Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich

Deep-fried hot and spicy chicken thighs paired with soothing creamy sweet slaw.
nashville hot chicken sandwich recipe

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I love my spice and I love my chicken, so anytime I’m able to combine the two in a recipe, I jump at the chance.

Nashville hot Chicken takes the heat to a new level and is sure to awaken every sense in your body.

There is one very important element in the frying process that is needed to get this classic hot chicken sandwich right, so let’s delve into it.

Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich: Seriously Spicy

The Nashville hot chicken sandwich

Nashville hot chicken is fried chicken with a double dose of spice due to the cayenne and hot sauce in the coating as well as the spicy sauce served on the top.

I promise the flavor and heat in this dish will have you screaming! Whether for a cool drink or more hot chicken remains to be seen.

Every classic dish has to have its origin story.

The story goes like this, a Nashville local by the name of James Thorton Prince was a bit of a womanizer. He came home late as usual and his girlfriend wasn’t all too pleased with his antics anymore. 

So to get a bit of payback she made him a dish of fried chicken that was covered in enough cayenne pepper to start a volcano but, he loved it. He loved it so much that he and his brother opened up a restaurant in 1945 and called it Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.

This family run restaurant is still in operation today but is now run by his great niece.

Now I hope this story is true but we all know over time the truth can be stretched a little.

Hot chicken sandwich from Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack restaurant
Prince’s hot chicken sandwich
Source: Flickr / Sean Russell

Although the original recipe calls for chicken breast and the ingredients for the spice are as guarded as another well-known eleven herbs and spices recipe we know the main source of pain, or pleasure, is from a lot of cayenne pepper.

So it’s time to build our Nashville hot chicken sandwich.

Items that will help for this cook

Breast vs thigh 

As we mentioned earlier, the original recipe for Nashville chicken uses chicken breast. I find chicken breasts tend to dry out a bit quicker than thigh meat, due to the lack of fat.

The higher fat content in chicken thighs results in a better tasting sandwich with more moisture when you bite into it.

This decision can just come down to a personal choice in my opinion and the recipe is the same whether you use breasts or thighs.

Adjusting the heat

If you glance at the ingredients list you may be shocked to see the quantities of cayenne pepper in this recipe.

There’s also the hot sauce, pepper, and chili powder which all combine to seriously bring the heat.

If you want to make this dish a little more accessible, I would recommend reducing the cayenne down to 2 tbsp in the dry hot sauce mix.

You could reduce it even more, but this is Nashville hot chicken we are making and we want it to still be authentic. For a more mild sandwich try our Buttermilk fried chicken thighs.

How to make Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwiches

1. Make the batter or wet brine

Start by marinating your chicken in a mixture of buttermilk, and spices.

The longer, the better, but at least a few hours will add plenty of flavors and allow the acid of the buttermilk to start tenderizing the chicken.

Using your favorite hot sauce for wet brine will add the first layer of heat to the chicken

This is also a chance to start adding heat by using a quarter cup of your favorite hot sauce. I used Franks Red Hot Sauce as it is so commonly available and I usually have a bottle or ten lying around.

Make sure to thoroughly mix all the wet brine ingredients before adding the chicken

Add some paprika and salt and pepper, give it a good whisk and add the chicken. Making sure each piece is completely covered and this can go back into the fridge.

2. Make the hot flour mixture 

Time to start ramping up the heat! You’ll dip the chicken in this spicy flour mix before dropping it into the hot oil for deep frying.

You can get the flour mixture ready while the chicken is marinating.

Add a couple of cups of all-purpose flour to a large bowl, then add some of that infamous cayenne pepper. Not a lot, just a tablespoon at this point.

There’s still one more step to really put the punch into this Nashville Chicken.

Using cayenne pepper in the breading will add the second layer of heat

Add some paprika, garlic, onion powder, and some salt and pepper.

3. Create the hot sauce

This sauce will be brushed over the fried chicken at the end, and it has some serious heat to it.

Start by adding four tablespoons of cayenne pepper into a bowl, followed by brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, and chili flakes, and we have the makings of some eye-watering sauce.

This will really blow your socks off, so if you are at all sensitive to heat, drop the cayenne down to 1-2 tablespoons.

Now there is one last ingredient but we need to fry the chicken first so set this aside for now.

4. Make a creamy sweet coleslaw to cut through the heat (optional)

Traditional Nashville chicken recipes often use pickles in the fried chicken sandwich.

I have a family that is divided regarding pickles, so I prefer to make a creamy coleslaw that everyone loves. So by all means, if you wish to keep this a more traditional recipe, go for pickles.

All of the heat in a Nashville chicken sandwich can be a little overbearing, soI like to cut it back a little with a nice soothing creamy slaw.

creamy sweet slaw ingredients on a wooden table
We’re adding a nice creamy slaw to the sandwich, but if you’d like to be more traditional, just use pickles

This slaw mix has a little sweetness to it as well which helps to balance out the flavors.

Start by dicing up some white cabbage and adding this to a bowl, now dice up some dill pickles and some scallions to give some added bite and texture to the slaw.

Next add whole egg mayonnaise and some apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste, and to bring it all together a touch of maple syrup.

creamy sweet slaw in a bowl
The sweetness of a creamy slaw will help balance the heat from the chicken

Stir this up and pop it into the fridge until you are ready to assemble your hot chicken sandwich.

5. Frying your Nashville hot chicken

Use a large deep-sided frying pan or pot to deep fry your chicken.

I used peanut oil but you can use any deep-frying oil such as vegetable or canola oil.

