10 Frozen Chicken Tender Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

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Even if we limit ourselves to chicken tenders as opposed to chicken nuggets, popcorn chicken, or chicken patties, we still have some of the best fun food available. Kids love it, adults love it, and it's ridiculously convenient. Serve them with ketchup and French Fries for the easiest and most playful dinner ever. Use them in recipes as a shortcut so that you can focus on cooking your other favorite side dishes. Stick them in a wrap with lettuce, tomato, onion, and ranch for a satisfying work lunch that keeps us — um, we mean you — far away from the Mcdonald's drive-through.

Some of the frozen chicken tenders we tried showed not all tenders are created equal. Have you ever had a chicken tender that was supposedly made with real poultry but tasted like an unidentified food-related object? We sure have. We want to keep you from the same cruel fate. So, we're tasting the good, the bad, and the ugly (because some of the weird-shaped ones floating around in the bags were kind of ugly). Let's get into ranking 10 frozen chicken tender brands from worst to best. 

10. Smart Chicken

Smart Chicken Breast Tenders aren't it. These particular chicken tenders are skimpy, grisly, and taste a lot like a chicken by-product despite the bag's reassurance that there are none, ever. Hey, we're merely going by taste, not making any controversial claims over here. And we certainly might have purchased a bad bag!

Since all of the products we are trying today are frozen, they would struggle to win a battle against fresh, hot tenders out of a restaurant kitchen. But sometimes you can get close or even top them. Now, if we ordered a big plate at a restaurant and received these — honestly, we would have to send them back. Even the kids in tow might turn their noses up and throw a fit. Don't worry, we just said "might" because we generally think that a chicken tender can soothe a hunger-related tantrum. 

But if you're in the freezer section of your usual grocery store, thinking that it would be good to have chicken tenders on hand, we advise you to choose another brand.

9. Koch Foods

Koch Foods Buffalo Style Chicken Strips. The bag says it's an "improved recipe" but maybe that's just the buffalo part. The chicken is only so-so, meaning that we hope it wasn't worse before. 

Buffalo flavoring and chicken are a pretty obvious match, and since Koch is not the fanciest of food purveyors, we decided to give them a leg up. Alas, no amount of buffalo seasoning could catapult these tenders to the quality levels of Just Bare or the universal comfort-food levels of Tyson. Though the packaging reveals that the chicken checks many of the boxes when it comes to peace of mind, the taste just wasn't up to snuff. Both the chicken and the breading were a little dry and tough, and the buffalo seasoning was too mild to make much of a difference. If we were to buy these again because we needed a large amount of tenders for any reason, we would be sure to serve them alongside some snappy sides and maybe a chic bleu cheese dip.

Love the zingy, tangy, spicy flavors of buffalo seasonings on all your chicken dinners? We know plenty of other ways to get your fix: From creamy buffalo chicken dip, to buffalo chicken lasagna, to game-changing baked buffalo wings with blue cheese dip, there's a recipe for you. 

8. Yummy

We have an important public service announcement to make. Do you get a nostalgic vibe from this picture, with its orange and blue coloring? Maybe that font is bringing something to mind from days and dinners past? This is the brand that brought us all the original Dinosaur-Shaped Chicken Nuggets that encouraged a league of children to play with their food. They were so fun and so delicious! Or, now that we really think about it, were they? You might want to check out our ranking of best frozen chicken nugget brands. Maybe we just didn't know any better. 

So, it was essential to add Yummy brand's All Natural Chicken Breast Tenders to this ranking, though chicken tenders and chicken nuggets are very different, of course. They were, indeed, not the yummiest chicken we ate today. The breading never got quite as crunchy, the meat was a little tougher and less natural-tasting, and the overall flavor was pretty bland. We wished that the nostalgia was actually a genuine assessment of quality, but there's no denying that these particular tenders are definitely a far cry from perfect. And obviously, the saddest element of all is the fact that we can't play Jurassic Park on our dinner plates. 

