Nashville Hot Chicken

Nashville Hot Chicken is a mainstay menu item in the Music City. Think delicious Southern fried chicken…with a spicy kick!

Nashville Hot Chicken is a mainstay menu item in the Music City.  Think delicious Southern fried chicken...with a spicy kick!

Nashville. The capital of Tennessee. The home of country music. Nashville is an amazing place, and I highly recommend taking a trip there at some point! Spend an evening bar hopping between the honky tonks on Broadway. Catch a show at the Grand Ole Opry. Oh, and stop by Hattie B’s to get an order of Nashville Hot Chicken.

What is Nashville Hot Chicken?

Nashville Hot Chicken has become popular throughout the entire United States in recent years…and for good reason. It’s delicious. Think amazing Southern fried chicken…with a spicy kick.

Nashville Hot Chicken is a mainstay menu item in the Music City. Think delicious Southern fried chicken...with a spicy kick!

And I’m not joking when I say spicy. At Hattie B’s (one of my favorite places for hot chicken), you can order the fried chicken anywhere from Southern (no heat) to Shut the Cluck Up. (Shut the Cluck Up is one step above Damn Hot, for the record.) I like spicy food, and the medium is perfect amount for me. But you do you – just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

If you’re wondering where the spice comes from for Nashville Hot Chicken, it’s cayenne pepper. Like a lot of cayenne pepper. But here’s the thing – it gets brushed on after the chicken comes out of the fryer. The actual base recipe here is just darned good fried chicken. It has a bit of hot sauce in the batter, but that only adds flavor. No need to be concerned about spice there. The heat comes from the sauce that gets brushed on after the chicken is fried.

Nashville Hot Chicken is a mainstay menu item in the Music City. Think delicious Southern fried chicken...with a spicy kick!

Get this – the spicy sauce is actually made by mixing a bit of the frying oil with cayenne pepper and a couple other seasonings. It’s a pretty simple concept really. In truth, I was a little shocked at the thought of brushing the cooking oil directly onto the fried chicken. But then I realized that fried chicken had just been in the oil for a good 20 minutes while it was cooking – so it’s not all that strange to brush a bit of the oil back on top. Nashville Hot Chicken is not healthy…but then again, you’re eating fried chicken. We’re all about moderation here folks!

We don’t fry chicken in our house very often. We eat chicken quite a bit – we just don’t go to the effort of frying it. But every once in a while, it’s fun to go all out…and Nashville Hot Chicken is a great way to go all out!

Nashville Hot Chicken is a mainstay menu item in the Music City. Think delicious Southern fried chicken...with a spicy kick!

For this batch, I actually made all drumsticks. This was partly because the grocery store I stopped at was very limited in options for bone-in chicken. They did have a big bag of drumsticks, and I know that Robbie happens to love (!!) drumsticks…so it worked out well. (I didn’t brush his drumsticks with the hot sauce, though. He’d have never eaten fried chicken again if I had!)

Nashville Hot Chicken is a mainstay menu item in the Music City. Think delicious Southern fried chicken...with a spicy kick!

My mother and sister both live in Nashville, and we get down there on occasion to visit. However, this homemade Nashville Hot Chicken turned out so well that I can get my spicy fried chicken kick anytime I want it now! Whether you go Southern style or Shut the Cluck Up style or somewhere in between, I hope you enjoy this recipe – I know we do. (Oh, and for the record, I would estimate that the amount of cayenne in this recipe roughly equates to medium heat. Feel free to adjust as desired.)

Did you make a batch of this Nashville Fried Chicken at home? Leave a comment, or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog). I’d love to see your version!

Nashville Hot Chicken is a mainstay menu item in the Music City. Think delicious Southern fried chicken...with a spicy kick!

Nashville Hot Chicken

Nashville Hot Chicken is a mainstay menu item in the Music City. Think delicious Southern fried chicken…with a spicy kick!
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Marinating Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 608kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 3½-4 lb chicken, cut into pieces (see note below)
  • ½ Tbsp black pepper
  • Tbsp kosher salt divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • vegetable oil for frying (~8-10 cups)
  • 3 Tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • white bread for serving
  • sliced pickles for serving

Instructions

  • Using a large bowl, toss chicken with black pepper and 1 Tbsp of kosher salt. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Using a large bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk and hot sauce.
  • In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour and remaining ½ Tbsp of kosher salt.
  • Using a Dutch oven or deep fryer, add enough oil to cover bottom 2” of pan. Please over medium high heat until oil reaches 325°F.
  • Meanwhile, pat chicken pieces dry. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge chicken in flour mixture (shaking off any excess flour) and then the buttermilk mixture (letting any excess liquid drip off). Dredge chicken in flour mixture again. Place chicken on a large baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
  • Fry 2-3 pieces of chicken at a time, turning occasionally, for 16-20 minutes, or until skin is dark golden brown. An instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of each piece should register 165°F. Transfer cooked chicken to a wire rack. (Note: Make sure to return the temperature of the oil to 325°F in between batches.) Once done, let cooking oil cool slightly.
  • Using a measuring cup, carefully whisk together 1 cup of cooking oil, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder and paprika. Brush this spicy mixture on top of fried chicken.
  • Serve fried chicken over slices of white bread and topped with sliced pickles.

Notes

In total, you should have 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings and 2 breast pieces.
I’d estimate the hot sauce in this recipe would be similar to a medium level heat if you ordered Nashville Hot Chicken in Nashville. Feel free to adjust the amount of cayenne to fit your personal taste.
Nashville Hot Chicken is a mainstay menu item in the Music City. Think delicious Southern fried chicken...with a spicy kick!

