Crispy, crunchy coconut crusted chicken make a fun weeknight dinner or fabulous appetizer and they are BAKED not fried!
These Baked Coconut Crusted Chicken Tenders aren’t just coconut chicken but CASHEW coconut chicken! The chicken is crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and delicious all over with sweet and spicy Mango Honey Dip! So be prepared for this Coconut Crusted Chicken recipe to transport you to the tropics, because coconut + cashews + mango dip = paradise! Tip and tricks, and freezer instructions included!
Coconut Crusted Chicken
It’s been getting tropical a lot around here lately…in a food sort of way. The warm summer breezes just make me want to cover everything in mangoes, papayas, coconut and pineapple! So I dreamt up these Coconut Crusted Chicken Tenders so we can taste the tropics any day off the week.
This crunchy, Coconut Crusted Chicken recipe is one of the best I’ve created – I hope you’ll agree! Every bite of chicken is crusted in cashews, coconut and panko spiced with ginger, cayenne (as little or as much as you like) garlic and onion and sweetened with the coconut and brown sugar. These Crispy Coconut Crusted Chickens Tenders are a perfect blend of sweet and spice, crunchy outside, tender inside; and the crunchy, buttery cashews just push it over the edge. Seriously delicious!
AND the recipe is super easy! Simply process the coconut and cashews, combine with panko and spice, dredge the chicken in flour, egg and cashew breading mixture and bake and voila! You are rewarded with addictive crunchy, HEALTHY Coconut Crusted Chicken!
What Chicken is Best for Coconut Crusted Chicken?
I recommend chicken tenderloins for this Coconut Crusted Chicken recipe because as their name implies – they are tender! Their thinner size also creates the perfect proportions of juicy chicken verses crunchy coconut breading. If you use larger chicken you are left with more chicken to breading – which means you are seriously missing out on the coconut cashews that make this recipe amazing.
Lastly, I prefer chicken tenderloins because they are the perfect size to pick up and eat with your hands – and everything is more fun when you eat it with your hands!
Can I use chicken breasts?
Absolutely! If you only have chicken breasts at home, you can still use them to make this Coconut Crusted Chicken. Simply place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic – or easier yet, slip into a freezer size plastic bag, and pound to an even thickness with a meat mallet or side of a can – about 1/2″.
Next, slice the chicken into 1 1/2″ wide strips by about 5″ long. They can be longer if your chicken is longer, just don’t make them much wider so you get maximum coconut breading.
Ingredients for Coconut Crusted Chicken:
In addition to chicken tenders, here’s what you’ll need for Coconut Crusted Chicken recipe:
- coconut: you will want to use sweetened shredded coconut flakes and NOT unsweetened coconut flakes. Sweetened shredded coconut adds sweetness and balances out the rich cashews and robust seasoning.
- cashews: use toasted, unsalted cashews. I like to get my cashews at the bulk bins at Sprouts.
- panko: are a Japanese breadcrumb and can be found next to the traditional/Italian breadcrumbs at your grocery store. Panko breadcrumbs are lighter, larger and dryer than normal breadcrumbs so they absorb less moisture which produces a way crispier breading. Please do NOT substitute with traditional breadcrumbs and expect the same results.
- flour: I use all-purpose flour but I’m sure almond flour, etc. would also work.
- eggs: 2 large eggs will do the trick.
- brown sugar: use light brown sugar. You may substitute granulated sugar if that’s all you have on hand.
- seasonings: garlic powder, onion powder, ginger powder, pepper, cayenne pepper.
How to Make Coconut Crusted Chicken
- Process breading. Add cashews and coconut flakes to food processor and pulse until the cashews are about the size of the panko crumbs. This step is key as the uniform smaller pieces of coconut and cashews adhere better to the chicken and cook more evenly (so the coconut doesn’t burn) to create that tantalizing golden crust.
- Line up breading stations. Place the flour in another shallow dish. Whisk the egg with the lime juice in another shallow dish. Working with one chicken tender at a time, dredge in flour and then dip in egg, and then finally coat in the coconut/cashew/panko mixture, pressing mixture into chicken with your fingers to make sure the coating sticks. I like to use one hand when working with the “wet” ingredients and my other hand when working with the dry breading. This prevents your hands from becoming cakey and the chicken tenders from becoming gummy.
- Prepare to bake. Place chicken tenders on a foil-lined baking sheet. The foil isn’t essential but it makes for super easy cleanup. Place a baking rack on top of the foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. The baking rack allows the hot oven air to circulate underneath the chicken so you get crispy chicken on all sides. Lightly spray chicken with non-stick cooking spray to promote extra crispiness.
- Bake until golden. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees F. Broil until coconut is nicely golden, and panko crisp, but still light in color.
Tips for Coconut Crusted Chicken
- Pound chicken to an even thickness: Make sure your chicken is an even thickens so it baked evenly otherwise you will be left with partially dry/overdone chicken OR underdone chicken.
- Prepare your baking sheet before you start breading the chicken. You’ll want to rest your chicken on the baking rack as your finish breading it – this will help it not get soggy. Don’t forget to spray your pan with nonstick cooking spray!
- Dredge chicken completely and evenly in flour. Flour is the breading foundation – it helps the egg stick, which helps our breading stick, so make sure they’re aren’t any naked spots that need flour.
- Shake off excess egg. After you dip the chicken in the egg, give it a gentle shake and dap off any running egg with a paper towel. Excess egg will make the breading mixture less crunchy.
- Always use two hands when breading chicken. I like to use my left hand to dip my chicken in the flour and eggs and then my right hand to push in the coconut breading. This ensures my right hand stays clean and doesn’t get the breading gummy because gummy breading = not as crispy coconut chicken.
