Last Updated: August 1, 2022

Chicken Tenderloin vs Breast: an Overall Comparison

chicken tenderloin vs breast

The humble chicken is white meat consumed by people all over the world. It is loved by all and is the most consumed white meat globally. They have many breeds and species, so their taste differs from species to species. Still, one thing remains the same: chicken’s magical taste. So unless you are a vegan or vegetarian, you probably are a regular consumer of chicken.

I shall try my best to present to you everything about chicken tenderloin vs breast to help you better understand them, their similarities, and, yes, their differences as well.

Types of Chicken Meat

Chicken has 2 primary kinds of meat:

  • The White Meat: Breasts and tenderloins
  • The Dark Meat: Drumsticks, Thighs, and wings.

White meat tends to be dryer and less flavorful than dark meat. Still, white meat is always the healthier option because of the low-fat content and lesser calories. Tenderloins and breasts belong to the white meat category and are located in the same part of the chicken. 

Even though they are anatomically from the same part of the chicken and are similar in many ways, they are also different. For instance:

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Texture
  • Taste
  • Cooking time
  • Nutritional values
  • Price

What are Chicken Breasts?

A chicken breast is essentially the flesh of the pectoral muscle of a chicken that is attached to its ribs. It is one of a chicken’s most common and widely used cuts. It contains no intermuscular fat and is considered lean white meat. The breast is available in many forms. For instance, it is sold whole, portioned into two separate pieces, with or without bones, and even minced.

Fun fact : Chicken breast can be cut from the middle and spread out, giving it the shape of butterfly wings. And so it is called butterfly steaks.

What is Chicken Tenderloin?

A chicken tenderloin is the loin meat of a chicken. According to the USDA, a chicken tenderloin is a strip of muscle distinct from a chicken breast. Still, it lies alongside the chicken breast near the bone. Like beef or pork, chicken tenderloins are also situated in the same spot. They are oblong-shaped. One end is narrower than the other. Sometimes the tenderloins are not separated from the best and are sold along with the breast.

Fun Fact : Chicken tenders and chicken tendies make people think it is made of chicken tenderloins. Still, often chicken breast is sliced and used to make those tenders and tendies as breasts and tenderloin are somewhat similar.

Chicken Tenderloin vs Breast

Chicken breasts and tenderloins are identical and yet different from each other. In this section, I shall try to give you a detailed comparison between them.

Nutrition

Below is a table containing the nutritional comparison between the breasts and tenderloins.

The calculation is based on per 100g flesh as a generalized estimate. These values will differ from chicken to chicken but will be relatively the same. Also, keep in mind that the cooking procedure will affect this as cooking dramatically alters the composition of any food.

Per 100gChicken BreastChicken Tenderloin
Fat2.65g17.7g
Calories120293
Carbs00
Protein20g15.8g
Sodium45mg457mg
Iron0.35mg1.15mg
Cholesterol73mg24mg

Cost

Cost is a variable that differs significantly. Based on when you are reading this, the prices may be drastically different, so I am not mentioning the exact costs here.

But to give you an idea, breasts are always cheaper, and you can easily buy a pound of chicken breast and create an easy meal.

Cooking

The cooking comparison between them depends on what kind of food you will make. Usually, all chicken tenderloin dishes and recipes can be replaced with breast slices and strips. 

To give you an overall idea, I’ll compare the cooking times of both proteins for the same cooking methods.

Cooking MethodTemperatureChicken BreastsChicken Tenderloins
Steaming/Boiling165°F<20 minutes<10 minutes
Grilling450°F10-15 minutes3-4 minutes
Baking375°F20-30 minutes15-20 minutes
Deep-Frying375°F15-20 minutes3-8 minutes

These are rough estimates as cooking time depends on factors like the recipe, utensils, thickness, size of the pieces, and much more.

A general rule of thumb is to measure the internal temp of the chicken at the end of the cooking procedure. If the internal temperature of a chicken is 165°F, it is safe to eat and considered cooked.

Tip : Always measure the thickest part of a piece when checking the internal temperature as the thinner sides may reach that temp easily while the wider part may remain raw.

Preparation

The preparation of tenderloins and breasts are almost always similar. They are both blank canvases, which are quite bland, flavorless, and boring. They need flavor and spices to become palatable. Don’t get me wrong on this! You can never go wrong with just salt and pepper, but why stop there when there are endless possibilities?

