Aug 12, 2019

Nashville-Style Hot Chicken

Prep Time: 2 hrs
Cook Time: 30 mins
The best Nashville-Style hot chicken recipe! Learn how to make this Southern fried chicken seasoned with a spicy and sweet glaze.

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As the name implies, Nashville hot chicken hails from Nashville, Tennessee and is in fact, very spicy. This type of fried chicken has gained popularity in recent years with even KFC releasing their own version and has expanded across the country with the opening of popular spots like Los Angeles’s Howlin’ Rays which serves their version to a line of customers wrapping around the block on a daily basis. They even tweet out their line wait times now.

When I was in Nashville I fell in love with Hattie B’s and their style of serving fried chicken coated with a spicy mixture. While they aren’t the first to start serving hot chicken (check out Prince’s), they do a great job and offer delicious chicken with a great flavor profile.

Reminder: Do not touch your eyes after eating hot chicken!!

Nashville-Style Hot Chicken

Where Does the Spice Come From?

The spice blend can be adjusted to different heat levels ranging from mild (basically just plain fried chicken) to “shut the cluck up” also known as “burn notice” – I don’t understand how people can eat that level.

This recipe is based on a middle of the road medium to hot spice level. The spice comes from the blend of spices such as cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder and paprika.

Nashville Style Hot Chicken spice mixture cayenne brown sugar chili powder paprika

What is Hot Chicken Served With?

  • White bread
  • Pickles

A lot of people wonder why fried chicken and a lot of traditional BBQ is typically served with plain white bread in the South – it’s so that the bland bread can soak up all the spicy juices from the meat (not to mention that the pieces of bread and acidic pickles eaten in between bites can help to cool down the heat).

While an order typically comes adorned with a slice of white bread and a pickle, these are not considered sides. The chicken tastes great when served with a variety of sides like mac and cheese, collard greens, corn bread or baked beans.

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Chicken – This recipe uses a whole chicken, broken down into parts. The bone-in, skin-on pieces are then fried until cooked through and tender. If you don’t want to use a whole chicken, you can substitute 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. I found that baking the chicken for a short period of time after frying it and then brushing it with the spice mixture lets the flavors sink in while keeping the chicken crispy. No one wants soggy fried chicken.
  • Buttermilk – The typical American buttermilk is low-fat. It also has a rich, tangy flavor and a texture more similar to sour cream or yogurt than cream or milk. As a result of brining in the buttermilk, the chicken is extremely tender and moist.
  • Seasonings – Whisking vinegar-based hot sauce into the buttermilk brine helps to add some heat to the chicken throughout the cooking process. When the chicken is done frying a sweet yet spicy mixture is brushed all over the chicken. It’s made from cayenne pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika and garlic powder.
Nashville Style Hot Chicken recipe from cooking with cocktail rings

How to Make Nashville-Style Hot Chicken

  1. Make the brine. In a large bowl whisk together the buttermilk, salt, sugar and pepper until combined. Add the chicken pieces to the brine.
  2. Brine the chicken. Turn to coat the chicken in the brine mixture and refrigerate, covered for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  3. Heat the oil. Fill a large heavy-bottomed pot with enough oil to reach 2-inches up the side of the pot. Heat the oil to 350°F.
  4. Prepare the dredge. Remove the chicken from the brine to a large plate. Whisk the eggs and hot sauce into the buttermilk brine. Add the flour to another large mixing bowl and set aside.
  5. Dredge Chicken. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Working a few pieces at a time dip the chicken pieces back in the buttermilk mixture then dredge in the flour, shaking off any excess flour.
  6. Fry the chicken. Place into the oil and fry until the chicken is cooked thoroughly and golden brown on the outside. The cooking time will depend on the size of the piece (legs take less time than breasts).
  7. Make the hot chicken sauce. Remove the chicken to a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken. In a small bowl whisk together the cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika and garlic powder. Add ¾ cup of the hot oil and whisk to combine. Use a pastry brush to brush the seasoning mixture on all sides of the fried chicken.
  8. Serve. Place the baking sheet in the oven and let the chicken cook for an additional 10 minutes. As a result, the chicken will remain extra crispy. Serve the chicken with sides of white bread and pickles.
Nashville Style Hot Chicken recipe from cooking with cocktail rings

Troubleshooting Fried Chicken

  • The chicken is too dark on the outside but raw inside. Your oil is too hot! Check the temperature of your oil with a thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer then add the end of a wooden stick into the oil. If small bubbles form around the wood then the oil is ready to fry. If it is bubbling hard then the oil is too hot. The crust of the chicken will fry too fast and the inside won’t cook through. This can also happen if you cook the chicken directly from the fridge. The meat is too cold still and won’t cook evenly. 
  • The chicken is oily and takes forever to cook. Your oil is too cold. Take breaks in between batches so the oil can come back to the desired temperature. Every time food is added to hot oil the temperature decreases drastically. Allowing time for it to heat back up again results in an even fry among batches. This could also happen if you are overcrowding the pan when you cook.

Other Recipes to Try

Nashville-Style Hot Chicken

battered and fried chicken topped with chili oil and a pickle held with a toothpick on white bread in a parchment paper lined basket
Print Pin
Prep Time 2 hrs
Cook Time 30 mins
Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 whole 4½-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces
  • Vegetable oil, as needed, for frying
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Tabasco® hot sauce or other vinegar-based hot sauce
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper, add an additional tablespoon for added heat level
  • 2 packed tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dill pickles, thinly sliced, for serving
  • White bread, for serving

Instructions:

  • In a large bowl whisk together the buttermilk, salt, sugar and pepper until combined. Add the chicken pieces to the brine. Turn to coat the chicken in the mixture and refrigerate, covered for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  • Fill a large heavy-bottomed pot with enough oil to reach 2-inches up the side of the pot. Heat the oil to 350°F.
  • Remove the chicken from the brine to a large plate. Whisk the eggs and hot sauce into the buttermilk brine. Add the flour to another large mixing bowl and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 425ºF.
  • Working a few pieces at a time dip the chicken pieces back in the buttermilk mixture then dredge in the flour, shaking off any excess flour.
  • Place into the oil and fry until the chicken is cooked thoroughly and golden brown on the outside, about 6 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the piece (legs take less time than breasts).
  • Remove the chicken to a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken. In a small bowl whisk together the cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika and garlic powder. Add ¾ cup of the hot oil and whisk to combine. Use a pastry brush to brush the seasoning mixture on all sides of the fried chicken.
  • Place the baking sheet in the oven and let the chicken cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve the chicken with sides of white bread and pickles.

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