7. Applegate

Scared that gluten-free coating on your tender will taste terrible? Don't be a chicken. Because these tenders by Applegate Naturals taste a lot like the usual gluten-centric ones. In fact, most of us would never have been able to tell the difference (except for two elements that sort of threw us all off). But first, Applegate Naturals sticks to an admirable mission centered on humanely raised animals, sustainable practices, and organic ingredients. We can get behind it. As for the tenders themselves, the chicken tasted great. It's very juicy, tender white meat (which makes sense given their standards), though mild and not providing a huge amount of flavor. 

Our biggest gripe was that the breading had an odd quality of sliding off the tender after we cooked it. Maybe that's due to the gluten-free ingredients, but it did make the tenders a little hard to cut because we were often left with either breading or chicken instead of a bite with both. Our other big gripe was the price, which again, is probably due to the gluten-free label. We paid roughly the same amount of money for this 8-ounce box as we did for Tyson's 25-ounce bag. Sure, Tyson isn't making many of the same claims, but it's still something customers need to consider.

6. Good and Gather

How does one distinguish a good chicken tender from a bad one? There are a number of factors at play: meat, breading, texture, crispiness, flavor, and freshness. When a product like this one seems to earn a middle grade in every category, it's a solid "C" student. But, you know the old saying, "Cs get degrees," so with that logic, we would still eat Target's Good & Gather Crispy Chicken Breast Strips

They are pretty typical of a frozen chicken tender. They didn't taste particularly fresh and juicy. There's not too much breading, but not too little, and it flakes in little dusty bits off the way we expect it to. Since we didn't detect a strong flavor of spices or the poultry itself, but it also isn't too grisly or ghastly, it's a great choice for an everyday product to have stashed away in the freezer for last-minute meals. We think the tenders aren't high-quality enough to keep us from throwing them on salads for some lunchtime protein, nor are they bad enough to prevent us from eating them simply dipped in ketchup or mustard alongside a plate of fries. 

We would much rather eat freshly fried chicken (and the fries, too) from our favorite local joint, but we don't always have the option. Target's frozen chicken tenders pale in comparison, but for any reason you may find yourself thinking, "A chicken tender would be good right now," feel free to use these.

5. Tyson

Tyson Honey Battered Chicken Breast Tenders was a wildcard amongst an array of simpler, milder options. These chicken tenders don't look much at all like chicken tenders. Instead, they look nearly exactly like frozen mozzarella sticks. With their elongated rectangular shape, we half expect molten cheese to pour out. Now, Tyson is a well-known brand, a powerhouse staple for frozen chicken from patties to nuggets. Most of us have eaten a basic Tyson chicken product before (and lived to tell the tale even though it's not the most wholesome meat), so we sought something a little more off the beaten path. 

Obviously what caught our eye was the "honey battered" part because we were vaguely confused by the chicken part, called "tender-shaped chicken breast pattie fritters with rib meat." Huh? That could be anything! And honestly, upon tasting it, we were still confused. There wasn't much chicken, and what meat there was definitely played second fiddle to the click-bait coating. Well, it was to be expected, and we looked to the breading for the spices and pizzazz — which we definitely got. "I can taste the honey!" someone exclaimed. That was the real litmus test for these tenders, because how many times have you had "honey" infused foods that didn't deliver? 

Anyway, that sweetness made the golden breading taste slightly caramelized and gave it layers of sweet, savory, and salty flavor. Though certainly not an everyday frozen chicken meal, for a fun county-fair-food-at-home experience, pick these. 

4. Perdue

Other than Tyson, the only brand of frozen chicken we could have named off the top of our heads before this ranking was Perdue. Organics Crispy Chicken Strips are breaded white meat chicken strips. The crispness, which was a key factor in ranking every single one of these tenders, seems to be top of mind for Perdue. We think the brand reduced the size of the tenders so that there's more of a chance for quick cooking at high heat and plenty of crispiness. 

