Cauliflower and Cheese with Spicy Breadcrumbs.
Saucy, oven-baked Black Pepper Rub Chicken Fingers with Greek Yogurt Ranch. These chicken tenders are GOOD! Coated in a mix of spicy seasoned crumbs, oven-baked, then tossed in a spicy-hot black pepper sauce. Follow these up with a delicious cooling ranch for dipping. These sauced up chicken fingers are loved by all…kids and adults. And yes, they’re even healthier (they’re baked, not fried), and so much tastier. Serve with oven baked french fries and veggies for an easy dinner that’s different, saucy, spicy, and beyond good!
We’ve officially come upon the time of year when football takes over and game nights are the thing to look forward to (especially during COVID). Yes, it’s football season, which as of today, is set to start on Thursday night. My brothers, my dad, and every other football-loving human I know are all excited. Even I’m excited, though I really don’t actually watch any football. There’s just something about the start of the season that’s exciting and even comforting to me.
To me, it means that fall is getting closer, as are cozier nights in general. And with the game on in the background, it just feels “homey”.
I’m really not sure why, but like clockwork, September hits, and I’m inspired to create recipes that are great for, not only easy family meals, but for fun game-day nights too. Which leads me right on into these chicken fingers.
Without a doubt, these chicken fingers are up there as one of my all-time favorite recipes. Seeing as we now have over twenty-five hundred recipes on HBH, that should really tell you something. These fingers are…so very good!
And loved by all.
Like a lot of my favorite recipes, these chicken fingers have a little backstory.
Growing up in Cleveland, my parents would often have dinner on Friday or Saturday night at one of their favorite restaurants, Around the Corner in Lakewood, Ohio. Sometimes they’d go with friends, sometimes they’d bring us kids. Other times it was just the two of them (a rare occasion). Either way, more times than not, my mom was ordering their boneless buffalo chicken strips with their famous black pepper rub.
When we moved to Colorado I was lucky enough to get the recipe from a family friend who had waitressed at the bar. Apparently the recipe is very “secret”, but thankfully she gave it to me anyway. No measurements, just the ingredients, which was all I really needed.
I then attempted to recreate those chicken fingers. Are they identical to the original recipe? Nope, not even close. But my family is all in agreement that my version is more delicious than any you might order up in a bar…well there might be some debating between mine and ATC’s.
Anyway, they’re delicious, and it’s all about the seasoning, the sauce…and then that extra dip…beyond good.
So what’s the secret to this secret recipe?
Fajita seasoning and a generous amount of black pepper. But really it’s the fajita seasoning. For the seasoning, I mixed up my own blend of spices, which is the easiest to do, but of course, you could also use store-bought. Do what works for you!
To start, mix up some buttermilk with a splash of hot sauce and trimmed chicken tenders. The buttermilk is the “glue” that helps adhere the crumbs onto the chicken tenders.
Next, finely crush corn flakes and Cheez-It crackers (I like to use this healthier version) into crumbs to bread the chicken. The finely crushed corn flakes and cheese crackers are key to getting baked chicken fingers that taste like they’ve been fried.
Tip? Pulse the corn flakes and crackers in the food processor to really break them down into a fine crumb. If you don’t have a food processor, just add everything to the cornflake or cracker bag. Then step on the bag with your feet to finely crush them. Trust me, this works. It’s what my dad used to do when he’d make potato chip chicken when I was a kid. This trick is an oldie but a goodie.
Now, those cheese crackers? Do you really NEED them? No, you could simply use corn flakes. But the crackers add a special crunch and flavor that make them extra special and beyond delicious.
Next, bake the chicken in the oven until it crisps all over. My secret is to gently dab/brush the chicken with olive oil before it bakes. This helps the coating to really crisp up nicely in the oven. You can’t skip this step, it’s crucial.
While baking, make the black pepper sauce. It’s simple…melted butter with hot sauce (I love Franks for this). Then add more fajita seasoning, and a good pinch of black pepper too. This sauce, while it is simple, is also everything – buttery, spicy, smoky, peppery – so much flavor.
In addition to the pepper sauce, I wanted to pair the chicken fingers with something cooling.
Enter the creamy, cooling greek yogurt-based ranch. I love classic ranch just as much anyone else, but honestly, this greek yogurt-based ranch is SO GOOD! It’s a little lighter and little tangier, but oh so creamy. The perfect dip for spicy chicken.
When everything is all done, serve um up with a drizzle of hot pepper sauce and a dip in the ranch. The chicken is saucy, spicy, a smidge buttery, and a little smoky. But the cooling yogurt ranch tames the heat and adds that special touch.
Altogether, it’s just some really really good food.
I love serving these chicken fingers with my herby baked sweet potato fries plus a simple green salad. It’s bar food at home and so much better. Added bonus? It’s so much healthier too! Love that these are oven baked, you’d never guess!
Looking for other fun fall game day dinners? Here are a few ideas:
Spicy Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken Fingers
Oven Fried Cajun Popcorn Chicken with Creamy Honey Mustard
Baked Sweet Potato Parmesan Tater Tots
Lastly, if you make these black pepper rub chicken fingers with greek yogurt ranch be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
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I made this tonight for my husband and I, and it was delicious! I always know if my husband really likes a meal because he will fake cry at the end if he does, and he started tonight after the first bite! 🙂 The sauce was so flavorful with just the right amount of heat, and everything went well with the yogurt ranch dressing. Will definitely make again!
Happy Monday!! LOL I love to hear that this recipe was a winner, thanks for making it:) xTieghan
I’m so excited to try!
Would plain regular yogurt work as well?
Yes, that will work well for you! I hope you love this recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xx
This recipe was awesome! I used chicken breasts and cut them into chunks/strips. My husband and I loved it! Will definitely make again
Happy Wednesday! Thanks a bunch for trying this recipe out, I love to hear that it was a winner! xx
Could you adapt this for the Instant Pot?
Sorry, I’ve not tested this recipe in the instant pot, I’m not sure how well that would work for you! I think your best bet is to follow the recipe as written:) Please let me know if you have any other questions! xx
Fantastic recipe chef ???. Yummy ?. Thank you for your effort ??
Happy Friday!! Thanks a lot for trying this recipe out, I am so glad to hear it was enjoyed! Have a great weekend:)
This was delicious and quick and we especially like the black pepper sauce. I had some of your lime cream yogurt sauce from another meal so we used that and it was a nice offset to the spice.
Awesome!! So glad to hear this recipe was enjoyed, thanks for making it! xT
I must have missed something during the cooking instructions. After baking for 25 minutes, the cornflakes were still not crispy so I baked them longer. The end result still didn’t look like your picture. Did you put the hot sauce on chicken while cooking. I really want to love this recipe! Mine didn’t crisp up at all 🙁 ( I think I’ll try it with convection oven next time)
Update on my last post. I stuck the chicken back in oven on convection mode and cooked 10 minutes longer. They crisped up beautifully and the chicken was drier with a good texture and taste! ( I follow directions to the T, so my chicken was good closer to 30 mins not 15-20. I know ovens and sizes of chicken make a difference) Thanks
Ohh awesome, so glad to hear this! Thanks Arlene!!
Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try, so sorry to hear you are having some issues!! Is your chicken large by chance? They could take longer. Did you drizzle with olive oil? That should really help the crisping process. You can also flip them halfway through next time. I hope this helps! xTieghan