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Nashville Hot Fried Chicken

Adapted from Best Food Writing 2015 from an original recipe by Jane and Michael Stern.
If you don’t have buttermilk or self-rising flour on hand, get directions for how to make both at home following the recipe. I admit that I pull back the cayenne on this by about ¼ cup. The hottest impact is in thepaste, so if you want the heat but also want to be able to taste something afew days after eating this, then adjust it down in that final step. You don't need a dedicated deepfryer for this, but a high heat thermometer for candy or frying is critical. Absolutely use tongs and heavy gloves when frying.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Southern
Servings 4


  • Deep fryer or 6-quart stockpot
  • Tongs
  • High heat thermometer



  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons granulated garlic
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 chicken 2 ½ lbs/1 kilo, cut into 8 pieces, or 3 lbs. wings


  • 4 tablespoons cayenne
  • 6 tablespoons granulated garlic
  • 6 tablespoons paprika
  • 4 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups self-rising flour

Spice paste

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cayenne
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

To serve

  • Sliced white sandwich bread
  • Dill pickle chips for serving


  • Combine the buttermilk, 1/4 cup cayenne, 3 tablespoons each granulated garlic and paprika,2 tablespoons onion powder and 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and chill for at least four hours or overnight.
  • Drain the chicken, rinse and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 inches oil in a 6-quart saucepan until a frying thermometer reads 300F/149C. Stir ¼ cup cayenne, 6 tablespoons granulated garlic, 6 tablespoons paprika, 4 tablespoons onion powder and 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Transfer half to another bowl and whisk in the 2 cups self-rising flour.
  • Working in batches, dredge the chicken in the flour mixture. Fry, flipping once, until golden and almost cooked through, about 6 to 7 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 150F/TKC. Transfer chicken to a plate lined with paper towels.
  • Increase oil temperature to 350 F/176 C. Stir ¼ remaining cayenne pepper and 6 tablespoons melted butter in a bowl until it makes a paste. Set aside.
  • Dredge chicken once more in the flour mixture and fry until cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain briefly on paper towels and brush with the cayenne-butter paste. Serve with bread and pickles.

No self-rising flour?

  • Combine 1 cup of all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

No buttermilk?

  • For each cup milk, replace 1 tablespoon of milk with white wine or apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. You an also use sour cream or yogurt blended with milk.
Keyword Fried chicken, Southern, spicy, wings