This healthy copycat KFC Southern fried chicken recipe will blow your mind! The air fryer buttermilk marinated chicken drumsticks are juicy, crispy, tender and so easy to make! The BEST homemade Fried Chicken you will ever make!
Fried chicken is my most favourite food EVER! I’ve been making the delish dish for over 15 years and over this period I have perfected the most amazing and slightly healthier homemade recipe cooked via an air fryer!
These delicious buttermilk chicken drumsticks are also a copycat of the very popular KFC style fried chicken!
They taste so good!
Let’s deep dive into how to make the BEST homemade fried chicken you’ve ever tasted!
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Why buttermilk for fried chicken?
Homemade Buttermilk fried chicken tastes amazing, juicy and tender! There is also a science behind why buttermilk can elevate southern style fried chicken to the next level!
What does buttermilk do to chicken
Buttermilk, which is traditionally made from lemon and cows’ milk, is used as a marinade to tenderise poultry and other meats. The science behind buttermilk is that it has an acidic and also creamy nature which breaks down the fibres of chicken or meat, resulting in tenderisation. Another benefit of marinating with buttermilk is that the flesh stays juicy and does not dry out as the acidity levels in buttermilk is quite mild.
How long to marinate chicken in buttermilk
You can marinade chicken for up to 3 – 4 days in buttermilk. The longer the chicken is marinating in buttermilk the more tender the chicken becomes and also takes on any additional flavourings added to the buttermilk even more intensely, as opposed to marinating chicken for 24 hours for example.
Do you wash buttermilk off chicken
When preparing fried chicken which has been marinating in buttermilk, you do not wash off the buttermilk before adding to flour. When preparing chicken pieces to be dredged in seasoned flour you just simply shake off the excess buttermilk before dipping into flour. You still want buttermilk on the chicken because as well as acting as a probiotic tenderiser, the buttermilk also helps the seasoned flour adhere to the chicken pieces. This will also help the chicken get really crispy whilst cooking.
Can I use milk instead of buttermilk for fried chicken
If you can’t get hold of buttermilk or would prefer to make southern fried chicken without buttermilk, you can definitely just use milk as an alternative. The crispy batter will be slightly thinner and lighter in texture compared to buttermilk as plain milk is quite thin in consistency.
Where does southern fried chicken come from
Southern fried chicken is typically marinated in buttermilk before dredging in seasoned flour and then fried in oil. This delicious crispy fried chicken originates from the southern states of America.
What to serve fried chicken with?
Fried chicken is an amazing dish or appetiser eaten on its own! However southern fried chicken can be paired with so many other dishes or sauces. Here’s some ideas to pair KFC style chicken with a meal;
- Fried chicken and gravy
- Fried chicken served with pickles
- Great when served with French fries /chips
- Fried chicken and waffles
- Served with mac and cheese
- Chicken in burgers is also a classic combination
What is KFC secret recipe ingredients
One of the most sort after commercial culinary secrets is the KFC original recipe fried chicken recipe. The global fried chicken restaurant and take out brand is widely popular throughout the world. It’s said the secret recipe includes 11 top secret spices / seasoning to give the chicken its amazing moreish taste! Opinions vary on the exact recipe however I have tested and found the combination of spices below to get you pretty close to the notorious original Kentucky fried chicken flavour.
- Dried thyme
- Dried Basil
- Celery salt
- Dried mustard
- White pepper
- Ground black pepper
What is seasoned flour
Seasoned flour is flour that has been mixed with herbs, spices and salt for extra flavour. Usually, all purpose flour/plain flour is used when making buttermilk KFC style fried chicken. By seasoning both the chicken, the buttermilk marinade and the flour you ensure the fried chicken drumstick, wings, breasts, etc. are packed full of flavour with every bite
How to season flour for fried chicken
Simply add spices, herbs and salt to flour and mix until fully combined. Seasoned flour can be stored in an air tight jar when made in bulk, ready for your next fried chicken meal!
How to make air fried chicken like KFC original recipe
To achieve crisp delicious coating like KFC for fried chicken when cooking in an air fryer, follow the steps below; (for more detailed recipe steps including ingredient amounts, timing and temperatures please scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of this blog post)
- Preheat – Preheat the air fryer (if this setting is available on the model your using)
- Buttermilk Marinade – Add the buttermilk, egg and hot sauce to a large bowl. Whisk until combined then add the chicken drumsticks to the bowl, stir and set aside to use straight away or for the best results marinate overnight in the fridge.
