Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken

It's a sweet, spicy silky sauce that smothers these chicken breasts, it's our grilled version of Nashville Hot Chicken.
nashville grilled hot chicken on plate

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It was one of the best-kept secrets in Tennessee, but the secrets out and Nashville Hot Chicken has taken the rest of the country by storm. 

Restaurants dedicated to Hot Chicken are popping up left and right and popular fast-food joints are offering their version on the menu.  

Here we’ve put a twist on the Nashville Hot Chicken classic by using the same great spicy, sweet flavors but instead of frying the chicken, we grill it.

I think it’s safe to say that the Nashville Hot flavor is here to stay. 

Where did Nashville chicken originate from?

Many people agree that the original recipe belongs to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, a restaurant that opened in 1945 in Nashville, TN by James Thornton Prince.

Legend has it that Prince was a bit of a partier and a ladies’ man. 

His steady girlfriend didn’t much care for his playboy ways, so she tried to get revenge by serving up an extra hot batch of fried chicken one morning. 

She packed the chicken full of extra peppers and spices and served it up. But, to her dismay, Prince not only loved the hot chicken but even asked for seconds!

It was then that Nashville Hot Chicken was born.

Prince continued to perfect the recipe, then opened his restaurant in 1945. In 1980, ownership was passed to his great-niece André Prince Jeffries, and the famous restaurant is still serving up the original hot chicken today. 

Related – If you like hot chicken, give our spicy buffalo wings a try.

How to make Nashville hot grilled chicken

1. Prepare the chicken

The first step to this Nashville hot grilled chicken is to spice the chicken 

This recipe calls for chicken breasts, but you can use any type of chicken that you want – Nashville Hot Wings, Nashville Hot Thighs, or Nashville Hot Drumsticks would be great as well!

raw chicken on yellow board with jars of seasoning
Just remember the type of paprika you use can change the flavor profile slightly.

I’ve used four boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Each breast is generously sprinkled with a simple mixture of salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic powder.

Once the chicken is well-seasoned, it’s ready to hit the grill.

seasoned raw chicken on yellow board
Make sure the breasts are WELL seasoned.

2. Grill the chicken

I like to start by oiling the grates of my grill. While it’s not always necessary, I like to brush the grates down with a little bit of oil to ensure the chicken doesn’t stick.

I grilled these chicken breasts on my Big Green Egg at 300°F over Acacia wood lump charcoal and a sprinkle of pecan chips. 

seasoned chicken cooking on grill
An internal temperature probe is a game changer, especially when cooking chicken.

You want to cook each breast for about 10-12 minutes per side until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

It’s especially important not to overcook chicken breasts which is leaner and less forgiving the chicken thigh. Be sure to use a good meat thermometer like the Thermapen ONE.

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3. Prepare the hot sauce

When it comes to Hot Chicken, the sauce is the star of the show. It’s what gives the chicken its signature red color and the spicy hot flavor that keeps people coming back for more. 

The thing that makes Nashville Hot sauce unique is that it is made with cayenne and does not incorporate any other hot sauces, unlike the more popular Buffalo sauce, which typically incorporates a bottle of hot sauce mixed with butter.

Nashville Hot Sauce is a simple mixture of butter (or oil), cayenne, brown sugar, and spices. 

Traditional Nashville Hot Chicken is fried, so people will commonly pour a bit of the cooking oil over some butter and then add the seasonings. 

sauce ingredients laid out on wooden chopping board

For this Nashville Hot grilled version, I like to skip the oil and use melted butter as a base. I find that the simple combination of butter and spices creates a thin paste-like sauce that perfectly coats the grilled chicken. 

Start with a stick of butter and add it to a small pot over low heat. Stir until the butter is fully melted, and then it’s time to build some flavor. 

Firstly add the cayenne pepper to the butter, giving it a good whisk.  I’ve given you some spice level guidelines below so you can adjust the heat of your sauce depending on how you like it.

Spice level guidelines:

Mild: ½ tbsp cayenne pepper
Medium: 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
Hot: 2 tbsp cayenne pepper
Extra Hot: 3 tbsp cayenne pepper

all sauce ingredients in a glass bowl on wooden chopping  board

Next, add the brown sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Once that mixture is well-combined you can drizzle in the honey and give it one more whisk.  The result should be a sauce that almost resembles a thin paste. 

4. Time to sauce and serve

You can drizzle the sauce over the top of your chicken, or even serve it on the side, but I like to take the entire chicken breast and dip it right into the delicious hot sauce. This ensures that every inch of chicken is well-coated and packed with that Nashville Hot flavor.

cooked chicken with bowl of sauce and spoon
Drizzled…

To be sure to get that chicken breast coated with all the sauce ingredients, you probably want to give it a quick whisk just before dipping in your chicken to make sure that the flavors are all combined, as the seasoning may have settled on the bottom of the bowl if you’ve let it sit for a while.

Once your chicken is dipped, the possibilities are endless. It tastes great when served on its own, but I like to throw it on a brioche bun with some pickles and a scoop of creamy coleslaw for a flavor-packed hot chicken sandwich that will blow your mind.

a plate with nashville chicken, coleslaw and buns
The buns soak up that sauce so you don’t waste any.

Some other sides you might like to try with this chicken

Easy Smoked Mac and Cheese
Herby Roasted Potato Salad
Homemade Classic French Fries

cooked nashville hot grilled chicken on a plate

Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken

A little sweet, a little spicy, and absolutely delicious. A grilled twist on the world-famous Nashville Hot Chicken.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 395kcal
Author: Breanna Stark

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts skinless
  • 1 tbsp black pepper ground
  • ¼ tbsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tbsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tbsp garlic powder

Nashville Hot Sauce

  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 tbsp cayenne pepper or to taste (as above)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper ground
  • 1 tbsp honey

Instructions

  • Preheat your grill to 300°F.
  • In a small bowl, mix the seasonings for the chicken.
  • Season each chicken breast generously with the seasoning mixture.
  • Lightly oil the grates of your grill and place the chicken on.
  • Let cook for 10-12 minutes per side, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  • While your chicken is cooking, you’re going to make the sauce. Start by adding ½ cup of butter to a small saucepan over low heat.
  • Stir until the butter is completely melted.
  • Add the cayenne pepper and whisk together.
  • Then add the brown sugar, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic powder.
  • Whisk until well-combined, then drizzle in the honey and whisk it up one more time.
  • When your chicken reaches 165°F internal, remove it from the grill.
  • Dip each chicken breast into the Nashville Hot sauce and make sure each piece is fully coated, then it’s ready to enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 395kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 133mg | Sodium: 1356mg | Potassium: 576mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 2718IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg
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