Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken Tenders

Have you ever been to Nashville? Sadly I have not. Hopefully, I will make it there one day. And when I do, I predict that I will spend a significant amount of my time there, sampling the “hot” chicken joints. How do I know this, you may ask? Because I cannot stop eating these Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken Tenders!! So today, let’s take a little virtual trip until we can head to Tennessee for the real thing!


If you’ve been following the blog for a while, then you know that almost nothing gives me more of a thrill than finding a way to make chicken breasts seem new. My, what an exciting life I lead! I know, I need to work on that. But you know what I mean, right? Finding a recipe that surprises and transforms this ordinary staple is a pretty big deal. And these sweet and spicy strips definitely have that wow factor!

Think tender, grilled chicken covered in a spicy sauce with bits of caramelized, crunchy brown sugar throughout. Addictively yummy!


And easy! While traditional Hot Chicken is fried, this one is a healthier and simpler version that goes the grilling route instead. After a short marinade in a mixture of buttermilk, hot sauce  and cayenne pepper, you simply barbecue the chicken tenders and then toss them in a mixture of oil, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder and more cayenne.


So much flavor and texture! These were a big hit in my house and I know they will be in yours too!


And now I’m seriously thinking summer road trip!


Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken Tenders

Makes 4-6 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Grill Time: 15 minutes


For the chicken and marinade

  • 2 pounds chicken tenders (If you like you can just cut boneless breasts into strips)

  • 2 cups buttermilk

  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (I used Frank’s)

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • Kosher salt and black pepper to season

For the hot oil

  • 1/4 cup canola oil

  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

The Recipe

1. To make the chicken: Place the chicken in a resealable bag or bowl and mix with the buttermilk, hot sauce and cayenne. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to 12.

2. When you’re ready to grill drain the excess marinade off the chicken and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Grill the chicken until it’s well done—for me this took about 15 minutes over high heat.

3. Meanwhile, make the hot oil. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until oil is very hot. In a medium bowl, mix the cayenne, sugar, garlic powder and paprika together. Pour the hot oil carefully over the spices and mix well to blend.

4. Toss the cooked chicken in the bowl with the hot oil and serve immediately.


Note: Recipe adapted from Secrets of the Southern Table by Virginia Willis. I tinkered with spices and some of the proportions.

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