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Saffron Fried Chicken Recipe


Saffron Fried Chicken

Is there anything more satisfying than biting into a salty, flavorful, crisp piece of fried chicken? I know I have a particular weakness for the stuff (it’s my post-workout week splurge).

Perfecting fried chicken is not easy, and it’s taken me years to create a recipe that I’m fully happy with. Of course, leaving it well alone is not an option, so I created my own twist with saffron.

Saffron is used in a lot of Middle Eastern and South Asian marinades, oftentimes with yogurt, and it complements the flavor of chicken amazingly. Fried chicken was my perfect reason to break into the saffron stash.

So the reality is that there are a few (worthwhile!) steps here. I marinate the chicken in saffron buttermilk that serves to brine the chicken, make it even juicier, and deeply infuse it with all of the marinade ingredients — a pinch of saffron, garlic, a touch of mustard. Then, I double-dip the chicken to create a super-crisp crust, and let it air-dry while the meat loses its chill. Finally, frying at the perfect temperature ensures fried chicken nirvana — crisp, flavorful, aromatic, tender, and juicy. Enjoy!

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For the marinade

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • Pinch of saffron (generous)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the chicken

  • One 3- to 4-pound broiler or fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Vegetable shortening or oil, for frying


For the marinade

In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup of the buttermilk until it comes up to a simmer. Add the saffron and remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Pour this mixture along with the remaining buttermilk and the rest of the marinade ingredients into a blender and blend on high until smooth.

For the chicken

Place the chicken in a bowl or casserole dish and cover with the marinade. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours and up to 24 hours.

In a large bowl, combine the next 8 ingredients thoroughly. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place in a colander for a few minutes to drain, reserving the marinade. Dredge or shake the chicken pieces individually in the flour mixture and place on a wire rack fitted over a baking sheet.

Dip the chicken once more in the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Coat again in the flour mixture and place back on the wire rack. Let the chicken sit on the rack for 1 hour to dry and come up to room temperature.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees. (You actually want to fry the chicken at 325 degrees for the entire time, but the temperature will drop once you add it in.)

Place the chicken in the hot oil and fry for 13-17 minutes, making sure the oil temperature stays at 325 degrees. (I like to take the wings out at 13 minutes, and fry the rest between 15-17 minutes depending on the size of the pieces and the type of meat. White meat cooks faster than the dark meat, and fatter pieces will cook slower.) If the juices run clear, the chicken is cooked through.

Serve hot! It can be held uncovered in a 250 degree oven to stay warm, but it’s preferable to serve immediately.