The oil needs to be heated to 325°F – 350°F for optimal frying so this is a good chance to make use of your instant read meat thermometer.

As the oil is coming up to temp, you can start coating the chicken.

Remove chicken from the fridge and line it up in front of you along with the flour mixture and a tray with some baking paper on it. We won’t be needing the hot sauce mixture just yet.

Take a piece of chicken out of the buttermilk brine and allow the excess to drip off, then place it in the flour mix, covering and pressing down on it, flip it over and make sure there are no wet flour marks, now place back into the wet batter mix again and allow any excess batter to drip off.

Now recoat again in the flour and place on the baking paper.

Once frying oil is hot and ready, coat the chicken and place it on a tray

Repeat this process for all the chicken pieces.

Now you can start to fry the chicken, remember the oil is hot and the chicken is cold and this can lead to oil splattering, so be careful as you place the chicken into the hot oil.

Tip: lay it away from you to limit any unwanted splatter in your direction.

Do not overcrowd the oil, fry no more than three pieces of chicken at a time, or the oil temp will drop below our desired cooking temp.

chicken thighs frying in oil in a frying pan
Do not fry more than 3 pieces of chicken at a time or the oil temperature will drop

Each piece of chicken will need to fry in the hot oil for roughly 12 – 14 minutes each.

Make sure you turn each piece over around the 6-minute mark.

Once the chicken has turned a nice dark color and reads 165°F it’s ready to remove.

You can allow for a few degrees of carryover cooking so taking it out at 160°F should be fine but if you want to be extra cautious go for 165°F.

Once the chicken is ready, place it on a wire rack on a baking tray. If you have to do more than one batch, I suggest having an oven pre-warmed to 200°F to keep the chicken warm.

Let the chicken cool for five minutes before eating though.

Cool fried chicken on a wire rack for a couple of minutes before eating

Grab the dry hot sauce mix you prepared earlier, and using a metal ladle, add one cup of the hot frying oil to the spice mix and stir to create a deep fiery red thick sauce to brush over the fried chicken.

Be sure to flip the fillets and cover both sides.

Using some oil from frying the chicken, finish making the hot sauce and brush it over the chicken

6. Assemble your Nashville hot chicken sandwiches

Now it’s time to make your sandwiches. Start by adding a serving of the creamy slaw (or pickles) on the bottom bun.

Now add a piece of hot chicken on top of the slaw and cap off with the top piece of bun.

You can also use sandwich bread or any bun of your choice.

Now get your mouth around that, I’mchicke sure you’ll feel the heat. I suggest having your beverage of choice on the ready.

Enjoy hot Nashville Chicken sandwich and make sure you have a cold drink nearby.

Serving suggestions 

You can’t go wrong serving the Nashville hot chicken sandwich on its own. Some fries or smoked potatoes would also be a perfect side to enjoy with this fiery treat.

Nashville Style Hot Chicken Sandwich Recipe

nashville hot chicken sandwich recipe

Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich

Deep-fried hot and spicy chicken thighs paired with soothing creamy sweet slaw.
4.73 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 24 minutes
Brining time: 3 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 4 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 1274kcal
Author: Jordan Hanger

Ingredients

Main

  • 6 chicken thighs skinless and boneless
  • 6 buns I used brioche
  • 4 cups peanut oil for deep frying and hot sauce

Wet batter / brine

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup hot sauce I used Franks
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt flakes
  • ½ tsp black pepper freshly ground

Hot flour mixture

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt flakes
  • ½ tsp white pepper

Hot Sauce

  • 4 tbsp cayenne pepper Use 1-2 tbsp if you don't want it to be quite as spicy
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 cup hot oil use from the hot frying oil

Creamy Sweet Slaw (optional)

  • ½ head of white cabbage sliced
  • 4 dill pickles sliced
  • 6 scallions thinly sliced thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup whole egg mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt flakes
  • ½ tsp black pepper finely ground
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

Instructions

  • Mix up the wet batter / brine mix and add chicken and put in the fridge for at least three hours but preferably overnight.
  • Combine all of the hot flour mix ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  • Mix the hot sauce dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  • If you are serving with the coleslaw, add the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper and maple syrup to a bowl and mix to combine. Add the cabbage, pickles and scallions and mix to coat. Refrigerate until needed.
  • Heat oil in a deep frying pan or pot up to 350°F.
  • Take chicken out of the fridge, allow excess batter to drip of chicken pieces and thoroughly coat in the hot flour mix. Repeat the process in the wet batter and again in the dry mix, then rest on baking paper lined tray until all pieces are ready and coated.
  • Place no more than three pieces of chicken in the hot oil at a time and fry for 12 – 14 minutes, turning at the six minute mark.
  • The chicken should have a dark color once ready and the internal temp should be checked using an instant-read thermometer. You want it to read at least 165°F.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, place it on a wire rack on a baking tray.
  • Add 1 cup of the hot oil that was used to fry the chicken into the dry hot sauce and mix thoroughly.
  • Brush the chicken on both sides with the hot sauce.
  • Place a serving of creamy sweet slaw (or pickles) on the bottom bun, add a piece of fiery Nashville Chicken and top off with the top of the bun.
  • Eat and enjoy, make sure you have a cold drink standing by.

To Serve:

  • On a fresh brioche bun with creamy sweet slaw. Some fries on the side wouldn't hurt.

Video

Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich: Seriously Spicy

Nutrition

Calories: 1274kcal | Carbohydrates: 97g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 84g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 2543mg | Potassium: 965mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 25g | Vitamin A: 5122IU | Vitamin C: 41mg | Calcium: 265mg | Iron: 16mg
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