The perfect fried chicken sandwich. Does it exist? Fried chicken sandwiches have become all the rage over the past few years, many influenced by the hot chicken craze originating in Nashville, and others just a standard fried chicken sandwich with a pat of mayo on a standard bun.
A few of our favorites? Ma’ono in Seattle, Howlin’ Ray’s in LA, Crack Shack in San Diego, Pretty Bird in Salt Lake City, Tumble 22 in Austin, and the list goes on. But one of our top favorite fried chicken sandwiches ever comes from Worth Takeaway in Mesa, Arizona. Their crispy chicken sandwich is undeniably satisfying, made with crispy chicken breast, house-made pickles, lettuce, sriracha honey, and mayo on ciabatta. Come to mama!
We knew we had to recreate this gem in the kitchen, with one major modification– using thighs instead of breast, because not only are thighs much easier to cook but they’re a fattier, more flavorful cut of chicken and much less likely to dry out. Dry chicken = no bueno. After testing several batches of this recipe over several months, the end result is one we’re beyond proud of. Make your homemade pickles the day before or morning of, and everything else can be made just before serving.
The Perfect Fried Chicken Sandwich: What’s Inside
- Bread: we’re using ciabatta bread for this sandwich, just like they use at Worth Takeaway, but you can use any kind of bread that you like (potato bun, hamburger bun, brioche, you name it).
- Spreads: the combination of both full-fat mayo and a homemade sriracha honey are the perfect condiments to this fried chicken sando.
- Pickles: 100% homemade pickles are a must-have for the perfect fried chicken sandwich. Incredibly easy to make and will completely revolutionize your homemade fried chicken sandwich game.
- Gem lettuce: a couple bucks more than your standard lettuce but gem lettuce or butter leaf lettuce are not only the perfect size for your sandwich, but a beautiful and delicious upgrade.
- Fried chicken: and fried chicken thighs in particular. They’re easier to cook, much harder to dry out, and have so much more FLAVOR than chicken breasts. Never fear– if we still haven’t convinced you, there are modifications in the recipe notes if you insist on using chicken breasts.
Tips and Tricks
- Cook your chicken at room temperature. Simply take your chicken out of the fridge about an hour before cooking, which will allow your oil to maintain its temperature better and the chicken to cook more evenly.
- Make sure your oil is 350 degrees throughout the entire frying process. Too hot and it will quickly brown the outside and leave you with undercooked, raw chicken (yikes). A deep-fry thermometer works best for this because you can leave it in the oil the entire time, but you can also use an instant-read thermometer intermittently.
- Don’t be afraid to cut into your chicken or use a thermometer to make sure it’s done. Sure, you want your final product to look beautiful and unscathed, but it may take a little bit of practice before you’re 100% confident in your chicken frying abilities. Plus no one will be able to tell once it’s covered in lettuce, spreads, and bread. Simply cut into the thickest part of the chicken to check for doneness, or use an instant-read thermometer and make sure it’s 165 F.
- Once the fried chicken is done cooking, place it on a cooling rack (preferably situated on top of a cookie sheet), so you chicken can cool but remain nice and crispy. Cooling on paper towels will humidify that crispy, delicious fried chicken that you worked so hard for.
- And while we’re on the topic of the post-frying process, make sure you salt your chicken while it’s hot and just out of the oil. If you wait too long, the salt won’t adhere as well to the exterior of your fried chicken.
- Last but not least, be prepared. Before you start frying your chicken, make sure your fried chicken station including the buttermilk and flour mixtures are ready to go. Slice your bread and make sure the mayo, sriracha honey, lettuce, and pickles are neatly arranged on your counter for sandwich assembly. Once the chicken is done cooking, you’ll want to enjoy this sandwich hot!
The Perfect Fried Chicken Sandwich
- Deep fry thermometer
- Instant read thermometer
Homemade Bread and Butter Pickles
- 2 large or 3 medium-sized cucumbers
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
Bread & Toppings
- 4 ciabatta rolls*
- mayonnaise (full-fat preferred)
- 1 Tablespoon sriracha
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 4 gem lettuce or butter leaf lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
- bread and butter pickles (recipe included)
- 4-6 cups canola or vegetable oil
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs at room temperature**
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
- fresh cracked pepper
Homemade Bread and Butter Pickles
- Slice cucumbers into 1/4" slices. Toss cucumbers with kosher salt, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour. Rinse salt off of cucumber slices with cold water and strain. Add onions to a medium-sized bowl with cucumbers and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, combine sugars, vinegars, mustard seeds, and celery seeds with a whisk. Heat over medium-high heat just until sugars are dissolved. Remove from heat and pour over cucumbers and onions. Let come to room temperature and refrigerate for 24 hours, stored in a mason jar or airtight container.
Bread & Toppings
- Remove the chicken from refrigerator to bring to room temperature, then prepare the bread and toppings for the fried chicken sandwich. Cut the ciabatta rolls in half, widthwise, spread cut side with butter, and toast on a griddle or nonstick fry pan over medium heat (you can also do this while the chicken is frying if you want the bread to be hot). Combine the sriracha and honey in a small ramekin and set aside. Have the mayo, pickles, and lettuce ready for each sandwich.
- In a large dutch oven or cast-iron skillet, heat the oil to 350 degrees F (medium heat is usually sufficient). While the oil is coming to temperature, combine the buttermilk, hot sauce, and salt in one bowl. In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, and several cranks of fresh cracked pepper. Set a cooling rack directly over a cookie sheet and place near the dutch oven.
- Using tongs, dip each chicken thigh first in the buttermilk mixture, and then in the flour mixture, coating the entire thigh with buttermilk and then with flour. For extra crispy chicken, do this process twice. Drop chicken (2 thighs at a time) in the 350-degree oil.
- Cook chicken until golden brown on both sides, turning once or twice while cooking. This may take anywhere from 4-6 minutes per side (8-12 minutes total), and will take slightly longer to cook if the chicken was double-dipped in the buttermilk/flour. Chicken is done cooking when it reaches 165 F internally and the exterior is a deep golden brown on top and bottom. Remove from hot oil with tongs and place on cooling rack. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with kosher salt or sea salt immediately.
Fried Chicken Sandwich Assembly
- To assemble the sandwiches, first spread the insides of the ciabatta roll with a generous pat of mayo. Then to the bottom half, add 1/2 Tablespoon or more of the sriracha honey and spread. Add lettuce, homemade pickles, fried chicken, and finish with the top half of the roll. Serve immediately.