Anyone out there heard of Nashville Hot Chicken? If you have, I’ll give you a couple of minutes to finish that happy dance you must be doing at the mention of it right now, for those of you who haven’t … Oh, good Lord child, hold onto your hat! Nashville Hot Chicken is the local specialty of Nashville. You see in Nashville, they don’t just have fried chicken, which is awesome all on its lonesome, I must say. No, they have a very special, spicy hot chicken. Served up atop a piece of white bread and topped with pickles, the chicken there is marinated in a hot, spicy buttermilk brine, dredged in a spicy hot flour dredge, fried and then slathered with a fiery cayenne glaze – and that’s the mild version! Folks in Nashville are not playing! This chicken is a taste sensation that will truly light up all of your senses! The husband and I love us some spicy food, so this is right up our alley.
As is Nashville. The chicken isn’t the only thing that’s hot there! Obviously if you love country music, you should make a bee line for this destination. But country music isn’t the only thing on the menu – we’ve pretty much come across every genre of music when visiting there. They don’t call it Music City for nothing! Not to mention, if you love food – the dynamic food scene you will find in Nashville is amazing! The signature hot chicken isn’t all there is to be had, so those of you with more tender taste buds do not need to despair.
The husband and I have visited two times and are always planning for our next trip there. We’ve enjoyed all sorts of music entertainment – from beloved bluegrass at the iconic Station Inn to all that the honky tonks of Broadway have to offer! And food wise – yes we have sampled the Nashville Hot Chicken (more on that to come…) but we’ve also enjoyed inspired mexican dishes at St. Anjeo
and to die for fusion Indian/American southern dishes at the Chauhan Ale & Masala House
as well as all the barbecue, biscuits,
and fine dining you can shake a stick at. Nashville has it all going on ya’ll! And where should one stay while experiencing this bustling town? Well both times we’ve visited, we’ve stayed in a lovely suite at the Thompson Nashville in the Gulch.
The Gulch is a very trendy, hip neighborhood on the southwest fringe of downtown Nashville. It is only blocks from Music City Central and just steps to the downtown honky tonks. This luxury hotel shares the block with the aforementioned Station Inn and boasts a fantastic rooftop bar & lounge as well as an award winning restaurant. While I’m sure all of their rooms are lovely, the Thompson suite is absolutely decadent. So spacious, boasting floor to ceiling windows, wet bars, clawfoot bathtubs, rain showers and Nashville inspired finishes – such as sliding barn doors and Marshall bluetooth speakers – this room is a destination in itself.
But let me get back to that Hot Chicken. On our last visit to Nashville, the Husband and I decided to go sample some of the city’s hot chicken. Although the African-American community in the area had been enjoying spicy chicken for generations, Nashville Hot Chicken as it is now known was likely introduced in 1930. Apparently, there was a gentleman who was quite a womanizer. After a late night out, after which he was unable, or unwilling to provide the details of which to his current girlfriend, she saw fit to exact a little revenge on him and fried him up a special batch of chicken on which she quite liberally applied the cayenne. In a twist of fate, the victim here ended up really loving this fiery chicken. The gentleman for whom this revenge chicken was prepared was from the family of Andre Prince Jeffries – the proprietor of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shacks, one of the better known hot chicken places in Nashville. They’ve been serving up this signature dish since the 1930s. Currently there are over two dozen establishments in Nashville serving up their own versions of Hot Chicken. The husband and I chose to check out Hattie B’s Nashville Hot Chicken.
Hattie B’s is a no frills kind of place, we dined on a wooden picnic table on a screened in porch, but that doesn’t seem to stop folks from lining up around the block to get ahold of some of their molten gold. We stood in line for about 30 minutes on the day we visited, but it was so worth it!They offer several spice levels for their chicken – southern, mild, medium, hot, damn hot and shut the cluck up! So, as I’ve mentioned, we like spicy and consider ourselves somewhat spice experienced. Spice aficionados. So I decided to go for the hot chicken. The husband he went for damn hot. And we couldn’t resist ordering one chicken tender that was designated at the “shut the cluck up” level.
Well, all I can say is by Nashville Hot Chicken standards, we are pretty much novices. I could eat my “hot” chicken – but it took quite a good portion of that pitcher of beer we ordered to get it down. I’m telling you this was a brow mopping, slightly sweating experience. There was absolutely no way I was going to even attempt one small taste of the “shut the cluck up’ tender that had been sitting there mocking us as we persevered through our chicken choices. But the Husband, although his mouth was already on fire, was not one to back down to a challenge. So, God help him, he took a bite!
Yup…..just as I suspected. It was pretty much life changing! There are ghost peppers rumored to be in play here. What it taught us is respect. We respect Nashville Hot Chicken now. Oh we still order it, but are always careful to get a more descriptive explanation of the spice level involved, using Hattie B’s as a baseline. That chicken hurts so good, but is not for the faint of heart!
But back to this recipe I’m sharing with you today. Do not be scared. Although I am calling this Nashville Hot Chicken, it is very very mild to what I just described.
And if you really don’t like a lot of spice, don’t bother with the spicy glaze. What you must do is the brine. This chicken is so moist, tender and flavorful, which I think is mostly due to that brine. You don’t want to miss out on that. And just know going into this that chickens now a days are so bred to be so huge, more like turkeys really, it is unlikely you will be able to get the larger pieces like the breast and thighs done when deep-frying. You should plan to finish the chicken in the oven.
