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Homemade Chicken and Waffles is a true soul food brunch dish that everyone loves. My recipe includes juicy Southern fried chicken and fluffy waffles with an amazing sweet and spicy sauce made with maple syrup or honey.
Chicken and waffles are my all-time favorite brunch and brinner --that's breakfast and dinner-- dish. I know, if you've never had it (like my husband before he met me) you're probably thinking "Do chicken and waffles go together?" And all I have to say to that is: yes, they do. Like you have no idea, honey.
Origins of Chicken and Waffles
A lot of people think chicken and waffles are a Southern dish because it uses fried chicken.
Small restaurants in Chicago and California in the 1910s would serve fried chicken and waffles claiming they were authentic Southern dinners though there is no evidence that the South ate chicken and waffles together for dinner. Historians place the origins of the dish from Black people who migrated from the South to the northern states after the Civil War.
Chicken and waffles didn't become popular until the Harlem Renaissance in Harlem, New York in the 1930s at the Wells Supper Club owned by Joseph T. Wells. Musicians leaving work late at night or extremely early in the morning would fill Wells Supper Club and this sweet and savory, breakfast-and-dinner combo kept every belly satisfied.
Now you'll find many restaurants famous for serving it, the most famous being Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles, Dame's Chicken and Waffles, Hattie B's, Lolo's Chicken and Waffles, and Kiki's Chicken and Waffles. Some of these places are historic so I totally suggest stopping by when you're visiting their towns.
How to make Chicken & Waffles
To make the best southern chicken and waffles you need three elements: perfectly juicy, crispy fried chicken, thick and fluffy waffles, and a delicious sweet and spicy sauce. I love making a spicy honey butter sauce but just swap the honey for maple syrup and you have a spicy maple syrup perfect for drizzling.
Southern Fried Chicken
I'm well known for my authentic buttermilk-brined southern fried chicken. It's a tried and true recipe loved by many and incredibly beginner-friendly. Between that and my explosively popular Crispy Chicken Sandwich recipe, I would have to call myself an expert.
It is imperative that my fried chicken be extremely juicy, well seasoned, and have a wonderfully crisp and craggy crust. Here are my top X tips for perfect fried chicken to top your waffles with:
What chicken parts to use
I personally love using boneless chicken thighs because they're naturally juicy and full of flavor. They're also smaller so they fry faster than chicken breasts and are harder to dry out.
You can also use chicken breast tenderloin, which is so much smaller than the actual full breast and cooks much more quickly, about the same time as thighs. So if you prefer chicken breast to the thigh, these are a great choice to use.
A brine for the juiciest and most flavorful chicken
I've tested it over and over again. Brining works. It imparts flavor inside the chicken and makes the meat incredibly juicy. You can either do the classic southern buttermilk brine or you can use one of my favorite tricks whenever you do not have buttermilk, which is to sour milk with the juice of ½ a lemon or use pickle juice to brine.
The way a brine works is that the salt in the solution (along with other fat and water-soluble ingredients that you add) penetrates the meat through the process of osmosis. Yeah, science!
We all want that shatteringly crisp crust with beautiful craggy nooks and crannies on our fried chicken. I honestly love my double dredging technique for a thick, cronchy crust but with our southern style chicken and waffles, I wanted to make sure that the crust was thin enough to break through easily with a fork and knife without breaking apart as a thicker crust does.
There's also the ingredients. The flour is well seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders, and other spices. But there's more to it than that. Flour itself doesn't give us that wonderful, crispy crust. Adding cornstarch and baking powder to the flour helps lighten it up.
What does baking soda and cornstarch do in fried chicken?
Baking powder is a leavener, meaning that in baked goods like cakes it helps puff up and lift it since we aren't using yeast to do the job. Same thing in the crust of fried chicken. It creates tons of tiny bubbles in the crust when the chicken hits your hot oil, making the surface of the crust expand and help it be lighter and crispier.
