At least twice a week, my guy heads out to get his fried chicken fix. He alternates between Burger King, Wendy’s, and occasionally McDonald’s, but he always orders the white meat tenders, battered and cooked in bubbling oil until crisp and crunchy, with a side of hot sauce and Ranch for dipping.
I usually stay home, happy with a huge salad or my beloved Brussels sprouts, unless he decides to drive downtown to Wing Stop. He quickly learned he always needed to invite me along… Although I still abstain from the fried chicken, they serve the best Cajun-style fries—and my guy generously gives me over half of the basket!
On one of our last trips, in between watching baseball highlights on their flat screen TVs and sneaking extra fries when my guy turned his attention to dipping his chicken in the hot sauce and Ranch, a brilliant idea barreled into my head at light speed. What if I combined the spicy Cajun seasoning with the crunchy fried chicken—and baked it at home so I’d eat it too?
(I generally draw the line of fried foods at French fries, donuts, and the occasional chips… No regular fried chicken for me!)
Although overwhelmed with excitement, I kept my genius plan a secret from my guy. As much as I really wanted to cook a meal that we’d both enjoy, I didn’t want to completely forgo my French fries!
Four tries later, I finally perfected my recipe for Spicy Baked “Fried” Chicken. Slightly sweet with a subtle kick, the crunchy coating on the tender meat earned me a big smile and a huge thumbs-up from my guy. Low in carbs and packed with protein, this guilt-free comfort food is the perfect meal for junk food addicts, picky eaters, and healthy foodies too!
On the table in less than 30 minutes, this is one of the easiest dinner recipes you’ll ever make. You only need 4 ingredients! Chicken breasts, an egg, Cajun seasoning, and multi-grain cereal. The light honey undertones of the cereal paired with the heat of the Cajun seasoning creates an irresistible sweet-and-spicy flavor combo.
In this recipe, I toned down the heat compared to my favorite fries. For a milder taste, stick with just 2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning. My guy prefers a huge kick—one that leaves fire on your tongue and tiny beads of sweat on your brow—so we really bump it up! We often add 4 teaspoons, if not more, and we sometimes swap out some of the Cajun seasoning for pure cayenne pepper. But keep a frosty glass of milk handy if you try that!
You want to grind the cereal rather finely: still leave a few coarse crumbs, but you mostly want tiny nuggets. Use a food processor or blender to make it easier! The smaller the cereal bits, the more that will cover the chicken and the crunchier it’ll be. The texture turns out much closer to regular fried chicken with smaller crumbs that if you use larger cereal flakes!
Just like with typical oven-baked fried chicken recipes, dip the poultry strips in the egg, shake off the excess, and dredge in the seasoned cereal. Use one hand for each bowl. This prevents big clumps of soggy cereal from sticking to your fingers! Turn over the chicken multiple times in the bowl, firmly pressing the cereal into every side for maximum crunch.
And now for my secret to super crispy oven-fried chicken… Bake the chicken on a wire rack! Your regular cooling racks for cookies and cupcakes work perfectly; just set that on top of a baking sheet to catch any stray cereal crumbs.
If you placed the chicken strips directly on the baking sheet, the bottoms would stay slightly soggy and wouldn’t crisp up as nicely as the top. And if my guy, the pickiest fried chicken connoisseur, reported that the texture was spot-on… Wire racks are definitely the way to go!
Cozy, comforting, and with a slight sweet-and-spicy twist, my low-fat Spicy Baked “Fried” Chicken is a complete lifesaver for quick and easy healthy weeknight meals. Served with a side of barbeque sauce, ketchup, or my guy’s favorite hot sauce and Ranch, these crispy strips totally satisfy your fried chicken cravings—without the grease or the guilt!
My guy much prefers fast food to most of the healthy food I cook, but when I caught him sneaking two extra chicken strips from the kitchen when he thought I wasn’t looking… Well, you know this recipe is a real winner!
Next on my list? Those Cajun-style fries!