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Chicken Tenderloin vs Breast Difference Comparison (with Table)

Lisa Price
Last Updated on
by Lisa Price

Everyone loves chicken. Chicken is so versatile that there’s always a recipe that will appeal to the most finicky of eaters.

You can create gourmet meals for the more sophisticated palates, or you can create child-friendly meals that everyone will enjoy. Learning the ins and outs of chicken is the best way to make the most delicious meals for you and your family.

Chicken tenderloin and chicken breast are the most popular choices of chicken. Which should your choose? Understanding the differences between these types of chicken will help you make the right decision.

Chicken tenderloin vs. breast

Difference Between Chicken Tenderloin and Chicken Breast

The main difference between chicken tenderloin and chicken breast is the texture after cooked. Chicken tenderloin is very tender, while chicken breast can be dry and tough.

If you are looking for a tastier option, chicken tenderloin is the best option. If you are looking for the healthiest option, chicken breast would be your best bet.

As far as cost, both options are a little pricey. One way to save a little money would be to buy the chicken breast with skin and bone, and you can remove the skin and debone the chicken.

Chicken is probably the most versatile meat that you can cook. Figuring out the best option for you and your family depends on your palate and budget. A skilled chef can find the best ways to get the most flavor from the meat they are cooking.

There are some other noticeable differences:

  • Appearance – Chicken tenderloin is much smaller and thinner than chicken breasts.
  • Flavor – Tenderloin is tastier, while chicken breast tends to be bland.
  • Nutrition – Tenderloin has a much higher calorie count than chicken breasts.
  • Price – Chicken tenderloin is much more expensive than chicken breasts.

Chicken Tenderloin vs Breast Comparison Table

 Chicken TenderloinChicken Breast
SizeSmall, narrow stripsDouble the size of tenderloin
PriceVery expensiveExpensive
NutritionTraces of vitaminsFull of vitamins
SodiumHigh contentLow content

Can You Substitute Chicken Tenderloin For Breast?

Definitely! You can use chicken tenderloin and chicken breasts interchangeably with ease. You might find a subtle difference in taste and tenderness, but the difference will be minimal with the proper marination and cooking method.

Remember that tenderloin strips cook much faster than chicken breasts if you decide to use chicken tenderloin instead of chicken breast. Be careful when marinating tenderloin. If it’s over marinated, it will have a soft texture after cooking.

You have to remove the white cartilage from the tenderloin before cooking.

It would help if you remained vigilant when cooking tenderloin as it cooks much faster than chicken breast. You can use a meat thermometer or cut the chicken and check for its color. When you see an opaque hue, your chicken is ready.

You will have to double the amount of tenderloin that you use to match the size of a chicken breast.

Substituting chicken breast for tenderloin is quite simple. Cut the chicken breast into small, thin strips using a sharp fillet knife.

Chicken breast strips are perfect for stir-fries, and adding seasoning and sauce will add flavor to your otherwise bland chicken breast.

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What is Chicken Tenderloin?

Chicken Tenderloin
Chicken Tenderloin

Chicken tenderloins come from the strip of muscle found closest to the bone, and it is under the breast of the chicken. This muscle is rarely used, so it is the most tender part of the chicken. This cut is often sold in restaurants under a name you may recognize- chicken tenders.

You can identify chicken tenderloin by its smaller size. Tenderloin also has a white line running through it which is cartilage. It would be best to cut this cartilage out before cooking your chicken.

Chicken tenderloin is packaged in small narrow strips, and you will find that these strips cook very quickly. The most popular dish for chicken tenderloin is stir fry, and you can add whatever vegetables you prefer. Choosing the perfect sauce and seasoning creates a delicious meal that can differ every time you make it.

Tenderloin is very flavorful.

Chicken tenderloin has a much higher sodium content than chicken breast. If you are on a sodium-free diet, you might want to avoid tenderloin, and it also contains more calories than chicken breast. Tenderloin has a trace of vitamins but does not have the health benefits that chicken breast can offer.

