These crispy chicken sandwiches will satisfy any fast food craving (looking at you Chick-fil-A and Popeyes’!). The chicken is juicy, flavorful, and the breading is extra crisp and crunchy! Paired with some homemade crispy fries? Just forget about the fast-food joint, you won’t need it.
I know why you’re here.
You’re here because you’re not trying to get shanked in the Popeye’s parking lot.
Or you’re here because it’s Sunday and Chick-fil-A is closed.
Either way, you want to know how to make your own crispity, crunchety, super juicy and awesomely seasoned crispy chicken sandwich a la the recent Popeye’s/Chick-fil-A craze everyone wants in on.
What is in a Crispy Chicken Sandwich?
Popeyes’ and Chick-fil-A’s crispy chicken sandwiches are made with chicken breasts, pickles, and that is where the similarities end.
Chick-fil-A butters and toasts their bun, while Popeyes’ has a brioche bun. Brioche is a type of bread that is enriched with a lot of fats like milk and butter.
Popeyes also has a spicy mayo spread onto the bun.
All chicken sandwiches are different, and I’m definitely one to say ‘do whatever you want’ with the ingredients.
So for this crispy chicken sandwich recipe, you’ll need:
- Chicken thighs, which are naturally juicier than breasts and harder to overcook and dry out.
- All-Purpose Flour
- Corn Starch
- Baking Powder
- Spices! Including the smoky flavors of chipotle and smoked paprika.
- My smoky Chipotle Aioli, recipe included!
- Vegetable Oil
- Onions and Garlic
- Brioche Buns
Other great sandwich additions are:
- Bread and butter or dill pickles
- Bacon. Of course.
- Butter lettuce
- Dijon mustard
- Cheese of your choice, a great one is Havarti
How to Make a Crispy Chicken Sandwich.
So, first thing’s first, whip up a buttermilk brine. I do put in spices including cayenne, chipotle, garlic and onion powders, freshly cracked black pepper, and herbs, along with plenty of kosher salt. The salt is what will make the chicken super juicy and flavorful.
Yes, we are brining. Just like in my southern fried chicken recipe, where I broke down the sciences of why we wet-brine our raw chicken in buttermilk before frying specifically, the boneless skinless chicken thighs we’re using are taking a nice little dip in buttermilk. Not only to make the chicken extremely tender by loosening up the proteins but also extremely juicy and flavorful by the process of osmosis.
Next, dredge it in flour, cornstarch, and baking powder, along with more seasonings and spices. This mixture of cornstarch and baking powder will make the dredging fry up crisper and lighter than flour alone.
Make those nooks and crannies
To make a super craggy crust, meaning one that has tons of nooks and crannies, splash some of the buttermilk brine into the flour and give it a little mix. This will cause the flour mixture to clump up and you’ll get lots of crispy bits on your fried chicken.
And to ensure we have a bonafide, nice and crunchy, amazingly crispy chicken sandwich, we double dredge. That means dunk the floured chicken back into the buttermilk brine and then through the flour mixture again. You will have the craggiest, most absurdly crunchy crust ever, I promise.
Let that rest on a plate for 10 minutes while your oil is getting hot. I personally like to deep fry my chicken, but you can shallow fry in a cast-iron skillet with no issue.
Let those babies fry for about 8 minutes on 325 degrees F or 160 degrees C.
Then rest on a wire cooling rack on a baking tray lined with paper towels to drip off any excess oil. We don’t want the chicken to rest on the paper towels themselves or anything other than a wire rack. The contact will cause the chicken to steam and you will lose crispiness, resulting in soggy breading.
Top and Serve your Chicken Sandwich
As I said, do it your way. You’re the boss of your chicken sandwich. I love the spicy kick of the chipotle aioli, but you might not. Omit the chipotle! You may love avocado on your chicken sandwiches, do it. Get creative, this is your kitchen, darling. Own it.
Looking for more Sandwich recipes? Check out:
Oven Roasted French Dip Sandwiches, a great way to use up a leftover pot roast.
Easy Croque Madame Sandwiches, perfect for brunch!
Classic Patty Melts, a diner fave.
Or these garlic buttery hot Ham and Cheese Sliders on Hawaiian rolls, which are a game day and party favorite!
