Homemade Fried Chicken Recipe

Fried chicken is the stuff of legends. The centerpiece of Southern cuisine, it's been lamented in songs, pop culture, and has even been known to cause a few riffs in our day. When made properly with a crunchy, golden brown coating, it is one of the most ridiculously delicious things you will ever consume. A variation, Nashville hot chicken, has since taken the entire country by storm. From casual fast-food eateries, to upscale Los Angeles establishments, hot chicken has quickly made a name for itself as the superior vessel for poultry.

Chef Cyndi Sterne of Yes, Chef! Culinary Events who collaborated with Mashed on this recipe, is all too familiar with the famous dish after living in the South for over three decades. As head of her own culinary space, she's hosted everything from private events, to chef-driven pop ups. Her encounters with many different people, from all walks of life, has been the inspiration for her unique spin on the classic dish, Harissa Fried Chicken with Tahini Sauce. 

Sterne explains: "For the past ten years, I have been fortunate to host visiting chefs from the Middle East to teach classes at my cooking school. That's when I was first introduced to the magic of tahini and the kick of Harissa. I've also been fortunate enough to travel to the Middle East and dine at their restaurants and shops in local markets. Living in the South for 30 years, this is my take on our claim to fame." 

Begin by prepping the chicken

First thing's first, we have to prep the most important element of this dish, the bird. Chef Sterne suggests using skin on chicken, such as thighs, legs, and breasts, If you're looking to make this more accessible to the picky eater or a child, she suggests using chicken tenders. Tenders would also work well if preparing this dish for a crowd or party. Boneless chicken thighs could also be used if turning this dish into a sandwich. You'll begin by pouring the harissa on top of the chicken and marinating for up to an hour.

Harissa may not be in your normal kitchen arsenal, but it is a wonderful ingredient to keep on hand. This hot chili pepper paste is native to North Africa and consists mainly of a variant of pepper, such as roasted red peppers, with added spices and herbs. Sterne prefers to use the brand Mina, which comes in either spicy or mild. For some variation, she also suggests some helpful alternatives. "You can add the harissa to buttermilk or yogurt to brine your chicken for a few hours. If you can't find harissa, but want a kick, add your favorite hot sauce to the buttermilk or yogurt. Brining is especially useful if you decide to use boneless thighs or tenders." 

Prepare the tahini sauce for your fried chicken

You've likely had this Mediterranean delight along with some hummus at your favorite Greek spot. This wonderful sauce is made from toasted sesame seeds and adds a bright earthy-ness to any dish. While the tahini used in this recipe is store brought (you could attempt making it on your own), the sauce is created by adding fresh lemon juice, water, and kosher salt. It's surprisingly simple to make and with the added bonus of it keeping for up to two weeks in the fridge. It's also delicious served on other types of meat and roasted vegetables. Chef Sterne's tahini of choice is Soom, but anything you could get your hands on in the grocery store will do. When preparing the tahini sauce, you'll likely deal with some clumping, but whisking and water will do the trick. Once it's reaches the consistency of syrup, you're good to go.

Prepare for your fry for this tahini fried chicken

Once the tahini sauce is prepared and as the chicken is marinating, it's time to prep your egg and flour mixture. Sterne uses a bit of paprika in the flour mixture to round out the overall peppery profile of the dish. Paired with the harissa brine, this will give it that smoky, yet sweet flavor. This is also the time to decide how hot you'd like to go. Sterne explains: "Some harissa will indicate the heat level on the jar. If you want to kick it up a notch, add one or two chopped hot peppers... anything from a jalapeno to a Habanero." 

Next, you're going to prep your oil in a large, heavy pot. Sterne prefers a cast iron, but a Dutch oven or something similar would also work. This will help the crust adhere and lock in the flavor. You're also going to set out a rack so it's readily available once the chicken is fried. Now is a crucial point in the recipe: making sure the oil is hot enough. We repeat: the oil MUST be hot enough.

