This Paleo fried chicken might give you whiplash as you do a double take. Yes, it really is Paleo. Yes, it really tastes like the real thing. No sacrifices, no compromises, just crispy, juicy fried chicken like your southern granny used to make. Don’t have a southern granny? It’s ok, me neither, but if we did, she’d make perfect fried chicken just like this.
If you think perfect fried chicken is too much work, I have a small secret for you. It’s actually not. Frying chicken at home really doesn’t take too much effort, and the reward is incredible. It’s perfect for a potluck table, excellent at any barbecue, and will get you oohs and aahs that far exceed the level of effort you actually put in.
I spent several years living south of the Mason-Dixon line, where I got acquainted with truly excellent fried chicken. The fried chicken at Central in DC will forever and always have a special place in my heart. It’s one of my favorite things to order on any menu (especially in sandwich form), but Paleo eating has eliminated most restaurant fried chicken from my life. Not one to take such an injustice sitting down, I vowed that I would find a way to make my own that would be equally as good.
I dabbled with a few recipes, but always felt that I was still missing something. Some versions had crunch but no flavor, and other versions had flavor but weak crunch. The two must sit in perfect balance for fried chicken perfection to be achieved. Then, I remembered a Bon Appetit recipe that some friends and I once tried for our supper clerb. No, clerb isn’t a word, yes, that’s what we called it, and yes, I miss that weekly clerb dearly.
The Bon Appetit recipe called for chilling the chicken overnight in a spice rub, and I thought that would do the trick perfectly here to impart some wonderful flavor into the meat prior to dredging and frying. Instant success. Figuring out the perfect Paleo breading was another story. Not one to be daunted by the veritable pantheon of grain-free flours at my disposal, I spent a very fun weeknight coming up with 3 different breading concoctions and frying one piece of chicken in each. I landed on one version that is so perfect, I’m a little in awe of it.
This Paleo fried chicken tastes like the real deal. The balance of flours is just right so it crisps up like regular flour, and I’m quite delighted about it. Bob’s Red Mill Paleo flour and Tapioca flour form the magical combination (with an assist from arrowroot starch). I can’t wait to try it on nuggets or milanesa. I think it would work similarly well. In the recipe notes, I share an alternative breading that was about 85% as good, in case your Paleo pantry doesn’t run to the flours called for here. Options. I got you.
Now, please take my advice and eschew common wisdom to embrace homemade fried chicken. I promise you won’t regret it.
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Crispy, crunchy, tender, juicy – what’s not to love about this Paleo fried chicken?
- 1 whole chicken cut into 10 pieces (or pieces bought separately if you don’t want to break it down). Cut the breasts in half, so you have 4 pieces of breast meat from the chicken
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Paleo flour
- 1 cup tapioca flour
- ¼ cup arrowroot starch
- 2–3 cups of avocado oil
- Break down your chicken into 10 pieces if you bought it whole, cutting the breasts in half down the equator so they are more manageable in size. Keep the bones in the chicken
- In a small bowl, mix together the paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- Place chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle with spice rub, taking care to coat each piece evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight
- Take the chicken out of the refrigerator an hour before you want to start frying it
- Pour enough avocado oil into the bottom of a cast iron skillet or dutch oven so it’s 3/4 inch deep. Heat the oil over medium high until it’s 350 degrees (this usually takes me at least 20 minutes on my stove, just FYI!). I use a regular meat thermometer to periodically test the oil temperature. I don’t have a fancy candy/deep fry thermometer
- While the oil is heating, whisk the coconut milk, apple cider vinegar, egg and water in a large bowl
- Mix the Paleo flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot, and remaining salt and pepper in a shallow baking dish
- Set your chicken up next to the stove top (breading mix closest to the stove, eggs in the middle and raw chicken furthest away
- Once the oil is hot, dip chicken piece by piece into the coconut milk mixture then the breading mixture, using one hand for wet ingredients and one hand for dry. Make sure and coat the chicken well in the flour mixture
- Add the breaded chicken to the hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pan. You want the oil temperature to stay around 325 so that the chicken fries well and doesn’t become greasy. It will probably take three batches to cook all of the chicken
- Add more avocado oil and bring back up to temperature if you need to in order to maintain an oil depth of 3/4 inch
- Flip the chicken every 3-4 minutes, allowing to brown well on all sides.When the chicken pieces reach an internal temperature of 165, they are done
- Remove cooked chicken and place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Flip occasionally to prevent grease from collecting on one side of the chicken. Sprinkle with salt while hot
- If you don’t have or want to buy Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Flour (though I highly recommend you do!), you can swap it for a cup of cassava flour.
- I find the chicken takes 15-17 minutes per piece to be done.
- This flour mixture makes just enough for the chicken called for. It’s not one of those recipes that leaves you with tons of leftover flour, so if you are frying more chicken than the recipe calls for, definitely scale up your flour
- Chicken reheats well in a 350 degree oven and crisps back up pretty well if you have leftovers.