Cornmeal baked chicken has all the features of the beloved cornmeal fried chicken dish. With a crisp exterior and juicy meat, it’s hard to find a fault with this classic dinner entree. And in this version, we skip the deep-frying and call upon the oven to do the crisping.
The chicken is first dredged in a flavorful combination of cornmeal, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and spices. It then crisps up to perfection in the oven in about 40 minutes. With less mess and no less flavor, cornmeal fried chicken in the oven just might become one of your go-to fried chicken dishes.
Ingredients for Cornmeal Fried Chicken
- Chicken: We cut up a whole chicken to get an assortment of white and dark meat for this recipe. Feel free to use any chicken pieces. Bone-in chicken is best—the bone helps the fried chicken stay juicy and moist. Remove the skin if you like.
- Cornmeal coating: Cornmeal gives the chicken a delightfully crispy texture and a mildly sweet flavor. It’s too coarse to coat the chicken on its own, so we combine it with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese so the crust will stick to the chicken. Then, we add seasonings for flavor: parsley, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk is the glue that sticks the cornmeal crust to the chicken. It also tenderizes the meat and adds a fantastic tangy element. Feel free to swap in eggs to make dairy-free cornmeal fried chicken.
- Butter: Drizzling the chicken with melted butter adds rich flavor, and it helps cornmeal baked chicken crisp up to golden-brown perfection. Feel free to use olive oil instead as a dairy-free substitute.
Step 1: Dredge the chicken
Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, cornmeal, Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, garlic powder, salt, onion powder, dried thyme and pepper. Place the buttermilk in a shallow bowl.
Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken pieces in buttermilk, then dip in the cornmeal mixture. Turn to coat.
Editor’s Tip: Press the chicken firmly into the cornmeal coating to ensure it adheres.
Step 2: Oven-fry the cornmeal-coated chicken
Coat a 13×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Place the dredged chicken pieces in the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Drizzle the chicken with the melted butter. Continue baking until juices run clear and chicken is cooked to at least 165°, 30 to 40 minutes.
Editor’s Tip: Another way to bake fried chicken is on an oven-safe wire rack placed inside a baking sheet. The rack promotes air circulation, ensuring the chicken crisps up on all sides.
- Use another cooking method: You can always do a traditional fry for these fried chicken pieces! Pan-fry the chicken in a skillet with a few tablespoons of lard or frying oil, like we do when making these chicken cutlets. To deep-fry cornmeal fried chicken, submerge it in 375° oil, like in our best-ever fried chicken recipe. You can also fire up the air fryer, like in this air-fryer southern-style chicken.
- Marinate in buttermilk: Use an iconic southern fried chicken tip. Tenderize the chicken in an overnight buttermilk marinade. Add a splash of hot sauce to add a little heat.
- Use boneless chicken: Bones in chicken help the meat stay juicy and moist, but we have made some fantastic fried chicken using boneless pieces. Just make sure you cook all your chicken pieces through. The safe temperature of cooked chicken is 165° for white meat and 175° or higher for dark meat.
- Add seasonings: Add your favorite spices to the cornmeal coating. You can try poultry seasoning, spices like those in KFC fried chicken, or cayenne and chili powder to mimic Nashville hot chicken.
- Make a buttermilk substitute: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can acidify regular milk with lemon juice. Simply place 1-1/2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup. Add enough milk to measure 1/2 cup total. Stir, then let stand for five minutes. Other suitable buttermilk substitutes include plain yogurt or 1-3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar mixed into 1 cup regular milk.
How to Store Cornmeal Fried Chicken
Store cooled cornmeal fried chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
When you’re ready to reheat fried chicken, spritz it on all sides with cooking spray. Reheat in a 350° oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 150°. Then, increase the oven temperature to 400°, and continue cooking until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°. If you have an air fryer, reheat fried chicken in a 350° air fryer, flipping every three minutes to promote even cooking. Remove from the air fryer once each piece has reached an internal temperature of 165°.
Can you freeze cornmeal fried chicken?
You can freeze cornmeal fried chicken, although it may have a softer texture once you eat it. Freeze any cooled cooked chicken on a baking sheet in a single layer until it’s completely frozen. Transfer the chicken to a freezer-safe container, and store in the freezer for up to about six months. Thaw the chicken overnight, and reheat it using one of the methods above.
Cornmeal Fried Chicken Tips
What type of cornmeal should you use for cornmeal fried chicken?
The best cornmeal to use for fried chicken is fine- or medium-ground cornmeal. You can use yellow or white cornmeal based on your preference. For a more wholesome grain and rustic look, use stone-ground or water-ground cornmeal. This type contains more bran and germ than large commercial types and up to 2-1/2 times the fiber.
Can you mix cornstarch and cornmeal for frying?
Cornmeal can be mixed with cornstarch and all-purpose flour to make a crispy coating for fried chicken. In this recipe, we combine cornmeal with bread crumbs instead. We like the way the bread crumbs crisp up in the oven.
How do you prevent cornmeal coating from falling off cornmeal fried chicken?
The best way to prevent the coating from falling off fried chicken is to use a very firm hand when pressing the chicken into the cornmeal coating. Make sure the coating adheres on all sides before transferring it to the baking pan. Check out these breaded chicken tips for more ways to ensure any fried chicken coating stays intact.