Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich

Deep-fried hot and spicy chicken thighs paired with soothing creamy sweet slaw.
Nashville Chicken Sandwich

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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 Chicken takes the heat to a new level and is sure to awaken every sense in your body, it may even burn a few as well.

This is one dish that has to be fried the original way. Now there is one very important element in the frying process that is needed to get this classic fried chicken sandwich right, so let’s delve into it.

What makes Nashville hot chicken different?

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.

Every classic dish has to have its originate story.

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

So to get a bit of pay back 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 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 hot Nashville Sandwich.

Items that will help for this cook

Breast vs thigh 

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

The higher fat content in thigh meat helps it to retain moisture better and also tends to have more flavor than breast.

This decision can just come down to a personal choice in my opinion.

No matter what you use, just trim it to the size of your burger buns before using them.

I opted for skinless and boneless chicken thighs for this time. Purely because they were special when I went down to the butchers to buy some chicken. I could have easily used enough chicken breast, just remembering breast will need to be cut down, as it is quite a lot larger than the thigh.

Making the batter or wet brine

This is the first layer of heat we can start adding to our chicken.

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

I love using buttermilk with chicken as it has a really nice tangy flavor and also tenderizes the meat, due to the acidic levels in it.

Now that is all well and true but how does it add heat? It doesn’t, we’ll be adding heat by using a quarter cup of our 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.

Nashville Chicken wet brine mixture in a bowl
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.

The longer the better for marinating in this mix but at least a few hours will add plenty of flavor and allow the acid of the buttermilk to start the tenderising process on the chicken.

Making the hot chicken breading 

I’m sure by now you know we are adding more heat, it is a flavor and heat boost that in the end will have some screaming, whether that be for a cool drink or more chicken remains to be seen.

Into a bowl we need to start with a couple of cups of all-purpose flour, then add some of the infamous cayenne pepper, not a lot, just a tablespoon at this point, we still have another stage to really put the punch into this Nashville Chicken.

Nashville Chicken breading in a bowl
Using cayenne pepper in the breading will add the second layer of heat

We’ll add to this mixture some paprika, garlic and onion powder and some salt and pepper.

Mix this up and put aside while our chicken is marinating.

Create your 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.

Nashville Chicken hot sauce in a bowl
Hot sauce with the infamous cayenne pepper will give us the final large portion of heat

Now there is one last ingredient but we need to fry the chicken first.

Creamy sweet coleslaw to cut through the heat

The more traditional Nashville chicken recipe calls for pickles to be served in a fried chicken sandwich. I have a family that is divided on the taste, hence why I have opted to make a creamy coleslaw that they all loved and no complaints. So by all means, if you wish to keep this a more traditional recipe, go for pickles.

All of this heat can be a little overbearing, so to cut it back a little with a nice soothing creamy slaw actually helps balance it out really well.

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.

Now adding some 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 into the fridge until we are ready for it.

Frying your hot Nashville chicken

You’ll need to use a frypan large enough to add a few pieces of chicken at the same time.

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

The oil needs to be heated to 325°F – 350°F for optimal frying.

As the oil is coming up to temp, we can start to coat our chicken.

Take it out of 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 it up 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 and again allow any excess batter to drip off. Now recoat again in the flour and place on the baking paper.

Repeat this process for all the chicken pieces.

chicken thighs covered in breading on a metal tray
Once frying oil is hot and ready, coat the chicken and place it on a tray

Now we 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

We need to fry each piece for roughly 12 – 14 minutes each. I’ll normally turn them halfway, or at the six-minute mark. After 12-14 minutes the chicken should have a nice dark color to it but the true test to know if it is done is by checking it with an instant-read thermometer. It should read 165°F at the minimum to be safe to eat although you can allow a few degrees of carryover cooking so taking it out at 160°F should be fine.

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.

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

Grab the dry hot sauce mix and using a metal ladle, add one cup of the hot oil that was used to fry the chicken 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.

Fried Nashville Chicken covered in hot sauce on a wire rack
Using some oil from frying the chicken, finish making the hot sauce and brush it over the chicken

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

Now add a piece of chicken on top of the slaw and cap off with the top piece of the bun. You can also use sandwich bread or any bun of your choice.

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

Hot Nashville Chicken Sandwich sliced on a wooden board
Enjoy hot Nashville Chicken sandwich and make sure you have a cold drink nearby.

Serving suggestions 

In a sandwich as per the original way but served on a plate with a fresh garden salad or even some fries is the perfect way to enjoy this fiery treat. Mashed potato and some gravy are also on my list of ways to serve it.

Nashville Chicken Sandwich

Hot Nashville Chicken Sandwich

Deep-fried hot and spicy chicken thighs paired with soothing creamy sweet slaw.
4.25 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Resting Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 17 minutes
Author: Dean “Schuey” Schumann

Ingredients

Main:

  • 3 to 6 chicken thighs
  • 3 to 6 buns (I used brioche)
  • 4 cups peanut oil (or vegetable)

Wet batter / brine:

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

Breading:

  • 2 cups all-purpose 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
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 cup hot oil (used to fry chicken in)

Creamy Sweet Slaw:

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

Instructions

  • Grab your skinless and boneless chicken thigh and trim to your burger bun size.
  • Mix up wet batter / brine mix and add chicken and put in the fridge for at least three hours but preferably overnight.
  • Combine all of the dry breading ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  • Mix hot sauce dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Make up creamy sweet slaw and put in the fridge until ready to serve.
  • Heat oil in a frying pan up to 325°F-350°F.
  • Take chicken out of the fridge, allow excess batter to drip of chicken pieces and thoroughly coat in the dry breading mix, recoat in the wet batter and again in the dry mix, then rest on baking paper in a 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.
  • Now place one cup of the hot oil that was used to fry the chicken in and add it to the dry hot sauce mix and stir thoroughly.
  • Brush the chicken on both sides with the hot sauce.
  • Place a serving of creamy sweet slaw 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.
  • With some buttery mashed potato and gravy.
  • With fries.

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