Is that a child’s plate you see above?  No, it was mine.  But this meal was made with my little boy in mind.  You see, we have reached the difficult stage of toddler eating behavior.  (Well, truth be told, we reached it quite some time ago.)  I have spent way too many hours stressing about and over-analyzing his behaviors, all to come to the conclusion that he is a normal toddler and this is just part of it.  We have learned that he is not actually picky but the food battles we encounter with him are about control.  It’s even more obvious when we see him eat anything under the sun if my dad is the one feeding it to him.  We have all sorts of strategies to get through our meal times with him.  While we always make him try a few bites of what we are eating, we don’t want meals to become a negative experience due to force feeding attempts.

Even though my little man has shown quite varied tastes in general, one typical toddler thing about him is his love of chicken nuggets and fries.  Since I’m not about to pull a bag of fries or nuggets out of my freezer, this meal is my alternative.  It is one of a handful of meals that I can make and know with certainty that all three of us will be eating it without complaint or drama.  That kind of peace is so valuable, it makes me want to put this on the menu every week.  The baked oven fries seen above are an ideal compliment to the chicken strips, not because of taste but also because they bake at the exact same temperature on the opposite oven rack.  It’s like these two things were meant to be made together!


2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. canola oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 large egg whites
1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or ¼ tsp. dried
Cooking spray
1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch wide strips


  • 01

    Preheat the oven to 475˚ F.  In a large skillet, toss the panko with the oil.  Toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Transfer the toasted crumbs to a shallow dish or pie plate.

  • 02

    In a second shallow dish, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper.  In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites, water, mustard and thyme.

  • 03

    Spray a wire rack lightly with cooking spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet.  Working in batches, dredge a few pieces of the chicken in the flour, then the egg whites, and finally the breadcrumbs to coat, shaking off the excess between each step.  Lay the coated pieces on the prepared wire rack and repeat with the remaining chicken.

  • 04

    Spray the tops of the chicken pieces lightly with the cooking spray.  Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 10-12 minutes.  Serve warm.

  • I love baked chicken fingers/nuggets! So I can’t wait to try this version. :)
    They serve chicken nuggets every Tuesday at my school. Even though it’s the frozen variety, they always smells so good! Thus, I have craving for them about once a week! :)

  • I can relate with the eating behaviors. My two year old will love this meal ( and so will I).

  • BKing

    This sounds great. What kind of mustard did you use when mixed with the egg whites, water and thyme? How much? Thanks!

  • Yummy looking!



  • These look awesome! Great recipe.

  • I love using panko and baking the chicken. I do this and usually brush the tenders with buffalo sauce for an added kick!

  • My older child is growing out of the extreme picky stage, but my little one is WRETCHED. I’ll be trying these on her, since anything in nugget-like form usually passes muster.

  • Annie

    Sorry, that was a typo. It’s been fixed.

  • These look great and so much more healthy than the frozen kind or fast food! Great idea with your toddler too, keeping eating a normal experience and not using rewards or punishments with food!

  • Andrea

    OMGH, this is PERFECT! I am pregnant also, and have been craving chicken nuggets!! Thanks!! :)

  • Your chicken fingers looks SO crispy and crunchy!! Love it!

  • Sarah K

    These look fantastic! I can completely relate as well… after searching the frozen ‘chicken nugget’ aisle for something acceptable, I resorted to making my own in a large quantity and freezing them. I just can’t bear to give my little man something I wouldn’t think about eating myself! I’ll definitely add a batch of these for variety. Thanks again for a wonderful recipe!

  • Anne Marie

    I make something similar for my extremely picky daughter (she’s 12 years old and still ridiculous). After reading the ingredients on the boxes of frozen chicken nuggets, there’s no way I could ever buy them. I like your recipe better than mine. I never would have thought of toasting the panko before dredging the chicken with it. What a great idea!

  • Paul

    Hands down, our fave “go to” meal around here is a sunny Chicken Pasta salad. Especially when Daddy is cooking, as it’s my personal fave. Served warm, it’s great on a gloomy winter day. Served cold, it’s the perfect summer salad. And, since the kids eat it every time it hits the table, it sees a LOT of service at our house. Not every week, but at least every month during the winter. Summer, maybe every other week. Now, if the cookbook is as great as you make it sound, we might find a few other recipies to add to the rotation when we win! (Nothing like positive thinking!)

  • Your trick about toasting the panko before baking the chicken in it is ingenious…. it seems like I can never get anything breaded to come out crispy when I bake it! I’ll definitely have to try this. :)

  • Thanks for posting this recipe. I use to buy chicken nuggets from Trader Joe’s for my two little ones, but after recently finding a rather large bone in one nugget (not very kid friendly), I’ve been on the look out for something I could make myself. I’ll be giving this recipe a try!

