There are perhaps no two words that better epitomize southern food than fried chicken. When strung together, these two simple words prompt memories of picnics, potlucks, hot summer days, and tailgates in many a Southerner’s mind . . . Okay, I’m starting to sound like a country song. Seriously though, who can resist sinking their teeth into perfectly-crispy, steamy, and tender chicken? Certainly not me.
And just because no one makes fried chicken quite like a true Southerner doesn’t mean the rest of the country can’t love it too. Surprisingly enough, fast-food joints are widely believed to have some of the best fried chicken dishes. Chains like KFC, Church’s Chicken, Popeyes, Chick-fil-A, and heck even Publix (not fast food, but still) sell some killer fried chicken.
I know that grabbing a grease-sodden cardboard bucket full of that crispy fried bird is tempting, but even though theirs is good–believe me when I say, yours can be better. With the right recipe and a little confidence, you can produce fried chicken at home that far outshines anything you’ll buy from under a heating lamp.
Below are our top 10 picks of the best fried chicken dishes we have to offer. Fair warning– once you try one, you may not be able to settle for fast food anytime soon.
Fried Chicken in bite-sized form? Yes, you will actually be dreaming about these little nuggets tonight. These are the perfect take-along dish for a picnic or potluck, and with the spicy additions of crushed red pepper, chipotle chile powder, and ground red pepper, they definitely pack a touch of heat. Serve with a homemade honey mustard or blue cheese dipping sauce for the best possible experience.
I sincerely apologize for the name of this recipe. But, to be honest, there really is something to say for the sweet addition that the Honey-Pecan Glaze adds to traditional buttermilk fried chicken here. It’s unreal, I tell you. Once you go for the glazed, regular fried chicken may start to look a little plain. Sorry, not sorry.
No one makes it quite like Mama, am I right? This top-rated buttermilk fried chicken recipe from our friends at Southern Living is one of the most popular on our site. It’s the perfect down-home fried chicken, just like your Mama and/or Nana used to make.
What we love about this recipe is that, other than the chicken, the ingredient list is short. The chicken is doused in a buttermilk wash, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and self-rising flour. Other than that, you’ll just need vegetable oil for frying. It actually doesn’t get much simpler. Want to really round out the plate? Mashed potatoes and biscuits would be optimal.
One thing we can’t stress enough when making your own fried chicken is investing in a thermometer. You can find a perfectly fine one for around $10 at major retailers (try this one from Target.) It’s nearly impossible to perfect your fried chicken game without this tool, so it’s worth the extra expense. While you’re shopping, go ahead and pick up a pair of long-handled tongs, if you don’t already have some.
Learn the pro tips and tricks for frying chicken in a Dutch oven from our test kitchen expert Robby Melvin, who recently made this finger-licking recipe for us LIVE on Facebook.
As if fried chicken isn’t enough, we decided to bathe the final product in buttermilk and top it with handfuls of crispy bacon. I, for on, am not complaining. This recipe definitely should win some sort of award for its Southern ingenuity.
Make sure you read ahead before starting on this recipe, because it requires a 6-hour marinade. What’s the marinade? I’m glad you asked. It’s a simple yet tantalizing mixture of buttermilk and hot sauce. And did we mention you also fry this with bacon drippings in a skillet? So much yes here.
Two Southern icons are combined to make the ultimate sandwich, which is generously topped with pickled green tomatoes and honey. This recipe puts Bojangles’ and Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwiches to shame, and you need it in your life… stat.
Yaaaas, here’s another fast-food entrée that you can make better at home.
Seriously, homemade pickles and an irresistible garlicky mayo top this heavenly, crispy, and fried-to-perfection chicken sammy that surpasses anything you can get from a drive-thru. Watch the video below and learn how to make this fast-food favorite at home in just 30 minutes.
If you’re not into dealing with hot oil, these next 3 recipes for oven-fried chicken are perfect for copying that crispy flavor you love from traditional fried chicken. Bonus points: Oven-frying definitely saves you a few calories.
In Parmesan and Pine Nut-Crusted Oven-Fried Chicken, we dredge the chicken in a mixture of flour, pine nuts, rosemary, Parmesan cheese, and onion powder that yields incredible nutty and cheesy flavor that’s anything but boring. The crust gets golden and crisp in the skillet and helps insulate the chicken to keep it supremely juicy. This dish can be on your table in just 25 minutes and, because it’s only 390 calories, you don’t have to feel bad about going in for seconds.
Here’s another “fake-it-until-you-find-time-to-actually-make-it” recipe that your family will go nuts over. Check it out: this 25-minute faux-fried chicken is only 3 ingredients total: chicken, ranch dressing, and instant potato flakes. Rule of thumb: anytime anything is basted in ranch dressing and dredged in potato flakes, you know it’s going to be good. This recipe is super-simple and gets fried chicken flavor on your table with none of the oil-splattering hassle.
Walnut and rosemary are a welcome pair in this 300-calorie dinner. It’s simple, tasty, and ready in just 25 minutes–it’s no wonder people love it. If you think that your baked chicken always turns out extremely dry, this recipe will prove your track record wrong. The coating prevents the chicken from drying out, so the chicken will be moist, while maintaining a crispy crust. Plus, we added kid appeal to this dish with a sweet and savory honey-mustard dipping sauce.
#10. Fried Chicken Kebabs
Oh, you fancy, huh? No, seriously, we get it. For those of you who want to serve fried chicken at your next party but know your guests don’t want grease smothered all over their faces and sundresses, these bite-sized chicken skewers are your new go-to app.
Simple but stylish, this appetizer will be the first to disappear, guaranteed. Serve with a homemade or store-bought mango chutney.
For more finger-lickin’ fried chicken, check out our Down-Home Southern Fried Chicken recipes.