Chicken Dippin’ Sauce with Lite Crispy Chicken Fingers for Super Bowl Sunday

When I think of Super Bowl Sunday and party foods; I always think of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and Cane’s Sauce. Raising Cane’s is a fast food restaurant chain founded in Baton Rouge serving hot, juicy fried chicken fingers and an incredible dipping sauce. Cane’s was the unanimous choice for party foods when my kids were growing up. “Just get Cane’s, mom,” they would chant. Chicken Dippin' Sauce - Chicken Tenders - 2 - IMG_6962_1

Novelty menu idea for both birthday parties and Super Bowl gatherings 

My son’s birthday falls right around the time of the Super Bowl; when he was young we often celebrated his birthday on the same day as the Super Bowl. Bite sized chicken fingers and a remoulade sauce is a popular menu item that both kids and adults like. The sauce doubles as a dipping sauce for shrimp and an assortment of vegetables.

Raising Cane’s fast food restaurant chain was founded in 1996; it was still relatively new when my kids were young. Getting Cane’s delicious chicken fingers and wonderful sauce was a novelty and very much a treat for my young kids at their birthday parties. Those years have passed, but I still think of the chicken fingers and sauce whenever the Super Bowl comes around.

Lighten up on the chicken; keep the sauce

One of my goals is to eat healthy foods; lowering the fat and eliminating fried foods. So I experimented in making baked chicken fingers rather than fried ones. They turned out well; I’m giving the recipe and my technique. Now the sauce is another issue; I don’t know that you can reduce the calories in it. Just keep the sauce and eat in moderation.

Raising Cane’s Restaurant Story

Raising Cane’s fast food restaurant chain was founded by Baton Rouge native, Todd Graves, in 1996. He had a vision to start the restaurant chain and he made it work–starting with a refurbished building close to LSU. His concept was simple–making him very successful and wealthy. (I presume so, this is a privately held company). Here’s a restaurant close to where we live. I love the cypress trees outside the restaurant and the flowers.Canes Restaurant - IMG_6926_1R_1Todd’s concept is to serve a limited menu–only chicken fingers and fixings and to serve hot, high quality foods. The service at his restaurants is primarily drive-though business (this restaurant has no inside seating and drive through windows on both sides); the service is quick. Here you can see the menu–basically four menu choices.Canes Restaurant and Menu - IMG_6929_1The other key to Todd Graves’ success is focusing on employees, according to his web site. And he gives back to the community in several forms of community service and involvement. The concept works–the chicken fingers are always hot, crispy and tender. And now his chain is expanding across the country. You may soon have an outlet close to you.

Chicken Dippin’ Sauce

The real story of this restaurant is the chicken dipping sauce. The sauce just delicious–not too hot or spicy–but with enough flavor to complement the chicken fingers and french fries. It is just a little peppery, full of flavor but hard to identify exactly what makes it great. I would categorize this as a remoulade sauce. It gives a different twist to Cane’s chicken and menu. We always purchase extra cups of the sauce and once you have made the sauce, you will be “hooked” too.
Chicken Dippin' Sauce - IMG_6906_1The ingredients and recipe for Cane’s sauce is proprietary–I believe that the recipe is closely guarded and I would never ask for the ingredients/recipes. Several internet sites have tried to copy the sauce recipe. Copykat’s blog site comes close. I doubt that the recipe is identical; but CopyKat’s recipe results in a mighty tasty chicken dippin’ sauce, too. I spoke to Copykat’s author/owner, Stephanie Manley, and she requests that I provide a link to the recipe on her site rather than reprinting it on mine, so here is the link to the recipe:

Lite Chicken Fingers — is it possible?

Raising Cane’s fried chicken fingers are delicious, too. These are whole chicken tenders which are breaded and deep fried, crispy and nicely seasoned. But any fried food is high in calories, fat and very rich.

I’m trying eliminate most of the fried foods from my diet, lower the fat content and strive for a healthier way of eating. Is it possible to make “fried chicken fingers” which are not fried but still taste/look good enough to be served at a Super Bowl party?  I think that this can be done. My baked chicken fingers are crispy and juicy; they can be seasoned up, too, if you desire.

