Buttermilk Southern Fried Chicken

I’m not going to preach about animal welfare. There have been so many articles written about fried chicken down through the years that include a piece about it. I figure those of you reading these articles care as much about food and ethical farming practices as I do that you don’t need me to keep going on about it. Suffice to say there are moral standards for the welfare of chickens that has prevented me from eating at a well-known international fast food chain for the past number of years. I missed it though. The intoxicating smell of chicken frying is one that gets to me every time and I yearned for it whenever I passed the colonel and his wondrous wares. The delightful combination of herbs and spices come together to create a magical, drug like inducement, and you’ll find yourself reaching for more, and more. There’s something about southern fried chicken and it took me on a journey to try to recreate that magic at home.


Buttermilk southern fried chicken

By now KFC’s “secret 11 spices” is easily found online. This isn’t necessarily the KFC original recipe and most likely a very sound estimation but quite honestly a brilliant spice mix. There may be a lot of herbs and spices in it and of course you can make a spice mix with less but trust me when I say this is fantastic and worth the little bit of effort that goes into it. One spice you might see among these is allspice, which I found a bit too strong but the aromatics of it married well. Further exploration and investigation brought me to an excellent blog http://www.adventuresofafoodie.com/ where the writer has cleverly used fennel seeds and grated nutmeg and this for me works really well in place of the allspice. The paprika works better as unsmoked but I’ve also used smoked paprika in the past and it imparts an obvious smoky quality to the spice mix which isn’t unappealing. You may also substitute chilli powder for the cayenne but the chilli gives a brighter colour which isn’t as appealing as the colour of this mix.  This mix keeps really well so double up on the recipe and keep some in an airtight container for the next time.

You may chose to marinade the chicken or you may not; the choice is yours. The acidic nature of the buttermilk marinade helps break down the fibres of the chicken, tenderising it so you end up with mouth watering succulent meat. Think of the same way that yoghurt works with tandoori chicken. If you do decide to marinade it make sure to do so for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight in the fridge. If you are short on time you can still use the same marinade recipe to dip the chicken before coating in the spice mix. Alternatively you could beat a few eggs and add the spices or indeed a couple of tablespoons of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or similar) instead of the spices also works well. I’m using a whole chicken here but of course you can use this spice mix for chicken tenders too and quorn fillets for a vegetarian version.


Crispy fried chicken

Buttermilk Southern Fried Chicken


  • 1 whole chicken, jointed and breasts cut in half (preferably free-range or organic) or for tenders slice chicken breasts into strips


  • 500ml buttermilk
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Whisk all the ingredients together and pour it into a container along with the chicken pieces. Marinade in the fridge for 4-8 hours or preferably overnight.

Spice Mix

  • 250g plain/all purpose/cream flour
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns or freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika (unsmoked if possible and hot/picante)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (or garlic salt as a substitute)
  • 1 tsp onion granules (or onion salt/dried onion flakes as a substitute)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • Approx. 10 gratings of nutmeg
  • 2 tsp sea salt flakes (or 1 tsp if using fine sea salt)
  • 1.5 tbsp (not tsp) MSG (monosodium glutamate, sometimes sold as ‘flavour enhancer’ or ‘all purpose seasoning’ e.g. Aromat All Purpose Seasoning will work fine)


  1. Remove the chicken from the fridge about ½ hour before cooking to ensure the chicken is at room temperature.
  2. Place all the seasonings (but not the flour) into a spice blender and pulse into a fine powder. Mix thoroughly into the flour to make the coating. Keep in an airtight container.
  3. Preheat a deep fryer to 170°C/350° Place the spice mix in a shallow container and remove the chicken pieces one by one and thoroughly coat in the spice mix. Repeat the process of dipping in the buttermilk marinade and then into the spice mix so they are “double dipped”. Leave the chicken on a wire rack to slightly dry before going into the fryer.
  4. When the oil is heated deep-fry the chicken in batches until brown and crispy. Don’t overload the basket as it will drop the temperature of the oil too much and the chicken will cook unevenly. Dark meat should take about 15 minutes, white meat 10 minutes. If unsure pierce with a skewer at the thickest part of the meat and juices should run clear. You can always finish off by baking in the oven for a few minutes at 180°C Fan/400°F
  5. Serve with fries and a simple tangy coleslaw (Recipe Here)

Vegetarian Version


  1. Place frozen quorn fillets in the buttermilk marinade about 4 hours before serving until the fillets have defrosted in the marinade.
  2. Preheat a deep fryer to 160°C/320°
  3. Place the spice mix in a shallow container and remove the quorn fillets one by one and thoroughly coat in the spice mix. Repeat the process of dipping in the buttermilk marinade and then into the spice mix so they are “double dipped”. Leave the quorn fillets on a wire rack to slightly dry before going into the fryer
  4. Fry for approximately 5-6 minutes and serve with fries and a simple tangy coleslaw (Recipe Here)

Quorn fillets served with fries, grilled corn, and coleslaw

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