Southern Fried Chicken Thighs

Southern fried chicken thighs on a plate with side of ketchup and sour cream and chive dip

The Spruce

  • Total: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 2 hrs 15 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Servings: 10 servings
  • Yields: 10 thighs

Fried chicken is a delicious dinnertime treat that's always a hit. But the crispy main dish is usually reserved for special occasions since it's not exactly diet food. This recipe for Southern fried chicken thighs cuts out some of the fat by using boneless, skinless meat and low-fat buttermilk. Most fried chicken recipes call for skin-on chicken, which adds flavor and moisture but also adds fat. Chicken thighs tend to remain moist and flavorful without their skin on, making them perfect for frying. While they're not exactly health food, Southern-fried chicken thighs are lower in fat than traditional fried chicken recipes without sacrificing texture or flavor.

Plan ahead so you can marinate the meat for a couple of hours in buttermilk and spices. When it comes time to eat, the chicken only takes a few minutes to fry up. The secret to great fried chicken is three-fold: a soak in a flavorful marinade, oil at the proper temperature, and the correct frying time. Serve the chicken thighs fresh out of the pan with traditional sides like mashed potatoes or potato salad, or use to make a fried chicken sandwich.

1:24

Click Play to See This Southern Fried Chicken Thighs Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • 10 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (divided)
  • 4 teaspoons black pepper (divided)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (for dredging)
  • Canola or​ peanut oil (for frying)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for fried chicken thighs
    The Spruce
  2. Add the chicken thighs to a mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk, paprika, cayenne, 1 tablespoon of the salt, and 2 teaspoons of the black pepper. Mix and make sure the chicken is covered with the buttermilk mixture. Refrigerate for 2 hours to marinate.

    Chicken thighs soaking in buttermilk and spices
    The Spruce
  3. Add the flour and remaining 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons black pepper to a baking dish. Using tongs, remove the chicken 2 to 3 pieces at a time and coat well in the seasoned flour. Be sure to press the flour into the meat and cover completely. Shake off excess and reserve on a baking sheet.

    Chicken thighs being coated in flour
    The Spruce
  4. When all the pieces of chicken are dredged in the flour, add about an inch of oil to a heavy, deep frying pan. Over a medium-high flame, heat the oil to 375 F.

  5. Test the oil to make sure it's hot. Add the chicken, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, and cook for 7 to 8 minutes per side, or until the outside is browned and the meat is cooked through. The thickest part of the meat should register at least 165 F on a meat thermometer.

    Chicken thighs being fried in oil
    The Spruce
  6. Serve immediately or hold in a warm oven if frying in batches.

    Fried chicken thighs on a plate with a side of ketchup and sour cream and chive dip
    The Spruce
  7. Serve and enjoy.

Tips

  • A cast-iron pot is a tried-and-true tool for frying chicken. In addition to its durability, its thick walls also retain heat very well. That means that the oil temperature drops less when you put a batch of chicken in, helping create crisper skin and more uniform cooking. If you don't have a deep cast-iron skillet, a Dutch oven also works well.
  • To test if the oil is hot enough, drop a small piece of​ the coating from the chicken into the oil. If the coating begins to bubble and fry quickly, this is the perfect temperature to fry in.
  • Correct oil temperature is key to cooking up crispy fried chicken. Don't overcrowd the pan, or the oil temperature will drop, making your chicken greasy. If you're frying in batches, place the fried chicken on a cooling rack set on a baking sheet in a 200 F oven until ready to eat.
  • You can also use an electric deep fryer for this recipe, although it won't necessarily yield better results. If going that route, make sure the oil is heated to 375 F, put the chicken pieces in a single layer in the fryer basket, being careful not to overcrowd. If the chicken is fully submerged in oil, you won't need to turn it, unlike in the pan method.

What Flour Is Best for Deep-Frying?

A number of different flours can be used as a coating when deep-frying with crispy results. Semolina flour tends to fry up light and crunchy, and rice flour is a good option for gluten-free diets. All-purpose flour is the most common choice since it's a pantry staple and provides a consistently tender and crisp fried crust.


While you can fry many foods without flour, fried chicken absolutely requires it. Without a barrier, the chicken will become greasy and won't crisp up.