Cheesy Taco Chicken Tenders

Crunchy, baked chicken tenders coated in taco-spiced cheddar panko crumbs with a homemade ranch dressing for dipping.

Buttermilk comes into play twice here, once for the dressing and again for the marinade. Marinating the tenders in buttermilk for a few hours makes them fork tender and juicy.

Do you hate buying buttermilk only to have it go to waste? Here’s the solution! Powdered buttermilk. Look for it in your market’s baking aisle. Cup for cup it’s cheaper than liquid buttermilk and is super convenient. I always have it on hand for baking, making dressings and working magic on chicken.

Even though the chicken tenders aren’t fried they’re plenty crunchy! If you wanted to you could deep fry them. But I wouldn’t.

Why mess with a good thing?

Cheesy Taco Chicken Tenders

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Cheesy Taco Chicken Tenders

Crunchy, baked chicken tenders coated in taco-spiced cheddar panko crumbs with a homemade ranch dressing for dipping.


2 cups buttermilk
1 + 3/4 pounds chicken tenders
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumn
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (or sweet)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cup panko crumbs
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
ranch dressing


  1. A few hours before cooking marinate the chicken tenders in buttermilk, cover and refrigerate. Make the dressing too and refrigerate.
  2. When ready to cook set up a dredging station.
  3. In a small bowl mix chile powder, cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few generous cracks of black pepper.
  4. In a wide, shallow dish with short sides mix the flour with half of the spice mixture.
  5. In a seperate, wide shallow dish with short sides mix the cheese with the panko crumbs and half of the spice mixture.
  6. In a bowl whisk the eggs and milk together. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  8. Remove chicken from buttermilk; allow excess to drain off.
  9. Use tongs to coat chicken with flour, then egg then cheesy panko crumbs - patting them on if needed. Place on baking sheet.
  10. Repeat until all the chicken is coated.
  11. Bake until chicken is golden brown and cooked through (internal temperature of 165 - 174 F.) Serve with buttermilk ranch dressing for dipping.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: about 2 cups

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing


1/3 cup mayonnaise (regular or canola)
2/3 cup sour cream (regular or light)
3/4 cup buttermilk, plus more if needed
1/2 – 1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 teaspoon dried dill or 2 teaspoons fresh
sea or kosher salt and fresh pepper


  1. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the mayo and sour cream, slowly whisk in buttermilk until you reach a consistency you like, adding more than specified if needed.
  2. Whisk in garlic, vinegar, parsley, chives and dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. From here you can tweak it to your own individual taste by adding more sour cream, mayo, vinegar or herbs.

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  1. Norma says

    They look wonderful…..

    I have tried leaving comments on a few of your posts and I get a message that its not working…

  2. Chris says

    Chicken marinated in buttermilk is always a good thing! I should make these for my son, he would go nuts over them.

  3. Angie@Angie's Recipes says

    I have never heard or seen powdered buttermilk here in Germany…now I am totally intrigued how it tastes like….exactly like liquid buttermilk?
    These chicken tenders look so golden brown and crisp. I would finish the whole batch in no time!

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