Spicy Fried Chicken

DinnerDeep FriedChickenFried Chicken

Ready for some seriously spicy fried chicken? Hot sauce in the buttermilk marinade and cayenne in the breading means you're headed toward seriously spicy bliss.

Photography Credit: Aaron Hutcherson

Fried chicken is one of my favorite foods, hands down. I grew up mostly eating quick, skillet-fried chicken, but we would always have a bottle of hot sauce on the table to turn up the flavor.

Here, classic buttermilk fried chicken gets a spicy twist, infusing it with spice instead of treating it as an afterthought. Chicken parts get marinated in a spicy buttermilk mixture, dredged in seasoned flour with a kick, and then fried in a skillet until crisp and golden brown on the outside, and juicy on the inside.

What are the best cuts of chicken for frying?

For starters, you’ll want to use skin-on, bone-in cuts of chicken. In reality, any type of chicken would work, but the skin is my personal favorite part of fried chicken, and the bone helps keep the meat from drying out.

In terms of which pieces to use, I’m partial to chicken thighs, but any cut of chicken works well. Keep in mind that white meat (chicken breasts) will tend to have a shorter cooking time than dark meat.

Spicy Deep Fried Chicken Recipe drain the chicken

How can you adjust the spiciness?

When it comes to fried chicken, the two main components are the meat itself and the crispy crust. As far as the spice level for the chicken meat, it all comes down to the type of hot sauce used for the marinade.

  • Milder hot sauces, such as Louisiana or Frank’s, will only lend a subtle heat to the meat, whereas a spicier bottle like Tabasco Habañero Pepper Sauce will give the meat a nice kick. The heat from the hot sauce will be tempered by the buttermilk in the marinade, so I recommend a hotter sauce than you might think, if you want a spicy end result.
  • The other way to adjust the spice level is with the amount of cayenne and black pepper in the seasoned flour dredge.

How to Make Spicy Fried Chicken


  1. It’s all in the marinade: Any time spent marinating is better than none, even if it’s just 30 minutes, but eight hours is the sweet spot for getting juicy, flavorful chicken from the buttermilk marinade. You can let it marinate up to 24 hours, but any longer, and it will negatively impact the texture of the chicken.
  2. Let the chicken rest after dredging: One of the secrets to expertly fried chicken is letting it rest 20 to 30 minutes after dredging—it helps the coating stick to the meat. It also gives the chicken time to come up to room temperature after marinating in the fridge, which helps it cook more evenly. (Pro Tip: You should let any meat sit for a few minutes after taking it out of the refrigerator to help it cook more evenly.)

Best Spicy fried chicken

What’s the best pan for frying chicken?

When it comes to the type of pan, I like to use cast iron skillets, but stainless steel and anodized aluminum pans also work well. You want a skillet with a thick bottom that can handle the heat.

How much and what kind of oil do you use to fry chicken?

We’re pan frying here, not deep frying. You only need to fill your skillet with about half an inch of any neutral, high-heat oil, such as vegetable, canola, or peanut.

I like to fry chicken at a slightly lower temperature than most—at 325˚F. This gives the chicken enough time to cook all the way through without burning the crust. Without a thermometer, you can tell the oil is the right temperature when a bit of flour dropped in the oil gently sizzles away within a few seconds.

Best Spicy fried chicken fry to 165 degrees

How to tell when chicken is cooked through?

Aside from cutting open each piece to look, the easiest way to tell when the chicken is cooked is with an instant-read thermometer: the thickest part of the meat should register 165°F.

Afterwards, transfer each piece to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, or a platter layered with paper towels, to drain the excess oil.

What do you serve with fried chicken?

The possibilities are endless! I think extra hot sauce for the true heat seekers is always a must. Some of my other favorites include fluffy buttermilk biscuits, creamy, tangy coleslaw, and macaroni and cheese.


Spicy Fried Chicken Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Marinating time: 8 hours
  • Yield: 4 servings


For the chicken:

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts

For the batter:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

For frying:

  • Canola, vegetable, or peanut oil


1 Marinate chicken in buttermilk mixture: Mix the buttermilk, hot sauce, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Put the chicken pieces in the buttermilk mixture and coat completely.

Marinate at least 8 hours and up to 24 in the refrigerator.

Spicy Deep Fried Chicken Recipe marinate the chicken

2 Dredge chicken: Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. In a large paper or plastic (sturdy) bag, mix flour with black pepper, cayenne, salt, and garlic powder.

A couple pieces at a time, add the chicken to the seasoned flour and shake until thoroughly coated. Shake off any excess flour and let the dredged chicken pieces sit on a platter at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

Easy Fried Chicken Recipe dredge the chicken

3 Heat oil in thick-bottomed pan: Meanwhile, heat 1/2 inch of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet on medium heat (cast iron, stainless steel, or anodized aluminum—something that can take the heat). Heat until a pinch of flour gently sizzles when dropped in the hot oil (but not so hot that the pan is smoking), about 325°F. Remember when working with hot oil, always have a pan lid close by, just in case of grease fire.

4 Fry the chicken: Working in batches, add the chicken pieces to the hot oil in the pan and fry until golden brown all over, about 8 to 10 minutes per side, flipping the chicken as needed with tongs. When done, the meat should register 165°F in the thickest part using a digital thermometer.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken fry the chickenBest Spicy fried chicken fry to 165 degrees

5 Remove to a rack to drain excess oil: Use tongs to remove chicken from pan. Place on a rack over a cookie sheet or a platter layered with paper towels for the excess oil to drain. Serve warm.

Spicy Deep Fried Chicken Recipe drain the chicken

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Aaron Hutcherson

Aaron or “Hutch” is the blogger behind The Hungry Hutch, which features a delicious variety of savory and sweet recipes. He grew up in the Midwest, but has called New York City home for nearly a decade.

More from Aaron

3 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. HKSuey

    So disappointed. I was hoping for something with real spice to it. Reading the other reviews I doubled the amount of cayenne but still quite a bland tase. Won’t be doing it again


  2. Val

    Came out great. Only modification I made was to double dip.


  3. Aaron

    This was my first time making fried chicken. It turned out amazing. My partner is lactose intolerant so I used soymilk + lime juice instead of buttermilk. My choice of hot sauce was cholula. The end result was not spicy at all but the skin was cripsy and the inside was tender. It was very delicious and next time I will use a hotter sauce


How to Make Spicy Fried ChickenSpicy Fried Chicken