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- 1 cup (240 mL) buttermilk
- 2 tsp (10 mL) hot sauce
- 1 tbsp (24 g) kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped roughly
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme
- 4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 5-6 cups (600-720 mL) vegetable or canola oil
- 2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (35 g) cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp (1 g) baking powder
- 2 tsp (10 g) kosher salt
- 2 tsp (10 g) granulated garlic
- 2 tsp (10 g) granulated onion
- 1/2 tsp (3 g) smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp (1 g) cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp (5 g) dried oregano
- 4 brioche sandwich buns, toasted
- 1 clove of garlic
- Pinch of coarse kosher salt
- 2 fresh egg yolks at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) olive oil
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp (3g) ground chipotle pepper
- 1/4 tsp (1 g) smoked paprika
- Lemon juice to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Dill or bread and butter pickles
- Tomato slices
- Caramelized onions
- Whatever you like!
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together all the brine ingredients. Put the chicken thighs into the buttermilk brine and allow to soak for 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
- Mince garlic with a chef knife. Sprinkle a pinch of coarse kosher salt or another coarse salt over the minced garlic, then take the side of your knife and carefully press down, smash, and 'smear' the garlic across the cutting board. You can also use a garlic press instead of mincing.
- In a clean metal, glass, or ceramic bowl, drop in egg yolks and garlic. Whisk well for about one minute, to ensure the thickening agents in the yolk are activated.
- Put olive oil in a small bowl, and use a spoon (or a tablespoon measuring spoon) to allow a couple of drops to fall into the egg yolks, then whisk in well. Add another few drops and whisk in well again. Continue for about 1 tablespoon (15g) of olive oil, and you will notice the aioli begin to come together, become paler, and thicken up enough for the aioli to ribbon (if you lift the whisk, it will fall over itself and take time to level together).
- Once the aioli is becoming thick and pale (about the same viscosity of hollandaise sauce) you can whisk in more oil at a time. I do not suggest more than 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp (3g-5g) at a time, as you can overwhelm the aioli and it can break.
- Continue adding the oil, and it will become thicker and thicker. If it becomes too thick (it will kind of look like an oily frosting) splash in a bit of lemon juice and whisk it in. Continue whisking in oil until all the oil is incorporated.
- Add in Dijon mustard, chipotle, and smoked paprika. Remember, if you don't want a little spicy kick, remove the chipotle pepper.
- Give the aioli a taste, and season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Fry and Serve
- When ready to fry, in a separate large bowl whisk together your flour, cornstarch, baking powder, pepper, granulated garlic and onion, smoked paprika, cayenne, and oregano. Take two or three tablespoons of the buttermilk brine into the flour and toss the brine and flour together with a fork to create some chunky clumps of flour. This will help create better crag on your fried chicken.
- Dredge your chicken thighs through the seasoned flour mix, covering each side well in the flour. Set on a clean plate until all chicken is coated in flour. Re-dredge by dipping back in the buttermilk brine, shaking off the excess, then coat the chicken in the flour once again and allow to rest on a plate, repeating until all the chicken is re-dredged. Let the chicken thighs rest on the plate for ten minutes as your oil is heating up to temperature.
- In a large heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven, heat 5-6 cups of vegetable oil to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). Have a wire rack sitting on a paper towel-lined baking sheet prepped and ready for the chicken.
- Once the oil is up to temperature, add two chicken thighs to the oil and allow it to fry for 7-8 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. If using a meat thermometer, you're looking for the temperature to be 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). Place fried chicken on the wire rack to drain the excess oil and cool. Repeat with remaining chicken thighs.
- To melt cheese onto the chicken, if using, top chicken with sliced cheese and place on a baking sheet. Put into the oven on low broil to melt the cheese. Keep an eye on it, melting won't take more than a minute or two.
- Assemble sandwiches with preferred toppings and chipotle aioli smeared on both buns, top and bottom. Serve hot.
- Don't want to make an aioli? Use premade mayonnaise, then add the chipotle and smoked paprika, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Extra aioli keeps in an airtight container for a week
- If you don't want a spicy crispy chicken sandwich, remove the cayenne and chipotle peppers from the recipe.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 699Total Fat: 42ggSaturated Fat: 14ggTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 88mgmgSodium: 1443mgmgCarbohydrates: 50ggFiber: 2ggSugar: 7.5ggProtein: 28gg
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.