- Making the Copycat KFC Original Recipe Seasoned Flour – Add flour into another large bowl alongside with the all the 11 KFC spices & salt to make the seasoned flour. Mix until all the spices have combined with the flour evenly. Add 4 x tablespoons of the buttermilk marinade to the seasoned flour and mix. Little crumb will form which will help with the overall crispiness’ of the chicken.
- Dredging the chicken – Using hands take one drumstick out of the buttermilk marinade, shake of the excess liquid, then add to the seasoned flour. Use your hands to cover the drumsticks with the flour, apply pressure to ensure the flour adheres fully. Shake off the excess and place into the air fryer basket.
- Air frying the chicken drumsticks – Spray the dredged chicken drumsticks generously with vegetable oil, then air fry for 10 minutes at 180c/350f . After the initial 10minutes of cooking stop the air fryer and turn the chicken drumsticks over to crisp up the other side of the chicken. Spray the chicken with oil to cover any flour patches. Then air fry for a further 7-8 minutes at 180c/350f degrees until cooked.
How does KFC cook their chicken
KFC deep fry their chicken drumsticks in large industrial pressure cooker fryers, this helps give the chicken a super crispy skin whilst the chicken flesh inside remains very moist. The cook time is usually slightly less than a traditional deep fat fryer or shallow frying via a cast iron skillet. Although traditional fried chicken will always have a fatty nature due to the deep-frying cooking process, pressure frying is known to alleviate some of the greasiness.
Do Air fryers work for fried chicken?
Air frying is a great alternative to deep frying chicken. You can achieve pretty similar results to traditionally fried chicken. As well as being healthier due to; the reduced oil used during the cooking process & air frying negates the oil smells that can fill the kitchen when deep frying or using a cast iron skillet to make fried chicken.
How to make crispy fried chicken drumsticks in air fryer
Air fryers are such a great kitchen gadget for achieving crispy results without the hassle of deep frying or longer cook times via a traditional oven. There are a few key tips to achieving crispy, KFC style, Southern fried chicken drumsticks results when using an air fryer ;
- Coating seasoned chicken in a seasoned flour dredge
- Ensure the air fryer basket is not overcrowded with chicken. If there are too many pieces at one time in the air fryer the chicken batter will stick together. Also a steaming effect will occur resulting in soggy batter and you don’t want that!
- Generously spraying the chicken with oil to help the flour crisp up whilst cooking
- For the crispiest results I prefer not to use a greaseproof air fryer liner. When testing I found moisture would form at the base of the chicken pieces, making the KFC style batter slightly soggy. Most air fryer baskets are made from non-stick materials, so a liner is not required. Also, residual oil that releases from the chicken during the cooking process also helps prevent the southern fried chicken from sticking to the air fryer base.
How long to cook fried chicken in air fryer
How long the cooking time would be for fried chicken in the air fryer will depend on the sizes of chicken you are using and whether or not the chicken pieces are on the bone. For my KFC style buttermilk southern fried chicken recipe, I air fry the chicken drumsticks for a total of 18 minutes, flipping the chicken over at the 10-minute mark. If you were cooking boneless fried chicken thighs or wings, I’ve found the timings in the air fryer are a lot less, for example between the 13-15 minute mark. (subject to the temperature you’re cooking at)
At what temperature do you cook fried chicken in the air fryer
I’ve tested multiple air fryer temperatures to achieve the best southern fried chicken results! The sweet spot in my opinion is 180c/350f, the chicken drumsticks, thighs, breast or wings cooked at this level achieve an even golden and crispy texture on the surface of the surface, whilst also being cooked in the centre.
How to reheat fried chicken in air fryer
I love to use my air fryer to reheat KFC style fried chicken. Its way quicker than using an oven, results in even cooking and also eliminates sogginess that occurs when reheating fried food in a microwave. To reheat crispy fried chicken place the chicken drumsticks or other cuts of chicken into the air fryer basket, ensure you do not overcrowd! Set the temperature to 180c/350f and air fry for 5-7 minutes.
Can you fry frozen chicken in air fryer
You most definitely can air fry frozen chicken in the air fryer. If you would like to reheat frozen pieces of KFC style buttermilk chicken place the chicken pieces back into the air fryer straight from the freezer. Air fryer for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, at 180c/350f.
