This succulent Baked Lemon Chicken Tenders with Tomatoes and Zucchini is your solution to a quick and easy weeknight dinner! Marinaded chicken tenderloin, sliced zucchini, and whole grape tomatoes are baked together for a fuss-free sheet pan meal.
🍗 A Winning Chicken Dinner
My summer go-to meal is this juicy oven-baked lemon chicken tenders. Chicken tenderloin is the perfect serving size with half the cooking time of a chicken breast. But it's still white meat, meaning it can easily dry out. The solution is a simple yet delicious marinade flavored with lemon zest, garlic, herbs, and honey. And because of the tenderloin's small size, it soaks up the marinade in a fraction of the time for maximum flavor!
Pair the lemon chicken tenders with summer favorites, tomato and zucchini, and you've got yourself a healthy and flavorful meal on the table in just 45 minutes! To make this even heartier, serve it with Lemon Basil Rice, Brown Butter Garlic Mashed Potatoes, or Pea, Burrata, and Prosciutto Pasta Salad.
Why You'll Love It
- Healthy: Lean chicken tenders, tomatoes, and zucchini are a delicious combination that's also full of protein, vitamins, and nutrients. It's a light yet satisfying meal. Plus, it's gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, and low-carb.
- Minimal prep and clean-up: Everything is made on one sheet tray! And you can prep the vegetables while the chicken is marinading to save even more time.
- Easy ingredients: The ingredients list is very familiar and easy to find. Which means you can make this dish any time of the day, week, or year!
- Garlic powder, oregano, and paprika: The main seasonings in the marinade. It's a perfect blend of flavor with a hint of smokiness.
- Honey: To balance out the acidic lemon.
- Lemon: Fresh lemon is key here! Add the zest to the marinade to get the flavor from the essential oils. Then add the juice to the sheet pan to flavor the meat and the vegetables. For more lemony recipes, try my Strawberry Lemon Cookies, Creamy Lemon Broccoli Pasta with Shrimp, or Lemon Chia Seed Muffins.
- Chicken tenderloin: Also called chicken tenders. They're loosely attached to the underside of the chicken breast. You can usually find them sold separately from the breast, or if you have a whole chicken or breast, remove them yourself. These strips are still white meat, but they're usually a little more tender and saltier than the breast.
- Zucchini, tomatoes, and shallot: Roasted alongside the chicken for a complete meal.
Substitutions & Variations
- For the marinade, feel free to add or substitute with your favorite herbs and spices. Parsley, cumin, basil, or red pepper flakes would add another dimension. You can also double the pepper for more of a classic lemon pepper flavor.
- Substitute honey with maple syrup, white, or brown sugar.
- If you can't find chicken tenderloins, you can make your own strips from the breast. Slice 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1" strips lengthwise and lightly pound to tenderize. You made need to add a touch more salt since breasts are more bland than tenderloins.
- Feel free to use your favorite vegetables in this dish! Bell pepper, mushroom, and green beans also roast quickly in the oven. Just make sure to not overcrowd the sheet tray.
🔪 How To Make Lemon Chicken Tenders
First, make the marinade. In a large zip-top bag, combine the olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, honey, lemon zest, scant 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Lightly massage to evenly distribute everything.
Then add the chicken tenderloin. Massage the marinade into the meat and let sit for 20-30 minutes on the counterop.
While the chicken is marinading, slice the zucchini and shallot. Option to line the baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, but it's not necessary. Spread the zucchini, tomato, and shallot out on the sheet tray. Add oil, salt, and pepper, mix, then bake at 400°F for 10 minutes.
Carefully remove the sheet tray and flip the zucchini. Clear a space in the middle and add the tenders. Pour lemon juice all over and continue baking for 8-12 more minutes or until the chicken's internal temperature is 155°F. Let cool slightly before serving warm.
💭 Top Tips
- Don't over-marinate the chicken. Because the tenders are smaller and well, more tender, they don't need to be marinaded for more than 30 minutes. Otherwise, they can get tough and mealy.
- Don't overcrowd the sheet tray. This will result in steaming, rather than oven baked or roasted deliciousness.
- Use an instant-read food thermometer to know when your chicken is done. The size of the tenders can vary greatly. You want to take it out when the chicken's around 155°F. While it rests, the residual heat will cook it to about 165°F.
🥡 Storing & Freezing
Storing: Let the lemon chicken strips cool completely. Then transfer to an air-tight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezing: You can freeze the cooked chicken in a zip-top bag with as much air removed as possible for up to 4 months. If you plan on freezing it, undercook it by 1-2 minutes.
Reheating: Reheat in the microwave or in a 250°F oven or air fryer for a couple minutes until heated through. If reheating from frozen, let thaw in the fridge overnight first.
Make Ahead: To turn this into an easy freezer meal, store the marinaded, uncooked chicken in the freezer for up to 6 months. Let thaw overnight in the fridge and then continue with the recipe.
📖 Recipe FAQs
It adds amazing flavor and can tenderize the meat. Since lemon juice is acidic, it can start cooking the raw chicken. Marinade it for too long and the chicken will become mealy and overcooked. That's why this recipe only uses lemon zest in the marinade to preserve the texture of the tenderloin.
Chicken tenderloin is part of the breast - it's underneath the breast and closer to the bone. As a result, the tenderloin is more tender and flavorful, but not as nutritious or big.
It's up to you. You can leave it in and if it bothers you, eat around it. Or simply remove the tendon before cooking. I found this fork and towel method helpful.
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Baked Lemon Chicken Tenders with Tomatoes and Zucchini
- Sheet tray
- 2 tbsp + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1 lb chicken tenderloin option to remove tendon
- 2 zucchini cut into ½" slices
- 1½ cups grape or cherry tomatoes
- ½ shallot thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice about ½ lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Option to line a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper.
- In a gallon size zip-top bag, combine 2 tablespoon olive oil, scant 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, honey, and lemon zest. Lightly whisk so there aren't any clumps. Add chicken tenders to the bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal the bag. Massage to evenly distribute the marinade. Let sit for 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, spread zucchini slices, tomatoes, and shallot around sheet tray. Add 1 teaspoon oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Lightly mix, then bake for 10 minutes.
- Carefully take out the sheet tray and flip the zucchini slices. Clear a space in the middle and place chicken tenders onto the baking sheet. Pour lemon juice on top of the chicken. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken is 155°F. Let rest 5-10 minutes.
- If you can't find chicken tenderloin, you can make your own chicken strips from the breast. Slice 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1" strips lengthwise and lightly pound to tenderize. You made need to add a touch more salt since breasts are more bland than tenderloins.
- I highly recommend using an instant-read food thermometer to know when your chicken is done. The size of the tenders can vary. You want to take it out when the internal temp of the chicken is around 155°F. While it rests, the residual heat will cook it to about 165°F.
👩🏻🍳 Products I Used
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