  • Sylvia

    I have been down this path!!! I’ve been making a baked nugget from a recipe found on a bisquick box and the boys love it. This will be awesome for variety! BTW – I finally tried some advice from our pediatrician (his blog: and it seems to help. Not “pre-filling” the plates has meant that my 4 yr old is actually more willing to try things. I guess it is the control thing, but it surprised me.

  • You’re such a good mom to avoid going the “frozen food” route. When I have kids one day, I imagine I’ll do the same thing. I bet Andrew absolutely loves these yummy looking chicken fingers, and I bet they’re training his little palate to be more sophisticated than other kids’! Thanks for sharing this recipe, Annie. These look delicious for kids and adults alike!

  • Heather W.

    I can’t get my little man to eat meat. He is the only kid I know that wouldn’t even eat chicken nuggets from McDonald’s. I’ll have to try these and see if they work. He is a huge bread eater though. I’ve made your Italian Bread and he eats it up like there’s no tomorrow!

  • Annie

    Very interesting perspective, thanks for sharing that!

  • Wow, neat. I just had the same post as you did for the day :-) although my method was different. I love this recipe for the family, especially for the kids!!

  • Looks so yummy! We’d love for you to share your recipe at!

  • Sometimes even I crave chicken fingers. This recipe looks perfect!

  • Sounds yummy! We have a rule in our house that my 3 year old has to take a “No Thank You Bite” of new meals – at least one bite of a new dish before she can say “no thank you.” Otherwise, she’d tell me she doesn’t like it before even trying it! This way, she feels like she has the control/choice/power, and I feel like I’m getting her to at least try new things. I want to be respectful that everyone has different tastes and palates, but she also has to be respectful that I’m not a short order cook :) Good luck!

  • Brenna

    These look great Annie! I can’t wait to try them and this makes me want that cookbook even more!!

  • We have a really simple way of avoiding that problem in our house — if our boys balk at what’s in front of them, they simply don’t eat until the next meal. And usually, we’ll all sit down to a bowl of ice-cream while the complaining child sits and watches! Sound cruel? Maybe. But all I know is that it only took once and my five-year-old twins eat whatever is in front of them! Problem solved!

  • Annie

    That is my plan eventually but with a two and a half year old, he would simply never eat.

  • Thanks for another great recipe. We do a similar version, but I like your suggestion to toast the panko crumbs. As a side note, for those interested in feeding young children without the battles, look into Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility in feeding. Her books are very helpful, and there are various health care providers around the country who subscribe to the philosophy and work with families. The focus shifts to the how rather than the what of feeding, and sets the child up for a healthy relationship with food.

  • Yum, this looks like such a fun dinner! We are beginning to struggle with meals some as well, and it can be frustrating. I might try these with buttermilk instead of the eggs to make it allergen-free for us…

  • I love these dishes! I usually make extra and put them in the freezer for easy lunches! I always feel so guilty when I do break down and feed the kids bag crap for lunch!

  • Jenie

    Annie your recipes are great :). Have you ever checked out The Sneaky Chef? You’d like Her.

  • Sandy

    Just tried these tonight and my kids loved them, especially the “crunch”, I have never toasted bread crumbs before and thought about skipping it, but I’m glad I took a little extra time. I made your chicken with artichokes and white wine for the adults, which is a great recipe that we love. Thanks for a great site, I also check it everyday and have tried many recipes, another all time favortie is your cranberry scones!!!!

  • Kristen K

    I made these tonight for me and my roommates! It turned out great and they loved it! It was also very easy to make. I absolutely love your blog, I am on it all the time trying out your recipes! I have yet to find one that doesn’t taste amazing.

  • I made these tonight for dinner and we loved them. I added garam masala to give them an Indian kick. Thanks for the dinner idea!

  • Dana

    Saw this on pioneer womans site for a gift idea- plates with a face that kids can “decorate”. They can use pasta for hair, make peas into a hat, etc. It was under home & garden nov7 post.

  • I love that you used cayanne in these! I love how cayanne give food a little kick! :D

  • Laura

    Made these tonight… They were a HUGE hit with the 2 year old crowd. Thanks!

  • mlj

    do you have a tasty dipping sauce recipe for this too?

  • Annie

    I just mixed honey and mustard together.

  • This looks delicious! Love the panko breadcrumbs and the mustard as well. Great flavors!

  • HJ

    Thanks for sharing this! This sounds like a great meal that all my family members can enjoy! My kids are extremely finicky, and both chicken fingers and french fries are one of the few things they will eat. I’ve have tried just about anything to get them to try out new foods, all to fail. I find “the control thing” very interesting and am going to check out the link Sylvia shared. Thanks!

  • Have you tried making a larger batch and freezing some for a quick lunch or dinner? I’d be interested to know how they reheat after being frozen. Maybe I’ll need to try it for myself if you haven’t already done so.

  • Annie

    No, I haven’t tried that yet.

  • Stephanie

    I would suggest using a hand pumped olive oil mister rather than cooking spray. Airborne lecithin is bad to inhale, especially for little ones, and the oil you use will be of much higher quality and way less expensive.

