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Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich

There are few things I love more than this Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich. The contrast between tender-on-the-inside chicken and its crispy, spicy outside is out of this world. Add pickles and creamy slaw and it’s absolute perfection.

You can make and serve this Nashville Hot Chicken recipe any number of ways. I love it as a sandwich, but it’s also delicious served open-faced on a thick slice of soft bread, too. I eat Keto most of the time, so if I’m not indulging with a bun, I’ll have just the chicken (keto adjustments are listed in the recipe) with the coleslaw and pickles.

Nashville Hot Chicken on a bun with pickles and coleslaw

What is Nashville Hot Sauce made of?

Nashville hot sauce uses cayenne pepper for the heat and a little brown sugar to add a subtle sweetness to balance the flavors. I like a little garlic, too, and I’ll sometimes add a little extra sugar if I’m in the mood for it. This recipe is my go-to and the one that everyone I’ve served it to loves the most. After you make it the first time, however, feel free to adjust these amounts if you want to try a little spicier or sweeter.

Ingredients

Nashville Hot Chicken

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thigh (thighs have the most flavor!)
  • Pickle juice (just use what’s left from a jar of pickles)
  • Buttermilk
  • Hot sauce (any vinegar-based hot sauce such as Tabasco, Frank’s RedHot Sauce or Louisiana)
  • Egg

Nashville Hot Chicken Breading

  • All-purpose flour (or whey protein isolate if you’re Keto or low-carb)
  • Coarse salt

Nashville Hot Sauce

When KFC released their Nashville Hot Chicken it put Nashville hot sauce on the map but it’s been a Tennessee classic for more than 70 years. This homemade version is seriously as addictive as Prince’s Hot Chicken, where it all began.

  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Dark brown sugar (use Swerve for Keto)
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

Nashville Hot Chicken Toppings

  • Buns
  • Coleslaw
  • Pickles
  • Mayonnaise
Nashville Hot Chicken recipe on a bun with pickles and coleslaw

How to make the BEST Nashville Hot Chicken

(Scroll down to the bottom for the printable recipe card with exact measurements and recipe instructions.)

  1. Brine the Chicken: Mix the pickle juice, buttermilk, hot sauce, and egg together and brine the chicken in the fridge.
  2. Make the Nashville Hot Sauce: Add the sauce ingredients to a saucepan and heat.
  3. Coat the Chicken: Mix the flour and salt together and dip the flour into the mixture.
  4. Fry the Chicken: Fry the chicken in a skillet until crispy and cooked through.
Nashville Hot Chicken on a bun with pickles and coleslaw

What goes with Nashville Hot Chicken?

Any southern-style side you like will go well with this spicy Nashville Hot Chicken recipe. I usually just go for coleslaw, since it’s simple to make and I love the creamy contrast to the spicy chicken. But I’ve served it with everything from simple green beans to creamed corn. I stay away from spicy sides, as I want the chicken to shine, plus that might be a bit overwhelming in terms of flavors (and I love my heat)!

I’ve also made this with Sweet Corn Cake, which I realize isn’t even close to traditional (it’s also usually served with Mexican food), but trust me when I say that it really works here!

There’s a local joint near me that makes their own mean Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich, and it’s what I get every time we stop in. I just can’t stay away from it! I do prefer to make it at home since I like making it exactly the way I want it, but you’ll never find me turning this down.

Nashville Hot Chicken on a bun with pickles and coleslaw

Best Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Tender on the inside with a spicy, crispy outside, this Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich is worth every bite and calorie!

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ¼ cup pickle juice (just use what's left from a jar of pickles)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce (any vinegar-based hot sauce such as Tabasco or Frank's RedHot Sauce)
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Breading

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or whey protein isolate if you're Keto or low-carb)
  • 1 tsp coarse salt

Hot Sauce

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup lard (see recommended products below for where I buy my lard)
  • 3 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar (use Swerve for Keto)
  • 1 tsp paprika (smoked paprika also works but will alter the flavor)
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper

For Frying

  • 1-2 cups cups canola or avocado oil

Toppings/Assembling

  • 6 soft buns
  • 2 cups coleslaw, divided
  • pickles
  • mayonnaise (if desired)

Instructions

  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the pickle juice, buttermilk, hot sauce, and egg until it's thoroughly combined. Add the chicken and toss each piece so that it's completely coated with the mixture. Pop it in the fridge for about 2 hours (you can leave it longer if necessary).
  2. Place all of the sauce ingredients into a saucepan. Cook on medium heat until it's melted and smooth. Turn off the heat or to very low. (Reheat just before using if necessary). Set aside the sauce to make the coat the chicken.
  3. Remove the chicken from the mixture and pat them dry with paper towels (don't discard the mixture).
  4. Mix the flour and salt together in a shallow dish. Dip each chicken thigh into the flour mixture, then back into the pickle juice/buttermilk mixture to coat it completely, then once more in the flour mixture.
  5. Add the oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it reaches 350F, add the chicken. Cook until the chicken is crispy and cooked through to an internal temperature of 165F, about 5 minutes per side.
  6. Place the chicken on a rack to allow any excess oil to drain off. Brush liberally with the sauce.
  7. Place a chicken thigh on a bun and add the toppings.

Notes

Fry immediately after breading to prevent soggy breading that doesn't crisp well.

Double dip the chicken for an extra crunchy crust, if you prefer.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1435Total Fat: 111gSaturated Fat: 22gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 85gCholesterol: 205mgSodium: 1791mgCarbohydrates: 72gFiber: 4gSugar: 18gProtein: 39g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix. Includes the full 2 cups of oil, much of which is discarded after cooking.

Where to Get a Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich?

If you’re short on time to make this recipe, fortunately, you now don’t need to travel to Nashville for a hot chicken sandwich. There are many local restaurants that now serve up hot chicken so be on the lookout for these eateries plus these restaurant chains that serve up hot chicken as well:

  • Dave’s Hot Chicken
  • Joella’s Hot Chicken
  • Party Fowl
  • Bangin’ Buns
  • Nashville Hot Chicken
  • Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish
  • Hattie B’s
  • Hot Chicken Takeover (HCT)
  • Howlin’ Ray’s
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • Prince’s Hot Chicken (the original)
Kristy Bernardo
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