Nashville Hot Chicken (Spicy Fried Chicken)

Nashville Hot Chicken (customizable spicy fried chicken) is crazy juicy, crunchy, flavor exploding and the only fried chicken recipe you will ever need!

Nashville Hot Chicken is legendary for its bite but when you make it at home, you can decide just how much heat you want. In this Nashville Hot chicken Recipe, you can leave off the Nashville Hot Sauce at the end for crunchy, flavor bursting chicken or add more or less Sauce to customize how spicy you want it. Either way, you won’t be able to resist this electrifying easier-than-you-think fried chicken!

Nashville Hot Chicken Recipe sponsored by McCormick®.  All opinions are my own.

HOW TO MAKE NASHVILLE HOT CHICKEN RECIPE VIDEO

Nashville Hot Chicken crispy and being picked up to eat.

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Nashville Hot Chicken Recipe

My little brother just got married this past weekend!  It was a magical summer day full of love, laughter and pure joy.  I have a special bond with my little brother (I used to call him my little “chunk of joy,” now he’s the tall “hunk of joy”).  He is seven years younger than me with no siblings in between (with four siblings older than us).   

He called me frequently while dating his now wife to gush about her kindness and talents and to ask me for advice.  I finally met her over Memorial Day Weekend where we feasted on spicy fried chicken, AKA my version of Nashville Hot Chicken, accompanied by the best ever Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes, Million Dollar Macaroni and Cheese and Best Baked Beans — all American favs perfect for then Memorial Day and now 4th of July!

They loved the Nashville Hot Chicken recipe almost as much as they love each other.  Okay, that’s a stretch.  But they were ooohing and awwwing until every juicy morsel caked in crunchy spicy crisped crust was devoured.  

And now you and all of your friends and family can fall in love with this Southern indulgence slathered in a tangy cayenne paste this upcoming 4th of July because, after all,  what is more American than fried chicken?  You would just be doing your patriotic duty by consuming 3, 4, 5 pieces….

What is Nashville Hot Chicken?  

You might recognize the name Hot Chicken from everywhere from KFC to trendy restaurants, to “must-try” Southern foods in countless magazines and websites but this newly nationwide popular chicken has been popular in Nashville for decades.  

My custom Nashville Hot Chicken recipe along with hot chicken joints all over Nashville, all trace back to the original Prince’s Hot Chicken, who by all accounts, is where hot chicken was born over 70 years ago.  Today, people still line up in long lines before Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack opens its doors to get their spicy fried chicken fix.

overhead view of nashville fried chicken on white plate

Nashville Hot Chicken Ingredients

This Nashville fried chicken recipe has a few components: the buttermilk marinade, the homemade spice rub, the buttermilk egg wash, the breading mixture, and the homemade Nashville hot chicken sauce. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not really that bad!

Here’s what you’ll need to make this hot and spicy chicken:

  • Bone-in chicken pieces: You’re looking for drumsticks, wings, breasts, etc. Trim the chicken of excess fat before starting the recipe.
  • Vegetable oil: This is my preferred oil for frying chicken.
  • Buttermilk: Tenderizes the chicken as its acidic enzymes break down the protein in the chicken. You may also substitute with DIY sour milk.
  • Bay leaves: Used in the marinade to add some extra flavor.
  • Nashville hot chicken seasoning: I created my own hot chicken seasoning blend using salt, paprika, onion powder, chili powder, and more!
  • Eggs: Are mixed with buttermilk and hot sauce to create a spicy egg wash for the breading to stick to.
  • Hot sauce: You can use any hot sauce you’d like. This gets brushed onto the chicken and is also incorporated into the homemade Nashville hot chicken sauce.
  • All-purpose flour: I use all-purpose flour but I’m sure gluten free flour, almond flour, etc. would also work.
  • Baking powder: Dries out the skin slightly and results in super crispy hot fried chicken.
  • Nashville hot chicken sauce: My homemade hot sauce mixture is made with butter, cayenne, smoked paprika, brown sugar, and more.

Ingredient Variations

  • I use Frank’s Original Hot Sauce but you are welcome to use your favorite.
  • You can make DIY buttermilk or sour milk for this recipe by adding 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring glass. Add enough milk (not nonfat) to equal 3 cups. Give it a stir and let sit 5-10 minutes in order to activate and slightly curdle.
  • Vegetable oil is my go-to oil for frying because it has a smoking point comfortably above frying temperature and is very neutral.  Other oils suitable for frying (although some aren’t as neutral as others) include: peanut oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, sunflower oil.
collage showing steps to making homemade nashville chicken

How to Make Nashville Hot Chicken

This Nashville chicken recipe requires a little TLC, but the end results are totally worth it. Here are the basic steps to making homemade hot fried chicken:

  1. Marinate the chicken in a mixture of buttermilk, bay leaves, and some of the homemade spice rub. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, dredge the marinated chicken first through a spiced flour mixture, then through a buttermilk egg wash, and then once more through the flour mixture.
  3. Repeat until all the chicken pieces have been coated.
  4. Add enough vegetable oil to your Dutch oven until oil measures 3” deep. Heat over medium high heat until oil registers 375 degrees F.
  5. Fry the hot and spicy chicken in batches until every piece is cooked through.
  6. Let the chicken cool slightly, then brush with desired amount of homemade Nashville hot chicken sauce.

