at home means you can control everything. You can make the crust or batter gluten-free. The quality of the meat is under your watch. And most importantly, you decide the quality of the oil you use.
Any time you’re heating up oil, it’s important that you use oils and fats that can withstand high heats.
Types of heat-tolerant oils & fats
I really recommend one of the heat-tolerant oil options when cooking with high heat. In this recipe, I used a combination of coconut oil and ghee.
Coconut oil, ghee, high-quality lard, chicken fat, or other animal fats are all excellent options when using a high temperature to cook your food. They don’t go rancid like plant oils, preventing the inflammatory responses that happen in many people who eat those refined seed and plant oils from high-temperature cooking.
The best bang for your buck
As I mentioned above, most restaurants will reuse the same inflammatory seed oils in their fryers for up to ten days.
It actually makes a lot of sense to do this from a cost perspective. Cooking oils cost money, especially the good ones we want to use.
So it just makes sense that the less waste you have, the better.
Luckily, with our high-quality coconut oils, ghee, lard, or other animal fats, rancidity from heat is not a problem. That means we can save all the leftover oil we use to fry this recipe for the next time we need some high-heat power.
And that leftover oil won’t induce inflammation like those nasty restaurant fats.
Can I have ghee if I’m dairy-intolerant?
The fats that I like to use for this recipe are coconut oil and ghee, though any of the other high-quality fats listed above should do you just fine.
But… what about ghee for those who have a dairy intolerance?
Ghee is also called clarified butter. Ghee is simply the pure butter fat, separated from the milk solids that still remain in butter.
Milk solids contain several inflammatory compounds in them, but the most common allergens or reactants are lactose and casein.
Lactose is the one most know about – it’s a sugar molecule that needs a special enzyme in the stomach to break down. This enzyme, called lactase, tends to go away in humans after infancy because the body does not see a need for it anymore after you are weaned off of your mother’s milk.
Casein is a dairy protein that takes longer to break down in the digestive tract than the more commonly-known whey protein.
Casein’s molecular structure is very similar to that of gluten, which is why people with a gluten intolerance are advised to avoid dairy, and vice versa. If the body is intolerant of one, it is likely going to react the same way to the other.
This causes inflammation whether someone is taking lactase or not, and often goes unaddressed until the distinction between a lactose and a casein intolerance is made. It’s sadly not specific enough to just say that “dairy” is the intolerance.
Even though lactose and casein are much lower in butter, the milk solids still prevent dairy-intolerant people from eating it.
But when we remove these milk solids to create ghee, most people with dairy intolerances can still enjoy ghee even when all other forms of dairy bother them.
Full-circle recipe creation
Now that I’m a mom, I want my son to be able to enjoy those simple pleasures I once did… and he has absolutely inherited my love of fried food.
Every time we go out to eat, he wants french fries and chicken tenders. With lots of dipping sauces, obviously.
This easy, healthy, completely Paleo chicken tender recipe makes it possible for me to give him some of those simple childhood pleasures that I remember dearly, without compromising his health. I can make this version of chicken tenders at home, and he doesn’t notice the difference.
Heck, I can sit back and enjoy them with him as a family!
I usually pair these tenders with some duck fat fries and homemade ketchup to top it off for the perfect childhood meal that we can both agree on!
The Recipe: Paleo Chicken Tenders
For a video tutorial of these Paleo chicken tenders, click here.
- 2lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup dijon mustard
- 2 Tbs coconut oil, bacon fat or ghee
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Wash and pat dry chicken.
- Beat eggs with salt and dijon in a shallow bowl and add chicken, coating well.
- Mix almond flour, shredded coconut salt, garlic and cayenne together in a bowl.
- Remove chicken from egg mixture and roll in dry mixture.
5. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add fat when hot – don’t be shy with how much fat you use! Have at least a ¼ inch deep in your pan.
6. Pan fry chicken until fully cooked.
7. If the crust starts to brown and your chicken isn’t fully cooked yet (this will depend on the size of the chicken breast), take it out of the pan and place it in the oven on a baking sheet at 350F for 5-10 minutes covered with foil.
That’s it! Enjoy your crusty, delicious, nutritious fried Paleo chicken!