Same with the cornstarch. Cornstarch impedes gluten production from the flour, and that means the breading will be lighter and crispier because of it.
We're talking waffles
Your waffles really depend on you. I personally love thick and fluffy Belgian waffles, which does require a Belgian waffle iron, but if you have a favorite waffle recipe and classic waffle iron, use it!
I love Belgian waffles because the thickness and structure holds up well to the syrups and all the knife and fork work that goes into eating chicken and waffles.
What makes these waffles special? The eggs are separated and the whites are whipped up nice and fluffy before being folded into the batter, which gives the waffles a ton of lift and makes the outsides crisp and the insides fluffy. If you have an electric hand mixer, it makes whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks a fast and easy process.
What goes with chicken and waffles?
My favorite is to drizzle some homemade spicy honey butter sauce over the whole stack served with some southern baked mac and cheese on the side.
For the ultimate brunch or breakfast experience, these are my favorite sides with this dish:
- Southern Sweet Potato Casserole with Brown Sugar Topping
- Instead of a spicy honey butter sauce or maple syrup, many chicken and waffles connoisseurs love a delicious gravy over their chicken and waffles
- Buttery and sweet corn on the cob
- Red Beans and Rice
- Creamy Mashed Potatoes. It sounds crazy, but it just works especially with gravy!
- Electric Hand Mixer
- Belgian Waffle Iron
- Large Mixing Bowls (these are my fave, I've had others break on me!)
- Dutch Oven (for deep frying)
- Candy/Oil Thermometer
- Wire Rack (for resting)
Love brunch? Check these brunch recipes out:
- Croque Madame Sandwiches
- Authentic Southern Shrimp and Grits
- Diner Style Steak and Eggs
- Cinnabon Style Cinnamon Rolls
- Eggs Benedict
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- 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Vegetable Oil, for deep frying
- 2 cups (480 mL) buttermilk OR soured whole milk* (see notes)
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- ½ tbsp garlic powder
- ½ tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp hot sauce or chili powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
Seasoned Flour Crust
- 3 cups (384 g) all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup (43 g) cornstarch
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Spicy Honey Butter Sauce
- ¼ cup (85 g) honey (you can sub maple syrup)
- ½ tsp chili powder (or more if you like a lot of spice)
- 4 tbsp (57 g) unsalted butter
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- Best Belgian Waffles Recipe, click the link for the full waffle recipe
- Whisk the buttermilk or soured milk, kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, hot sauce, and smoked paprika together in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the boneless, skinless chicken thigh to the bowl, making sure every thigh is covered in the brine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the chicken marinate in the buttermilk brine from 1 hour to overnight in the fridge.
- In a dutch oven pot, heat up about half the pot's worth of vegetable oil. Allow the oil to reach 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/ 160 degrees C if using a fan-forced oven).
- While the oil is heating up, in a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and seasonings. Take each chicken thigh from the brine and dredge into the seasoned flour. Thoroughly coat the chicken all over, then let rest on a plate for five minutes before frying.
- Fry the chicken in the hot oil (no more than about 4 thighs per batch) until golden brown, crispy, and cooked through completely, about 8-9 minutes.
- Carefully take the chicken out of the oil and place them on a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving. Repeat until all the chicken thighs are fried.
- Make the Belgian Waffles and serve the chicken on top of the waffles, then drizzle generously with spicy honey butter sauce or maple syrup.
Spicy Honey Butter Sauce
- In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat with honey, chili powder, and kosher salt. Whisk well until the mixture is incorporated and homogenized.
- Lower the temperature to 'warm/low' heat and keep for serving.
Whenever I can't find or don't have buttermilk, souring the milk I have with lemon juice (about ½ a lemon per cup of milk) and letting it sit for 3-5 minutes always does the trick.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 506Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 168mgSodium: 2138mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 35g
All nutrition facts are estimations. Please see a physician for any health-related inquiries.
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.