Looking for more tasty Southern recipes? Check out these other favorites, too:

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21 Comments

  1. Will be making this soon can i use mushrooms / flax eggs and vegan buttermilk as am a vegan i never had nashville hot chicken before will use my oven and new air fryer for this perfect for my after office snacks love your recipes as always brightens up my day everyday after work will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya

    1. Going to make this and your other nashville hot chicken soon in the oven and air fryer will let you once i make both on this recipe and your other nashville hot chicken recipe

    2. Hey Ramya! So this recipe would be very different using mushrooms instead of chicken…but I think Nashville Hot Mushrooms sounds quite tasty actually. (I do like fried mushrooms!) Let me know how it turns out if you make a batch??

  2. 5 stars
    This chicken looks and sounds so delicious. But I must admit I’m not a huge fan of spicy foods. I can go with very mild. 3 tbsp of cayenne plus chilli powder for 4 lb of chicken?! – gosh I normally put 1/4 tsp of chipotle powder for this amount, and that’s my max lol. If I want to make it (and I totally want!), I guess I’d need to significantly decrease the cayenne…not sure it would still be related to Nashville cuisine, but either way – would be delicious!

    1. Nashville Hot Chicken is just that…hot. I agree that the 3 Tbsp of cayenne sounded insane, but it comes out about medium spicy. For me, that’s plenty spicy – and I like spicy food! Can you imagine how spicy “Shut the Cluck Up” would be!? If you’re not into spicy food, you could totally omit the cayenne pepper. You’ll just end up with delicious fried chicken! Yum!

  3. i rarely eat fried chicken but this spicy version sounds very tasty david. i am not a fryer – too scared of the hot oil – but i don’t mind eating it occasionally when i eat out.

    1. I do hear you on the fried food at home, Sherry. I don’t mind the hot oil – as long as you’re careful, it’s not too difficult. The hard part is the clean-up as oil is just a beast to clean! Sometimes it’s worth the extra effort, though. 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    I absolutely love this sauce David! What a great way to get some more heat and flavor into fried chicken (or in my case, fried tofu 😄). And having the ability to adjust the heat with the amount of cayenne you add is simply genius. Haven’t been to Nashville, but it is one of the top places in my list of places to go. But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy a taste of the city with this delicious recipe. 😋

    1. Hey, I think you could totally make Nashville Hot Tofu! I’ve never fried tofu, but I would imagine the process is pretty similar. Put this one on your list for sure! And I do highly recommend putting Nashville on your travel agenda, too – it’s a fun city!

  5. David, your fried chicken looks amazing. I love fried chicken. As you say, it’s become popular, and indeed there are tons of places to get it around where I live, and many of them are superb. I’ve never made fried chicken! One of these days, I should. I love spicy things, so long as it doesn’t wander into the arena of punishment. In fact, if spicy is an option in the places I go for chicken, I usually select it. You photos make me want to take a batch of chicken to the park and have a little picnic in these last days of warm weather.

    1. I’m with ya, Jeff – I only made fried chicken for the first time here at home a few months back. When Laura and I were eating it, I was like “Why don’t I do this more often!?” Well, I know why – it’s a pain to clean up the oil and it’s not exactly healthy. But then again, it was delicious! I say try your hand at Nashville Hot Chicken – the amount of cayenne in this recipe yields a spicy batch of chicken, but it’s not ‘punishment’ level.

  6. 5 stars
    I really like the sound of this Nashville Hot Chicken. One of my favourite starters whenever Lynne and I are out at a restaurant is spicy chicken wings. I don’t normally fry a lot of things in my house but as a special treat I can see myself making these bad boys! Yum!

    1. I do really enjoy chicken wings, too, Neil! Nashville Hot Chicken is similar to chicken wings, but it’s not as messy. It’s just spicy (and delicious) fried chicken rather than wings covered in sauce. I highly recommend trying Hot Chicken. It’s quite tasty!

  7. 5 stars
    This chicken – totally right up my alley! I love fried chicken, and the Nashville Hot Chicken is always a good choice! I love that you went all out and fried it and then spread the spicy oil on it – that’s the way to delicious spice! This is totally making my mouth water, David! Yum!

    1. I love a good piece of fried chicken, too, Laura! This Nashville Hot Chicken version was fantastic, and I’ve gotta say that the leftovers were pretty darned tasty, too. They know what they’re doing down there in the Music City! 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    Ohhh I so love this chicken specially when its extra hot. The first time I had it was here in NZ but its not just chicken, it is boneless chicken thighs sandwiched on a glazed donut served burger style, OMG that was one of the best thing I ever had. I bet this recipe based on the ingredients will taste something simliar to that chicken I had, 3 tbsp of cayenne, bring it on

    1. Woah – that chicken burger with donuts sounds insane! I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I kinda like the sweet + spicy combination there. Maybe I’ll try this with boneless pieces of chicken next time!

  9. WOA – Now I LOVE me some spicy food – and I love that this chicken has the cayenne brushed on later. I am so tempted to add cayenne into the batter too for an extra kick! Such a delicious recipe, David!

    1. Oh, Nashville Hot Chicken is amazing, Shashi! I do enjoy getting it whenever we visit my Mom + sister, but this version is pretty darned close…and ~1,000 miles closer. Haha!

  10. The crust on that chicken looks amazing! I’d never heard of Hot Chicken, or at least didn’t know to put a name to it. Fried chicken with a little kick sounds delicious, though.

    1. Thanks, Frank! This chicken is fan-freakin-tastic! Even if you omit the cayenne entirely, it’s just good fried chicken. But add in the cayenne to make it Nashville Hot Chicken? Oh man, it’s delicious!

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