What’s The Difference Between Chicken Breast and Tenderloin?

In the world of poultry, chicken breast and tenderloin are two popular cuts that often grace our dinner plates. Both cuts offer unique benefits and distinct flavors, making them a staple in various recipes. To make an informed choice between these two options, it’s essential to understand their differences and how they can influence the final dish.

Chicken breast, known for its lean and protein-packed nature, is a versatile cut cherished by health-conscious individuals. It provides a blank canvas for a multitude of flavors and cooking methods, from grilling to baking. Tenderloin, on the other hand, is a smaller, tender strip of meat found under the breast. This cut is ideal for quick cooking, often used in dishes like stir-fries and skewers.

Comparing chicken breast and tenderloin can seem challenging, given their similar appearance and texture. However, key factors such as nutritional content, cook time, and flavor profile can help guide our preferences when deciding which cut is best suited for a particular recipe or dietary need.

Chicken Breast vs Tenderloin: Differences

Muscle Location

Chicken breast and tenderloin are both parts of the chicken’s white meat selection. The chicken breast is the pectoralis major muscle, which is the larger muscle on the chest of the bird. Chicken tenderloin, on the other hand, is the pectoralis minor muscle, situated directly beneath the breast. It’s a significantly smaller and thinner muscle compared to the breast.

Size and Texture

The size of the chicken breast is generally larger than the tenderloin. Chicken breasts are thick and can be quite substantial, while tenderloins are smaller and thinner. In terms of texture, chicken tenderloins are more tender than chicken breasts. This is primarily because the pectoralis minor muscle experiences less strain during the chicken’s lifetime, making the tenderloin a softer and more delicate cut of meat. Comparatively, the chicken breast can be tougher due to the bird’s constant use of its pectoralis major muscle for movement.

Cut of MeatSizeTexture
BreastLarger, ThickTougher
TenderloinSmaller, ThinMore Tender


Visually, chicken breasts and tenderloins can be distinguished by their shape and the presence of a white line called the “tendinous line.” Chicken breasts are generally wider and evenly shaped, whereas tenderloins are long and narrow strips of meat. The white line present in tenderloins, which is a tendinous tissue, sets them apart from the uniform appearance of chicken breasts.

Nutritional Comparison

Calories and Protein

Chicken breast and tenderloin are both excellent sources of lean protein, but their caloric and protein content differ slightly. In a 100 grams serving:

  • Chicken breast: 165 calories and 31 grams of protein
  • Chicken tenderloin: 144 calories and 26 grams of protein

While both cuts are relatively low in calories, tenderloins have fewer calories than breasts. They also contain slightly lower protein content.

Vitamins and Minerals

Both chicken breast and tenderloin provide essential vitamins and minerals. Some notable nutrients include:

NutrientChicken BreastChicken Tenderloin
Vitamin B60.5 mg0.4 mg
Cobalamin0.3 µg0.2 µg
Vitamin D15 IU10 IU
Iron0.7 mg0.5 mg
Magnesium29 mg26 mg
Potassium340 mg310 mg
Zinc1.0 mg0.8 mg
Calcium11 mg9 mg

Chicken breast has a slightly higher content of most vitamins and minerals, making it a nutritionally denser option.

Sodium Content

Sodium is an essential nutrient, but excessive consumption can lead to health issues. Comparing the sodium content in a 100 grams serving of chicken breast and tenderloin:

  • Chicken breast: 74 mg of sodium
  • Chicken tenderloin: 109 mg of sodium

Tenderloins have more sodium than breasts. Due to their higher sodium content, those watching their salt intake may prefer chicken breast over tenderloin.

In summary, both chicken breast and tenderloin offer a variety of nutritional benefits. When comparing the two, chicken breast tends to contain slightly higher amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals, while tenderloin has fewer calories and a higher sodium content.

chicken tenderloin recipes

Cooking Methods

Baking and Steaming

Baking and steaming are two popular methods for preparing chicken breast and tenderloin. Baking is a dry heat method, often utilizing a pre-heated oven and a baking dish. To keep chicken moist and flavorful during baking, it’s a good idea to coat it with olive oil or other seasonings before placing it in the oven. Steaming, on the other hand, uses moist heat to cook chicken, usually in a steamer basket or insert placed over boiling water. Steamed chicken retains its natural juices and can result in a lower sodium content compared to other methods.

  • Baking: Coat chicken with olive oil or seasoning, place in oven preheated to 350°F (175°C), and cook for 25-30 minutes.
  • Steaming: Place chicken pieces in a steamer basket or insert over boiling water, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes.

Frying and Grilling

Frying and grilling are other popular methods of cooking chicken breast and tenderloin. Frying involves cooking the chicken in hot oil, either on the stovetop or in a deep fryer. Boneless, skinless chicken is often used, and marinating it beforehand can add flavor and tenderness. Grilling, a high-heat method that imparts a smoky, caramelized flavor, is ideal for seasoned and marinated chicken pieces. Both methods require different cooking times and temperatures:

  • Frying: Heat oil in a pan or deep fryer to 350°F (175°C) and cook boneless chicken pieces for 4-5 minutes per side, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C).
  • Grilling: Preheat grill to medium-high heat and cook boneless chicken for 6-8 minutes per side, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C).

