Hot and spicy enough to make you holler. That’s what we think about this Nashville hot fried chicken. Which is exactly how they like their fried chicken in Nashville. The folks who crafted this recipe rely on Tabasco hot sauce for the Nashville-style hot chicken experience. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tweak tradition if you fancy an alternate hot sauce. It’s all good. Really, really good.–Renee Schettler Rossi

A platter of Nashville hot fried chicken with a jar of whipped butter in the background.

Nashville Hot Fried Chicken

5 / 2 votes
Nashville hot fried chicken boasts just the right level of heat which it takes from a bath of buttermilk and habanero sauce. It’s the style served at Prince’s Hot Chicken down South. Here’s how to make it at home.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories818 kcal
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time55 minutes


  • Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer


  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, (either low-fat or full-fat)
  • 1 (5-ounce) bottle habanero hot sauce, (such as Tabasco)
  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken drumsticks
  • Mild vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder


  • Whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce in a large bowl or a baking dish. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning the pieces occasionally.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Place a wire rack in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Pour enough oil in a large, deep skillet to reach a depth of 1 inch. Heat the oil to 325°F (163°C).
  • Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and onion powder in a shallow bowl.
  • Remove the chicken from the buttermilk mixture, allowing any excess liquid to drip off, and discard the mixture. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess.
  • Fry the drumsticks in batches, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the fried chicken to the wire rack. Bake the chicken until cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes (or, if your drumsticks are particularly large, a few minutes longer). Don't forget to pass the napkins—lots of napkins.
No Taste Like Home Cookbook

Adapted From

Southern Living: No Taste Like Home

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 818 kcalCarbohydrates: 49 gProtein: 47 gFat: 47 gSaturated Fat: 10 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 19 gMonounsaturated Fat: 14 gTrans Fat: 0.3 gCholesterol: 211 mgSodium: 1452 mgPotassium: 597 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 1 gVitamin A: 122 IUVitamin C: 1 mgCalcium: 45 mgIron: 4 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe © 2013 Kelly Alexander. Photo © 2013 Joseph De Sciose. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I am in love with this Nashville hot fried chicken recipe. It came out of the oven nice and crispy. I tested this recipe with Frank’s Original Hot Sauce, and it wasn’t hot enough for me, so I doused it with more hot sauce. I will be keeping this in my repertoire of recipes.

This Nashville hot fried chicken recipe is a GREAT chicken dish. I stuck to the recipe exactly and the results were stellar. I used a sauce called El Yucateco. If you like HOT, you will LOVE this!

I have to say, I’m not a big fan of fried foods. That doesn’t mean I don’t like eating fried food, just not a fan of the oily mess you have to clean up afterwards. In making this Nashville hot fried chicken recipe, I expected to make a mess, so I was surprised when I really didn’t. The resulting chicken was crisp, insanely juicy, tender, and flavorful. Here are a few tweaks and observations I made along my deep fried journey:

Hot Sauce. First, I couldn’t bear to use an entire 5-ounce bottle of my favorite hot sauce, Youk’s of San Francisco. So instead I used Crystal Hot Sauce, which I love and is my go-to fried chicken hot sauce. While it doesn’t pack the same heat as habanero hot sauce, it still possesses a mighty fiery, tasty punch. (I know, hot chicken purists are probably gasping right now, but I like what I like.)

Bowl Versus Zipper Bag. The recipe calls for mixing your ingredients in a bowl and then dunking the chicken into it and popping it in the fridge. I used a resealable plastic bag, which worked perfectly. Plus, when the chicken was done marinating, I was able to toss the whole bag in the trash. (I’m all about easy.)

Cook Time. I do get slightly paranoid when I’m cooking chicken, especially with so many recalls these days, so I used the longest frying time, which was 8 minutes. I flipped the chicken over every 2 minutes, which gave me a beautiful golden brown color. Seriously, this chicken looked amazing! I also finished the chicken in the oven for 15 minutes, which is when it registered 180°F on an instant-read thermometer. My chicken was so moist the juices were flowing down my fingers and onto my plate.

