Crunchy outside and soft and juicy inside, these easy Pecan-Crusted Chicken Fingers are a perfect addition to your kids’ lunchboxes — or to a summertime picnic, or as a fabulous keto appetizer. Pair them with a delicious keto dip!
Tips for making the Pecan-Crusted Chicken Fingers
This recipe is easy to throw together and the result will be a definite success when you remember a couple of things. First of all, make sure your pecans are crushed finely enough. They don’t have to be as fine as flour, but they should resemble coarse meal. Like this:
Using a food processor is an excellent way to get the perfect consistency. If your crushed pecans are too coarse, they won’t stick to the chicken strips when you coat them. That’s why it’s important to process the pecans until they’re finely-ground—but without making them too fine, as you want them to retain some crunch.
Another tip for success: Keep an eye on the pecans when they are baking in the oven. The pecans can quickly turn too brown. So, your goal is to ensure that the chicken is cooked thoroughly (but not until too dry) and the pecans are golden-brown and no more.
This recipe makes quite a big batch (some 24-30 fingers), so if you’re making these to add to lunchboxes, you can halve the ingredients. Anyway, the fingers taste best on the same day they are made.
But let’s take a look at how to make this easy and delicious dish:
Take your chicken and cut it into 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) wide strips. If the chicken breasts are very thick, you can pound them thinner before cutting.
Take the eggs and place them into a small, shallow bowl. Beat them lightly with a fork.
Take another shallow bowl and add the pecans…
…and Cajun seasoning (or your another seasoning you love; check out my seasoning experiments at the end of this post) to another shallow bowl.
Mix until well combined.
Dip each chicken strip first in the eggs…
…then roll in the pecan mixture…
…and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven…
…for 20-25 minutes, or until the juices run clear.
Let cool until warm, and serve with a delicious keto dip. (This one is my favorite and it’s kid-friendly, too, while this one has some real kick!)
My Pecan-Crusted Chicken Fingers experiments
This recipe has been on my to-do list for a few years, but I finally found the time to test and perfect it. Actually, my original idea was to make pecan-crusted chicken breasts, but then I thought chicken fingers sounded more interesting. Moreover, I wanted to make a really versatile recipe. Pecan-crusted chicken fingers are easier to pack into your — or your kid’s — lunch box or to bring to a picnic. They’re ideal appetizers, too.
I was pondering the ingredients. I needed chicken, naturally, but how much? 1 pound (450 g) sounded like a good amount to start with. I also needed pecans for the crust. At first, I was thinking of using just 1/3 cup (80 ml) crushed pecans, but I was pretty sure that that wouldn’t be enough to cover 1 lb (450 g) chicken strips. So, I decided to take 1 full cup (240 ml) crushed pecans.
Actually, I thought about toasting the pecans in a skillet first. Then I realized this would have just been an unnecessary extra step — the pecans would get nicely toasted in the oven during baking. Plus, I was afraid the pecans would get too dark and burn if I were to toast them first and then bake them.
And I also needed something to make the pecans stick to the chicken. I couldn’t just roll the chicken strips in crushed pecans; they’d fall right off. So I decided to dip the chicken strips in lightly beaten eggs first. That’s the standard way to “bread” chicken, after all!
Now I needed seasonings. Salt was definitely on the menu, but there was still room for another seasoning. I considered my options. The seasoning needed to be something with proper flavor (nothing too bland like parsley or dried basil), but not too spicy, either, because I was planning to serve the chicken fingers to my son. I thought paprika would be a safe option. It doesn’t have too much taste on its own, but it somehow secretly adds up to a nice flavor when combined with other ingredients. In addition to onion powder, paprika is one of the most-used seasonings in my kitchen. Actually, I thought smoked paprika would have been perfect here, but I was sure my son wouldn’t like it, so I ended up using regular paprika in my first experiment. Later, I could test more seasonings.
For my first experiment, I took 1 lb (450 g) chicken, 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1 cup (240 ml) crushed pecans (I had processed the pecans into a coarse meal in my food processor), 1 teaspoon Himalayan salt and 1 teaspoon paprika.
I cut the chicken into strips, which I dipped in the beaten egg and rolled in the seasoned pecan mixture. Soon, I realized that 1 cup (240 ml) of pecans was far too little — I would need at least 1 1/2 cups (350 ml).
I placed the crusted chicken strips on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and baked them in the oven for 22 minutes. My plan was to bake them for 25 minutes, but they looked perfect after 22 minutes — the juices were running clear — and the pecans looked as if they’d turn too brown if I baked them any longer. At first, I was planning to use an oven temperature of 400 °F (200 °C), but then thought the pecans might get too brown while the chicken remained raw inside. 350 °F (175 °C) sounded better, and it turned out to be just the right temperature.
I served this first experiment to my family for dinner, along with an improvised dip made from mayo, sour cream, and garlic bread seasoning. My son liked the chicken fingers a lot, and my husband couldn’t stop eating them! He raved over them, in fact. “You definitely have to publish this recipe!” he said. I was very pleased, but I thought I’d still try out a few different seasonings to find the perfect match. Paprika was okayish, but as I love to research things, I was dying to try out other seasonings as well.
The next day—after buying more chicken and pecans—I conducted some further experiments. I coated the chicken strips with pecans, and this time I sprinkled different seasonings on each pecan-crusted chicken finger. Here’s my experiment:
And here are my ratings (with the familiar scale where * = inedible, and ***** = incredible), describing how well the each seasoning went with the dish, in my opinion:
- Onion powder (very tasty, one of my favorites!) ****½
- Freshly grated orange peel (fruity! But could be tastier) **½
- Thyme (quite tasty, but still a bit bland) ***-
- Smoked paprika (I simply didn’t like it, even though I’d thought it would be a perfect match!) *
- Cajun seasoning (seriously good!) ****+
- BBQ seasoning (somehow a bit weird, but not bad) ***
- Poultry seasoning (not okay with this poultry dish!) **
- Curry powder (very tasty!) ****-
- Cumin (well, okay, but not the best one here) **½
- Chipotle (gave just a fiery kick, no real flavor) **
As you can see, onion powder and Cajun seasoning were (again!) my definite favorites, and curry powder was a good runner-up. It was very difficult to choose the real winner, but finally I chose Cajun seasoning because of its slightly more multifaceted flavor. Still, I’m pretty sure I’ll use onion powder in the future. I can’t even describe how well it enhanced the flavors. It somehow highlighted the meaty taste of chicken and even added an umami taste. No wonder it’s one of my favorite seasonings!
And here’s the recipe:
- 1 lb = 450 g boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 organic free-range eggs
- 1 1/2 cups = 350 ml crushed pecans
- 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt
- 1-2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C).
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut the chicken breasts into 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) thick strips.
- Lightly beat the eggs in a small, shallow bowl.
- Place the pecans, salt, and Cajun seasoning into another shallow bowl. Mix until well combined.
- Dip each chicken strip first in the eggs, then roll in the pecan mixture and place on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the juices run clear.
- Let cool slightly and serve with a nice dip.
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