Copycat KFC Chicken Sandwich Recipe

When most people think of KFC, they likely picture a mouthwatering bucket filled to the brim with fried chicken, and maybe not a fried chicken sandwich. But there's certainly a case to be made for KFC's chicken sandwich, and this mouthwatering offering from the classic purveyor of crunchy fried poultry is a must-try. Their 11 herbs and spices really do kick the batter up a notch, and the spicy sauce is downright amazing.

When it comes down to it, a fried chicken sandwich is hard to mess up. There's not too much room for error in the glorious matrimony of a soft bun, creamy hot sauce, sharp pickles, and a crispy hunk of chicken. Sure, there are details that can't be overlooked: the right kind of bun, the batter, and the frying process. But the best part of constructing a chicken sandwich at home? Picky chicken sandwich eaters can customize it as they please. As a launching point, here's a chicken sandwich that comes pretty close to a perfect KFC copycat.

Gather your ingredients to prepare this copycat KFC chicken sandwich

To recreate KFC's chicken sandwich at home, you'll need quite a few ingredients. But hear us out: It's still probably less than a third of what KFC actually uses to concoct their salty, crunchy chicken creation. A look at the nutrition label for KFC's Spicy Chicken Sandwich reveals ingredients you'd have a hard time getting your hands on at your grocery store, including: Dextrose, Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate, Monoglycerides, Mono and Diglycerides, Distilled Monoglycerides, Calcium Peroxide, Calcium Iodate, Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Enzymes, Ascorbic Acid, Corn Maltodextrins, Vegetable Proteins ... and, well, you get the picture.

In our recreation of this deliciously crispy chicken sandwich, we've gone back to the basics: chicken, fluffy sweet buns, pickles, and spicy sauce. The batter borrows from KFC's recipe, using corn starch and eggs for a crunchy, solid texture, and the spice mix is a combo borrowed straight from the (alleged) source: the Colonel's own original blend of "secret" spices, including some you might not expect. (Celery salt, anyone?)

Brine the chicken for the best texture

Brining — particularly with buttermilk, as any true dedicated chicken fryer will tell you — is the key to juicy, perfectly seasoned chicken. And when you're dealing with chicken breasts, everything that you can do to avoid tough, dry white meat is important. You'll start by submerging the chicken breasts in a bowl of buttermilk, and popping them in the fridge for four hours. Make sure the chicken is fully covered on all sides, and that your container has a cover as well. 

Soaking these cuts in a salty buttermilk marinade helps to tenderize the meat, loosen the protein, and help retain its moisture (via Serious Eats). Buttermilk also sticks to the chicken, creating a gloriously thick, rippling coating. Trust us — this recipe might be even better than grandma's.

Make a batter with KFC's not-so-secret spices

What really sets KFC's fried chicken sandwich apart from the rest is the flavor-packed coating with more spices than you can count on two hands. In 2016, the alleged original recipe passed down from old Colonel Sanders himself may have resurfaced, according to the Chicago Tribune, and it certainly tastes like the real deal. 

For the flour coating in our recipe, you will mix all of the spices, plus the flour and cornstarch together in a bowl, and set it aside until you're ready to fry. Later, you'll dunk the buttermilk-covered chicken into this dry mix before deep frying. 

Our copycat version of KFC's chicken sandwich only calls for 10 of the spices that stick to that original formula as much as possible. The paprika also works to turn that coating into a satisfying shade of orange. Believe it or not, we really do eat with our eyes, and color acts on our senses to give the perception of even more flavor. Using cornstarch in place of some of the flour helps create a lighter, crispier coating.

Make the spicy sauce

If you're a fan of the spicy version of KFC's chicken sandwich, you know it's a bright shade of orange and packs a punch. So, it's time to make the sauce. 

You are going to mix the mayonnaise, cayenne, paprika, onion powder, garlic salt, cumin, and a white or rice vinegar together in a small bowl, and set it aside to spread on your roll later on. The sauce is packed with cayenne and a dash of other spices for a mixture that's better the longer it's left to meld. Our favorite mayo is Kewpie, which is a deliciously rich, silky offering from a Japanese brand. It's made with extra egg yolk and tastes a little saltier than American brands, and can hold up well even to strong flavors like pickles and spice-packed fried chicken batter.

Secret ingredients for the crunchy coating

After the four hours have passed, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Take it out of the brine (but keep the brine to the side, because you'll be using it), and place each piece of chicken on a plate to bring it to room temperature.

Meanwhile, you're going to add some secret ingredients to the brine. Getting your batter to really stick to the smooth surface of a chicken breast and ripple into craggy folds is no easy feat. For that, we have egg whites and vodka (or any other clear alcohol), which are mixed into the brine liquid marinade. Not to worry — cooking this mixture through in searing hot oil will take care of any chicken essence, just as the chicken will cook through. According to The Kitchn, the protein from the egg white adds structure, and acts as a sort of cooking glue to bind the buttermilk mixture to the chicken.

