The Ultimate Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich Recipe

Ingredients

Brine

  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup pickle juice (one with a low to zero sugar content)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon Thai chili garlic sauce, or another hot sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 pounds)

Fried Chicken

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup mochiko flour (glutinous rice flour)
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Peanut or neutral oil, for frying

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup reserved frying oil, more for frying the buns
  • 1/2 cup Thai chili garlic sauce, or other hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Aioli & Toppings

  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons chili crunch, or chili crisp sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 9 brioche buns
  • Whole dill pickles, sliced lengthwise
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce

Methods

Brine the Chicken

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for brining the chicken
  2. Mix together the buttermilk, pickle juice, egg, chili sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken, turning to coat in the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to overnight.

    Raw chicken in brining liquid
  3. Turn to coat the chicken in the pickle-buttermilk brine once more, then place on the counter to come back to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

    A spoon turning chicken in the brining liquid

Fry the Chicken

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for frying chicken
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and baking powder. Add 3 tablespoons of the buttermilk-pickle brine to the flour mixture and work it into the flour with your hands. This will help create the extra crunchy nuggets on the fried chicken.

    A bowl of seasoned flour mixture
  3. Remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk-pickle brine to a plate (reserve the brine). Working with one piece at a time, dip the chicken into the flour mixture, then back in the brine, and finally the flour mixture once more, pressing to coat. Place the coated chicken on rimmed baking sheet; repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

    Pieces of flour mixture-coated chicken on baking sheets
  4. Place 1 1/2 inches of peanut or neutral oil in a large Dutch oven or deep cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until it registers 350 F on a deep-fry or candy thermometer.

    A dutch oven with oil and a thermometer
  5. Set up one more baking sheets lined with paper towels and a wire rack set on top (this will be your cooling rack). Working in batches, carefully add 3 chicken thighs to the oil (placing them into the oil, away from you) and fry until golden brown, turning occasionally with tongs, about 8 minutes. Transfer to the cooling rack using tongs or a spider.

    Reserve the frying oil; you will use it for the glaze.

    (While frying, the oil should maintain 325 F and then bring back to 350 F between batches.)

    Chicken frying in a dutch oven, with fried chicken pieces resting on a cooking rack

Make the Glaze

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Chicken glaze ingredients
  2. Once all the chicken is fried, carefully scoop out 1/2 cup of the reserved frying oil using a measuring cup and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the chili sauce, honey, gochujang, salt, and garlic powder. Whisk vigorously until well combined. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

    Glaze ingredients with whisk in a bowl
  3. Dunk each piece of chicken in the glaze, then transfer back to the wire rack. Alternatively, you can brush the fried chicken with the glaze.

    Pieces of glazed fried chicken on a cooling rack

Make the Toppings & Serve

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Fried chicken sandwich toppings
  2. To make the aioli, stir together the mayo, scallions, chili crunch, ketchup, and lime juice. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

    A bowl of spicy aioli mixture
  3. Halve the brioche buns. Add the 1/4 tablespoon of the frying oil to a medium skillet and heat over medium-high. Place each bun half, cut-side down onto the skillet and toast until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. If the skillet becomes dry, add a little more oil, as needed.

    Buns toasting in a pan
  4. Smear each cut side with 1 heaping tablespoon of aioli. Place the pickles on the bottom bun, then top with the glazed chicken. Pile shredded lettuce over the chicken, then cover with bun top. Serve immediately.

    Spicy fried chicken sandwiches being assembled with pickles, toasted buns, and spicy aioli

Recipe Tips

  • If you don’t have buttermilk, make your own! Add a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to whole milk and allow it to sit for a few minutes. This will make the milk curdle and become similar to buttermilk.
  • Use a low or zero sugar pickle juice to avoid burning during frying.
  • We love using chicken thighs because they are hard to overcook and extremely tender, but you can substitute with breast if you like. Pound out the chicken breast, then slice in half as they are much bigger. Adjust frying time as needed.
  • A Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet are tried-and-true tools for frying chicken. In addition to their durability, the thick walls retain heat very well. That means that the oil temperature drops less when you put a batch of chicken in, helping create crisper skin and more uniform cooking.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan, or the oil temperature will drop, making your chicken greasy. If you’re frying in batches.
  • You can keep your chicken warm in a 200 F oven as you fry all the pieces and make the glaze.
  • To be safe to consume, the chicken should register 165 F on an instant thermometer; however, if you are temping the chicken as you take it out of the oil, you should aim for 155 F since it will experience carryover cooking.
  • We like to make the aioli ourselves and mix it with flavors we have on hand, but you can use a store-bought aioli or sauce. We suggest something mayo-based to cut through the heat.