Gluten Free Chicken Tenders – Breading things, Gluten-Free

Gluten Free Chicken Tenders

Gluten Free Chicken Tenders, Photo by Kate Chan

Have you fallen in love with a recipe that calls for you to “bread” something? And you’re thinking that it can’t be done since you eat Gluten-Free? Au contraire, mes amis! Gluten free breading is easier than you think. It just takes a little bit of thinking outside the “bread box” (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Those delectable chicken tenders? Made by my husband. I can’t take credit. He’s really the amazing, intuitive chef in the house. And while I enjoy cooking/baking much more than he does, to be honest – he’s a natural. Evidence? The chicken tenders above.

I actually hesitated to share this photo with you. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to take this post. I just know the food was delectable! And sometimes breaded things cannot be avoided. They have to be savored.

So what do you use for your breading when you cook/bake? While we always add seasoning to our breading mix, I thought maybe a list of the basic ideas would help. (AND PLEASE! Add your own ideas in the comment section. The more the merrier.) Here are a list of the breading options that we use:

  • gluten free bread – fresh bread, whirled in a food processor
  • gluten free bread – toasted? sometimes (we prefer the non-toasted bread though)
  • gluten free cornbread – whirled in a food processor
  • corn chips
  • potato chips (Thanks for the reminder, Cassandra!)
  • cereal (corn flakes, rice flakes, nutty flax, nutty rice, puffed rice, etc)
  • Gilian’s Gluten Free Bread Crumbs
  • cornstarch
  • potato flour (NOT starch)
  • potato flour + rice flour (1:1 ratio)
  • potato flakes (find a gluten-free instant potato)
  • corn meal
  • cornstarch + corn meal (2 Tablespoons cornstarch to 1 cup corn meal)
  • coconut flour
  • coconut flour + coconut flakes (especially on shrimp!)
  • corn flour + rice flour (1:1)
  • corn flour alone

So there are a few tricks to breading foods that you should know regardless of what you chose for your final breading option.

FIRST: The food processor. Seriously. Whirling your breaading of choice into a food processor (with your seasonings) really helps. It makes for a finer breading which will coat your food better. If you don’t have a food processor, crush the breading of choice as finely as possible with a rolling pin. (Just put your breading option in a baggie and pound with the rolling pin. You can then use the baggie for tossing/shaking for the final breading stage.)

SECOND: Three steps. Breading items (whether you are going to bake them or fry them) requires three steps for the breading to stick. You need:

  • STEP ONE: Toss/coat the item in gluten free flour OR cornstarch OR sweet rice flour. Shake off any excess.
  • STEP TWO: Coat gingerly (as to not knock off them flour from step one) in an egg bath. (Whisk together eggs thoroughly.)
  • STEP THREE: Toss/coat the item in your seasoned breading of choice.

THIRD: Seasoning. At a minimum, you need to give your breading choice some seasoning with salt and pepper. Depending on what you are trying to make you should also consider adding other spices. Here are a few of the spice combinations that we like (all include salt/pepper):

  • paprika, thyme, summer savory
  • oregano, basil, thyme
  • crushed saffron, paprika, rosemary
  • rosemary, thyme
  • sweet bell pepper flakes, rosemary
  • fennel, cumin
  • dill, fennel, cumin
  • lemon pepper, thyme
  • crushed nori, sesame
  • lemon pepper, cumin
  • (What do you like?)


I remember shopping with my nephews through CostCo one day. And while they were completely transfixed by the huge tub of blueberries that we picked up in the uber-freeze cooler, they also made sure that I didn’t forget to pick up Dino-Chicken Nuggets for their house (my house is gluten-free). I’ve pondered the dino-shape and figured it probably did help reluctant eaters eat. After all, I know the entertainment of animal crackers (even GF animal cheesy crackers!) and the beauty of long fingernails thanks to Bugles (pre GF days as Bugles are NOT gluten-free.) Some food really *is* meant to be played with a bit, huh?

