Chicken Breasts vs. Cutlets vs. Tenderloins: What's the Difference?

Let’s break this down. 

Chicken Breasts
Photo: Sinan Kocaslan/Getty Images

Though they're similar in taste and texture, there are discernible differences between chicken cutlets and tenderloins. Here's what you need to know about the parts of the chicken breast — and how to use each one:

What Is a Chicken Breast?

Raw chicken breast on white plate
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The chicken breast is a lean cut of white meat found on the underside of the chicken. A whole chicken has one breast that is usually separated and sold in halves. When a recipe calls for a chicken breast, unless it explicitly states otherwise, it's referring to a chicken breast half you can find in grocery stores and butcher shops — not the whole breast of the chicken.

Breasts are often considered more desirable than other parts of the bird (thighs, wings, etc.) because of its mild texture and flavor and health benefits (white meat tends to have fewer calories than dark meat), so they tend to be more expensive.


Chicken breasts are incredibly versatile. They're great baked, grilled, boiled, fried, or barbecued. When it comes to chicken breasts, the options are pretty much limitless.


a breaded baked chicken breast on a dinner plate with rice pilaf and broccoli in the background

Try one of these easy and delicious chicken breast recipes for dinner tonight:

Get more recipes: Chicken Breast Recipes

What Are Chicken Cutlets?

Uncooked Chicken
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A chicken cutlet is a chicken breast that has been cut in half horizontally to make two thinner slices of meat. This extra step makes the breast more uniform in thickness, ensuring even cooking. Cutlets are often pounded with mallet to make them even thinner — the thinner and flatter they are, the more quickly and evenly they'll cook.

Read more: How to Make Chicken Cutlets from Chicken Breast


Cutlets are great when you want to cook chicken quickly and easily. They're the perfect choice for searing or frying.


Put your chicken cutlets to good use with one of these fun and fast recipes:

New and Improved Chicken Parmesan
Photo by Chef John.

Get more recipes: Quick Chicken Cutlet Recipes

What Are Chicken Tenderloins?

Raw Chicken Tenderloins
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A chicken tenderloin, or chicken tender, is a thin muscle that's loosely attached to the underside of the breast. The tenderloin is generally removed from the breast and sold separately.

Chicken tenders are quite, well, tender compared to other parts of the bird. That's not the only thing that sets them apart: They're more caloric than plain chicken breasts and they have more sodium.

If you can't find tenderloins at your grocery store, you can DIY a substitute by cutting chicken breasts into thin strips.


You'll often find chicken tenderloins breaded and fried, grilled, or baked. Use them to make delicious fillets or kid-friendly chicken fingers.


Baked Chicken Tenders on white plate on tea towel

Everybody loves chicken tenders. These crowd-pleasing recipes are sure to be a hit with any audience:

Get more recipes: Chicken Tenders Recipes

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