Honey-Gochujang Fried Chicken Tenders

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Honey-Gochujang Fried Chicken Tenders on a platter

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

One of my favorite kinds of fried chicken is KFC — but not the fast-food stuff with Colonel Sanders. It’s Korean fried chicken, or chicken fried in a light, delicate rice flour batter that stays ultra-crisp even when cooled and is usually tossed with a sauce. Here I’ve turned the dish into more of a snack or game-day nosh by using chicken tenders to make it easier to eat and faster to cook.

How to Make Honey-Gochujang Fried Chicken Tenders

These crispy tenders are coated in a sweet, spicy sauce made with honey and Korean pepper paste. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Salt the chicken. Start by salting chicken tenders, or cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts into strips and use those instead.
  2. Coat the chicken in cornstarch. Coat each chicken tender in a thin layer of cornstarch to help the batter adhere.
  3. Dip in a cornstarch batter. When you’re ready to fry, dip each tender in a cornstarch and water mixture before dropping it into the oil.
  4. Fry until crisp. You don’t need a ton of oil; 3 cups is enough. Each batch of chicken just takes a few minutes. The chicken won’t get as golden-brown as traditional fried chicken, but it will still be plenty crisp.
  5. Toss in sauce. Toss the fried tenders in a honey-gochujang sauce and serve.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Gochujang is a Korean chile paste made with fermented soybeans, glutinous rice, salt, and sometimes sweeteners. It’s sticky and thick, and when mixed with honey, garlic, rice vinegar, water, soy sauce, and some toasted sesame oil, turns into a delicious glaze that coats every nook and craggly part of a fried chicken tender.

I find mild gochujang plenty spicy already, but if you’re a heat-lover, you can opt for a spicier heat level if you want. Be sure to buy gochujang paste, not sauce, as the sauce is thinner and includes added sweeteners.

How to Serve Honey-Gochujang Fried Chicken Tenders

A sprinkling of sesame seeds adds a little bit of toasty crunch to the gochujang chicken tenders, and you can serve them as an appetizer with some cold beer or as a main course with steamed rice and pickled cucumbers or kimchi. They’re even great cold, tucked into a soft bun with some slaw for a spicy, crispy chicken sandwich.

Crispy chicken tenders are coated in a sweet, spicy sauce for the perfect game-day snack.

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/3 cup

    mild gochujang paste (Korean red pepper paste, not sauce)

  • 3 tablespoons

    honey

  • 3 tablespoons

    water

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    soy sauce or tamari

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    toasted sesame oil

For the chicken:

  • 3 cups

    vegetable or canola oil, for deep-frying

  • 1 1/2 cups

    cornstarch, divided

  • 1 cup

    water

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 2 pounds

    chicken tenders (11 to 14)

  • 2 teaspoons

    toasted or untoasted white sesame seeds (optional)

Instructions

Make the sauce:

  1. Mince 2 garlic cloves (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) and place in a large bowl. Add 1/3 cup mild gochujang paste, 3 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari, and 3/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, and whisk until combined.

Make the chicken:

  1. Heat 3 cups vegetable oil in a 10-inch cast-iron or high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until 375ºF. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Fit a wire rack over a second baking sheet. Place 1/2 cup of the cornstarch in a pie plate or wide bowl. Place the remaining 1 cup cornstarch, 1 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk until combined.

  2. Pat 2 pounds chicken tenders dry with paper towels, then season with the remaining 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Working with one chicken tender at a time, dip in the plain cornstarch until evenly coated, shaking off any excess, and place in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

  3. When the oil is ready, rewhisk the cornstarch mixture and fry the chicken in 3 batches (4 to 5 tenders per batch): Working with 1 chicken tender at a time, dip in the cornstarch-water mixture, let the excess drip back into the bowl, and add to the hot oil. Fry, flipping halfway through, until cooked through and light golden brown in spots, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to the wire rack and place the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm while you fry the remaining batches. Stir the cornstarch mixture between each batch.

  4. When all the chicken tenders are fried, add to the bowl of sauce a few at a time and toss until coated in sauce. Transfer to a serving platter (or return to the wire rack) and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds if desired.

Recipe Notes

Chicken breast: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be used in place of the chicken tenders. Cut 2 pounds lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick pieces and proceed as directed.

Make ahead: The sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Let come to room temperature and stir before using.

Storage: The chicken tenders are crispest when just fried, but leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Christine Gallary

Food Editor-at-Large

Christine graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, and she has worked at Cook’s Illustrated and CHOW.com. She lives in San Francisco and loves teaching cooking classes. Follow her latest culinary escapades on Instagram.

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