How to make Coconut Crusted Chicken Crispy
Crispy Coconut Crusted Chicken requires six things:
- Use panko and NOT breadcrumbs. Traditional breadcrumbs will not give you the satisfying crunch you’re looking for.
- Bake on a wire rack. If you don’t have wire rack, then lightly grease foil and place in the oven to get nice and hot while you prep the chicken. Take care when adding your coconut crusted chicken because your pan will be HOT!
- Don’t Crowd the Pan. Leave a decent space between your chicken on the baking rack while cooking. Overcrowding the pan will cause steam and make your breading soggy. When nicely spaced, the hot oven air can circulate evenly around the chicken so they can get nice and crispy .
- Spray with cooking spray. Cooking spray mimics deep frying and promotes golden perfection.
- Broil. For extra crispiness, broil until coconut is nicely golden but watch closely so it doesn’t burn!
- Pan fry panko. For the ULTIMATE Crispy Coconut Crusted Chicken, toast the panko before you use it in the breading. This is one extra step but really the only way to make it golden. Melt one tablespoon butter in a small saucepan. Add panko and cook, while stirring until golden.
How to Serve Coconut Crusted Chicken
This Coconut Crusted Chicken is incredibly versatile. It can be served as:
- appetizer: serve it with your favorite dip (I HIGHLY Suggest my Mango Dip) as a stand alone star, or along with cream cheese wontons, coconut shrimp, potstickers, and/or egg rolls.
- salad: I love this chicken SO MUCH that I made the chicken again the very same week just so I could make the chicken the star of this tropical salad with pineapple ginger vinaigrette! It can top this salad or just some simple greens or grains.
- main course: this Coconut Crusted Chicken makes a super fun dinner with just a dip, fruit and veggie. I’ve included lots of side dish options below.
What Dip for Coconut Chicken?
And as we all know, every crispy chicken needs a killer dip so I created this easy Mango Honey which. to me, is a MUST with this Coconut Crusted Chicken.
To make the Honey Mango Dip, simply blend mangos, honey, garlic, green onions, cider vinegar, lime juice and red pepper flakes together until silky, sweet and tangy smooth. If you are intimidated by cutting mangos – don’t be, just check out my How to Cut A Mango Post that teaches everything you could ever want to know about mangos because you don’t want to deprive yourself of this dip – I was seriously eating it with my spoon! It’s sweet, refreshing, velvety smooth and as spicy as you want it to be!
Speaking of the dip, as I was plating my food to photograph, Patrick suggested I garnish my finished Coconut Crusted Chicken plate with drops of dip (we’ve been watching a lot of Master chef lately), so I told him to go for it. So the beautiful, perfect circles of dip beautifying the plate are from Patrick. Just wanted to give credit where credit is due. Yes, he is so cute.
What Sides for Coconut Crusted Chicken?
As far as side dishes, this Coconut Crusted Chicken is fabulous with:
- a big green salad
- Asian Pineapple Salad
- Roasted Broccoli
- Creamy Bacon Pea Pasta Salad
- Strawberry Avocado Broccoli Salad
- Corn Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing
- Cilantro Lime Rice
- Coconut Red Bean Rice
- Key Lime Yogurt Fruit Salad
- Pina Colada Fruit Salad
- Caramelized Grilled Pineapple
Can I make Coconut Crusted Chicken Ahead of Time?
Coconut Crusted Chicken is the crunchiest and therefore the best served warm, so I recommend putting it in the oven right before serving.
If want to prep ahead, then you can make the breading mixture ahead of time and keep in an airtight container. You may also assemble the chicken ahead of time but they will not be as crispy because the breading will absorb some moisture from the chicken/eggs.
How to Store Coconut Crusted Chicken
Coconut Crusted Chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When properly stored, it is good for 3 to 5 days. When storing, don’t stack your chicken for best results as this will make it more soggy. Instead, place a piece of parchment paper in between the layers. Reheated chicken will still be flavorful but not as crunchy as freshly baked.
HOW TO FREEZE Coconut Crusted Chicken
You you can freeze the Coconut Crusted Chicken cooked or uncooked. The method is the same:
- Leave (or place) crusted chicken on the lightly greased baking rack (so they aren’t touching) and place in the freezer for 2-3 hours or until solid.
- Transfer to a large ziploc bag and squeeze out any excess air.
- Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Bake straight from frozen (so they don’t get as soggy) at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until tenders reach 165 degrees F.
Now open wide…
So these Crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders with Mango Honey Dip can welcome you to the tropics!
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Cashew Coconut Crusted Chicken
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Cashew Coconut Chicken Tenders
Mango Honey Dip
- 2 mangos, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 green onions, roughly chopped
- 1/2-2 teaspoons red chili flakes (start with 1/2)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add cashews and coconut flakes to your food processor and process until cashews are about the size of the panko crumbs, scraping the sides of the blender as needed. Add cashews/coconut, panko, chicken tender spices and brown sugar to a shallow dish and mix until evenly distributed.
- Place the flour in another shallow dish. Whisk the egg with the lime juice in another shallow dish. Working with one chicken tender at a time, dredge in flour and then dip in egg, and then finally coat in the coconut/cashew/panko mixture, pressing mixture into chicken with your fingers to make sure the coating sticks.
- Place chicken tenders on a foil-lined baking sheet (for easy clean up!) with a baking rack on top that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Lightly spray chicken with non-stick cooking spray for extra crispiness. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until cooked through (165 degrees F). Broil until coconut is nicely golden, and panko crisp, but still light in color.
- To make the Mango Honey Dip, place all the ingredients in a blender, starting with just 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and process until smooth. Taste and add additional red pepper flakes as desired.
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