No Mess. I’m pretty sure the fact that the chicken is fried at a lower temperature and then finished in the oven was why there wasn’t the usual spatter, hiss, and pop when dropping cold, wet food into a vat of hot oil.

For Next Time. When I remove the chicken from the bag next time, I’ll let it drip dry a spell before adding it to the flour dredge. On a couple of the pieces, the crust was coming off where the chicken was really wet with marinade. Just an observation.

This Nashville hot fried chicken recipe sounded perfect and requires little time aside from the marinating. I used Tabasco Habanero Sauce, which gave a fiery, almost too hot, heat to the chicken. I cooked the chicken in the skillet for 8 minutes and finished it in the oven for 12 minutes. The chicken came out moist and juicy.

Well. Wow. We like spicy food in our house, and this Nashville hot fried chicken recipe delivers a heck of a wallop. I made the first batch as written, and although my husband gobbled it down, my son and I couldn’t handle the heat. I then doubled the amount of buttermilk, used half the amount of hot sauce, and marinated the chicken for only 4 hours. This imparted heat and flavor without overwhelming me or my son, and my husband still gobbled it up. Success! We have a huge supply of hot sauces in our pantry, and I can’t wait to try this recipe using different ones for variation. Each time I’ve made this, I placed the buttermilk and chicken in a large, shallow baking dish and turned it every few hours. (I found piling the drumsticks in a large bowl with the small amount of buttermilk on the bottom made for messy and tedious stirring to coat. with only the very bottom drumsticks being submerged.) The flour mixture was delicious and I will continue to use it for regular fried chicken.

Where do I start about this Nashville hot fried chicken recipe? This was a very tasty, juicy chicken. I was expecting it to be really spicy, so I decided to make a second, less spicy batch for my daughters by adding only half the amount of hot sauce. I used Trader Joe’s Chili Pepper Sauce, which I tasted straight from the bottle and found to be pretty spicy. Truthfully, to really give the chicken a nice kick, I’d add actual chile peppers or use a much stronger, spicier sauce next time. My daughters were actually able to eat our “adult” batch. The time for frying in the skillet was spot on and turned the chicken a gorgeous golden brown color. Also, the chicken took 7 more minutes in the oven, perhaps because the drumsticks were so big. The final result, though, was a very juicy chicken with a nice crispiness on the outside. The 6 pounds ended up feeding us for dinner as well as lunch the following day. Next time, I’d like to use wings to see if the spiciness will penetrate the meat and not just the skin.

I’d never made fried chicken before, so I was drawn to the challenge of making it for guests. Wow! My chicken looked exactly like the photo, which for some reason really shocked me. What was even more amazing was the taste—totally moist, juicy chicken with awesomely crispy skin. The only thing I’d do differently the next time I make this recipe would be to use Tabasco brand habanero sauce—the one I bought didn’t have enough heat for my liking. Otherwise, the dish was perfect! Hardly any leftovers, and I made a double batch! Success!

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This may be one of the simplest but most delicious versions of fried chicken I have tried. I might of been too timid to use the habanero, baby steps here, so I used Crystal or Franks, and it scales down for even just a few pieces. Fried chicken seemed like such a big “fussaria” that my mom almost never made it, so I am thrilled to find ways to make it at home, especially now when the idea of going out to dinner is too daunting. This is a “when are you making it again please” item now!

  2. 5 stars
    I heard about Nashville Hot Chicken on an NPR show today and had to try it! Not being a big fan of habanero (the heat’s fine, I just don’t like the taste), I used my favorite hot sauce, Cholula, and garlic instead of onion powder. I definitely agree on the “Frying in the Kitchen” comment and to avoid the oily/frying smell in the house, I cooked it on the deck in an electric frying pan. It turned out GREAT. Thanks for a wonderful recipe – I’ve bookmarked this site for sure!

    1. Don’t see why not, Edgar. I’ve rarely known deep-frying to make anything worse….