Chicken Tenderloin vs Breast: What’s the Difference?


We all know chicken breast and tenders, but with contrasts in size, shape, and price, there’s more separating the two than you might think. Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between chicken breast and tenderloin.

chicken tenderloin vs breast

Not all parts of a chicken are made equal. We all have certain preferences. You will often see them sold separately. There is a good reason for that. Have you been wondering what the difference is between chicken tenderloin and chicken breast? In this article, we look at how to use these cuts, what they are, and what makes them different. 

What is a chicken tenderloin?

Grilled chicken on bamboo skewers, close up view

The two are quite similar and as such are often confused for each other. However, they are different. The chicken tenderloin is a thin muscle found alongside the chicken breast, but it is not the chicken breast. They are attached to the breast, which may be why they are often confused.

On average, each chicken tenderloin is about one 1/2inches wide and about 5 inches long. If you know where to find beef or pork tenderloins, you will easily find chicken tenderloins because they are located in a similar area. The only time you can see the tenderloin is when you cut it away from the chicken breast. 

Chicken tenderloin is tender, which makes it great for stir fry recipes.

Grilled chicken breast in different variations on a wooden board

What is a chicken breast?

If you’ve ever been on a diet that calls for lean chicken meat, then you know all about the chicken breast. It is a large piece of meat that is found on the ribs. It covers them, and it doesn’t have many bones. Each chicken has two breasts.

The differences

Grilled chicken breasts in lime sauce

Whilst the chicken breast and the chicken tenderloin are taken from around the same parts. They still have differences. The differences range from looks to size to texture, amongst other factors. Let’s take a look at some of those differences; 


One of the first things you will find is that chicken tenderloins are considerably smaller than chicken breasts. They are also thinner than the breasts. On average, they are half the size of the full breast. The chicken tenderloin is wider on one end and tapers towards the bottom of the meat. 

Calorie count

Chicken tenderloin has more calories than chicken breast. Therefore, if you need it for diet purposes, you may want to go for chicken breast, lower in calories. 

Nutritional content

Whilst chicken breast is lower in calories, it is higher in magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B-6, sodium, and D, whilst chicken tenderloin only has minimal amounts of these nutrients. The high sodium content in tenderloin makes it vastly different, especially for people who need to watch their sodium intake, such as people with heart issues. 


Chicken tenderloin is considerably pricier than chicken breast. Perhaps because there is less of it than breast, one chicken will give you less chicken tenderloin than a chicken breast. Whilst chicken breast is not the cheapest cut of meat on the chicken. It is still less pricey than tenderloin.

Flavour and texture

The flavour and texture of the chicken breast and the chicken tenderloin are very similar, and it will be difficult to tell them apart. However, tenderloin is tender and as such needs to be cooked considering this. If you overcook it, there is a chance that you wind up with dry chicken. For grilling, the chicken breast is a better bet. Chicken tenderloin is a bit darker in colour. Some describe the colour as a peachy hue.

Uncooked texture

When the meat is uncooked, tenderloin is not as plump as the breast. This is an excellent way to test when you are buying the chicken in a supermarket or butchery, and you have no one to help you decipher between the cuts. The chicken tenderloin has a tendon that runs along with the meat and is usually removed when it is cooked.

grilled chicken tenderloin skewers

Can you use chicken tenderloin instead of the breast?

Sighting the differences between the two cuts will realise that substituting the two, may not be such a bright idea. Since the chicken tenderloin is not as long as the breast, it may not work well in recipes where long pieces are called. Also, tenderloin cooks faster than the breast. This means that it can not be used for recipes that may incorporate longer cooking times, such as would be required for cooking breasts.

Also, since tenderloin is smaller, then it means that they take less time to marinate. Substituting one for the other can be done, only if you keep in mind the differences and adhere to them. Otherwise, it is easy to wind up with an undercooked or overcooked meal. 

How to cut chicken breast for tenders

Since tenders are a part of chicken breasts, it means that you can cut them out yourself. Sometimes you cannot get the cut that you want from a supermarket or butchery, and as such, it helps you cut it out yourself. You can either use a knife or kitchen scissors. 

1.    To do this, you will need to make sure that you have a sharp knife that will easily slice through the meat efficiently. You may find it easier to deal with a long knife that can cut across the meat’s length.  

2.    Dry the meat before you cut it. This helps to ensure that the meat doesn’t slip and that you don’t injure yourself. 

3.    When you are satisfied that it won’t slip around, move it onto a clean cutting board. 

4.    If the breast is not deboned, make sure that you remove the bones. 

5.    Then hold the meat with one hand that you won’t be holding the knife in.

6.    Now you can begin to slice the chicken, making sure that you find the grain and cut across it. Avoid cutting parallel to the grain. Then cut along the meat’s length, making sure the pieces are about ½ an inch thick. 

7.    Try to cut the pieces in a uniform manner and size. This way, you are assured of the chicken cooking more evenly.  

Most bodybuilders love their chicken breast. That is because it has a low-fat content. They tend to cook quite quickly, which is a bonus. Are you a chicken tenderloin or breast sort of person?

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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