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Get ready to dig into the BEST Crispy Chicken Sandwich made in the comfort of your own home kitchen. A tender juicy buttermilk-marinated chicken breast, with a perfectly crisp outside, topped with homemade honey mustard dressing and fixings to your liking, all on a soft brioche or sesame seed bun. Look out, Popeye's and Chick-fil-A.
You can't go wrong with a nice warm sandwich for a quick meal any time of the year. Try some of our favorites like this Pork Tenderloin Sandwich, Crockpot Italian Beef Sandwich, and these delicious Roast Beef Sliders.
Popeye's and Chick-fil-A are the big names when it comes to crispy chicken sandwiches but Wendy's, Burger King, and McDonalds even have one too. But here's a secret: It's even better when you make it at home.
I'm definitely not above stopping at Chick-fil-A for a convenient meal, but man-oh-man are these sandwiches scrumptious! You're family will be singing your praises if you cook them up for dinner.
This is a perfect recipe for a quick dinner, weekend lunch, or even meal prep for a couple of days as the chicken reheats nicely, especially if you have an air fryer to crisp it up. It's also a really nice crowd-pleaser if you are having a get-together and need something simple to whip up.
We like to assemble our buttermilk crispy chicken sandwiches with our favorite hamburger buns, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, pickles, and onion, but you can top them with whatever fixings you prefer.
Why this Recipe Works
- Buttermilk marinated chicken breasts are extra flavorful and tender!
- Aside from marinating time, you can make this whole meal in under 30 minutes.
- The chicken is made with the perfect combination of seasoning and dipped in a three-step breading station that includes flour, eggs, and panko bread crumbs, and then fried to perfection for ultimate crispiness.
- Let's not forget the sauce! Make our fabulous remoulade sauce or use the spicy mayo or homemade honey mustard sauce recipes included in the recipe notes to take this sandwich to the next level.
- Chicken breasts: You'll want your chicken at room temperature and either small, thin breast or large breast that are sliced in half horizontally. You can pick up thinly sliced chicken cutlets at the store or slice regular breasts in half.
- Panko breadcrumbs: These are Japanese-style breadcrumbs that are bigger and crunchier than regular breadcrumbs. While we don't normally bread our fried chicken in panko bread crumbs, it's a fun change for these sandwiches and makes them even crispier.
- Spices: We use a combination of salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder to season the chicken.
- Powdered sugar: I know this might sound crazy, but it adds just a subtle hint of sweetness to the breading that gives it that authentic CFA taste that is so addictive.
- Peanut oil: This is the same oil that Chick-fil-A uses so it really gives it the same taste, but vegetable or canola oil will also work just as well if that's what you have on hand.
How to Make This Recipe
- Prep and marinate the chicken. If using 2 large chicken breasts, carefully slice them in half horizontally and pound them lightly so they are an even thickness. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides, then place them in a bowl with the buttermilk to marinade for at least 30 minutes (or up to overnight).
- Set up a breading station. Line up 3 bowls with the flour, powdered sugar, salt, and pepper in one bowl, eggs in a second, and panko mixed with paprika, garlic, and onion powder in the third.
- Dredge the chicken breasts. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk mixture, letting the excess drip off, then dip them in the flour to coat. Shake off any excess, then dip them in the beaten eggs, and finally dredge them in the panko breadcrumb mixture. Make sure to thoroughly coat the chicken at each stage, especially the last one.
- Fry the chicken in hot peanut oil. Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet by at least ½" over high heat. The oil should be between 325 and 350 degrees F for frying the chicken. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the chicken in the pan not touching each other. You may need to cook the chicken in batches so as not to crowd the pan. Cook each chicken breast for 3-4 minutes on each sides until golden brown and crispy and the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees F when tested with a digital meat thermometer. Remove to a baking sheet with a wire rack set into it to drain excess oil.
- Prep your veggies. Wash and dry the lettuce and slice the tomatoes and onions. Just before assembly, butter and toast the buns on a hot griddle or another pan so they are warm.
- Assemble your chicken sandwich. Spread a little of your favorite sauce on the bottom bun, then add the lettuce, onion, tomatoes, chicken and pickles before finishing with more sauce and the top bun. The reason the lettuce goes on the bottom is it protects the bottom bun from getting too soggy and falling apart from the juices from the chicken.
Yes, you can. Keep in mind the flavor will be a little different and chicken thighs are darker meat so they also take a little longer to cook. You'll want to cook them to an internal temperature of 170-175 degrees F.
The go-to oils for frying are neutral oils with a high smoke point. Some examples are vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and corn oil. We typically use peanut or vegetable oil.
We love serving these sandwiches with french fries (or waffle fries, if you want more of a true Chick-fil-A experience) and a fruit salad. But it's also awesome with any typical summer cookout sides like baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, or macaroni salad.
Yes, you can prep and cook additional chicken breasts and freeze them once they have cooled completely. To reheat, place them on a wire rack over a baking sheet in a 375 degree F oven and bake until hot (can be done straight from frozen). Or reheat in an air fryer until crispy for better results.
- Storage: The chicken can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days but is really best enjoyed right away like all fried foods. Reheat in an air fryer or the oven until hot before assembling the sandwiches.