Tenderloin is a delicious choice, but that benefit comes with a cost. Chicken tenderloin is much more expensive than chicken breast and comes in smaller quantities.

Chicken tenderloin is very versatile. You can use it to make chicken fingers, chicken nuggets, chicken strips, chicken fillets, stir-fries, and kabobs.

How to use Chicken Tenderloin

It is important to marinate your chicken tenderloin, so it stays moist. Once marinated, chicken tenderloin turns out best when steamed, poached, or baked.

You can bake tenderloin without marinating for a healthy option, but it might not be as tasty as you would like. It would be best to bake it at a high temperature for about 30 minutes.

Using chicken tenderloin is a great way to create colorful and delicious kabobs that can be baked or grilled on the barbecue.

Poaching is also a great choice. It would be best to cook slowly, letting your chicken simmer for about 45 minutes.

Steaming is also a healthy option. You should steam chicken tenderloin for about 10 minutes.

What is Chicken Breast?

Chicken Breast
Chicken Breast

Chicken breast is a lean cut of meat taken from the pectoral muscle of the chicken.

There are two types of chicken breast. The first is the skinless, boneless breast which is the healthiest choice.

The second is the breast that still has its skin and bone. This type tends to have more flavor and is less expensive.

This type might be better for your budget, but it is not better for your health. You can buy this type and remove the skin and bone to make it a healthier option.

You can quickly identify chicken breasts from their plump pink appearance, and they are much larger than chicken tenderloin.

Chicken breast is very high in protein, and athletes often choose it as a staple for their diet. Boneless and skinless chicken is also very high in vitamins.

Chicken breast contains cobalamin, which is essential for developing red blood cells. It also has magnesium, potassium, zinc, calcium, vitamin B6, and vitamin D.

It has low-fat content, making it an excellent choice for people watching their weight or trying to lose weight.

Sometimes, when food is good for you, it’s not always the best tasting option. Chicken breast, on its own, can taste quite bland. It is also one of the most difficult meats to cook.

Chicken breast is often undercooked, which can cause illness, or overcooked, which causes them to be dry and tough. Finding the best way to cook it is an art that must be mastered.

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How to use chicken breast

The trick to serving the best chicken breast is finding the best seasoning. We know that chicken breast is good for our health, but sometimes we need a little more taste.

Chicken breasts are notorious for being bland, and it would help if you spiced things up. Marinating your breast will help a little, but chicken breasts do not absorb the marinade very well. The best way to add a little zing is to find the right combination of spices.

A great blend of spices that will undoubtedly appeal to your palate is:

Cover your chicken breast in this blend and bake for about 45 minutes. When baking, you should always use parchment paper, and the paper will help retain the juices of the chicken.

The best way to cook chicken breast is grilling, and baking is also a great option. You must be careful not to overcook because your breast will be dry and very tough.

The healthiest way to cook your chicken breast is to grill or bake it with no additives.

For tastier options, you can cook your breast in a sauce. One of my favorite ways to cook chicken breast is in the slow cooker with garlic sauce, and the chicken breasts are moist and very flavorful.

Another popular way is to braise it in lemon sauce or lemon juice. The acid in lemons pairs very well with chicken.

Using chicken breast to make wraps is another healthy option. I often cook up breasts on the weekend and slice them up to use them in wraps throughout the week. It is a great way to meal prep.

You can vary the ingredients you add to your wraps to have something different every day. I often add tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, avocado, red peppers, and cucumbers. There is no end to combinations that you can make.

Related Comparison: Pork Loin vs Pork Shoulder: How Do They Compare?

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
  1. Chicken tenderloins have half the cholesterol content compared to chicken breast which makes it healthier.

    1. Thanks, Brian, that is a good point. However, cholesterol is just one aspect and folks we’ll also need to align with their dietary goals around total calories, fat, and protein per serving. Breast is much leaner, has less calories, and offers much more protein per serving than tenderloin. As always, there’s no simple right answer, but needs to be as part of your overall dietary considerations and what macros you’re trying to hit with your meals.

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