How to Make KFC’s Fried Chicken Recipe

This KFC fried chicken recipe leads to drumstick perfection, all herbs and spices (and one secret ingredient) included.

Nothing says comfort food quite like a bucket of crispy fried chicken. But few places do it better than the aptly named Kentucky Fried Chicken—especially when paired with creamy mashed potatoes and a buttery biscuit.

What sets Kentucky Fried Chicken apart from the rest? It’s not just their affordable prices and convenience, it’s also how crispy they’re able to make their chicken (there’s a reason it’s called extra crispy!). Now, you can recreate KFC’s secret recipe at home with our copycat recipe. We bet you won’t even be able to taste a difference.

When it comes to making fried chicken that’s as good as or even better than KFC, it helps to have a few things in your back pocket. First, in general it’s good to know how to cut up a whole chicken to get the right blend of thighs, legs and tenders. Then, you want to coat the chicken in flour, liquid and then flour again because you really want all those herbs and spices to adhere the skin.

And finally, equipment also plays a role in cracking the code on that KFC-style fried chicken crispiness.  The texture we all love and crave is largely due to their method of cooking: a high-temperature, industrial-strength pressure fryer. While most of us don’t have that kind of fryer in our kitchen, you can still recreate the KFC crunch with an electric skillet, counter-top deep fryer, a good cast-iron Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot.

If you’re a little nervous about working with hot oil, check out our deep-frying guide. We see lots of flawless fried chicken in your future!

KFC Fried Chicken Secret Ingredient

To really nail the traditional flavor of Kentucky Fried Chicken, it’s all about their 11-spice seasoning blend. But according to Ron Douglas, author of America’s Most Wanted Recipes, the real key to the perfect crispy texture is monosodium glutamate (MSG). You can add this into your seasoning mix before breading or sprinkle it on the chicken after frying. Regardless, it’s a must for a true KFC copycat.

How to Make KFC Fried Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 broiler/fryer chicken (3 pounds), cut up
  • Oil for deep-fat frying

Directions

Step 1: Make the coating

Mix of Chicken Coating Dry Ingredients in a Bowl and Milk, Egg and Lemon in Another BowlTMB Studio

First, mix your dry ingredients. In a shallow bowl, combine the first 13 ingredients. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk the egg, milk and lemon juice until blended. Set up a coating station for easy dipping.

Step 2: Dip and coat the chicken

Coating KFC Fried Chicken to FryTMB Studio

To ensure a good crunch and even coating, first dip the chicken in the flour mixture to coat all sides, and shake off excess flour. Then dip the chicken in the egg mixture, and once more in the flour mixture. Press the coating into the chicken so it sticks better.

Editor’s Tip: Some insist that you should let the coated chicken sit before frying. Not at KFC. Their rule is “from flour to fryer.” If you allow the breading to sit on the chicken for too long, you might get soggy breading or breading that doesn’t stick to the chicken.

Step 3: Fry the chicken

Deep Frying Chicken in Hot Boiling Oil in PanTMB Studio

In an electric skillet, deep fryer, cast-iron pan or heavy-bottomed pot, heat your oil to 350°F. Fry the chicken, a few pieces at a time, until the skin is golden brown and the juices run clear, about 6 to 10 minutes on each side. Drain the chicken on paper towels.

Note: Different chicken parts may cook at different times, i.e. wings and breasts will cook faster than thighs and drumsticks. It’s OK to remove some pieces before the others are done, just watch for good even browning.

When it comes to frying chicken, general rules include not overcrowding the pan, frying in batches and bringing the oil back up to temperature before adding the next few pieces.

Editor’s Tip: Use a trusty digital thermometer (we love ThermoWorks TermoPop) to test the chicken for doneness. Chicken should temp at around 165º. If it’s still not done after you’ve pulled it from the oil, or if it’s browning too quickly, pop it into a 350° oven to heat it through. This should finish cooking the meat to the right temperature while still retaining its crispy coating.

