MealsApril-May 2010

Gluten-Free Coconut Chicken Tenders

Everyone's favorite chicken tenders - gluten free!

Most recipes for pan-fried or oven-fried chicken call for dipping chicken pieces in beaten egg and then in flour before frying. In this egg-free rendition, coconut flour and cornstarch batter stand in for the eggs and flaked coconut stands in for the flour. Serve these crusty gluten-free tenders with a green salad and pan-fried plantains, baked or roasted sweet potatoes, a creamy vegetable soup, or a fresh fruit salad.



1¼–1½ pounds chicken tenders*, about 1-inch thick
1½ cups shredded, unsweetened, flaked coconut
⅓ cup sifted coconut flour
⅓ cup cornstarch
1½ teasoons salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme or dried, rubbed sage or poultry seasoning, crumbled
1 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cool water
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened lite coconut milk
6 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil, ghee, palm shortening or olive oil or a combination of two of these


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange chicken pieces on a plate.

2. Spread coconut in a pie plate or cake pan and set aside.

3. Measure flour and cornstarch by spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling the top with a knife. Place flour, cornstarch, salt, pepper, thyme or sage, and garlic powder in a bowl and whisk to combine. Mix in water and coconut milk with a fork to make a smooth pancake-like batter.

4. One at a time, dip each chicken tender in the batter and arrange on a tray. Use all the batter.

5. One at a time, turn chicken tenders in coconut to coat, pressing coconut on with your fingers. Place pieces on a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.

6. Heat 2 tablespoons fat or oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When hot, add ⅓ of the chicken. Do not crowd the pan. Cook until lightly golden on each side, about 1 to 2 minutes maximum, and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Remove dark bits of browned batter from the pan before adding another 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, add and cook ½ of the remaining chicken. Repeat with remaining chicken and fat or oil. (Don't let the pan get too hot. The chicken should turn golden on both sides, not black.)

7. Transfer the tray of lightly cooked chicken to preheated oven and bake about 10 to 15 minutes, until chicken is the same color inside and out and registers an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

8. Serve warm. Cover and refrigerate leftovers and use within 3 days. Reheat briefly in a toaster oven at 300 degrees.

Each serving contains 360 calories, 26g total fat, 22g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 54mg cholesterol, 651mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 23g protein.

*TIP No chicken tenders? Make your own by cutting 1½ pounds boneless chicken breast halves into long strips, about 1-inch thick.

Chef Rachel Albert-Matesz is author of The Ice Dream Cookbook.

Comments (7)

Lots of great questions about this recipe. I hope these answers will help.

(1) corn, arrowroot, potato and tapioca starches are all interchangeable in this recipe so feel free to use the one which is tolerated in your specific diet.

(2) Coconut Chicken is sauteed in a light coating of oil so, technically it is not fried. Nevertheless, you can spray both sides of the coated tenders with vegetable oil spray and bake these in a 400 or 425 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. Bake only until they are no longer pink inside. That will prevent them from drying out.

(3) Incorporating other gluten free flours in this recipe and in other recipes doe improve the nutritional profile as Andrea pointed out.

Hope this helps to answer your questions.

Happy Baking!
Beth Hillson
Food Editor, Gluten Free & More

Posted by: | October 14, 2015 1:10 PM    Report this comment

Can I use arrowroot instead of cornstarch (allergic to all corn products)

Posted by: Lougagne47 | April 29, 2015 11:43 AM    Report this comment

Looking forward to trying this recipe. Am having trouble finding recipes for food I really have enjoyed in the past but cannot have now as gluten free.

Posted by: Unknown | August 4, 2013 4:03 PM    Report this comment

Can you broil each side after spraying with oil instead of frying? I try not to fry anything. I love coconut shrimp so I'm sure I'll love coconut chicken.

Posted by: Bryna B | August 4, 2013 1:24 PM    Report this comment

Potato starch is less expensive and substitutes well for any of the starches in recipes. My child is also allergic to gluten and corn, plus rice and yeast. Its a challenge finding the right substitutions, but I've also found that using the different flours (as opposed to mainly rice and corn) gives a better tasting as well as nutritionally better food!

Posted by: Andrea | April 19, 2013 10:39 AM    Report this comment

Either would be fine, but I'd vote for arrowroot. - Moderator

Posted by: LW Moderator | April 18, 2013 2:09 PM    Report this comment

My daughter can't do corn either. What can I substitute for the cornstarch? Arrowroot powder? Tapioca starch?

Posted by: Unknown | April 18, 2013 1:33 PM    Report this comment

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