Pickle-brined fried chicken?! Oh yes we did! And folks are calling it fried chicken perfection. It tastes exactly like you’d expect and comes with a spicy Sriracha honey dipping sauce.
This pickle-brined fried chicken harnesses the makes-your-eyes-squinty-when-you-eat-it sourness of pickle juice as a brine for fried chicken. Rest assured, the resulting fried chicken isn’t crazy pickle-y. Rather, it retains just the right vinegary undertone that’s complemented by the sweet heat of a dipping and drizzling sauce made of Sriracha and honey.
The pickle brine in the recipe below is made from scratch though mimics the liquid left from a jar of pickles.–David Leite
Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken FAQs
Can I use the leftover dill pickle juice from store-bought dill pickles?
You can, though the flavor profile may vary a bit from this version. You’ll need quite a bit of that juice – probably around three cups – to be able to adequately brine your bird. We generally recommend testing a new recipe as written the first go-round, and getting creative with any later endeavors.
Can I use boneless chicken for this recipe?
Absolutely. Because those boneless pieces are generally thinner and there’s more surface area than bone-in chicken, your meat will brine and fry more quickly. For an easy riff on this recipe, try hot honey chicken tenders.
What should I serve with pickle-brined chicken?
We love our pickle-brined fried chicken with crisp waffle fries and tasty coleslaw. Macaroni and cheese is always a favorite, and perhaps a side of fruit. If you want to have a whole restaurant experience at home, serve your chicken with a glass of homemade lemonade and a brownie for dessert.
Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken
For the pickle juice brine
For the fried chicken
- 6 small, bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 small, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cut into halves or thirds so the pieces are the same size
- 2 cups buttermilk well-shaken
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
- Several cups vegetable oil for frying
- 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade Sriracha
- 2 tablespoons honey
Make the pickle juice brine
- Toss the mustard seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns and cloves in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring constantly, until the seeds become aromatic, about 2 minutes.
- In the meantime, in a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, salt, sugar, and cold water and bring to a boil, stirring, until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add this to the skillet along with the dill seeds. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh dill.
Brine the fried chicken
- Transfer the brine to a large bowl and add the chicken along with enough cold water to completely submerge the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight. (The longer you brine the chicken, the more intense the pickle flavor and the saltiness.)
- When you're ready to fry the chicken, preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse it under cool water to remove any salt, seeds, or dill clinging to it.
- Place the buttermilk in a large bowl, add the chicken, and turn to coat.
- Place the flour, sea salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a separate large, shallow bowl or plastic bag and stir or shake to mix.If you prefer a thin batter coating on your fried chicken, use a bag to shake the flour mixture with the chicken. If you prefer a thick batter coating on your fried chicken, use a bowl and your hands to dredge the chicken in the flour mixture.
- Pour enough oil into a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven to reach a depth of at least 1/4 inch. The oil should reach about 1/3 of the way up the side of the skillet and be deep enough to submerge the chicken about halfway (bear in mind that the level of the oil will rise slightly when you add the chicken). Place the skillet over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches between 360°F and 375°F (182°C and 191°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
- Working in small batches, remove the chicken from the buttermilk, one piece at a time, and dredge or shake it in the flour mixture, turning to coat it evenly on all sides, beginning with the large pieces. Shake off any excess flour.
- Still working in small batches, place the chicken in the hot oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown and cooked through and the breast meat registers 165°F (74°C) on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd the skillet or the chicken will not fry evenly. If the chicken seems as if it’s browning too quickly, reduce the heat or use tongs to turn the pieces on their skinny sides. Bring the oil back up to temperature before starting the next batch.
- Transfer the fried chicken to a wire rack situated on a rimmed baking sheet to drain. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired (you’ll want to go easy on the salt since there’s a lot of it in the brine) and keep the chicken in the warm oven while the next batch is frying.
- While the chicken is cooking, combine the Sriracha and honey in a small bowl and stir to combine. Taste and, if necessary, add a smidgen more of either ingredient according to personal preference. Serve the chicken hot or at room temperature with the Sriracha honey on the side for drizzling or dipping.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
There is a wildly popular fried chicken franchise found south of Delaware. You know, the one not open on Sundays. Well, this here fried chicken recipe may have inadvertently reproduced their fried chicken breasts and thus cracked the sacred code.
I digress! I marinated the chicken for 8 hours which is PLENTY for a dill-heavy brine. I used the author’s suggested bag method but found that the coating was too thin. Next time I’ll go with the tried-and-true hand-dredge method.
For the breasts, which are the thickest, I went with 5 minutes on side one (where the oil is the hottest) and side two for 6 minutes. Perfect doneness was achieved! Pickle brining is where it’s at, my friends. I am now a disciple of this brine-spice combination.
The Sriracha honey dip is what drew me to this recipe. The crisp pickle-brined fried chicken sealed the deal.
This is an easy recipe, although there is an investment of time. I was concerned that this pickle juice brine would interfere with the chicken flavor or give the chicken that spongy feel that you sometimes get when food is left to brine too long, but it didn’t. I only brined the chicken for about 4 hours.
The recipe is pretty straightforward and the timing is spot on. The coating is crisp and stayed on after frying. The Sriracha honey kicked it up a notch and the chicken was moist throughout.
As I was buying spices for the recipe, the cashier at the grocery store asked me, “Brining something for dinner?” “Chicken,” was my answer. “That would be one great chicken, then,” she commented. Boy, was she right! Starting with the aroma of the brine and ending with the tenderness and fluffiness of the meat.
The Sriracha honey drizzle was a great addition to this recipe.
This pickle-brined fried chicken recipe showed up just in time. My wife was traveling and I wanted fried chicken but I felt guilty even thinking about a fast food place.
I let the chicken marinate for about 4 hours. I think that was enough but just barely. Next time I would let it go overnight. Mine was also a bit salty, I would back off the salt just a bit and then add salt after frying if necessary.
This is a keeper, with just enough tartness from the pickling liquid to make it interesting.
Originally published June 23, 2016