My ideas for accomplishing this are:

  • Use chicken tenders–not chicken breast meat. Remove the center tendon.
  • Spice things up with seasoned flour which is all purpose flour with either Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning or Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Poultry Magic Seasoning.
  • Use a wash or dip of egg/milk so the breading sticks.
  • For the breading, I used panko bread crumbs. This is a Japanese-style bread crumb which has texture and results in a crunchy breading.
  • Add fresh thyme and parsley to the panko bread crumbs for flavor and color.
  • Lightly dab melted margarine over the breaded chicken tenders to help them brown.
  • Bake until cooked through in medium hot oven; don’t turn the fingers over while cooking.

Here are the ingredients for my Lite Crispy Chicken Fingers. This shows some hot peppers–I omitted these in my last trial and instead used the Cajun spices.Chicken Finger Ingredients - IMG_6936_1

Remove the tendon which runs down the chicken tenders with a sharp knife.Removing Tendon from Chicken Tender - IMG_6937_1Make a seasoned flour to dip the chicken tenders in. I tried both Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning and Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Poultry Magic Seasoning. Both tasted fine–use what is available. You need alot of the Cajun seasoning added to the flour to get a “spicy” taste–when mixed with the flour the spices become quite diluted.Two Cajun Seasonings - IMG_6938_1For flavor and color, I minced fresh parsley and thyme in part of the panko bread crumbs and then added additional bread crumbs. Dip the chicken tenders in the seasoned flour, then in a egg/milk wash and lastly in the panko bread crumbs. Lay on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Spread any remaining panko bread crumbs over the chicken pieces.Beading Chicken Fingers - IMG_6946_1Lightly dab a little melted margarine over each chicken tender so they have a richer color and brown slightly during baking. The very last photo shows some of the chicken tenders without the margarine. They still taste good; just are a little pale. And not alot difference in calories.Adding some margarine - IMG_6948_1Bake for about 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Here are the baked chicken fingers. They look pretty good!Chicken Tenders Baked - IMG_6956_1For more nutrition, serve fresh vegetables as finger foods along with the chicken fingers. I use what is in season and available at the grocery. Here I have asparagus, snow peas, cucumbers and tomatoes.Vegetables - IMG_6950_1RR_1For the asparagus, I cut off the fibrous stems, add a little water, cover and blanch in the microwave for six minutes. Then chill in ice water. The same for the snow peas.Asparagus ready for blanching - IMG_6954_1The final result is a nutritious, healthy and very attractive tray of food for any party inspired by Raising Cane’s.Chicken Dippin' Sauce - Chicken Tenders - IMG_6958_1

LIte Crispy Chicken Fingers

  • Difficulty: easy
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    • 1-1/2 lb chicken tenders (about 10 fingers)
    • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/2 Tbsp Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning or Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Poultry Magic Seasoning (increase to 1 Tbsp if you like “spicy” foods)
    • 1 large egg, beaten
    • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
    • 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, divided
    • 2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, packed
    • 2 sprigs thyme
    • 2 Tbsp margarine, melted
    • assorted vegetables, sliced in bite size pieces (fresh blanched asparagus, snow peas, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes),
    • Iceberg lettuce, parsley, green onions for garnish
    • Chicken Dippin’ Sauce

Method and Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
  2. Remove center tendon from chicken tenders. Set chicken tenders aside.
  3. Combine all purpose flour and either Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning or Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Poultry Magic Seasoning.
  4. In a small food processor bowl, add 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs, Italian parsley and thyme sprigs. Pulse until the parsley and thyme are finely minced. Add this to the remaining panko bread crumbs in another medium bowl, stirring to combine.
  5. In third bowl, add beaten egg and milk.
  6. Dip each chicken tender in seasoned flour, then milk/egg wash and lastly toss in panko bread crumbs. Transfer to aluminum foil lined baking sheet.
  7. Dot melted margarine over each chicken tender.
  8. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 25 – 30 minutes until the chicken tenders are cooked through. Do not turn.
  9. Meanwhile blanch asparagus. (Shown here is 8 oz asparagus). Remove tough stems, add to microwavable dish, add 1/4 cup water and cover. Microwave on high for six minutes. Remove, drain off water, add crushed ice cubes to chill the asparagus.
  10. Blanch the snow peas in a similar manner.
  11. Shred 1 cup Iceberg lettuce and place on serving platter.
  12. Arrange chicken tenders on serving platter along with chilled, drained and blanched vegetables (asparagus and snow peas) and cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes. Add Chicken Dippin’ Sauce in a small bowl.
  13. If desired, add fresh parsley and green onion slices for garnish.

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