Chicken Cutlets vs Breast vs Tenderloins (Are They All The Same?)

Last Updated on February 18, 2023

In this article you’ll learn the difference between chicken breast, chicken cutlets, and chicken tenderloins so you’ll know which to choose for any chicken dish you want to cook.

Supermarket shelf showing stacks of chicken cutlets, chicken breast, and chicken tenders.

What Is Chicken Breast?

Chicken breast is a lean cut of white meat taken from the chest muscle on the underside of a chicken. Each whole chicken contains one breast which is usually separated during the butchering process and sold as two individual breasts.

Each individual chicken breast typically weighs about six to eight ounces, but it can vary from bird to bird.

Chicken breast is one of the most popular cuts of meat around. Not only is it lean and healthy, but it’s also incredibly versatile.

There are countless ways to prepare chicken breast, and its mild flavor means it takes well to just about any kind of marinade, rub, or sauce you can imagine.

You can marinade or rub a chicken breast and toss it right on the grill or smoker to cook. Cut it into chunks and cook on a skewer or in a stir fry (chicken fried rice is a family favorite!) You can also bake, sear, or poach chicken breasts.

The possibilities are limitless.

What Is A Chicken Cutlet?

A chicken cutlet is simply an individual chicken breast that has been cut in half horizontally to create two thinner slices of meat.

Cutlets may sometimes be pounded with a mallet to make them even thinner and more uniform, ensuring they cook evenly.

Since they’re thinner than chicken breasts, cutlets cook faster and are a great option for those busy nights when you need a quick and easy dinner.

Cutlets are perfect for pan-searing or frying. Check out our recipe for breaded chicken cutlets on a Blackstone griddle!

What Are Chicken Tenderloins?

Chicken tenderloins, also called chicken tenders, come from a thin muscle that’s loosely attached to the breast. It’s removed from the breast during the butchering process and sold separately.

Chicken tenderloins are small, tender, and cook quickly. They go great on the grill, baked, or seared.

What Is That White String In The Chicken Breast?

That white string you see in your chicken breast is just a tendon that helps the muscles attach to the bone. It’s edible and perfectly safe to eat, but it can be tough and rubbery. You can either leave it or remove it while prepping your chicken. I usually remove it.

Can You Substitute Chicken Breast For Cutlets?

If the grocery store is out of chicken cutlets, you can use chicken breast as a substitute in most dishes. Keep in mind that breasts are much thicker and you’ll have to adjust the cooking time.

I wouldn’t recommend breading and frying a whole chicken breast, as you’re likely to end up with an overdone exterior and a raw interior. Fried chicken cutlets are much easier to deal with.

Another alternative is to take the chicken breast and slice them into cutlets yourself.

How To Cut Chicken Breast Into Cutlets

Learning how to cut chicken breast into thin cutlets is an essential skill for a home cook. Thinner cutlets cook faster and more uniformly than full-sized breasts and they’re a real time-saver on busy weeknights.

Before you get started, put the breasts in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. You don’t actually want to freeze them, but the chicken will be easier to cut when it’s really cold.

Place the breast on a cutting board and hold it flat with the palm of your hand. Using a sharp knife, slice the breast horizontally into two even pieces.

Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. You’ll get better with practice.

Next, place a cutlet inside a plastic bag and use a mallet to gently pound the chicken. Rather than pounding directly up and down, use a slight side motion to guide the chicken from the center to the edges.

And remember:

Pound gently. You’re not trying to hammer a nail into the wall. You just want to flatten the cutlet so the entire piece is a uniform thickness so it will cook evenly.

The video below will show you exactly how to cut a chicken breast into chicken cutlets…

Can You Use Chicken Breast For Chicken Tenders?

If the kids want some homemade chicken tenders and fries, but the supermarket is fresh out of tenders, you can simply substitute with full-sized breasts cut lengthwise into strips about an inch thick.

How Long Does Chicken Last In The Fridge Or Freezer?

Assuming you purchased it before the expiration date, fresh uncooked chicken can stay in the fridge for about two days before you have to start worrying about spoilage.

In the freezer, chicken can last up to nine months as long as it is tightly sealed.

Once cooked, you can store chicken in the fridge for about three to four days. If you won’t be able to eat it within a few days you should freeze any leftovers. Place it in an airtight container or freezer bag and label it with the date so you know exactly how old it is.