Poaching and Boiling

Poaching and boiling are moist heat methods that are useful for cooking chicken breast and tenderloin. Poaching is a gentle heat method, while boiling uses a more vigorous heat. Both methods involve submerging the chicken pieces in liquid (typically water, broth, or a mix of both) to cook them. This can result in tender, moist chicken that is easy to shred or chop for use in other recipes. Cooking times and techniques differ for each method:

  • Poaching: Place chicken in a pot and cover with water or broth, then bring to a simmer on medium-low heat; cook for 15-20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C).
  • Boiling: Place chicken in a pot and cover with water or broth, then bring to a rolling boil on high heat; reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C).

Recipes and Preparations

Marinating Techniques

Marinating chicken is an excellent way to add flavor to both chicken breasts and tenderloins. Both cuts benefit from marinating due to their low-fat content, which can make them prone to drying out during cooking. A well-rounded marinade usually includes an acidic component, such as lemon juice or vinegar, to help tenderize the meat, as well as a combination of herbs and spices for added depth and complexity.

Here are some marinating ideas for both chicken breasts and tenderloins:

  • Citrusy marinade: Lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, and fresh herbs such as rosemary or parsley, perfect for a light and refreshing flavor.
  • Asian-inspired marinade: Soy sauce, sesame oil, grated ginger, honey, and lime juice, ideal for bringing out a sweet and zesty taste.

Seasoning Ideas

Seasoning chicken tenderloins and breasts is an essential step to add more flavor to these versatile cuts. The sky’s the limit when it comes to creative seasoning ideas, so feel free to experiment with your favorite herbs and spices. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Simple seasoning: Salt, black pepper, and garlic powder, great for enhancing the natural flavor of the chicken.
  • Southwest seasoning: A blend of chili powder, cumin, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder, giving your chicken a bold, spicy taste.

Cooking Ideas for Athletes

As athletes often require high-quality protein sources in their diet, chicken breast and tenderloin are popular selections due to their health benefits and low-fat content. It’s best to use cooking methods that preserve the tenderness of the meat while still providing flavorful results. Here are some cooking ideas:

  • Grilled chicken: Both chicken breasts and tenderloins can be grilled, creating a delicious sear while maintaining the juiciness of the meat. This method is excellent for preparing a protein-rich meal with minimal added fats.
  • Baked chicken: Baking chicken in the oven is a simple, healthy method for cooking low-fat white meat dishes. Cook your marinated or seasoned chicken in a covered dish at 350°F (175°C) for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
  • Stir-fried chicken: Stir-frying allows for quick cooking, retaining tenderness and moisture. Simply heat a small amount of oil in a pan, add bite-sized pieces of chicken, and cook until done, then toss in your favorite vegetables for a complete meal.

Cost and Availability

Price Comparisons

When comparing the cost of chicken breast and tenderloin, there are some differences to consider:

  • Chicken breast is generally less expensive than tenderloin in most grocery stores and markets.
  • Buying chicken breasts in bulk can further reduce the cost per pound.
  • Tenderloins, although smaller, are typically more expensive due to higher demand in the market and being a premium cut.

A general price comparison (prices may vary according to locations):

CutAverage Price per Pound
Chicken Breast$2.50-3.50

Versatility in Dishes

Both chicken breast and tenderloin can be used in a variety of dishes which appropriately highlights their versatility.

Chicken Breast

  • Commonly used in stews, casseroles, and roasts.
  • Sliced or diced for salads, stir-fries, and sandwiches.
  • Can be breaded and turned into dishes like chicken fillets, chicken fingers, or nuggets.


  • Often used in dishes where tenderness is preferred, like chicken strips or gourmet salads.
  • Can be breaded or battered to make premium-quality chicken nuggets or delicate breaded strips.
  • Works well in stir-fries and Asian-inspired dishes where its tenderness matches with the sauces and cooking techniques.

Both chicken breast and tenderloin have their unique benefits, but only the cost and availability of these cuts should be the primary considerations when deciding which one to use based on your budget and desired dish.


In comparing chicken breast and tenderloin, it’s important to consider the differences in nutritional content, cooking methods, and personal preferences.

Chicken breast is a lean, high-protein cut of meat, boasting low-fat content and high amounts of protein. Tenderloins, while also providing healthy amounts of protein, tend to be more tender and quicker to cook due to their smaller size. Here’s a quick comparison of their nutritional value:

NutrientChicken BreastChicken Tenderloin
Protein (g)3126
Fat (g)3.63.5

When it comes to cooking methods, both cuts can be prepared in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Grilling
  • Baking
  • Pan-frying
  • Poaching

However, due to their tenderness, tenderloins may benefit from shorter cooking times and more delicate preparation methods. Additionally, chicken breast can be more versatile in terms of serving size and presentation, as it can be sliced, stuffed, or pounded thin.

Ultimately, the choice between chicken breast and tenderloin should be based on individual preferences and dietary needs. Some people may prefer the tenderness and ease of preparation associated with tenderloins, while others may opt for the lower calories and larger serving sizes provided by chicken breasts. Both cuts offer numerous culinary possibilities, making them valuable components of a balanced diet.

chicken tenderloin recipes

26+ Easy Chicken Tenderloin Recipes (+Air Fryer Chicken Tenders)

These recipes are sure to please. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
5 from 8 votes
Total Time 29 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 210 kcal


  • 2 lbs. chicken tenderloin strips
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • Olive oil spray
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper


  • Dry the chicken tenderloins and sprinkle with salt.
  • Dredge with breadcrumb and spice mixture.
  • Air fry at 400°F for 8 minutes, turning halfway through.


Select your favorite recipe.
Organize all the required ingredients.
Enjoy the food.


Calories: 210kcal
Keyword air fryer chicken tenders, chicken tenderloin recipes
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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