And although it is traditional to serve Nashville Hot Chicken with a piece of white bread and pickles, I served mine up with some soft, tender buttermilk biscuits which we slathered with honey butter.
Quite the treat I must say. The chicken is delicious, but these biscuits are pretty amazing all on their own. Soft and airy, but with a bit of a crispy crust on the outside. Sturdy enough to hold up as a sandwich. And out of this world simply smeared with honey butter!
So if you are ready for a taste adventure, book that trip to Nashville and give Prince’s or Hattie B’s a whirl. For an introduction to the cuisine, or to start your taste bud training, whip up this recipe!
Nashville Hot Chicken & Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter
recipe from: Chef Marion Anderson with Sur La Table Cooking Classes
Nashville Spice Mix:
- 2 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 6 Tablespoons granulated garlic
- 4 Tablespoons paprika
- 4 Tablespoons onion powder
- 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Sea Salt
- 1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Marinade:
- 1 (3 – 4 pound) whole chicken cut into 10 serving pieces
- 4 cups buttermilk
- 1 Tablespoon vinegar-based hot sauce, such as Frank’s
- 1/4 cup Nashville spice-mix
For the Seasoned Flour Dredge:
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup Nashville Spice Mix
For the dip:
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
For the glaze:
- 1/2 cup Nashville Spice Mix
- 1 cup reserved oil from frying
- sea salt for seasoning
Whisk all of the ingredients for the Nashville Spice Mix together until combined and set aside.
Place the chicken in a large dish. Combine 4 cups of the buttermilk, hot sauce and the Nashville Spice Mix. Mix thoroughly and then pour over the chicken. Cover and allow chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for 3 – 8 hours. I prefer a longer marinade and just let the chicken marinate overnight.
About 30 minutes before you are ready to fry the chicken, remove it from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Then leave it to rest on a wire rack which has been placed over a baking sheet. Allow the chicken to drain and come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven the 350° F. Place a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in the oven.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and spice mix and set aside.
In another large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 cup buttermilk, egg, baking power and baking soda for the dip.
Place a large, heavy Dutch oven on the stove. Clip a deep-fry thermometer to the side and fill with about 3 inches of oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches a temperature of 350°F.
Pick up a piece of the chicken, dredge it in the seasoned flour. Shake any excess flour from the chicken and then dip it into the egg mixture. Give it a shake and then dip it once more into the seasoned flour. Shake off the excess again.
Slide the coated chicken, skin side down into the hot oil. Once all of the chicken you are cooking in that batch has been added to the pan, adjust the flame as necessary. Cook for about 8-10 minutes and then check the chicken. It should be golden brown. Remove the chicken from the oil to baking tray lined with paper towels. Check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. It should register 165°F, if it has not reached this level, but is a perfect shade of golden brown, place the chicken into the preheated oven to finish cooking. Continue frying the chicken, remembering to allow the oil to return to 350°F between batches.
Once all of the chicken is cooked, move it from the paper towels to a wire cooling rack which has been set over a rimmed baking sheet. Add some of the hot cooking oil to the remaining Nashville Spice Mix and whisk until a paste forms. You want the paste to be thin enough to brush over the chicken as a glaze, so add as much oil as you need to achieve this consistency. Generously glaze the chicken and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
Serve over a piece of white bread, along with some pickle chips if you want to be truly authentic. Or serve with some lovely Buttermilk Biscuits which have been slathered with Honey Butter, as I did. (Biscuit recipe noted below.)
Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter
servings: 8 – 16 biscuits depending on how you cut them!
For the biscuits:
- 2 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 stick (4 ounces) frozen unsalted butter
- 1 cup cold buttermilk
- 1 large egg, beaten
For the Honey Butter:
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Grate the frozen butter over the flour mixture and toss until all the butter is coated. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a fork, mix until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just one or two times. The less touching the better. Pat the dough out to a 1″ thickness. Using a biscuit cutter, cut the biscuits out, taking care not to twist the cutter. Just push straight down and pull straight up, otherwise your biscuits will not rise as high as you might hope.
Place the biscuits on the prepared tray and brush with the beaten egg. Bake until golden-brown, about 12 -14 minutes.
Transfer biscuits to a wire rack to cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the softened butter, honey and salt. Mix until the butter is light and fluffy. Serve with warm biscuits and spicy chicken.
Nashville Hot Chicken & Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)
Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Nashville Hot Chicken & Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter:
Links for Planning your vacation in Nashville:
Thompson Nashville – This boutique hotel is located in the hip and trendy Gulch neighborhood of downtown Nashville, just a few minutes walk from It boasts a rooftop lounge, a cozy cafe and contemporary seafood restaurant. The cozy rooms feature floor to ceiling windows, sliding barn doors and premium linens.
Hattie B’s -Get your Nashville Hot Chicken here! Go ahead…try the Shut the Cluck Up level…I dare you!
L.A. Jackson – Rooftop Bar at the Thompson Nashville hotel featuring sweeping views of downtown Nashville, creative cocktails and delicious small plates.
Vincent Peach – Gorgeous jewelry featuring tahitian pearls, tusks, leather, vintage coins, fossils and pave diamonds as far as the eye can see. Worn by the likes of Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Stephen Tyler.
Carter Vintage Guitars – Very friendly guitar store chock full of quality vintage instruments and accessories as well as a laid back and knowledgeable staff.