If you’ve ever carved a chicken, you may have noticed that the chicken breast doesn’t come off in a single piece. Nestled underneath the breast is a small strip of meat that some say tastes juicier and more flavorful than the rest of the white meat. You can enjoy both when working with a whole chicken, but you won’t get the option when shopping for chicken parts at the grocery store. So which is best for your favorite chicken recipe, chicken tenderloin vs. breast?

What Are Chicken Breasts?

The chicken breast is a large cut of lean meat from the underside of a chicken. Each chicken yields two boneless skinless chicken breasts, and the average chicken breast weighs between six and ten ounces. If you can find it, the whole bone-in, skin-on chicken breast features both breasts in one large roast, with the meat being separated by the breastbone (just like on a whole chicken).

What Are Chicken Tenderloins?

Chicken tenderloins are small strips of meat about two inches wide and six inches long. The tenderloins are located underneath the chicken breast along the breastbone, and—like the breast—each chicken contains two tenderloins. The tenderloin is significantly smaller and weighs only two ounces on average. It’s also thinner than the chicken breast, so it tends to cook more quickly.

When shopping for chicken tenderloins, be sure the package actually contains the word “tenderloin.” Packaging labeled as chicken “strips” or “tenders” may be chicken breasts cut down into smaller sizes.

Differences Between Chicken Breasts and Tenderloins


There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the nutritional differences between chicken breasts and tenderloins. Some sources say that the tenderloins have more fat and calories than the breasts, which have more protein. However, when we compared two Tyson Chicken nutrition labels, we found the variance negligible. Each 112-gram (approximately 4-ounce) serving of chicken breasts contains 110 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 65 milligrams of cholesterol and 23 grams of protein. The same serving of chicken breast tenderloins contains the same calorie and carbohydrate content, along with 0.5 grams of fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol and 26 grams of protein.

The amount of sodium in chicken breasts and chicken tenderloins depends largely on the brand. Some chicken is injected with a saltwater solution during processing, so it’s best to compare the nutrition labels when you’re at the grocery store if you have concerns about sodium intake.


The price of chicken depends on menu factors, such as market supply, demand and one’s region within the United States. According to USDA National Retail Report on Chicken, boneless skinless chicken breasts can range from $3.33 to $7.99 per pound, with organic options available between $5.99 to $10.99 per pound. Chicken breast tenders range from $3.99 to $6.99, with organic options between $8.49 to $9.99.

In our experience, chicken tenderloins typically cost more than chicken breasts, likely because each chicken only contains two small tenderloin pieces compared to the larger, more substantial breast meat. Depending on your recipe, the added cost may be worth it when it comes to the convenience factor, though. The tenderloins are already sized into bite-sized strips, whereas the chicken breast requires more effort to slice into smaller pieces.

Flavor and Texture

Chicken breasts and tenderloins are white meat chicken, so they both have a lean profile and a mild flavor that pairs well with several cuisines and spice profiles. We find that chicken tenderloin tastes slightly richer and has a more tender texture that doesn’t eat as dense or chewy as a chicken breast. Both cuts can lead to drying out when overcooked, but the tenderloin muscle’s anatomical position means it doesn’t receive as much work as the breast, so it retains more moisture as it cooks.

Cooking Methods & Recipes

In general, you can cook chicken breasts and tenderloins using similar methods. Like all poultry, cook each cut to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.

Chicken breasts are fantastic for baking, grilling, sauteing and poaching (our favorite way to prepare breasts for shredded chicken recipes). They’re also a fantastic choice for low-and-slow cooking methods like the slow cooker or for simmering in soups, stews and braised dishes. Because the breasts are larger than chicken tenderloins, they take longer to cook and they can benefit from a brine or marinade to keep the meat juicy as it cooks.

Chicken Breast Recipes

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Chicken tenderloins cook quickly, so they’re fantastic on the grill or in stir-fry recipes. This is also the ideal cut to use when making breaded chicken like homemade chicken tenders, nuggets, tenders and strips. Because chicken tenderloins are smaller and thinner, they don’t need to be marinated as long as breasts. It’s also essential to pay close attention to cooking times so they don’t overcook and dry out.

Chicken Tenderloin Recipes

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