Time to fry the chicken

Once you've determined that the oil is hot enough, it's time to throw those birds in! Be careful not to add more than four pieces of chicken at a time so that they cook thoroughly and evenly. A crowded pan will produce oily and undercooked chicken. Thanks to Sterne's depth of experience, she's gotten it down to an art.

She explains: "The key to crispy fried chicken that doesn't taste greasy, is making sure your oil remains at a consistent temperature. You should have about two to three inches of oil in your pot, and it should be at 350 degrees. Make sure that you turn your chicken pieces every 10 to 15 minutes to ensure they cook evenly. Bone-in pieces create a juicier piece of chicken. You can even finish bone-in chicken in the oven at 350 to ensure that it is cooked all the way through."

Once the juices run clear, the chicken should be done and your internal temperature should reach 165 degrees. The finished product should be deep golden brown in appearance. 

When your harissa fried chicken is done, it's dinner time

Your golden-brown harissa fried chicken is best when served immediately. A light drizzle of tahini sauce will go a long way and black sesame seeds make for the perfect garnish while offering a subtle nutty taste to the dish. If you're looking to keep your meal authentic, Sterne suggests pairing this with a vinegar-based cabbage or carrot salad and falafel. Both options would even out the spice levels from the harissa. This could also be served with a simple salad of diced tomatoes and cucumbers with finely chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon. 

Homemade Fried Chicken Recipe
5 from 4 ratings
Fried chicken is the stuff of legends, and this version is even better. Harissa fried chicken has a spicy kick from the harissa, but then we cool it back down.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Fried harissa chicken
Total time: 1 hour
  • ½ cup tahini
  • Juice from one medium lemon
  • ⅓ cup water at room temperature
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 8oz harissa (spicy or mild)
  • 6 pieces of skin on chicken
  • 1 quart (4 cups) of vegetable oil
Optional Ingredients
  • Black sesame seeds (for garnish)
  1. Make tahini sauce by shaking or stirring tahini in the jar before measuring out ½ cup into a medium size bowl. Juice the lemon, and add to the tahini. Whisk briskly. Don't worry if the tahini gets clumpy or thick. Slowly add the water until smooth, and thin. The sauce should be the consistency of syrup. Add a pinch of salt, and adjust seasonings. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl or 9x11 glass dish. Pour the harissa on top, and thoroughly coat the chicken with the sauce. Set in the fridge while you combine the other ingredients. (The chicken can marinate up to an hour)
  3. Whisk together the flour, paprika, and salt and pepper. Place on a large plate. Crack the eggs into a pie pan or similar dish that will hold one or two pieces of chicken to coat.
  4. Prepare for your fry by pouring the oil in a large, heavy pot. Preferably cast iron or Dutch oven. Have a pan or large plate ready to place the floured, uncooked chicken, and a rack for the chicken once it is fried.
  5. One at a time, take a piece of the harissa covered chicken, and dip into the egg mixture, covering all the sides. Then place in the flour, and turn the chicken to thoroughly cover. Place on the plate or pan, and continue with the remaining chicken.
  6. Before adding chicken to the oil, make sure the oil has reached a temperature of 375 degrees.
  7. Once you have determined that your oil is ready, add 2-4 pieces at a time, adjust the temperature to medium. Let it fry on each side for about 10 minutes. Internal temperature of the chicken should read 165 on a thermometer or juices should run clear when pierced.
  8. Once the chicken is a deep gold-brown on all sides, remove to the rack and continue with the other pieces. If you are unsure that your chicken is cooked all the way through, place in a 350 oven for 10 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately with the tahini sauce, and garnish with black sesame seeds.
Calories per Serving 788
Total Fat 59.0 g
Saturated Fat 8.1 g
Trans Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 120.4 mg
Total Carbohydrates 39.8 g
Dietary Fiber 4.2 g
Total Sugars 1.6 g
Sodium 606.7 mg
Protein 26.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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