To make the animal shaped chicken nuggets, it was easier than I thought. However, I don’t know if I’ll do it ay time soon again. There are no little people around this house craving animal-shaped chicken. YET. If you have little ones at your house craving it – and you have the time – they are easy to make, bread and freeze for later. Just flatten the chicken breast. Cut into animal shapes with metal cookie cutters. Bread (follow the steps list above in Trick #2). Cook (bake or fry). Cool Lay flat on a pan (that fits in your freezer) and cover with foil. Freeze. Once frozen, you can then remove them from a sheet and slide them into a freezer-safe bag or airtight container. Reheat/warm in the oven as needed. A little effort now for a quick meal later.

The rest of us? May I suggest just plain chicken or chicken tenders without all the animal shapes?

Personally, I think they taste even better when I’m not pretending to eat dinosaur or elephants or ducks. (What can I say? I have a limited animal shape/cookie cutter collection. LOL)

Happy eating, all!


  1. Cassandra says:

    Potato chips.

    LOL! Thank you, Cassandra! You have no idea how long I stared at that list thinking… “Dang! I know I’m forgetting something here!” You’re brilliant, girl! – Kate

    • Kathie Barry says:

      I love GF Panko crumbs! They are really crunchy! But they are too plain alone, so you have to
      add your own seasoning!

  2. Cassandra says:

    By the way, Wellshire Farms makes gf dino-shaped chicken nuggets. (I’ve never had them.)

  3. here’s my take on ckn nuggets… we ought to have a gf nugget blog carnival!!!

    Bob’s red mill coarse cornmeal w/ some gf flour (OR fritos!!)… gives it extra crunch…

    Ukranianian Village Seasoning from The Spice House

    bake on top of cooling rack on a pan..keeps both sides crunch. or FRY in the cast iron.. (yumm!!!))

    use chicken thighs!!! much more moist. jmo…

    use a meat tenderizer (see below)

  4. I’ve been thinking about using the new GF Rice Chex for breading and I’ve also used leftover homemade GF biscuits when I ran out of GF bread crumbs.

  5. How exactly were the chicken tenders made in the photo? As they are they look heavenly! I want THAT recipe. : )

  6. Hi Kate,

    what about ground nuts mixed in with the bread. I grind up pecans and then mix them with bread crumbs and corn meal.


  7. Yumm, nut meal is really yummy, I have a pecan coated chicken recipe that is really good. When I first went GF, I just bought a canister of the GF bread crumbs. I knew if I didn’t have some safe ones right there, I would forget mid recipe and do something dumb.

    I’m tagging you for a meme. Rules on my blog.

  8. My happiest accident was when I had to use frozen waffles, Vans, as bread crumbs in a meatloaf. It was great!

  9. I once used gluten-free Cheetos (can’t remember the brand) when I had nothing else in the house, and the kids scarfed ’em down!

  10. bluepandy says:

    I’ve also tried instant mashed potato flakes and got good results!

  11. Hi, Kate,

    Thanks for a great site! One of my favorite GF breadings is simple almond or other nut meals. I use it alone or mixed with corn meal for meat and fish, with fantastic results.

  12. stephen callus says:

    hi do you sell chicken breading please

    • Gosh, Stephen – thanks for the compliments but the breading here is just what we had on hand. Sorry! I’m not a salesperson, just a regular-old-Jane of the Gluten-Free Kitchen Jungle. 🙂 – Kate

  13. Great suggestions! Tonight I tried 50/50 bread crumbs (didn’t know you could use fresh bread!) and potato chips, plus a little salt, and my finicky 3 year old gobbled it up! I’m sure it helped that he knew there were potato chips involved 😉 Will try a version with nuts one day when my son isn’t “helping” with the prep!

    btw – we are egg-free, and using rice milk in step two worked just fine.

    • You can also use “flax-eggs” in step two if you are non-dairy. (1 tsp of ground flax + 2 tsp of hot water = 1 egg. Mix and let sit for 5-10 minutes and they become as slimy as a real egg; great for egg substitute in baking as well)

  14. Sherilyn Gisinger says:

    Wow! Thank you so much for these ideas! My son is in the process of being diagnosed with AS, ODD, and ADD. So we’ve been trying to do the gluten free/ casein free diet and have had some positive results this past month! Very excited and hoping to continue. My 13 month old daughter was diagnosed in January and has allergies to wheat, oats, rice, dairy, and pork and really threw me into research mode as to how to feed her. So it has been nice to serve up meals we can all enjoy together. This past month has been the first we’ve been able to do that. We have all been craving the breaded foods a bit and I was hoping to find a breading recipe. I have to say this blog you have made available is a wonderful gold mine! I plan on searching it and using it with much anticipation! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! You are truly a God send!

