These Smoked Chicken Tenders are smoked low and slow to infuse them with a deep smoky flavor and to tenderize the meat. From there, the juicy chicken is drizzled with a sweet and tangy honey BBQ sauce, which adds a sticky and caramelized coating. You can make these using a Traeger or any smoker pellet grill.
What Type of Chicken to Use
Chicken tenderloin is a cut of meat found underneath and attached to the chicken breast. It is the most tender part of the chicken breast even though it is smaller than the breast. Chicken tenderloins are usually sold along with the chicken breasts or on their own, so you can feel free to use these cuts interchangeably (just slice the chicken breast about 1/2″ in thickness) to get the same result.
Chicken tenderloins are a great source of protein and low in fat.
Spices and Seasoning
I love to use my Dry Rub For Chicken recipe which includes brown sugar or sweetener, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. You can also use your favorite BBQ or chicken rub.
Sauce is optional. I love to slather these in a mixture of honey and BBQ sauce. Feel free to grab your favorite BBQ sauce brand and flavor. I love local Kansas City BBQ sauce.
How to Make Smoked Chicken Tenders
Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Sprinkle the BBQ rub over the chicken and rub them into the meat.
- Place the chicken tenders on the smoker.
I recommend 225 degrees so the chicken cooks slowly and soaks up the smoky flavor.
Cook Time/How Long to Cook
Cook time will vary based on the size of your tenders.
As a general rule of thumb, smoking chicken tenderloins typically takes around 1 to 2 hours.
To ensure that your chicken is fully cooked and safe to eat, the internal temperature of the chicken should reach 165 degrees. You can use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the chicken periodically during the smoking process.
What Flavor of Wood/Pellets to Use
I love to use apple or the Traeger Signature Blend. Here are some options:
- Fruit flavors: Apple, cherry, and peach woods are all excellent choices for smoking chicken. They impart a slightly sweet and mild flavor that complements the delicate flavor of the chicken.
- Pecan: Pecan is a popular choice because it provides a slightly nutty flavor that works well with the chicken’s natural flavor.
- Hickory: Hickory is a more robust wood that imparts a smoky and bacon-like flavor to the chicken. It’s a good option if you prefer a more intense smoky flavor.
- Mesquite: Mesquite is a strong-flavored wood that is often used for smoking beef, but it can also work well with chicken. It has a slightly bitter and smoky flavor that can be overwhelming if not used sparingly.
How to Reheat
I recommend reheating them in the oven or in the air fryer. You can reheat them in both the oven or air fryer at 350 degrees until warm. You can also use the microwave if you wish.
You can freeze them tightly covered and sealed for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to eat them, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight before reheating them.
Pair With These Recipes
Traeger Smoked Corn on the Cob
Smoked Sweet Potatoes
Smoked Mac and Cheese
Smoked Baked Beans
Smoked Baked Potatoes
More Traeger and Smoker Recipes
Traeger Smoked Burgers
Traeger Smoked Glazed Ham
Traeger Smoked Turkey Breast
Traeger Smoked Salmon
Traeger Smoked Chicken Breast
Traeger Smoked Ribs (3-2-1 Method)
Traeger Smoked Chicken Wings
Traeger Pulled Pork (Shoulder Butt)
Smoked Chicken Tenders
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins/tenders
Homemade Dry Rub (You can also use your favorite BBQ or chicken rub).
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar or sweetener
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees.
- Sprinkle the spices over the chicken and rub them into the meat.
- Place the chicken tenders on the smoker. Smoke the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. This will usually take an hour or two.
- Remove the chicken from the smoker and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes prior to serving.
- Mix the honey and bbq sauce together in a bowl or mixing cup. Drizzle the honey BBQ sauce over the tenders.
Air Fryer Instructions
- Spray the air fryer basket with cooking oil. Place the seasoned chicken in the air fryer.
- Air fry for 8 minutes at 400 degrees.
- Open the air fryer and flip the tenders. Air fry for an additional 4-8 minutes at 400 degrees or until the chicken is crisp. Ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Remove the tenders from the air fryer. Drizzle the tenders in honey BBQ sauce