Chicken fingers are one of those childhood comfort foods you’ll never grow out of. Long gone are days by the swimming pool snack bar where my 11 year old friends and I would chow down on extra crispy chicken fingers with french fries followed by a thrilling game of sharks and minnows. (Forever my favorite pool game.) After we’d run around and eat Flintstones push-up pops. Remember those? Do they still exist? Also: I’m seriously craving summer. And now, popsicles.
Life was good! Life’s still good because I have a billion and a half glorious chlorine-soaked memories from my swim club days. What’s more is that I still crave chicken fingers, but don’t need to visit my old stomping grounds to enjoy finger food that’s just as tasty, hot, comforting, and crispy. Some may think chicken fingers are just for kids. I am not one of them. And I know you aren’t either!
What I did today is spruce up strips of chicken with extra crunch, extra flavor, and baked them in the oven instead of frying since we’re no longer 11 year old calorie burning machines. It’s nearly impossible to replicate crunchy chicken fingers fresh out of the fryer, but these baked buffalo fingers come remarkably close.
And the secret’s in the coating.
There’s 3 important steps: coat them, bake them, then cover with buffalo sauce (more on that soon). Between massively crunchy pretzels and corn flakes– I’d say my favorite crunchy chicken coating is corn flakes cereal. If you’ve tried my popcorn chicken, you’re aware of corn flakes’ crunchy powers. I was going to leave the corn flake crumbs plain, but added a little extra flavor pizazz like I did with my honey bbq popcorn chicken. It really makes a difference! I blended it with smoked paprika, pepper, salt, and garlic powder. “Plain” is not in my chicken finger language.
Before baking, the chicken fingers need to be coated in flour, egg/milk mixture, then corn flakes. There’s a rhyme & reason for all! Flour makes the egg stick, eggs make the corn flakes stick. Tip: This coating process can get a little messy, so what I usually do is have 1 hand for the wet (eggs) and 1 hand for the dry (flour and corn flakes). Still a little messy, but it helps!
After baking comes the buffalo sauce. My favorite beyond favorite BBQ sauce, Sweet Baby Ray’s, makes a buffalo wing sauce as well. Did you know that? I’ve been known to buy their original BBQ sauce in shockingly large bulk size, but it was only recently that I discovered their wing sauce. In its tangy ‘n’ hot glory. SBR’s was kind enough to send me boxes of both, so I did what any condiment
loving obsessed person would do– I made bbq meatballs and today’s buffalo fingers ’til the cows came home. Or something like that. But in all seriousness, everyone has a favorite wing sauce brand they love and I can honestly say that Sweet Baby Ray’s has just the right amount of flavor, richness, and heat. I know you’ll love it.
Another tip: Make sure you coat the chicken fingers while they’re still warm so the sauce soaks in completely. If you don’t like super saucy chicken fingers, go light on the sauce. Or, if you’re like me, heavy-handed all the way.
And now for dipping… because there HAS to be dipping when we’re talkin’ chicken fingers… serve the crispy buffalo chicken fingers with a really simple blue cheese dipping sauce. I know not everyone is a huge fan of blue cheese, so your favorite ranch dressing works just as well. The blue cheese sauce though: blue cheese, mayo, sour cream, milk, and a little Worcestershire sauce. There’s a reason the two are always paired together: the creamy coolness of blue cheese hits the spot when paired with the spicy kick of buffalo.
The coated chicken fingers are the perfect balance of crunchy, tender, spicy, and saucy, rendering them absolutely irresistible. Undoubtedly the best chicken fingers I’ve ever made. Magically close to those poolside fried little numbers!
Retro popsicles for dessert not mandatory, but strongly encouraged.
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Crispy Baked Buffalo Chicken Fingers
- 1 and 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts or tenders
- 5 cups (140g) corn flakes cereal
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup (60ml) milk
- 1 cup Sweet Baby Ray's buffalo wing sauce (or more, depending on preference!)
- optional for serving: celery sticks and blue cheese sauce (recipe below)
Creamy Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce
- 1/2 cup (104g) mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream
- 2 teaspoons milk
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2/3 cup (75g) blue cheese crumbles
- If using chicken breasts, pound down and cut into strips.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
- Place the corn flakes, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika into a food processor (you can do this in stages if the processor isn't large enough). Pulse 4-5 times until the cereal is broken down. Not completely crushed; some larger pieces can remain. Pour into a large bowl. Place the flour into a separate bowl. Then in a third bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together.
- Coat each chicken strip in flour, shaking off any excess. Then, dip in egg mixture and let any excess drip off. Then generously roll in the corn flakes, shaking off any excess. Place the chicken strips on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Turn each piece over and continue baking until the outside is crisp and the centers are cooked through, about more 10 minutes. Baking times may vary, just make sure the chicken is cooked through by cutting into a thick piece. If you like them browner, bake a couple minutes longer. Careful, you don't want to dry out the chicken inside.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet (I usually make the blue cheese sauce during this time), then carefully place the chicken fingers into a large bowl. Pour the buffalo sauce on top and gently stir to coat. Taste and add more sauce if desired. Serve warm with blue cheese dipping sauce.
- Blue cheese dipping sauce: Stir sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and serve.
- Leftover chicken fingers keep well in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat in the microwave or for 10-12 minutes in a 350°F (177°C) oven.
Make ahead tip: Prepare the chicken through step 4. Refrigerate for up to 1 day before continuing with step 5. You can also freeze the baked chicken fingers before tossing in the buffalo sauce. Bake frozen chicken fingers in a 350°F (177°C) oven for 20 minutes or until warmed through, then coat in sauce.
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For the ultimate (and very orange) dinner, serve with baked sweet potato fries.
I’m working with Sweet Baby Ray’s to bring you today’s recipe. Thank you for helping me work with brands I love!