“Healthy fried chicken” sounds like an oxymoron, but we make it happen with this healthy homemade Nashville Hot Chicken recipe. In this recipe makeover, we use a few clever tricks to cut down on calories and sodium while maintaining the crispy, juicy, delicious features that make fried chicken so finger-licking good. Here are a few hacks we used that can help you make fried chicken healthier at home.
1. Use bone-in, skinless chicken. A quick way to cut down on calories is to opt for skinless chicken breasts, thighs and drumsticks, and to trim off any extra fat. By choosing skinless chicken, you save around 100 calories per 4-ounce serving. Don’t worry about the meat drying out without the skin—marinating and using bone-in chicken keeps the meat nice and moist as it cooks.
2. Rely on spices—not salt—for the flavor. In this recipe, a generous combination of cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and just the right amount of salt adds complex flavor without going overboard with the sodium. By slashing the salt and upping the spices, you can save a whopping 1,200 mg of sodium compared to a traditional fried chicken recipe. We use the spice mixture once in the marinade and again in the sauce for double the flavor.
3. Make time for marinating. Marinating the chicken in a mixture of buttermilk and spices tenderizes the meat, locks in moisture and layers on the flavor. In this recipe, we recommend marinating for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Ideally, the more time allowed to marinate the better.
4. Achieve a crunchy coating by “oven-frying.” We coat the chicken in cornflakes and bake it, rather than deep-frying, to achieve that crunchy crust for fewer calories. To oven-fry, spritz the chicken with cooking spray and use a wire rack to elevate the meat so all sides get cooked and crispy. The wire rack is critical for preventing soggy chicken and getting that all-around crispy coating.
Victoria Seaver, M.S., R.D., C.D.