One of my go-to items at restaurants is a fried chicken sandwich. I pretty much order it any time I see it on the menu. So I decided to learn how to make my own at home, but with a twist. My recipe for pickle-brined fried chicken sandwiches is really easy, and gives you restaurant-quality fried chicken.
When you’re making a chicken sandwich, the star of the show is, of course, the chicken! For this recipe I’ve chosen to brine the chicken thighs, which will help make it nice and juicy and tender. When you brine something, typically poultry, you soak it in a salted liquid for a few hours up to overnight. The brining liquid for this recipe is pickle juice. I personally love pickles, but even if you don’t, it doesn’t give off a strong pickle flavor, it just acts as a shortcut to achieve the nice texture we’re looking for. Put 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or another cut of chicken that you prefer) in a ziplock bag with 1 1/2 cups of pickle juice, and place it in the fridge for at least 2 hours. You can brine it overnight, but it really only needs 2 – 4 hours in the fridge.
I love adding coleslaw to my chicken sandwiches, and it’s really easy to make. Mix together mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, lemon, sugar, salt, pepper, and just a squirt of sriracha for a little bit of heat. Then add your coleslaw (I just use a store-bought bag). I find that the coleslaw is best when it’s made the morning of, or a few hours before you plan on eating the sandwiches, so the coleslaw has time to develop the flavors. After it sits for a little bit, you’ll want to do a taste test for seasonings because the flavors will change a little as it chills.
The next step is frying the chicken. I double-dredge the chicken to give it a thicker crust and crunchier exterior. While you’re dredging your chicken, heat your oil to 350 degrees on the stovetop. I like to use a dutch oven for frying because the walls are taller, so there’s a lot less splattering. If you don’t have a thermometer to check the oil temperature, you can place a wooden spoon in the oil and if bubbles appear around it, then it’s ready. While the oil is heating, make the seasoned flour by mixing salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Take your chicken out of the brining mixture and pat it dry. Working with one piece at a time, dredge the chicken in the flour, then the buttermilk, then again in the flour. When you’re ready to begin frying the chicken, make sure to work in batches. If you add too much chicken at once it could drop your oil temperature. Drop the chicken into the pot, laying it away from you, so you can avoid oil splattering back at you. Cook each piece for a few minutes on each side, until they’re golden brown.
When you’re ready to assemble your sandwich, place the fried chicken on the bottom of a toasted brioche bun, add a few pickles for a nice crunch, and top with the coleslaw and top bun. Enjoy!
Check out my YouTube channel for a video tutorial of this recipe!
Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken Sandwiches
3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups pickle juice
1/2 cup mayo
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 cheeks of a lemon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 squirt sriracha
Premade bag of coleslaw
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Brine the chicken in 1 1/2 cups of pickle juice for at least 2 hours.
Make the coleslaw base by adding 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons vinegar, 2 cheeks of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and a squirt of sriracha. Once the base is mixed, add in the bag of premade coleslaw. Let the mixture sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes for it to set.
Take the chicken out of the brining bag and pat it completely dry. Make your seasoned flour by mixing 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
Dredge the chicken by dipping it in the flour mixture, then in buttermilk, and then a second time in the flour mixture.
Fry the chicken in a dutch oven using canola oil that has reached a temperature of about 350 degrees. Drop chicken into oil and cook for a few minutes on each side; until chicken is golden brown.
Assemble your sandwich with a buttered, toasted brioche roll, pickles, chicken, and coleslaw.
Frying the chicken in a dutch oven helps with excess splattering of the hot oil because the walls are nice and high.
When checking the temperature of the oil, a meat or candy thermometer will work. If you don’t have either of those, you can place a wooden spoon in the oil and if it has bubbles around it that means it’s hot enough.
When dropping the chicken into the pan, laying it away from you will prevent hot oil from splattering back at you.