Make your own perfect Chick-fil-A sauce

People love Chick-fil-A, and with good reason! Everyone there is super friendly, the chicken is great, and you can pretty much order a cup of water and ask for six Chick-fil-A sauces and they'd happily hand 'em over with a "my pleasure!" The Chick-fil-A sauce might not pair too well with just water, but then again, that sauce is consistently regarded as the best sauce they offer — and there are seven available — eight if you count the honey roasted BBQ sauce that comes with the grilled sandwiches. 

Chick-fil-A sauce was originally made right in the store by Hugh Fleming in Fredericksburg, Virginia in the 1980s, and he gave them the recipe (for free!) when he retired — just his way of saying "my pleasure" to the corporate office. And with that, the delicious Chick-fil-A sauce went company-wide, and the nation agreed: It's amazing, addictive, and super simple to recreate, providing you're willing to go the distance to make a true perfect version of Chick-fil-A sauce.  

Gather your ingredients

Here's what you need to make your own perfect Chick-fil-A sauce: Honey mustard, barbecue sauce, buffalo sauce, and the sauce from coleslaw. You'll get the full list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions at the end of this article.

Honey mustard

When you look at CFA sauce, it's obviously yellow. That yellow is from honey mustard, just as it was when Hugh Fleming invented the sauce at his store in the 1980s. In fact, all of the ingredients are (or were) available from Chick-fil-A. This is where you can get a little fast and loose with the ingredients — not all honey mustards are created equal, so go with the one you like best. It's still going to finish remarkably close to Chick-fil-A's, despite not using exactly the same honey mustard.  

Barbecue sauce

The base of this magical concoction is honey mustard and barbecue sauce. The big problem with any red sauce is that it tends to make things red. So there are two very important steps to the barbecue sauce: You don't need a lot, and more importantly, you need the right kind. You're going to want — for lack of a better term — "plain ole barbecue sauce."  Not Carolina style, certainly not that white stuff they call Alabama sauce that no one ever used in my time living in Alabama — just a "KC style" smoky barbecue sauce. If you want to make your own, have at it. If you want to buy a store brand, that's fine too. Generally speaking I make my own but in cases of emergency — like when I need to make a CFA sauce, I always have a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's laying around.  

Coleslaw

The "creamy" part of a Chick-fil-A sauce is actually coleslaw drippings. The good thing about walking into a Chick-fil-A and they treat you like everybody knows your name is that occasionally they'll drop you a bit of knowledge. A Chick-fil-A employee told me that the true secret to the CFA sauce is that the creamy part is actually the sauce from a coleslaw — their coleslaw. When you look at the ingredients, distilled vinegar, egg yolk, salt, cider vinegar, lemon juice concentrate, mustard flour, natural flavor, xanthan gum, and garlic sure sound a lot like what would come out of a coleslaw to me. If you don't believe me, it even says it right here: the original recipe used coleslaw.  

Now, I'm actually going to make coleslaw and use the drippings from that (because the bonus is leftover CFA coleslaw, yum!), but if you want to just make the coleslaw sauce and use that, be my guest. 

Let's make a coleslaw real quick

The coleslaw from Chick-fil-A is retired now, sadly, but being the kind folks they are, corporate revealed the exact recipe for it — so you know what that means… in a big 'ole bowl, combine four tablespoons of white vinegar, a quarter cup of sugar, a quarter teaspoon of dry mustard, and a quarter teaspoon of salt until the sugar dissolves. Add a cup of mayonnaise to that, and then add 20 ounces of shredded cabbage and carrots, like the stuff you used when you made the perfect KFC coleslaw — you did make that, didn't you? Anyway, park that in the refrigerator for two hours and then it's ready!

Of course, we're only using the "sauce" from that, so you'll have some coleslaw to eat too, but it's coleslaw… who doesn't like coleslaw? We're going to need a teaspoon of the "drippings" from the coleslaw for the CFA sauce. Yea, we just made a ton of coleslaw, but in the name of science we must carry on! Of course, you can just quarter all of that and make a reasonable amount, but I like coleslaw, so there.  

Buffalo sauce

There's nothing in the CFA sauce ingredients that comes out and says this, but I'm telling you, there is buffalo sauce in there. You're going to have to trust me on this one. There's just enough crossover between Frank's Red Hot sauce and some of the ingredients listed in the CFA sauce that should let you know that I'm on target. The Chick-fil-A sauce has a slight heat to it and that's the buffalo sauce talking.  

Xanthan gum and garlic

There' are two other ingredients sitting in the ingredients that you can add, but truthfully you don't really need them. Our old friend xanthan gum is a gluten-free binder that will thicken up the sauce. If you like your sauce a little more runny you can leave it out. Garlic is also listed, but the amount of garlic is pretty trace. And of course, there's garlic in the Frank's Red Hot, so even though they're listed right there we actually don't need them.  

The other thing staring right at you in the ingredients is lemon juice. We don't need any of that because that was already in the mayonnaise. See how easy it is to hide ingredients in listings?

The mix

We need to get everyone dancing together, and the balance is the key to the flavor, and the color. We only need a very small amount of buffalo sauce and the coleslaw dressing, so add just an eighth of a teaspoon of buffalo sauce — which is about a splash from the bottle — and one teaspoon of the coleslaw drippings (and keep those cabbage parts out!) to a bowl, along with a half cup of honey mustard and a half tablespoon of barbecue sauce. Mix that up and park it in the fridge for 30 minutes to bring the flavors together.

We need fries

Chick-fil-A uses waffle fries, so we'll make the same. I'm not going to tell you how to make your fries, but I bake mine, unless I'm making them McDonald's style. The choice is yours — nicely baked fries or a house stinking like oil and your significant other making you sleep on the couch.

How close are we?

This is my go-to sauce — I make this all the time. The big difference in the perfect Chick-fil-A sauce and the one from the store is the the honey mustard — you can taste a more predominate mustard flavor in the Chick-fil-A sauce, but other than that subtle difference, this is exactly like it. The people who tried both this and the CFA sauce actually preferred the homemade style; I actually think that's a bit much but without a doubt this is an excellent rendition of the famous sauce, and one you'll be making all the time.

You can make this anywhere!

Let's say you're at another national chicken chain, I won't mention any names, but their initials are KFC. You can absolutely wing this on the fly —- just get a little bit of the sauce from your coleslaw, and add one packet of honey mustard, a quarter pack of barbecue sauce, and a couple of drops of buffalo sauce. Stir it up and you've got yourself some contraband CFA Sauce at KFC. Sure the color will be off because the honey mustard at KFC is more of a stone yellow, but the flavor is close enough to say "wow, this is actually pretty darn good!" And you'll feel like a rebel doing it. This works just as well in Bojangles, or really any place that has the four main ingredients. You could even fake it at McDonald's by using just a drop of ranch dressing along with the other three core sauces.  

Directions

Total time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Honey mustard

  • ½ tablespoon barbecue sauce

  • ⅛ teaspoon buffalo sauce

  • 1 teaspoon coleslaw drippings (from recipe below)

(Ingredients for coleslaw)

  • 4 teaspoons vinegar

  • ¼ cup sugar

  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 20 ounces diced cabbage and carrots

Directions:

  1.  Combine all coleslaw ingredients except diced vegetables in a bowl.
  2. Add diced vegetables to make coleslaw, if desired, or set aside sauce. If making coleslaw, refrigerate at least two hours.
  3. In a small bowl, combine honey mustard, barbecue sauce, buffalo sauce and coleslaw drippings.
  4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to bring flavors together.
  5. Serve with fries, chicken, or anything your heart desires. Enjoy!