Jacqui Wedewer/ The Daily Meal

Nashville Hot Chicken’s Surprising Origin Story

This spicy fried chicken can trace its roots to a woman scorned
How to Make Hot Chicken 2 Different Ways
Brooklyn's Peaches HotHouse first brought hot chicken to New York 10 years ago. Here's how they make their version, and also how it's done in Nashville.
Jacqui Wedewer/ The Daily Meal

Nashville-style hot chicken is one of America’s most beloved regional foods, and the version served at its birthplace, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, is one of the country’s most iconic dishes. How is it different from other classic fried chickens? Traditionally, it’s made by being deep-fried and then getting a little bath in an oil-based marinade loaded with fiery spices.

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This spicy take on fried chicken has made its way from its native Nashville all across the country, and wherever it lands, folks are willing to wait in line for it.

Many chefs put their own spin on the traditional recipe as well. It’s a popular menu item at Peaches Hothouse in Brooklyn, New York, where instead of being dunked in oil post-fry, it’s tossed in a spicy dry rub. “It’s a little bit less greasy, it’s a little more favorable to New Yorkers rather than Southerners,” chef/partner Damian Laverty-McDowell told The Daily Meal.

Peaches offers three different heat levels, according to Laverty-McDowell. “Regular” includes “just a little bit of cayenne,” “Hot” includes cayenne, smoked ghost pepper and sugar and “Extra Hot” ups the ghost pepper content.

“[Extra hot is] more of a challenge; it’s not really recommended,” he said.

So where did Nashville hot chicken come from? According to Prince’s Hot Chicken’s website, founder Thornton Prince was a ladies’ man. After scorning his girlfriend during the Great Depression, she devised a revenge strategy. The following morning, he awoke to the smell of fried chicken and didn’t realize until after taking a bite that it had been sprinkled with hot spices. “Much to her dismay, Prince didn’t fall over weeping in pain,” the website explains. “Nope, he asked for seconds, and, at that moment, the legend was born.”

You can find a basic recipe for hot chicken dry rub below. After one bite, it’ll be clear that well-made Nashville fried chicken is up there with the best fried chicken in America.

Nashville-Style Fried Chicken Dry Rub

4 tablespoons cayenne
2 tablespoons white sugar
¼ teaspoon smoked ghost pepper powder

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Stir to combine, and sprinkle over fried chicken as soon as it comes out of the fryer. If extra heat is desired, sparingly increase the amount of smoked ghost pepper.