Eating at KFC, the iconic fast food chicken chain, was a special treat during my childhood, but I’ve come to love another “KFC” as I’ve gotten older: Korean Fried Chicken, specifically dakgangjeong. Who can say no to crispy, bite-size fried chicken tossed in an addictive sweet-spicy-tangy glaze and topped with crunchy chopped nuts?
Dakgangjoeng makes for a great game day appetizer accompanied with an ice-cold beer. The recipe is not difficult, but because it involves a few different steps, I recommend saving it for when you have a little more time. Once you get the hang of the process, you will find yourself craving and making it for a weeknight dinner, too. It’s just that good!
The Steps for Easy Dakgangjeong
Dakgangjeong is typically made with whole wings and drumsticks. This recipe uses chicken tenders for ease. The bite-size pieces of chicken are marinated in a simple mixture of mirin, a sweet rice wine, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
After a rest in the fridge, they are coated with a 50/50 mix of sweet rice flour and cornstarch, a combination that produces a thin, crispy coating—and as a bonus, it’s gluten-free. I use a brand of sweet rice flour called Mochiko.
The dredged pieces are fried twice for maximum crispiness and tossed in a tangy, bubbling glaze to finish. The glaze gets its concentrated flavors from gochujang, a Korean red chili paste, ketchup, and soy sauce.
A Korean cooking syrup, sometimes called oligodang or oligosaccharine, is also added to the glaze. It contributes balanced sweetness and gives dakgangjeong its characteristic glossiness.
Set Yourself Up for Perfectly Fried Chicken
This is how I like to set things up: In a large Dutch oven or pot, pour in enough vegetable oil so it’s at least 1 inch deep. Heat the oil to 350°F, the gold standard for frying. A deep-fry thermometer is ideal for keeping an eye on the temperature, but you can use an instant-read thermometer.
While the oil heats up, create a place to land your fried chicken. Set a large heat-proof mesh strainer over a large heat-proof bowl. Make sure the bottom of the strainer isn’t touching the bowl. The fried chicken will land in the strainer straight from the fryer to drain.
Have a pair of tongs, a spider, or a metal slotted spoon to fish the chicken out of the oil. Set your cornstarch-flour mixture nearby. The marinated chicken will get dredged in it before frying.
Tips and Tricks for the Crispiest Fried Chicken
- Thoroughly dredge the marinated chicken in the dry mix. Tap off any excess before dropping the chicken in the oil. Too much of the dry mix can lead to uneven frying and messy oil—the dry mix will fall into the oil and burn.
- Work in batches. Don’t overcrowd the pot since it can lower the oil temperature and cook the chicken unevenly. The chicken should scatter in the oil in a single layer without overlapping. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the oil at 350°F.
- Drain the chicken in the mesh strainer after frying. This prevents the coating from becoming soggy.
- Double-frying takes fried chicken from good to perfectly golden, crispy heights—it should only take about a minute, and it’s worth the extra bit of effort.
- Instead of chicken tenders, use whole wings, drumsticks, or a combination of the two. You will need to fry them for longer to cook them through.
- I personally love using a mix of cornstarch and sweet rice flour for the dry mix, but you can use potato starch instead of cornstarch and all-purpose flour instead of sweet rice flour.
- Sub in chopped peanuts for walnuts or omit the nuts altogether.
- I highly recommend using the Korean cooking syrup for best results. It has a measured sweetness that adds depth and a nice sheen. If you can’t find it, try agave syrup instead, tasting and adjusting the glaze as you go. The glaze should be the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and tangy—the heat is noticeable but not overpowering.
How to Serve Dakgangjeong
Dakgangjeong is typically served with Korean pickled radishes. They provide a fresh, crunchy contrast that complements the sweet stickiness of the fried chicken. Fresh steamed rice is always a welcomed addition and the ideal canvas to absorb the bold flavors of the chicken. Of course, fried chicken and beer (or soju!) is a winning combo.
How to Plan Ahead
Marinate the chicken in the fridge for up to 24 hours before frying it up.
Nothing beats hot, freshly fried chicken, but you can fry the chicken a few hours in advance. Don’t toss them in the glaze yet! When serving time rolls around, warm them in the oven on a wire rack set it on a sheet pan, then proceed with tossing them in the glaze.
We Are Fried Chicken Fans!
Dakgangjeong (Sweet and Spicy Korean Fried Chicken)
For the chicken:
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the coating:
3/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sweet rice flour such as Mochiko
Vegetable oil, for frying
For the glaze:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Korean cooking syrup
1/4 cup gochujang
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Marinate the chicken:
Cut the chicken tenders into 1-inch pieces and transfer them into a large bowl. Add the mirin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and toss together thoroughly with gloved hands or a large spoon. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
Prepare the coating and glaze:
In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sweet rice flour. In medium bowl, mix the cooking syrup, gochujang, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger until smooth—this is the glaze. Set both aside.
Set up your frying station:
In a large Dutch oven or pot, add enough oil so it’s at least 1 inch deep. Attach a deep-fryer thermometer on the Dutch oven and heat the oil to 350°F over medium-high heat.
While the oil heats up, set a large heat-proof mesh strainer over a large heat-proof bowl, making sure the bottom of the strainer isn’t touching the bowl. Have a pair of tongs, a spider, or a metal slotted spoon nearby to fish the chicken out of the hot oil. Set the cornstarch-flour mixture on the counter next to the frying pot.
Fry the chicken:
Remove the chicken from the fridge, toss a few pieces in the cornstarch-flour mixture until they are thoroughly coated. Tap off any excess dry mix.
Use the tongs or spider to carefully lower the chicken into the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pot—add just enough chicken so that they are in a single layer without overlapping. Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the heat to maintain the oil at 350°F.
Fry the chicken for 4 to 5 minutes, flipping the pieces with the tongs for even cooking, until the pieces are lightly golden brown. Use the spider to transfer the fried chicken to the mesh strainer to drain.
Work in batches; coat another batch of chicken while the first batch is frying.
Double-fry the chicken:
When all the chicken has been fried once, fry them in batches once more, making sure to gently flip the chicken in the oil so they brown evenly. This should only take about 1 minute per batch. The chicken will turn a deeper golden brown. Transfer the fried chicken back to the mesh strainer to drain.
Toss the fried chicken in the glaze:
In a large saucepan or wok over medium-high heat, heat the prepared glaze with the chopped walnuts, stirring once or twice, until it starts to bubble. Add the fried chicken and toss quickly to coat in the glaze. Immediately remove the pan from the heat—the goal is to heat the glaze, not to cook the chicken. Serve the dakgangjeong right away when they are at their crispiest!
Leftovers (don’t be surprised if you don’t have any!) can be wrapped in foil and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Heat the foil-wrapped chicken in the oven or an air fryer until warmed through.
Did you love the recipe? Leave us a review in the comments!
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 42g||54%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||31%|
|Total Carbohydrate 97g||35%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||14%|
|Total Sugars 24g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||19%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|