  15. Hi Kate, Looks yummy… what do you do for the rest of the recipe? Is it pan fried? Deep fried? Baked? For how long and at what temp? Thanks!!!

  16. Jessnickate says:

    Thank you very much 🙂 We’ve switched to a gluten free meal plan, and this information helped tremendously!

    With great success, I experimented with corn starch and corn meal (that’s what I had on hand). First, I dipped the chicken into the cornstarch (seasoned with our favorite spices), and then into an egg bath, and then into the cornmeal. Finally, one last coat with the seasoned cornstarch. Pan fried in olive oil . . .


    Thanks again for all the time you spent on providing this great information.

  17. we experimented tonight with breaded catfish. with my daughter being allergic to egg, we had to forego the egg bath and substituted almond milk, vanilla flavor, a flour mix, and then finely crushed rice chex. it was great! you always know when something tastes good when there is nothing left to put away:)

  18. Hi there! We are in the process of changing from regular food to GF. I have been frantically searching for a way to bread chicken for my son, who is 5.5 years old and addicted to chicken nuggets. Thank you SO MUCH for the fabulous ideas!

  19. The best chicken nuggets I have made is simple, just cut up chicken breasts, dip in water and then into finely ground almonds. Bake at 350 and voila!

  20. Yummy! I used brown rice flour, an egg bath with a few dashes of tabasco, and potato flakes with a little bit of seasoning. Fantastic! Thanks for these great ideas!

  21. I also like to use quinoa flakes for breading or if it is in something, gluten free oatmeal works like in meatloaf!

  22. I use a combination of cheese doodles and potato chips for my chicken!!

  23. Francis says:

    Hello, Kate! My 2-year old son has been plagued with eczema since birth and after 2 years of exhausting modern medicine options to no avail (2 years of steroid use is not healthy anymore!), we are now turning to naturopathic way of dealing with his eczema. He was diagnosed of having colonized with fungus/candida and allergic to wheat, corn, potato, tomato, eggplant, peppers (vegetable kind), all kinds of nuts and dairy. Egg is ok so at least we can work with something. He’s very finicky and only eats certain kinds of foods but now that he has to go for a candida cleanse for 3 weeks, most of his foods will have to be changed totally or revised as homemade. He LOVES chicken nuggets and so I thought I should start with what I think is easiest to make homemade.
    I’m thinking making it with just rice flour (I wanna stay away from Panko since he doesn’t like his nuggets too crispy) but I have no idea how much of the spices to add (salt, pepper, paprika, rosemary, oregano, thyme). I’m not an intuitive cook and food only tastes good when I follow directions by the book. Please help!

    • I’ve sent an email! 😀

      I’m sorry to hear what your son has been going through. Things get easier as time goes on but it is a rough beginning.

      For spices for the nuggets – I would use granulated garlic, salt, pepper and thyme. (For those who can tolerate dairy, some add parmesan as well.)

      -Please check your email and let me know if I can help more!

  24. Crunched up pork rinds work very well also. I use them for fish fingers and fried chicken.

  25. Cheri Graham says:

    These look delicious! My 8 yr. old son loved having the Tyson chicken nuggets before finding he has a wheat allergy so all this is so new to me. The picture looks perfect can I ask what type of seasoning and flour you used for those and maybe have a thought on which type of seasonings and flours would get me the closest result to a tyson nugget? You also said you pan fried them, do you thinking baking them would be and if so how longand what temp. do you recommend?

    • Hi Chris –

      I used bread crumbs…. garlic, salt, pepper, onion… at least those are my standards. It’s been a while – and I often just wing it with the seasonings. Sorry I’m not much more help than that. And I’ve never had a Tyson chicken nugget…. maybe you could find the seasonings listed on the box? That might give you a start.

      Baking them will be fine – except the the breading will not brown and might be a bit more dry. (Maybe use thigh meat instead to compensate??)

      Thanks for the feedback!

  26. I know this post is old but I use either rice crumbs or parmesan cheese. I add seasoning to both.

  27. use mustard instead of egg or milk ! YUMMY ! Adds lots of flavor.

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