How Long to Fry Chicken?

This Nashville hot chicken will need to fry in 375 degree F oil for roughly 14 minutes total, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F or 165 degrees F for dark meat. See my instructions in the recipe card below for exact details on how to fry chicken.

brushing nashville hot chicken sauce
onto pile of fried chicken

Tips for Making Nashville Hot Chicken

  • Use an instant read thermometer.  I highly recommend an instant-read thermometer to ensure you have the correct temperature not only at the beginning of frying, but throughout the entire frying process.  It will save you a few “test chicken pieces” and ensure all your chicken is fried to golden perfection. 
  • Test oil.  If you don’t have a thermometer, medium-high heat should be about right, but every stove is different, so you will want to test the oil before frying the chicken.  Test the temperature with a pinch of flour or better yet, an extra piece of chicken.  If it boils, your oil is ready but if it boils and the test piece turns dark within a minute or so, your oil is too hot. You will have to remove from the heat, wait a few minutes, return to heat and try again.
  • Don’t overcrowd pan. Fry the Nashville chicken in batches. This allows the chicken to cook evenly without touching.
  • Line on paper towels. Use a spider trainer, fine mesh sieve or slotted spoon to transfer the spicy fried chicken to a paper towel lined baking sheet or serving platter in a single layer without touching. You don’t want the pieces touching or they will steam; you also don’t want them sitting in oil or they won’t be as crispy.

Recipe Variations to Try

The main component that transforms fried chicken into iconic Nashville Hot Chicken, is slathering it in a cayenne paste that’s primarily a mixture of McCormick® Ground Red Cayenne Pepper and frying oil.

But don’t worry, if you are concerned about this chicken being too spicy for your family and friends – the heat level is completely customizable!  You can leave out the Nashville Hot Sauce and sink your teeth into mega flavorful chicken, or you can brush your chicken with a little Nashville Hot Chicken Sauce for a mild explosion of heat or brush the sauce on heavy for an aggressive dose of heat that will leave your lips tingling for Nashville Hot Chicken like it’s really made in Nashville.

Any way you like it, this hot chicken that’s getting its 15 minutes of fame nationwide will make you famous neighborhood wide as your friends and family clamor for the juiciest, crispiest Nashville Hot Chicken.

pile of nashville hot chicken on white plate

Can I Prep Nashville Chicken in Advance?

Yes! The chicken can be prepared up to the point of frying and kept in the refrigerator. Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before frying.

How to Store Nashville Hot Chicken

Nashville fried chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When properly stored, it is good for 3 to 5 days. For best results, don’t stack your chicken directly on top of each other as this will make it more soggy. Instead, place a piece of parchment paper in between the layers. 

How to Reheat Nashville Fried Chicken

  • Microwave:  the chicken won’t be nearly as crispy if reheated in the microwave but it will still be flavorful.  Transfer chicken to a microwave safe plate in an even layer. Microwave for 90 seconds, then in additional increments of 15 seconds as needed.
  • Oven: spread chicken on a lightly greased baking rack set in a baking sheet.  Bake at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes or until heated through. You can also fry the chicken again to reheat.

Can I Freeze Nashville Hot Chicken?

Yes! The cooked chicken can be frozen.

  1. Make sure your chicken is completely cool, then wrap each piece individually in plastic wrap before placing in a freezer bag.
  2. When ready to eat, let chicken defrost in the refrigerator overnight then let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Bake at 375 degrees F until warmed through, approximately 15-25 minutes.
hand grabbing piece of nashville hot chicken from pile on white plate

What to Serve with Nashville Hot Chicken

Nashville hot fried chicken pairs well with so many sides! Here are a few of my favs:

Just as Nashville Hot Chicken is becoming popular outside Nashville, there are many delicious regional food traditions that are becoming popular outside their region of origin – all for delicious reasons!  For more swoon worthy regional chicken recipes, like Grilled Chicken Po Boy with Spicy Creole Mustard Sauce, check out McCormick’s website. And then go eat Nashville Hot Chicken.  And fall in love…

Looking for More American Favorite Recipes?

