Make Spicy and Crunchy Nashville Hot Chicken at Home

Serve this Nashville specialty with white bread to soak up the sauce, and add a few pickle slices alongside for a bit of tang. 

Frequently asked questions
What is Nashville hot chicken?
Nashville hot chicken is typically deep-fried and coated in a spicy mixture made from oil, cayenne pepper, and other spices. It varies in heat.

What is the difference between Buffalo chicken and Nashville hot chicken?
Both include fried chicken coated in a fatty, spicy sauce, but Buffalo chicken is typically less hot and more buttery, with more tang. Nashville hot relies more on ground spices and oil. 

Can I use bone-in chicken?
This recipe works for bone-in chicken as well. Cut a whole chicken into eight pieces (or buy bone-in chicken pieces), and cook the thighs for 15 minutes, and the breasts for 18 minutes. You can also use this recipe to make Nashville hot chicken wings.

Notes from the Food & Wine Test Kitchen
We took a few extra steps to make this spicy fried chicken stand out. Marinating the chicken in buttermilk and pickle brine makes it tangy and juicy. We added rice flour to the dredging mixture to give it extra crunch, and a bit of MSG to amplify the flavors.

2 large eggs

3 cups whole buttermilk

2 tablespoons hot sauce (such as Louisiana)

1/4 cup dill pickle juice, plus dill pickle slices for serving (from 1 [16-ounce] jar)

3 tablespoons honey

4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

2 (10-ounce) boneless, skin-on chicken breasts, halved crosswise

4 (6-ounce) boneless, skin-on chicken thighs

Canola oil

3 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons MSG (optional)

2 cups (about 8 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 cup (about 5 1/4 ounces) white rice flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)

Sliced white bread

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Whisk together eggs, buttermilk, hot sauce, pickle juice, honey, and 3 tablespoons of the salt in a large bowl. Place chicken in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours.

Pour canola oil into a large Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat over medium-high to 335°F.  Meanwhile, remove chicken from the refrigerator, and let stand (still covered). Line 2 baking sheets with wire racks, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200°F. While oil heats, stir together brown sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, MSG (if using), and 2 teaspoons of the salt in a medium-size heatproof bowl; set aside.

Whisk together all-purpose flour, rice flour, and remaining 1 tablespoon salt in a large bowl or shallow dish. Spoon about 4 tablespoons buttermilk mixture into flour mixture; briefly stir to form small clumps (most of flour should be dry). Working in batches, remove chicken from buttermilk mixture, and place in flour mixture. Turn chicken 1 to 2 times, completely coating chicken in flour. Place chicken on 1 prepared baking sheet, leaving the second baking sheet clean for cooked chicken.

Once the oil reaches 335°F, carefully add 3 to 4 pieces of coated chicken at a time to the Dutch oven. Cook, turning twice, until chicken is deeply browned and a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of chicken registers 165°F, 8 to 9 minutes for thighs and 10 minutes for breasts. Transfer to the second prepared baking sheet, and keep warm in the preheated oven while frying the remaining chicken.
Once all of the chicken is cooked, ladle 1 cup hot frying oil into the bowl with cayenne mixture; stir well. Using tongs, dip each piece of chicken into the hot oil mixture, turning to coat. Serve immediately with white bread and pickle slices.

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