My very first job was working at the brand-spankin’ new (at the time) Chik-fil-a in the Boca Mall. Yes. I thought I was big. time. Free chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches? That was worth more than my actual hourly wages. haha

I LOVED working there… me, my brother, my cousins, and some friends from Church all worked there. We had a blast. Minus the one time my cousin sprayed me with the dishwashing hose, picked me up, threw me in the freezer and held the door shut. It wasn’t exactly a fair shot he is just shy of 7 feet tall and 300 lbs… it was a hopeless cause to fight back. haha

Anyhow, my favorite thing from Chik-philly (as I like to call it)? The Polynesian Sauce. Not what you thought I was going to say, was it?!

I have it on good authority that the Chik-fil-a Polynesian Sauce is actually: Marzetti’s Honey French Dressing!!! I scoured my grocery store, but to my disappointment, they did not have it. 🙁 So, I made it my mission to figure out a way to make my own!

I bought the only red (non-creamy) French dressing I could find on the shelf, mixed in some honey and a touch of apple cider vinegar… and VOILA! A sauce that came so darn close to my beloved Polynesian sauce, that I didn’t care it wasn’t actually the real thing! 

Now let’s talk about the Chicken Tenders… um YUM. This was actually a concept courtesy of ‘the hubs’ (my kitchen co-conspirator). He wanted Cashew Panko Chicken Tenders, and that’s exactly what we made! SO delicious. Crispy from the panko, nutty and a little sweet from the Cashews… perfection.  

Plus, they look fried… but guess what? They are BAKED, making this meal a healthy option for the kiddos (or like me… the kiddos at heart). No oil, no grease, just a little baking technique using a sheet pan topped with cookie cooling rack and the use of some non-stick cooking spray!

You get the crunch minus the calories (can I get an amen?!)!

Who DOESN’T love guiltless guilty pleasures?! I know I for one, am always looking for healthy versions of my favorite treats (that ACTUALLY tastes good!). This is one of those things. 

Serve with a side of roasted broccoli, another one of my new favorite healthy treats (i’ll post a how-to very soon), and call it a day! What kid (or adult for that matter) wouldn’t love dunking crispy broccoli bites into that polynesian sauce?!

Friends, go make this. You’ll thank me later. 

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Cashew Panko Chicken Tenders with Polynesian Sauce

Yield: About 14 chicken tenders

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

Cook Time: 15-25 minuts

Total Time: 30-45 minutes

Don't care for cashews? Substitute your favorite nut: peanut, macadamia nut, almond, pecan...


For the Polynesian Sauce:
3/4 cup Publix California French Dressing (sub a non-creamy french dressing)
5 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

For the Chicken Tenders:
1.75 lbs of chicken tenders
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs (regular or whole wheat)
1 1/4 cup cashews, chopped finely in food processor


For the Polynesian Sauce:
Wisk together ingredients and set aside until ready to use.

For the Chicken Tenders:
Preheat oven to 400º. Take a rimmed baking sheet and set a cookie cooling rack inside of it. Spray with non-stick spray. Set up an assembly line of 3 baking dishes. In the first dish, mix together flour, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and cayenne. In the second dish, pour the buttermilk. Finally, in the third dish, mix together the Panko and the cashew crumbs.

A few chicken tenders at a time, dredge into the flour and shake off excess. Next, dunk into the buttermilk followed by rolling them in the Panko cashew mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet (on the cooling rack). Repeat with remaining chicken tenders. Place in oven and bak for 15-25 minutes. I used the convection option on my oven which cut my cooking time down to about 15-16 minutes, but using the conventional oven may take an additional 5-8 minutes.

Source: My life as a Mrs Original