Some common preparation methods and steps for these cuts are:

  • Marinating: This is probably the best thing you can do to any white meat. Marinate it in herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc. Use sauces like Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, etc. Garlic and ginger go perfectly with chicken as they are a match made in heaven.
marinated chicken kept on a tray in the kitchen
Image credit: Nataliia Maksymenko, Shutterstock
  • Brining: Breasts and Tenderloins tend to get very dry; even tho tenderloins are juicier, they still get pretty dry, so brining is a good way to add moisture to your chicken, especially when deep-frying them. Use spices like peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, etc., in your brines to boost flavor.
  • Browning: Browning is a great way to increase the depth of flavor of any meat. Sear the meat at a high heat so that the outer side becomes brown (NOT BURNT), and proceed with the recipe. This small action will culminate in a deeper flavor and a more attractive result.

Flavor, Texture, Taste, etc:

CriteriaChicken TenderloinsChicken Breasts
Size and shapeLong and narrow“Heart” shaped and big
FlavorBland but more flavorful than breastsBland
TextureVery fragile and fall-apartFirm and plump
Cooked TextureJuicy and firmStringy and somewhat dry
DonenessFully white on the insidePreferably white, but the slightly opaque color on the inside is acceptable.
Absorbability HighHigher than tenderloins
Cooking TimeShortDepends on the recipe, but it is way longer than tenderloins
TasteHas a subtle chicken-ey flavor and is somewhat sweeter.Savory taste with a lesser chicken-ey taste than tenderloins.
Preferred Cooking Methodsautéed, stir-fried, pan-seared,Baked, grilled, and minced.
Preferred UtensilsNon-stick panCast Iron

How to Use Chicken Breasts for Chicken Tenders?

To do this, you will need a few things:

  • To do this, you will need a few things.
  • A clean kitchen towel
  • A sharp knife
  • A chopping board
  • Boneless breasts.

Now follow these steps:

  • First of all, clean everything.
  • Next, pat the breast dry with the kitchen towel.
  • Lay it out on the chopping board or any clean surface.
  • If the breast is thick, slice the thick part off and cut the thick part down the middle into two thin parts.
  • Now slice the breasts according to your preferred length and thickness but not too thick.
  • Please make sure all of them are relatively the same thickness as it will ensure even cooking.
raw chicken breast placed on a chopping board
Image credit: AlexeiLogvinovich, Shutterstock

Which is Better?

This is a very tough question because both have pros and cons. But in my opinion, based on versatility, chicken breast is better. On the other hand, tenderloin is better in terms of texture and flavor. Because it is the most versatile cut of chicken and can perform the job of the tenderloin as well. But in the end, which is better comes down to personal preferences,

My Go-to Recipe that Works for Both Tenderloin and Breast

  • 500gms Breasts or tenderloins.
  • 20mls of Worcestershire sauce.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Minced garlic or garlic paste 1tsp
  • A splash of freshly squeezed orange/mandarin juice.
  • Herbs (your favorite ones)

Mix all of these and let them marinate for at least 30 mins. Preferably overnight for best results. Then take a non-stick pan and add a small amount of oil to brown the meat off at high heat on all sides. Next, boil the heat, add all the marinated leftovers to the pan, and simmer. You can reduce the liquid entirely or leave it slightly liquidy to act as a sauce or broth. 

Eat this with rice; you can additionally add onions to it as well and even some mandarin slices. It tastes fantastic, so I hope you give it a try.

Answering Some FAQ

What is a chicken tender?

A chicken tender is a long, thin, sliced piece of chicken, usually coated, deep-fried, and served with sauces.

Are tenders made with tenderloin?

Chicken breasts are often cut thinly into long pieces to make chicken tenders.

Can I replace chicken tenderloins with chicken breasts?

All chicken tenderloins can be replaced with chicken breasts, but not all chicken breast dishes can be replaced with tenderloins.

How Do You Separate the Tenderloin From the Breast?

You can ask your butcher to do that for you. Slice it out using a sharp knife; if you are skilled enough, you can pull it out gently. Or else take a breast out and turn it upside down. Run your fingers through the meat, and you will notice that the tenderloin is a separate mass of flesh and is easily differentiable.

To Conclude

Whether you are going keto, an avid bodybuilder, or simply trying to eat healthily and lose weight, you can’t go wrong with either of these two options. Choose the one you like most conveniently and, most importantly, according to your recipe. I hope the information I provided has proven helpful to you, and yes, please don’t forget to share your recipes and tricks with me. Thanks and have a great day!

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