Ultra juicy, super crispy fried chicken, tossed in a sticky, sweet and spicy Korean glaze loaded with gochujang paste makes for the ultimate crowd-pleasing fakeaway or party bite. Serve stuffed into fluffy bao buns with aioli and slaw, or pile on a plate and let everyone help themselves.
If there’s a recipe I turn to when I’m entertaining and want to impress, it’s this Korean fried chicken. It’s SUCH a crowd-pleaser (who doesn’t love crispy, sweet, spicy juicy fried chicken!?) and it’s so much easier than you might think. Everything can be prepped in advance – and the chicken will be even juicier if you leave it to marinate overnight – then just fry when you’re ready. Plus, there’s a foolproof way to fry the chicken ahead of time if you need to, then just toss it with the sticky Korean-style sauce when you want to serve. I recently did this when catering for 40 people and it worked a charm.
My favourite way to serve the chicken is stuffed into fluffy steamed bao buns with garlic aioli and crunchy slaw – but piling them all onto a serving platter with some pickles on the side is also fab and super easy for entertaining, parties or game day. Or, serve with steamed rice.
Most recipes for fried chicken use buttermilk in the marinade, but 1) I can never find buttermilk and 2) Any time I DO find it, I end up wasting most of it. Enter yogurt. I find this is the best substitute for buttermilk because it’s a similar consistency, and has the acidity that helps to tenderise the chicken. It’s also incredibly easy to find, and you probably already have some in your fridge (just make sure you don’t accidentally pick up a flavoured one!) I use this same technique in my hot honey fried chicken sandwiches.
Two key tips for easy deep frying at home
- Monitor the temperature of your oil. You want your oil to be steady at 180C/356F when you’re deep-frying. If your oil is too cold, your batter will absorb too much oil and become greasy, and if it’s too hot, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked. The easiest way, by far, is to do this with a digital probe thermometer. You can pick up a cheap thermometer from Amazon and it’s 100% worth it. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can place the handle of a wooden spoon into the pot. If the oil bubbles up rapidly around it, you’re good to go.
- Don’t overcrowd the pot. This is also to do with the temperature of the oil. When you add food to the oil, the temperature will naturally drop. That’s why it’s important to be monitoring your temperature throughout the cooking process – it will go up and down. If you put too many pieces of chicken into the oil at once, your oil will drop a lot and by the time you bring it back up to temperature, you run the risk of the chicken being soggy. The chicken doesn’t take long to fry and will stay hot for a while, so give them room to move in the pot.
- Chicken thighs. I prefer to use thighs as they’re a juicier cut than breasts, so there’s less risk of them drying oil in the hot oil. If you prefer, you can use chicken breasts. Always use free-range.
- Cornstarch (cornflour). This is what makes the chicken ULTRA crispy and will help it stay crispy after frying. You can use all plain flour though if you prefer or you don’t have cornstarch.
- Plain flour. This is mixed with the cornstarch for the coating of the chicken – the flour provides a little more structure and will also brown beautifully in the oil.
- Oil. It’s important to use an oil with a high smoke point so that it doesn’t burn before it comes up to the right temperature. I prefer to use vegetable oil – usually sunflower, canola or rapeseed oil.
- The glaze. The star here is gochujang paste, a Korean fermented chilli paste which is one of my most used ingredients. It’s becoming more commonly available in regular stores, or you can find it on sweet chilli jam (or sauce), soy sauce, sesame oil and honey.
How to make it
Slice your chicken into chunks (I generally will cut one thigh into three pieces). Mix it through the yogurt, fish sauce and salt, then set aside. When you’re ready to fry, mix the cornstarch, plain flour, salt and sesame seeds in a large bowl.
Shake any excess marinade off the chicken, then dunk it in the flour mix. Turn to coat it all over, then transfer it to a plate and continue with the rest of the chicken.
When you’re ready to fry the chicken, fill a large saucepan about halfway up with vegetable oil, then place it over high heat. You want the oil to hit 180C/360F before you add the chicken. This is important – if you add the chicken while the oil is too cold, it’ll end up soft and soggy and won’t crisp up. Likewise, if your oil is too hot, the outside is going to burn quickly, before your chicken is actually cooked. My number one tip is to use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your oil, it’s by far the easiest way. If you don’t have one, place the handle of a wooden spoon in your pot of oil – if the oil bubbles up around it, it’s good to go.
Lower four or five pieces of chicken into the oil and cook, moving around occasionally with a spatula, for about 8 or so minutes, until super golden and crispy. Transfer to a wire rack set over a tray, then continue with the rest of the chicken. Once your chicken is fried, add all the ingredients for the glaze to a pot and stir over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Toss the chicken with the glaze in a large bowl.
Pile onto a serving plate and scatter over the scallions and more sesame seeds, then serve while hot and super crunchy. Or – and this is my favourite – serve them inside fluffy steamed bao buns with crunchy slaw, garlic aioli and chilli jam.
Got a question?
Gochujang does have a kick to it, but the sauce has enough sweetness from the sweet chilli and honey to temper the heat. Add a little more honey if you still find it too spicy, to sweeten it up a bit more.
You can – I like chicken thighs because there’s less risk of them drying out in the oil – but chicken breasts will work fine here if you prefer them.
How to make fried chicken ahead of time
I really wanted to make this chicken for a party I was catering recently, but frying enough chicken for 40 people, during the party, by myself felt like a step too far. So I discovered a brilliant trick for prepping the chicken ahead of time, all you have to do is pop it into the oven to reheat and then toss it with the sauce to serve:
- Follow the full recipe, but don’t toss the chicken with the sticky sauce.
- Instead, let the fried chicken cool completely on your wire rack, then transfer it to an airtight container and pop it into the fridge. You can keep it in there for up to 3 days before you want to reheat it and serve it (I recommend using it the next day if possible, for the best results).
- When you’re ready to serve, arrange the fried chicken on a wire rack set over a baking tray – this is going to help the air in the oven circulate fully so that the chicken will crisp up again all over.
- Bake at 150C/350F for about 8 minutes, until hot and crispy all over. Remove from the oven, then heat the sauce and toss it through the chicken.
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