Step 4: Wait and then serve

Kfc Fried ChickenTMB Studio

Biting into a piece of chicken right out of the fryer isn’t the smartest idea. At Kentucky Fried Chicken, they “hold” the chicken in an oven set to 175° for about 20 minutes, according to a former employee. So after the chicken drains on paper towels, it’s a good idea to put the fried chicken in a low-temp oven for a few minutes before serving.

How to Store KFC Fried Chicken

Once the fried chicken has cooled to room temperature, store it wrapped in aluminum foil or in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. You can also freeze fried chicken. After all, you went through the trouble of frying some, might as well fry as much as possible at once! To freeze, wrap the individual pieces in aluminum foil and store in a freezer bag. They should be good for up to six months.

How to Reheat KFC Fried Chicken

While sometimes cold fried chicken is the best chicken, you can reheat it without losing that signature crunch and juiciness. A few tips to reheating fried chicken include letting the cold fried chicken come to room temperature before reheating it; heating it on a metal rack placed on a sheet pan in the oven to allow air flow; using an air fryer; or popping it into a toaster oven. Of course, you can always reheat chicken in a microwave, but know that it won’t be as crispy as the first time around.

Tips for Making KFC Fried Chicken

Kfc Fried Chicken Served in a Plate on Wooden SurfaceTMB Studio

How do you get the coating to stick to the chicken?

The number one rule to getting coating to stick to chicken: Remove all moisture. Before you coat the chicken pieces, make sure to blot the meat with paper towels so that it’s nice and dry. Also make sure to shake off excess flour after each dredging. That extra flour could prevent the egg from sticking to the chicken, which is needed for the final dredging. After the last dredge, pat the flour into each piece of chicken to make sure it’s sticking.

Can you use buttermilk for KFC fried chicken?

Absolutely! Instead of butter and lemon juice, you can use buttermilk for dipping before dredging your chicken. Mix 1 cup of buttermilk and one beaten egg together for the liquid. You can also marinate the chicken in buttermilk for one hour or even overnight before dredging. The acid helps break down the protein, creating tender, moist and juicy meat, like in this picnic fried chicken recipe.

What kind of oil should you use for KFC fried chicken?

There are a few secrets to deep fryer recipes, but most important is the type of oil and its temperature. For your favorite deep-fried foods, the best oils for frying include canola, vegetable and peanut oil. Follow our deep frying temperature chart and make sure your oil is heated to at least 350° and no higher than 375°. The higher temps will cook the outside of the chicken faster than the inside, resulting in a too-dark piece of chicken that’s still raw inside.

What can you serve with KFC fried chicken?

If you want a true KFC-style experience, it’s all about the side dishes for fried chicken. You can go with other KFC copycat recipes, like Kentucky coleslaw, homemade biscuits, mashed potatoes, corn and gravy. Or create your own masterpieces inspired by things like fluffy biscuits, French fries, roasted okra and black-eyed pea salad.

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Amanda Tarlton
Amanda has more than a decade of media experience, specifically in product testing in the cooking and lifestyle space. As a freelancer for Taste of Home, Amanda writes mostly about foodie finds, home and lifestyle goods and cooking and baking utensils that make life easier (and more fun!). Outside of freelancing, Amanda is the executive editor of commerce at Field & Stream.
When she's not working, Amanda is on the lookout for the best pizzas in town or testing out secret menu items at restaurants and coffee shops.
Lesley Balla
As an associate food editor for Taste of Home, Lesley writes and edits recipes, works closely with freelancers, and tracks cooking and food trends. After working in hospitality for a decade, Lesley went on to report on the food industry for national, regional and local print and digital publications. Throughout her career, she’s highlighted both famous and unsung culinary heroes, featured up-and-coming wine and spirits destinations, and closely followed the food scenes and chefs in many cities. Her own cooking style has been influenced by the places she's lived: Ohio, Key West, Massachusetts, Oregon, and a long stint in Southern California, where she still visits as often as possible, if only for the citrus and avocados. When not at her desk, you’ll find Lesley taking photos of everything, hitting farmers markets, baking something delicious at home and road-tripping around the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their bottled-chaos pup, Pucci, shucking oysters and cracking crabs along the way.