Growing up, one of my favorite meals—I mean my absolute favorite—was fried chicken. My grandmother would carefully monitor it frying on the stovetop. As far as I can remember, it was always just right.
Crispy deep-fried chicken relies on the perfect oil temperature. Too hot? The breading will burn while the inside remains raw (yikes!). Too cold? It’ll turn out greasy and not crispy. So I take a quick and easy route to perfectly crispy fried chicken: the oven! A good oven-fried chicken is just as rewarding, and a bit healthier than deep-fried chicken.
For this recipe, the chicken is marinated in buttermilk and dredged in panko breadcrumbs. It gets baked until golden brown and super crispy. Then it gets a delicious drizzle of sweet and spicy honey (aka hot honey). So good!
My husband loves to cut it up for salads. I think it tastes wonderful in a buttery roll topped with fresh romaine lettuce and a spoonful of creamy ranch. No matter how you decide to serve it, you won’t be disappointed!
I’m Obsessed With Hot Honey
Hot honey is, first and foremost, wonderful! It’s simply honey infused with spices and chili peppers to make it spicy. Pick a honey you really enjoy. I use a darker honey for this recipe, but a light one will work well too!
Cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and hot sauce are good options to add spice. For this recipe, I add thinly sliced fresh jalapeno peppers in addition to paprika and cayenne pepper.
This recipe calls for three teaspoons of smoked paprika, which I know, sounds like a lot of smoked paprika, but it adds a truly wonderful flavor. That said, start with one teaspoon, you can always add more!
A little vinegar is added to brighten it up a bit and a pinch of salt brings out the flavors. With honey and some heat and you can make hot honey. From there you can adjust the spice level and seasoning to your tastes. It’s so versatile!
For a super-fast hot honey, simply warm honey for 15 to 20 seconds in the microwave, and then add your favorite hot sauce until you reach a spice level that's just right.
Tips for the Best Hot Honey Chicken
- Marinate in buttermilk: The acid in the buttermilk and the salt need a bit of time to do their work. Allow it to marinate for at least 30 minutes to yield the best results. For longer marinating, 24 hours is plenty of time. Beyond that, the texture of the chicken may get unpleasantly mushy. When planning for dinner, I marinate the chicken in the morning or even an hour before dinnertime.
- Use panko breadcrumbs: The buttermilk marinated chicken gets dredged in panko breadcrumbs to achieve its crispy exterior. Panko breadcrumbs are flaky, light, and create a super crisp coating.
- Bread like a pro: The easiest way to bread the chicken is to place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl and dredge the chicken one piece at a time. Shake off excess buttermilk from the chicken before adding it to the breadcrumbs. Dip the chicken with one hand and dredge with the other.
- Pat the chicken: The buttermilk will help the breadcrumbs stick to the chicken but give it some help by gently patting the breadcrumbs on with your hands.
- Give the chicken space: Combat sogginess by giving each piece of chicken all the space it needs to crisp up. Two pounds of chicken breasts and thighs should fit on a large baking sheet. If you have smaller baking sheets, use two and placing them side by side in the oven, if you can. Line the baking sheet with parchment so that the crispy breadcrumbs don’t get stuck and left behind.
- Use a rack: Transfer the baked chicken onto a wire rack if you’re not serving it right away. Otherwise, it will steam on the bottom, losing some of that wonderful crispiness.
Is Your Chicken Cooked Through?
This chicken is baked for 30 minutes in a 425°F oven. This should be enough time for the chicken to cook all the way through without burning the breading. However, tent the chicken with foil if it starts getting too dark before it’s cooked through.
The easiest and most reliable way to test the chicken for doneness is to use a kitchen thermometer. The FDA recommends cooking chicken to 165°F. You can also check for doneness by cutting through a thick piece of chicken. It should appear white, not pink.
Delicious Swaps and Substitutions
- Instead of panko breadcrumbs, use crushed cornflakes, saltine crackers (with only 1/2 teaspoon salt added), or even regular breadcrumbs. To finely crush the cornflakes or crackers, put them a large zip top freezer bag and use a rolling pin to pound them.
- This recipe calls for jalapeños, but any spicy chili pepper can be used. Leave the seeds in for a hotter honey or remove them for a milder flavor. It’s okay to use a little extra cayenne pepper instead of fresh chili peppers or just omit them altogether.
- This recipe calls for apple cider vinegar, but you could use any kind, even lemon juice.
- I use a mix of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts for this recipe, but any cut of chicken works! Want to use bone-in chicken thighs, legs, or wings? Bake them for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the thickness. You can use skin-on chicken, but I find that skinless pieces get crispier.
What to Serve With Hot Honey Chicken
Serve it with a simple green salad and corn muffins for soaking up the hot honey—sounds like music to my ears! For a vegetable side, this roasted broccolini only takes 6 to 8 minutes under the broiler.
We Are Team Fried Chicken
Oven-Fried Hot Honey Chicken
For the buttermilk marinade:
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut in half) or thighs
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons sea salt
For the breading:
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons table or sea salt
Nonstick cooking spray
For the hot honey:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 jalapenos, stemmed and thinly sliced
3 teaspoons smoked or regular paprika, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
Pinch table or sea salt
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Marinate the chicken:
In a large zip top plastic bag, add the chicken, buttermilk, and salt. Seal the bag tightly and massage the buttermilk into the chicken. Refrigerate the chicken for 30 minutes or up 24 hours.
Preheat the oven:
Set the oven rack in the center and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and generously spray it with cooking spray. Set it aside.
Prepare the breading:
In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, flour, and salt. Set it aside.
Dredge the chicken:
Working with one piece of chicken at a time, remove the chicken from the buttermilk and shake off any excess marinade. Dredge the chicken in the breadcrumbs. Use your hands to gently press the breadcrumbs onto the chicken.
Transfer the breaded chicken onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chicken, making sure there is space between each piece so that they don't steam and get soggy as they bake.
Bake the chicken:
Generously spray the chicken with cooking spray. Bake it for 20 minutes. Then gently flip the chicken over, being careful not to peel off the breading, and bake for 10 more minutes.
The breading should be a light golden brown; it may have a few darker spots. When cooked through, an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center should register 165°F.
Meanwhile, make the hot honey:
While the chicken bakes, set a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, garlic, and jalapeños. Cook until the jalapeños soften, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the paprika, cayenne, and a pinch of salt. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring continuously. Stir in the honey and vinegar. Give it a taste and add more cayenne or paprika, if desired. Remove the hot honey from the heat.
Let the sauce sit for 5 minutes. You can either strain the hot honey through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl or serve it as is.
Coat the chicken with hot honey:
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the chicken onto a wire rack so that the bottoms don't get soggy if not serving right away. Right before serving, spoon the hot honey over it to lightly coat. Serve warm with extra hot honey on the side.
Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days. For longer storage, freeze the chicken tightly covered for up to 3 months. Reheat leftover in a 400°F oven until warmed through.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 26g||33%|
|Saturated Fat 9g||45%|
|Total Carbohydrate 66g||24%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||7%|
|Total Sugars 48g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||21%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|