 My family and friends go crazy over this Nashville Hot Chicken- and its easier than you think! Juicy, crispy, flavorful fried chicken and you can make it as spicy or not spicy just depending on how much Nashville Hot Sauce You use.

Want to try this Nashville Hot Chicken Recipe (Spicy Fried Chicken)?

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

My family and friends go crazy over this fried chicken - and its easier than you think! Juicy, crispy, flavorful and you can make it as spicy or not spicy just depending on how much Nashville Hot Sauce You use. I will never use another fried chicken recipe again!

Nashville Hot Chicken

Juicy, crispy, Nashville Hot Chicken (customizable spicy fried chicken) is the only fried chicken recipe you will ever need!  Nashville Hot Chicken is legendary for it’s bite but when you make it at home, you can decide just how much heat you want.  You can leave off the Nashville Hot Sauce at the end for crunchy, flavor bursting chicken or add more or less Sauce to customize how spicy you want it.  Either way, you won’t be able to resist this electrifying easier-than-you-think fried chicken!
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4-5 pounds bone in chicken pieces (drumsticks, wings, split breasts cut in half, and/or thighs, trimmed)
  • vegetable oil for frying

Buttermilk Marinade

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Spice Rub (in directions)
  • 2 McCormick® bay leaves

Spice Rub

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons McCormick® salt
  • 1 tablespoon McCormick® paprika
  • 1 tablespoon McCormick® onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon McCormick Garlic Powder
  • 1 tablespoon McCormick® chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick® pepper
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick® dried crushed oregano
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick® dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick® ground red cayenne pepper

Buttermilk Egg Wash

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce

Flour Breading

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Remaining Spice Rub (in directions)

Nashville Hot Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon McCormick® ground red cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Spice Rub (in directions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® smoked paprika
  • 3/4 cup Vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Whisk all of the Spice Rub seasonings together in a small bowl. Remove 1 ½ tablespoons Spice Rub to a large bowl along with 2 cups buttermilk and 2 bay leaves. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours up to overnight.
  • When ready to cook, remove 1 teaspoon Spice Rub to a medium bowl for your Nashville Hot Sauce. Stir in all remaining Nashville Hot Sauce ingredients except butter (the oil will look separated which is okay).
  • Prepare your Buttermilk Egg Wash by whisking 2 eggs together with 1 cup buttermilk and ¼ cup hot sauce in a medium bowl.
  • Prepare Flour Breading by whisking 3 ½ cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and all remaining Spice Rub spices together in a large bowl.
  • Working with 1 piece of chicken at a time, dredge chicken in Flour, shake of any excess, coat in Buttermilk Egg Wash, shake of any excess, then dredge once more in Flour, shake of any excess and place chicken on a baking rack. Repeat until all chicken is coated.
  • Add enough vegetable oil to your Dutch oven until oil measures 3” deep. Heat over medium high heat until oil registers 375 degrees F. Add 3-4 chicken pieces to your Dutch oven in a single layer, cover, and cook 7 minutes. Flip chicken over, cover and continue to fry until chicken’s internal temperature reaches 160 degrees or 165 degrees for dark meat, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Remove fried chicken to paper towel lined baking sheet. Repeat until all chicken is cooked.
  • Meanwhile, vigorously whisk in melted butter to your Nashville Hot Sauce until smooth. Let chicken cool slightly then brush with desired amount of Sauce. You can adjust the spiciness of your chicken by simply adding more or less Nashville Hot Sauce.

Video

Notes

Don’t miss the “how to make” recipe video at the top of the post!
Make ahead: Chicken can be prepared up to the point of frying and kept in the refrigerator. Let chicken sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before frying. *Total time does not include marinating as this will vary between individuals.

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32 Comments

  1. Patti says

    What type of hot sauce do you recommend for this recipe?

    • Jen says

      Hi Patti, I recommend Frank’s Original Hot Sauce – that is what I used 🙂 I hope you can make it soon and love it!!

  2. Dorothy Dunton says

    Hi Jen! Getting Nashville Hot Chicken is on the list for my next visit to see my son (he lives in a suburb of Nashville). But until then I can have yours! This and another Southern favorite, mac n’ cheese, would be a fantastic meal! We have a propane fired fish fryer so I wouldn’t even have to heat up the kitchen! Nagi posted a video of you guys “working” at the Resort…tough job you had there! 🙂

    • Jen says

      That is awesome you are visiting your son in Nashville and trying the “real thing!” – so fun! I am getting ready to post a “Million Dollar Mac and Cheese” which is out of this world – I hope you can make them together – SO good! And I LOVE the video Nagi made – she did such a great job! It was wonderful to work and play together and that resort is spectacular!