In the end, we found them pretty much just as crispy as any others with the breading sporting a tad more toasty flavor. But the meat itself, though slender in size, was very tasty. If it's possible to detect the lack of hormones, steroids, antibiotics, and the like, we did (unless it's just the placebo effect of good marketing.) All in all, we find that Perdue's confidence in its foundational products is well-earned. 

If you decide to choose a smaller, slightly lighter tender with some feel-good labels (but without pivoting all the way to a boring grilled chicken strip), here's a fine choice. It would be great on a Cobb salad where it shares the spotlight with a multitude of other toppings but still stands on its own too feet. Perdue also offers a bunch of other frozen chicken-based products, if you like these.

3. Foster Farms

Foster Farms Frozen Crispy Chicken Strips are another great staple chicken tender. The more we ate them, the more we liked them ... but these were the first we tried. The opposite held true as we reached our seemingly millionth chicken tender, but we digress. The point is, these are solid strips that could easily create a full meal if you add some sauces and sides. The tenders are very chicken-forward, prioritizing the meat itself. 

It tasted a lot like the moist white meat you savor in a rotisserie chicken, but if it were breaded and reheated in your oven. Or, as the package suggests right off the bat, your air fryer. The only way to make chicken tenders even easier to enjoy is to switch out the oven for the air fryer and cut the wait time in half. Want to really put your trusty, new-favorite device to the test? Try making air-fryer fried chicken using a recipe optimized to play to its strengths. 

We were a little divided on whether to rank these higher or lower than Perdue. The tenders are both worthy of high ranking, but, ultimately, we went with Foster Farms. Maybe it was the happy, egg-yolk color of the bag, which begs the classic "chicken and the egg" question. Dinner and a philosophical discussion courtesy of chicken tenders? Don't mind if we do. 

2. Caulipower

How would we, the taste testers, stand up to a slight challenge? Caulipower All Natural Chicken Tenders are even more of a reach than gluten-free ones. Whatever the coating is, however, these would probably qualify as "lightly breaded" tenders. There was some debate on our team as to what you're really seeking in a chicken tender — hearty, satisfying poultry meat or slightly indulgent comfort food? For some, reducing the breading (or replacing it with cauliflower) rendered the whole meal less fun. 

But, as we found, if you're going to go light on the breading, you need to at least have good chicken, which Caulipower does. It was one of the most flavorful and nourishing cuts of meat we tried. What the coating lacks in volume, it makes up for in flavor and texture. It's almost more of a dusting than a breading. Maybe we're tapped out on fried chicken flavor after all this tasting, but we welcome this one with open mouths. The rice flour probably also helps shoulder some of the burden, so we can't give cauliflower all the credit. These days, the versatile vegetable gets so much credit that it's almost too good to be true. 

Try this recipe for cauliflower au gratin and stay in the fandom for just a little while longer. It would be a decadent side dish to a meal of wholesome yet delicious chicken tenders. 

1. Just Bare

Remember how we would have sent back the chicken tenders that came in last place, way back at the beginning of this article? Well, we have come to the opposite end of that spectrum with Just Bare's Lightly Breaded Chicken Breast Strips. They come so darn close to freshly fried tenders made by someone other than us, somewhere beyond our kitchen.

In our opinion, the best chicken tenders are fried or taste like it even if they are actually baked. That crust has to snap, crackle, and pop better than a Rice Krispie. Obviously, we did not re-dunk these into a deep fryer, but that didn't stop Just Bare from coming in hot with that crispiness. The flavor, too, was on-point. We tasted a nuanced mix of zesty spices and ever-so-slightly buttery greasiness. Most importantly, the mix doesn't overplay the breading, because it's truly all about the chicken itself. 

Just as we had hoped, there was a distinct difference between the coating and the meat, providing a nice contrast between a golden-brown exterior and a tender, juicy interior. It tasted fresh and flakey and melted in our mouths, but in a good way, not in a "what even is this meat?" kind of way we sometimes get from suspicious chicken products. No, these are not throw-away chicken tenders, these are go-to chicken tenders. The price point is a little steep, but discerning consumers like us don't mind splurging on frozen chicken tenders every so often. Live it up.