Award-Winning Pecan-Crusted Nashville Hot Chicken

You can substitute chopped roasted piquillo peppers for more flavor.

  • Prep time: 50 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Marinade time: 4 Hours to Overnight
  • Yield: 4 servings


For the Chicken Marinade:

  • 2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup dill pickle brine
  • 1/4 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce, like Louisiana Hot Sauce or Crystal Louisiana’s Pure Hot Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 24 ounces total), pounded to an even thickness

For the Pesto:

  • 1 cup collard greens, rinsed, trimmed of center ribs and roughly chopped, and firmly packed
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, green parts only, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped dill pickles
  • 2/3 cup raw pecan pieces, toasted
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle brine
  • 1/4 cup pecan oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

For the Chicken Coating:

  • 2 cups raw pecan pieces, toasted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

For the Cornbread Grits:

  • 2 batches prepared and cooled cornbread, homemade or from 2 store-bought 8.5-ounce box mixes
  • 2 cups reduced fat milk
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 8 ounces reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated and brought to room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pimientos

For the Hot Pecan Oil:

  • 1 cup pecan oil
  • 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper (or more if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons honey

To Garnish:

  • Dill pickle slices


1 Marinate the chicken: In a medium glass baking dish, whisk together the buttermilk, dill pickle brine, hot sauce, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

2 Meanwhile, make the pesto: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the collard greens and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain well in a colander and let cool for 10 minutes. Add the collard greens and remaining pesto ingredients to a food processor, and pulse until it forms a course puree. Refrigerate until you are ready to bake the chicken.

Pecan-Crusted Nashville Hot Chicken Pecan-Crusted Nashville Hot Chicken

3 Prepare the chicken coating: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. In a food processor, pulse pecans until they resemble the texture of coarse cornmeal and pour into a shallow dish. In separate shallow dish, whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. In another separate shallow bowl, place egg whites.

4 Coat the chicken: Drain and discard chicken marinade. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Lightly dredge chicken in the flour, then into the egg whites and finally into the pecans, coating thoroughly.

Place chicken on the foil-lined baking sheet and spray tops lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Pecan-Crusted Nashville Hot Chicken

5 Meanwhile, make the cornbread grits: Crumble the cornbread into coarse crumbs and transfer to a bowl along with the milk and broth. Stir gently to moisten. For super creamy grits, blend in a blender until no lumps remain.

Transfer this mixture to a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened like grits, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in the cheddar, salt and pepper until smooth. Fold in pimientos.

Pecan-Crusted Nashville Hot Chicken Pecan-Crusted Nashville Hot Chicken

6 Make the hot pecan oil: In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients for the hot oil except honey until combined. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil mixture into a small bowl with the honey, whisk briefly to combine, and set aside.

Pour remaining oil into a small skillet and heat over medium for 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through, whisking often.

Pecan-Crusted Nashville Hot Chicken

7 Plate and serve: Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons pesto around the outer edges of each of two serving plates. Spoon about 1 cup of grits in the center of each plate. Carefully place chicken in the skillet with the hot oil. Spoon more oil on top. Place one piece of chicken over each plate of grits. Drizzle reserved honey-oil mixture over chicken, allowing any excess to drip over the edges. Garnish chicken with dill pickle slices.

Pecan-Crusted Nashville Hot Chicken Pecan-Crusted Nashville Hot Chicken