Jazz up the K-12 Student Menu With Chicken Tender Recipes

Fun and innovative recipes built around ever-popular chicken tenders are easy to create and a delicious way to add global flavors to the school menu.

Chicken tenders are the most valuable players in the school foodservice lineup, and it’s within your capability to make this poultry favorite even more popular.

How? Call on innovative K-12 recipes. Chicken tenders in tacos, on pizza, in a hot dog bun … you get the idea.

“Use them as the protein in a taco or make them the crispy part of an Asian-inspired entree,” said Matt Dyksterhouse, National Account Manager for Education at Gordon Food Service. “It’s pretty simple to use the same chicken tenders in different ways on your menu.”

Once you consider the multi-use potential, your students will line up during lunch period to enjoy the creative ways you serve the tenders. Serving the lightly breaded chicken tenders they love is a great way to spark student lunch participation numbers, which directly affects the bottom line.

Winner, Winner Chicken Tender Dinner

Since you know the chicken tenders already on the menu meet federal school lunch requirements, you can be confident they will comply when properly proportioned in other recipes, Dyksterhouse noted. 

That kind of versatility saves labor, time, and stress – vital in an operation where a hectic day is the norm. Lightly breaded Tyson chicken tenders and chicken popcorn nuggets minimize prep work, and cross-utilization capabilities simplify the ordering process and freezer storage needs.

“When you start with a familiar product, it’s a comfortable leap to use it in other recipes because you know how it performs,” Dyksterhouse said. “And it’s a bonus to know it fits allocated dollars in your budget.”

And, lest you forget, students crave chicken tenders. Gordon Food Service Culinary Specialist Ed Werner takes it a step further, adding global flavors that interest younger generations.

“Overall, we are seeing a generational shift where younger adults are more willing to try new food and flavors,” he said. “We will always have picky eaters, but kids are starting to open the door to new possibilities.

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Chicken Tenders Show Their Versatility

Using readily available chicken tender products, the chef put together five new recipes based on the speed of execution and using flavors such as sweet chili sauce, basil pesto sauce, and more. One or more of these ideas could be an ideal menu inclusion:

Crispy Chicken Tacos

Create a chicken tender experience students will talk about by placing the tenders in a tortilla shell and topping them with cilantro coleslaw and chipotle crema. “Students are being exposed to new flavors on social media and at restaurants, so why not bring it into schools? Tacos need no special introduction,” Werner said.

Chick-ago Dog

This playful take on the Chicago-style hot dog substitutes chicken tenders for the frankfurter. It’s topped with pckle pepper relish, tomatoes, and a honey mustard sauce. “This is a portable meal, good for students who are always on the go,” Werner said.

Parm Chicken Melt

Step aside, traditional patty melts. Let chicken tenders supercharge this familiar sandwich. Chicken tenders, a dollop of marinara, some shredded mozzarella, spinach leaves, and Texas toast make for another portable menu option.

Popcorn Chicken Pesto Flatbread

The only school food item more popular than chicken tenders is pizza. So why not combine the two in a way that feels gourmet? Popcorn chicken nuggets sit like tiny meatballs on a baked flatbread raft with a pesto base, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella. It’s a chicken-forward alternative to thin-crust pizza.

Sweet Chili Popcorn Chicken

Popcorn chicken pieces take on a sweet chili glaze and are served on a bed of rice. Green onions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds add a touch of Thai flavor to the menu.

Strike While Chicken Tenders are Hot

That drive-through lane that bends around the local chicken restaurant is telling you something. Chicken is having a moment.

That’s good for you. Chances are, chicken tenders already are part of your school menu. Students of all ages choose them. So do adults. They feel like a guilty pleasure without the guilt. 

Making the school dining room as enticing as the local chicken place is up to you. Serve chicken tenders with a little dipping sauce to add a snack-able feel to the meal. Bring a whole new look and feel to the menu with recipes that treat chicken tenders as an ingredient.

Chicken tenders are a popular comfort food, and it’s comforting to know you can enhance the school menu without adding complex steps in the kitchen. 

Innovative, fun, and flavorful recipes don’t have to be difficult when you build around an ingredient that’s already a fan favorite. Ask your Gordon Food Service Sales Representative about multi-use chicken tenders to learn ways they can transform your menu.

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