Paleo Buffalo Chicken Tenders

If there were a trend or theme of the past two months of my recipes it seems to be chicken.  I’m not worried that I’m in a rut.  There are not only a million ways to prepare and flavor chicken, but it is also rewarding to create healthier remakes to popular restaurant dishes.  Recipes like my Paleo Buffalo Chicken Meatballs and these Paleo Buffalo Chicken Tenders are not only easy, but delicious.  They also taste nothing alike.  The inspiration for these chicken tenders came from a recipe in The Washington Post Food section.  It was a recipe that was intended to be a healthier version of both chicken tenders and buffalo style wings.

I took the basic idea of a breaded and baked chicken breast tender, and made it Paleo.  The original recipe called for soaking the tenders in buttermilk.  I decided to use a technique that my Mom had told me about creating your own buttermilk by adding lemon juice to milk, and applied it to coconut milk.

In order to get the tang of buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice for every cup of coconut milk, you must use full-fat coconut milk.  If you use lite or So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk, it will separate and create an unpleasant look and texture.  A can of full-fat unsweetened coconut milk works perfectly!  I would also splurge for this recipe with either Thai Kitchen’s Unsweetened Coconut Milk or another quality brand.  Why?  I have found that with some of the cheaper brands, there is a lot of separation between the solid coconut and the liquid.  You don’t want to have to spend a lot of time trying to whisk out coconut lumps – this recipe is meant to be quick and easy!

The base/marinade for the chicken is super easy, flavorful, and makes the chicken incredibly moist.  Even though it has a 1/4 cup of hot sauce, if you use Frank’s Red Hot like I did, it will not be very spicy.  You could substitute a spicier hot sauce if you’d like of course!  Also, by using a little bit of Italian seasoning in the almond meal/flour and unsweetened coconut breading, it helps to recreate the combination of buffalo wings with ranch or blue cheese.  The beauty about the marinade/breading of this recipe is that you can change it to meet your taste!  If you want to add a little garam masala to the almond meal/flour and coconut instead, it will create a Indian-style tender.  The possibilities are endless!

Why unsweetened coconut flakes in the breading?  The original recipe called for seasoned breadcrumbs and Panko breadcrumbs, so I figured the unsweetened coconut flakes would provide the crunch and texture that the Panko would provide.  Trust me – they don’t add sweetness!   By toasting them for a few minutes in your oven or toaster oven, they will create more depth of flavor and crunch to the tenders.  The chicken doesn’t bake for very long, so toasting beforehand cuts down on extra cooking time and creates a golden brown color on the tenders.

I have used a similar method of baking in the past by placing a cooling rack inside of a baking pan.  This method helps more heat circulate underneath, to create more of an even browning on both sides, without adding to cooking time.  My Mom gave me a great idea to enhance this method.  I had originally placed parchment paper on the rack to prevent the breading from falling through or sticking.  My Mom suggested poking holes in the parchment paper to allow some juice to fall through and help more heat come through – brilliant!  It worked extremely well!  Now you know where I get a lot of my cooking prowess from…

I served these with my Paleo Mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha chili sauce for a spicy mayo, my Paleo Ranch Dressing, my Easy Thai Peanut Sauce as well as on top of a salad.  However you choose to serve them, they are a super easy and tasty snack or meal at anytime of day.


  • 1.5-2lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
  • 1(14.5 oz) can full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 3/4 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1/2 tsp Italian Herb Seasoning (I used McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder)


  • 1. In a medium or large bowl, add coconut milk and whisk out any lumps
  • 2. Add lemon juice, garlic, hot sauce, and whisk until evenly distributed
  • 3. Either place chicken in bowl and cover, or pour marinade in a large ziplock bag and add chicken
  • 4. Make sure bowl is covered/bag is tightly sealed, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to a day
  • 5. Remove chicken from refrigerator to let it get closer to room temperature
  • 6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  • 7. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, place a cooling rack inside, then cover the cooling rack with parchment paper
  • 8. With a knife, gently poke holes in the parchment paper (about a dozen)
  • 9. Pour chicken into a colander to drain chicken, but do not pat it dry
  • 10. Place coconut on a baking pan and toast it in the preheated oven for 3-5 minutes, until it starts to become a caramel color
  • 11. Remove from oven and let cool for few minutes
  • 12. In a shallow bowl, combine coconut, almond meal/flour and Italian Herb Seasoning
  • 13. Using tongs or your hands, dip each chicken piece in the “breading” making sure it is coated on both sides
  • 14. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet
  • 15. Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully turn chicken over
  • 16. Bake for another 10 minutes, then let cool for a few minutes before serving
  • 17. Enjoy!