- Spicy crispy chicken sandwiches: If you prefer your chicken spicy, add 1-2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper to your flour and spices before breading the chicken.
- Want a more authentic CFA sandwich? Then I recommend skipping the panko breadcrumbs and instead adding the spices (garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika) that go with the breadcrumbs to the flour mixture. Double dredge the chicken in the egg and flour mixtures for extra coating before frying.
- Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes after breading: This is key to keeping the breading from falling off while you fry the chicken. The flour will absorb the moisture from the buttermilk marinade and egg wash and become tacky which helps it stay on during the frying process.
- Don't drain on paper towels! Instead, drain the fried chicken on a wire rack. It helps keep the bottom crisp instead of steaming and getting soggy.
Pickle Juice Marinade
Another option that adds a lot of flavor is to marinate the chicken breasts in a combination of pickle juice and water or milk. There is a popular myth that has been debunked that Chick-fil-A uses pickle juice to marinate its chicken. You'll even see lots of copycat Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich recipes that tout this approach.
But just because they don't actually do that doesn't mean you shouldn't or can't if you want to try it! We just tend to prefer buttermilk since that's what we have on hand more often.
Air Fryer Crispy Chicken Sandwiches
If you prefer to make this in your air fryer instead of actually frying the chicken in oil, preheat the air fryer to 370 degrees F. Then place 2 breaded chicken breasts into the air fryer and spray them with cooking spray. Cook for 11-13 minutes, flipping them halfway through, until the chicken registers 165 degrees F when tested with a digital meat thermometer.
Baked Crispy Chicken Sandwiches
You can also make these in the oven by baking instead of frying. To do this, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and place a wire rack in baking sheet. Lay the breaded chicken breasts on the wire rack (this allows air circulation underneath to cook and crisp the bottom of the chicken) and spray it on both sides with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10-12 minutes until it reaches 165 degrees F when tested with a digital meat thermometer.
More Sandwich Recipes You'll Love
- Easy Chicken Parmesan Sliders
- Grilled Cajun Chicken Sandwiches
- Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches
- Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich
- 4 small chicken breasts, room temperature (or 2 large ones sliced in half horizontally)
- Salt & pepper
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper or smoked hot paprika, optional for a spicy chicken sandwich
- 4 hamburger buns
- Green leaf lettuce, sliced tomatoes, dill pickles, thinly sliced red onions, and cheese, for topping
- Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
- On a flat surface, slice each chicken breast in half horizontally, if they are large. Cover the chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound lightly on the thick end so they are roughly an even thickness. Season generously with salt and pepper, then place in a bowl or Ziploc bag and cover with the buttermilk. Marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- Create a breading station by lining up 3 bowls with the flour, powdered sugar, salt, and pepper, in one bowl, eggs in a second, and panko, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder in the third. You may want to add a little additional salt and pepper to season the breadcrumb mixture or add cayenne pepper or smoked hot paprika for a spicy chicken sandwich.
- Remove the chicken from the buttermilk marinade, allowing any excess to drip off, then dredge them in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip them in the beaten eggs, and finally dredge them in the panko breadcrumb mixture. Make sure to thoroughly coat the chicken at each stage. Set aside for 10-15 minutes to rest.
- Heat at least ½" of oil in a large skillet over high heat. It should be between 325 and 350 degrees F to cook the chicken. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the chicken in the pan, being careful not to crowd the pan. You may need to cook the chicken in batches. Cook each chicken breast for 3-4 minutes on each sides until golden brown and crispy and the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees F when tested with a digital meat thermometer. Remove to wire rack set over a baking sheet to drain excess oil.
- Wash and dry the lettuce and slice the tomatoes and onions. Just before assembly, butter and toast the buns on a hot griddle or skillet.
- Spread some of your favorite sauce on the bottom bun, then add the lettuce, sliced onions, tomatoes, and crispy chicken, followed by cheese and pickles (if using), more sauce, and finishing with the top bun.
- Storage: The chicken can be kept in the fridge for 2 days but better to enjoy right away like all the fried foods. Reheat in the air fryer or oven for best results.
- Pickle juice marinade option: If you have a dairy allergy or want to try something a little different, try marinating the chicken in ¾ cup of pickle juice and ¼ cup of water instead of buttermilk for 30 minutes before breading.
- Spicy mayo: Stir together ½ cup mayo, 1 tsp hot sauce, 1 tsp smoked paprika, and ½ tsp garlic powder in a bowl and use to top the sandwiches.
- Honey mustard sauce: Stir together ¼ cup mayo, ¼ cup dijon mustard, 2 Tbsp honey, 2 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp vinegar, ¼ tsp garlic powder, and pinch of cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Air fryer crispy chicken sandwiches: Preheat the air fryer to 370 degrees F. Place 2 of the breaded chicken breasts into the air fryer and spray them with cooking spray. Cook for 11-13 minutes, flipping them halfway through, until the chicken registers 165 degrees F when tested with a digital meat thermometer.
- Baked Crispy Chicken Sandwiches: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and place a wire rack in baking sheet. Lay the breaded chicken breasts on the wire rack and spray it with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10-12 minutes until it reaches 165 degrees F when tested with a digital meat thermometer.