  3. LaTrice says

    I’m definitely going to make the Nashville Hot Chicken for dinner next week, along with some pasta salad!!! 🙂

    • Jen says

      Awesome LaTrice, I am so excited for you to make it and can’t wait to hear what you think! Have a very Happy 4th of July!

  4. Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet says

    Yeah, there would be no stopping at just one piece. I’ve never had Nashville hot chicken so this is happening! The coating looks absolutely incredible! Also, congratulations to your brother!!!

    • Jen says

      You are so sweet, I will pass on the congrats when I see him this weekend for the San Diego reception! I am excited for you to make this – there is nothing like juicy fried chicken and I love that the heat is in the sauce so its adaptable. Can’t wait to hear what you think! Thanks Anna!

  5. shonagh says

    Amazing chicken recipe! I was just in Nashville a couple weeks ago and have been craving it ever since! This recipe is fantastic! I will definitely make it again. Thanks very much!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I LOVE hearing that you enjoyed this chicken Shonagh! There is nothing like satisfying a food craving with a homemade recipe you can make again and again! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!

  6. Sara says

    So we spent the last 1.5 years living in Nashville and tried all the famous spots for hot chicken. We had our favorite place (Big Shakes in Franklin is hands down the best–even better than Prince’s!) and have missed it so dearly since moving back to California in December. I made this recipe tonight and let me just say–you nailed it. It is perfection. If you opened a hot chicken restaurant in Nashville, you would be a firm competitor to all the existing places. Thank you for making my husband SO happy, and by extension me, for taking the time to figure out how to make this just right! Bravo!!!

    • Jen says

      Wow Sara, THANK YOU so much! I did a lot of researching and testing for this recipe so I am thrilled you thought it was “perfection!” Really, you made my day, week! I am so happy this recipe is going to bring you and your husband so much joy – just like good food should 🙂

  7. Sandra Kelly says

    After it is cooked could it be frozen then reheated at a later date. Thinking ahead for a party so not to have my kitchen all messy. Thanks

    • Jen says

      Hi Sandra, yes you absolutely can make ahead! Make sure your chicken is completely cool then wrap each piece individually in plastic wrap then place in a freezer bag. When ready to eat, let chicken defrost in the refrigerator overnight then let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 375 until warmed through, approximately 15-25 minutes. Have fun at your party!

  8. Mike says

    Can you sub the dutch oven for a deep fryer?

    • Jen says

      Absolutely and then just follow your deep fryer instructions.

  9. FamilyChef says

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! The chicken and the sauce are very flavorful. Hubby loved it 🙂

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m thrilled it was a winner! thank you!

  10. Megan says

    Would I be able to bake this instead of frying?

  11. Megan Toffoli says

    Great! Any idea what temp and how long for drumsticks?

    • Jen says

      Bake drumsticks for 35 to 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F. They will have great flavor but the definitely won’t be as crispy. Enjoy!

  12. Leighanne says

    I have made this recipe multiple times for my husband and I and we absolutely LOVE it! Thanks for the amazing food. YUM

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome! I am thrilled it is a favorite, thank you!

  13. Jam says

    I’m going to try tonight in the air fryer

    • Jen says

      Awesome, please let me know how it goes!

  14. Amanda says

    This was delicious! I used gluten free flour and it came out great! I’ve never got to try Nashville hot chicken since I’ve never come across a gluten free version on a menu so I’m so happy I found this recipe that I could easily convert and try to make it myself. My husband and I were blown away with how good it was, can’t believe I could make something so tasty at home, thanks so much!!

    • Jen says

      YAY! Thank you so much Amanda! I’m so happy you loved the chicken so much and were able to make it gluten free!

  15. Roxanne says

    How do I keep the breading from sliding off the chicken? Do you have any tips?

    • Jen says

      Hi Roxanne, just make sure to remove excess Buttermilk Egg Wash and it should stick well.

  16. James Powell says

    Jen, in Step 2 of the Nashville Hot Chicken recipe it is stated that the butter is added later to the Hot Sauce mixture. However, there is also a statement that reads: (oil will be separated – you will combine later)

    I am assuming that the statement refers to the 3/4 cup of Vegetable oil that goes into the Hot Sauce mixture. So, should the oil be added later with the butter or to the initial mixing of the Hot Sauce ingredients?

    Thanks.

    • Jen says

      Hi James, I’m sorry for the confusion – I worded that poorly and will correct it. You add the oil in step 2 but not the butter. The parenthetical about the oil is referring to the fact that although the oil is added to the sauce, it will look separated until it is vigorously whisked (when you add the butter) in step 8.