Double dredge your chicken for extra crunch

Next, heat the a few inches of oil to around 325 F in a deep pot. The oil should be deep enough so it will cover the chicken breast. Next, you are going to dip each chicken piece in the buttermilk mixture and then in the flour-spice mixture to create a thick and satisfying crust. This will create a batter on the surface of the chicken. If you have enough flour mixture left, dunk the pieces in again to repeat for extra coating. When you place the chicken in the flour bowl, it helps to press flour onto the coated chicken. You can do this with your hands if you're more comfortable, or transfer the chicken pieces from pan to pan with a fork.

To avoid too much mess, arrange the dishes of chicken, buttermilk, and flour-spice mixture close together — they can be touching — to create an assembly line effect with less cleanup. You can even coat the chicken pieces at once as the oil heats up while they are coming to room temperature.

Fry the chicken at the perfect temperature

Once the chicken is breaded and the oil is heated, it's time to fry. Frying can be a little intimidating. It's easy to quickly fry the outside coating to a dark brown glow, and end up with undercooked chicken inside. This is the result of oil that's too hot. 

For this recipe, have a thermometer on hand so you can keep your oil temp at 325 F as you go. Drop the chicken in gently with a fork. You'll want to keep the oil at just bubbling. This way, the crust will be a light golden-brown and the chicken will be cooked through.

Note that if you get dense bubbles and gently rolling bubbles around the chicken, you're on the right track. Oil that's too hot will crackle and bubble more aggressively. The oil should always be bubbling around the chicken, so adjust the heat accordingly.

Remove the chicken when the interior reaches 165 F (around five to 10 minutes on each side, since your chicken is thick). When the chicken is done, lay it out to drain on paper towels or a drying rack with a pan to catch drips.

Assemble the copycat KFC chicken sandwich

When you're this close to the finish line, the final touches matter a lot. Gather all the sandwich components around you: buns, sauce, pickles, and fried chicken. Choose either a soft brioche or challah bun, as the sweetness and soft texture adds complexity to the savory, crunchy chicken. A hamburger bun is just too flimsy and flavorless to stand up to this volume of poultry. Pickles should be dill slices, as bread and butter pickles will make the sandwich too sweet with brioche bread.

Assembling the sandwich is easy — just put a swipe or two of sauce on the bun, as many pickles as you want, and the freshly fried chicken on top. It's a lot to sink your teeth into, but trust us when we say that it looks like it's straight out of a KFC ad and will exceed your expectations.

Copycat KFC Chicken Sandwich Recipe
4.9 from 16 ratings
This copycat KFC chicken sandwich is jam-packed with crispiness. It's complete with a spicy sauce, pickles, and a brioche bun.
Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
10
minutes
Servings
3
sandwiches
KFC chicken sandwich
Total time: 25 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons paprika, divided
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons garlic salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon white or rice vinegar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons vodka or other clear liquor
  • 1 ½ tablespoons salt, divided
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon basil
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • vegetable oil
  • 3 challah or brioche buns
  • dill pickle hamburger slices
Directions
  1. Pour buttermilk over the chicken breasts in a deep bowl or Tupperware container. Mix to submerge the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid, and place in fridge for 4 hours.
  2. Make the spicy sauce by combining mayonnaise, cayenne powder, cumin, onion powder, ¼ teaspoon of paprika, ¼ teaspoon of garlic salt, and white or rice vinegar together in a small bowl. Then, set aside.
  3. After 4 hours, remove the chicken from the brine, and put it on a plate to bring to room temperature. Be sure to keep the brine aside, as you will be using it in the next step.
  4. While you're waiting for the chicken to reach room temp, whisk the egg whites, vodka, and 1 tablespoon of salt into the remaining brine mixture.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and remaining spices.
  6. Pour vegetable oil into a heavy pot or Dutch oven until it's around 2 to 3 inches high. Turn the heat on high.
  7. Prepare a wire rack above a sheet pan lined with paper towels for the fried chicken, or just use the pan without a rack.
  8. Arrange the chicken, flour mixture, and brine mixture near the stove to easily dredge the chicken before frying.
  9. When the chicken has reached room temperature, dip each chicken piece in the buttermilk mixture and then in the flour-spice mixture to create a thick and satisfying crust. Flip and coat the other side. If you have enough flour mixture left, repeat this step.
  10. Set the chicken aside until the oil reaches 325 F. With a fork, submerge the chicken in the hot oil. The bubbles should surround the chicken rapidly, but not make pops and splatters of oil. Continue to maintain this temperature on medium-low heat for about 5 to 10 minutes on each side. When done, the coating of the chicken should be golden-brown and the internal temperature at the thickest point around 165 F.
  11. Fry chicken breasts one by one, and let them dry on paper towels when done.
  12. Stir the spicy sauce again before spreading on one or both sides of a bun. Place three pickles on one half, and top with chicken breast. Then, enjoy!
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 329
Total Fat 11.2 g
Saturated Fat 2.5 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 55.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 41.3 g
Dietary Fiber 2.0 g
Total Sugars 2.5 g
Sodium 361.2 mg
Protein 14.0 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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