  • WriterCrystal

    Hi Annie, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this recipe! I tried it last night, and it was awesome! I love the fact that I can now have crunchy oven baked chicken, two words that wouldn’t go together no matter how hard I tried before. Thanks again!

  • I can vouch for the baked oven fries! I have made them about a million times since you first posted them – they are tasty!

  • looks amazing! i was planning on making something very similar tonight – maybe i’ll just do this instead!! thanks for sharing!

  • Kate

    Looks tasty. Any suggestions for a substitution for the egg whites? My daughter is egg- and dairy-free. Thanks!

  • Annie

    I’m no expert on allergies. You probably know more than I do if your child has the allergy. I think someone may have mentioned this in the earlier comments, you might want to read through them.

  • Made this last night! They were excellent!

  • Hi Annie, I know the recipe only calls for 1 tablespoon of mustard, which isn’t that much at all – however I have a severe hatred of mustard. Is the flavor noticeable or does it seem to blend in and just add a little zing? Thanks!

  • Annie

    It’s tough for me to say because I dipped mine in honey mustard – haha! I really don’t think it would be noticeable though. I mean, it’s 1 tbsp. to 3 egg whites and of course all of that isn’t even used up, most will be tossed out after the coating is done. You could probably decrease the amount a bit if you are worried about it.

  • Ellen

    I’m curious what kind of wire rack you used. All I have is a cooling rack that I use for cookies, do you think that might work?

  • Annie

    That’s what I use, but I would double check that yours is oven safe.

  • Susie

    These look delicious! When in doubt we reach for homemade chicken nuggets too. When I make my breadcrumb mixture I always double it and leave it in the fridge ready to go. I also sub the panko for almonds. My 2 year old loves them and so does my hubby.

  • love these chicken fingers! i’m passing on the recipe to my mum for her to use in her Home Ec class with her students!!

  • Valerie

    We don’t have kids, but that didn’t stop us from trying these. They were very good, the chicken was moist, while the topping was crispy. Also, it is a really quick and easy recipe with have-on-hand ingredients.

  • Kirsten T

    Annie- Just wanted to say that as much as we enjoyed these chicken fingers (and we did) we’ve loved this recipe even more to make fish sticks! Pretty much exact same process with appropriate seasonings for fish, yum! We’ve also subbed in plain yogurt for the egg whites when I was low on eggs and it worked like a charm! Thanks for another great weeknight recipe. :-)

  • katie

    I made these and they were so good. Dreaming about making them again. Last time I made I baked the fries and chicken separately.
    Do you think if I did it would effect the cooking time and finished product? Would love to serve to my friends coming over but would like them both warm and done at the same time

  • Annie

    I bake things together all the time. Don’t see why it would be a problem.

  • katie

    Annie, you are amazing! Awesome blog and you are even kind enough to write a novice cook like myself back. I appreciate you taking the time to do so and can’t wait to make these again.

  • Amy

    Hi Annie! Your New Year’s Blog about DIY is right on the mark with my goals for the new year as well! My daughter is 18mo. & I did great when it came to making homemade baby food & “starter” toddler foods. Now I’ve come to a rut…especially when planning lunches. So I’ve picked up a few ideas from your blog of things to try! She loves chicken nuggets…and unfortunately the bouts of morning sickness I’m experiencing (all day!) from another little one on the way have forced me to stick to the processed frozen varieties. Now that I’m feeling a bit better, I’d like to find a chicken nugget/tender recipe that I can make ahead of time & heat up for her lunch. I see someone has already posted asking if this recipe creates good results when frozen, however at the time of that post you had not yet tried. Just wondering if you (or anyone else reading this comment) have tried yet! Thanks for your inspirations! :)

  • Kim

    LOVE these! Just made them for my birthday meal. Turned 35 and my meal of choice was chicken fingers and baked oven fries. Also baked the dark chocolate salted caramel cake. It was a wonderful way to celebrate life. Thank you for taking the time to share your efforts in the kitchen with all of us.

  • Jess

    I made these last night for dinner. I have one very picky eater and 2 that will **try** a good amount…well kids LOVED them!! I have tried 3 other ‘chicken finger’ recipes in the past…all to be turned down! thank you for your awesome recipes!
    Now off to try to bake the Neapolitan Layer Cake….

  • Elizabeth H.

    Thanks for the recipe. I made these last night along with the oven fries and my inner child was happy. I think I finally need to buy the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.

  • maggie

    We had some friends over last night and I made these for the kids. The adults were all too happy to taste the nuggets to make sure they were suitable. I am glad there were some left for the kiddos. Thanks for the great recipe.

  • Melissa Brooker

    Another recipe I don’t know what took me so long to make! I was looking for a new way to make chicken and this is delicious! I love chicken fingers dipped in honey mustard sauce, now there is a much healthier way to have them!