Thank you so much for reading along. I hope you making your AIR FRYER KFC COPYCAT SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN!
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Air fryer KFC Buttermilk Southern Fried Chicken Drumsticks
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 8-9 Pieces of chicken
This Healthy Copycat KFC Southern Fried Chicken recipe will blow your mind! The Air Fryer Buttermilk marinated Chicken Drumsticks are juicy, crispy, tender and so easy to make! The BEST homemade Fried Chicken you will ever make!
- Chicken drumsticks – 1kg /2.2pounds
- Hot sauce* (Franks hot sauce works well) – 75ml / 1/3 cup
- Egg – 1 x egg
- Buttermilk – 250ml (if making your own buttermilk – 250ml / 1 cup of whole milk + the juice of 1 x lemon, leave for 5 minutes to thicken)
- Vegetable oil for spraying the chicken
KFC Original Recipe Copycat Seasoned flour:
- Plain/All-purpose flour – 272g / 2 x cups
- Salt – 3 x teaspoons
- Dried thyme – 2 x teaspoons
- Dried Basil – 2x teaspoons
- Oregano – 1 x teaspoon
- Celery salt – 2 x teaspoons
- Dried mustard – 1 x teaspoon
- Paprika – 3 x teaspoons
- Marjoram – 2 x teaspoons
- Ground ginger – 1 x teaspoon
- Ground white pepper – 2 x teaspoons
- Ground black pepper – 2 x teaspoons
- Preheat prep: Preheat the air fryer (if this setting is available on the model your using)
- Buttermilk Marinade: Add the buttermilk, egg and hot sauce to a large bowl. Whisk until combined then add the chicken drumsticks to the bowl, stir and set aside to use straight away or for the best results marinate overnight in the fridge. (Optional – Check out the recipe notes section further down the recipe card for instructions on how to make your own buttermilk)
- Making the Copycat KFC Original Recipe Seasoned Flour: Add flour into another large bowl alongside with the all the 11 KFC spices & salt to make the seasoned flour. Mix until all the spices have combined with the flour evenly. Add 4 x tablespoons of the buttermilk marinade to the seasoned flour and mix. Little crumb will form which will help with the overall crispiness’ of the chicken.
- Dredging the chicken: Using hands take one drumstick out of the buttermilk marinade, shake of the excess liquid, then add to the seasoned flour. Use your hands to cover the drumsticks with the flour, apply pressure to ensure the flour adheres fully. Shake off the excess and place into the air fryer basket.
- Air frying the chicken drumsticks: Spray the dredged chicken drumsticks generously with vegetable oil, then air fry for 10 minutes at 180c/350f . After the initial 10 minutes of cooking stop the air fryer and turn the chicken drumsticks over to crisp up the other side of the chicken. Spray the chicken with oil to cover any flour patches. Then air fry for a further 7-8 minutes at 180c/350f degrees until cooked
- Serving Suggestion: Remove the cooked pieces of chicken from the air fryer basket and serve straight away.
How to make homemade Buttermilk – (if making your own buttermilk – 250ml / 1 cup of whole milk + the juice of 1 x lemon, leave for 5 minutes to thicken)
Hot sauce – I like to use the Franks Hot Sauce for the buttermilk marinade
- Prep Time: 8
- Cook Time: 17
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Air Frying
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: air fryer, fried chicken, kfc recipe, buttermilk, southern fried chicken, copycat recipe, take out, take away, air fryer recipes
Amazing recipe, so easy and delicious
Very good and helpful
Can you use chicken thighs in the recipe
Hi Sully, Yes you can use chicken thighs though I would advise you increase the cook time slightly
How spicy does the hot sauce make the chicken? I love heat but my fam not so much.
Hey Sonya, you can remove the hot sauce step from the recipe as it’s not essential
delicious but if you have larger chicken wings cook for longer
Tried this recipe tonight worked very well and delicious. Used a whole chicken cut into pieces – took rather longer than expected to cook – would cook at 200 next time – but great recipe – thanks for that
Thank you soo much for the feedback, glad you enjoyed your recipe
Hello, did you take the skin of the drumsticks? Thank you
Hey, for this recipe I kept the skin on.
How do I keep the flour to stay on? Parts of my drumstick are bare. Is that normal?