Hot chicken

For the Canadian hot chicken sandwich, see Hot Chicken sandwich.
Hot chicken

Prince's hot chicken
Alternative names Nashville hot chicken, Prince's chicken, Nashville-style chicken
Course Main course
Place of origin United States
Region or state Nashville, Tennessee
Creator Prince family
Serving temperature Hot
Main ingredients Chicken, cayenne pepper
Variations Deep fried, skillet fried, hot fish
Cookbook: Hot chicken  Media: Hot chicken

Hot chicken or Nashville hot chicken is a type of fried chicken that is a local specialty of Nashville, Tennessee, in the United States. In its typical preparation, it is a portion of breast, thigh, or wing that has been marinated in a water-based blend of seasoning, floured, fried, and finally sauced using a paste that has been spiced with cayenne pepper. It is served atop slices of white bread with pickle chips. It is both the application of a spicy paste and the presentation that differentiates it from similar dishes, such as Buffalo wings. It can be viewed in similar context to other foods that have been tweaked to be unique in a regional way, such as the slugburger or the Mississippi Delta tamale.

There are many restaurants in Nashville that serve a variant of the dish, and there is a city-wide festival and competition commemorating it.[1] The popularity of hot chicken has spread beyond the Southern United States due to the influence of Nashville's music industry.[2]


Although the components of the dish largely remain the same, the preparation of the dish can differ greatly. A pressure fryer or deep fryer can be used, although most restaurants serve a pan-fried product. Nearly all hot chicken is marinated in buttermilk to impart flavor and to retain the meat's juices upon frying. Some preparations of hot chicken are breaded and fried after application of the spice paste; the more traditional method has the paste applied immediately after the chicken is removed from the fryer.

A typical Nashville-style hot chicken spice paste has two key ingredients: lard and cayenne pepper. The two are mixed together, three parts pepper to one part lard, and heated until they form a thick sauce. Some restaurants vary the composition of the paste, adding sugar, garlic, or additional hot sauce. The paste is applied to the fried chicken by the server using a spoon and latex gloves; it is lightly squeezed into the finished chicken by hand. The heat level of the chicken can be varied by the preparer by reducing or increasing the amount of paste applied.


Nashville-style hot fish
Hot chicken strip on a stick

The main variation to traditional hot chicken is in the application of the spice paste: before breading or after breading, and whether or not additional spices are applied. Recipes, cooking methods, and preparation steps for hot chicken are often closely guarded secrets, proprietary to the specific restaurant, so the appearance of the chicken may vary widely.

Hot fish

A variation of the hot chicken theme is hot fish, typically a breaded and fried whiting or catfish filet prepared using a similar cayenne paste as hot chicken, or using a cayenne powder blend sprinkled liberally over the filet. Some hot chicken restaurants also serve hot fish, but recently some have begun to specialize in hot fish only.[3][4]


Anecdotal evidence suggests that spicy fried chicken has been served in Nashville for generations. The current dish may have been introduced as early as the 1930s; however, the current style of spice paste may only date back to the mid-1970s. It is generally accepted that the originator of hot chicken is the family of Andre Prince Jeffries, owner of Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. She has operated the restaurant since 1980; before that time, it was owned by her great-uncle, Thornton Prince III. Although impossible to verify, Jeffries says the development of hot chicken was an accident. Her great-uncle Thornton was purportedly a womanizer, and after a particularly late night out his girlfriend at the time cooked him a fried chicken breakfast with extra pepper as revenge. Instead, Thornton decided he liked it so much that, by the mid-1930s, he and his brothers had created their own recipe and opened the BBQ Chicken Shack café.[5][6][7]

Ironically, what began as breakfast revenge is now considered to be a staple food for late-night diners. On weekends, most restaurants dedicated to hot chicken are open very late (some past 4 am). As of 2015, there are an estimated two dozen restaurants in the Nashville area that serve hot chicken, either as the focus or as part of a larger menu.[8] For a time, country music stars Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw owned and operated a now-defunct hot chicken restaurant called "".[9] The former mayor of Nashville Bill Purcell is a devoted fan, sponsoring the Music City Hot Chicken Festival and giving numerous interviews touting the dish. While in office, he frequently referred to his table at Prince's Hot Chicken as his "second office".[10][11]

Reflecting the growing popularity of the dish, several cities in the United States host restaurants that serve hot chicken or a variation thereof, including Atlanta, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago,[8] Los Angeles,[12] Birmingham,[5] Louisville,[13] Ann Arbor,[14] and Columbus.[15] A restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, also serves Nashville-style hot chicken.[8]

In January 2016, fast food chain KFC began selling "Nashville Hot Chicken" and "Nashville Hot Tenders" in its U.S. restaurants. This follows a trial run in the Pittsburgh area that it stated was "the most successful product testing in the company's recent history."[16]

See also


  1. "Music City Hot Chicken Festival". Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  2. Raskin, Hanna (May 26, 2009). "Hot Chicken - What the Heck is It?". Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  3. Krall, Hawk (November 29, 2011). "A Sandwich a Day: Hot Fish from Bolton's in Nashville". Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  4. Stern, Jane; Stern, Michael (2009). "Hot Fish Sandwich". 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 167–169. ISBN 054741644X.
  5. 1 2 Reitano, Karlie; Kasperzak, Hannah (February 28, 2013). "James Beard Foundation Names 2013 America's Classics Award Honorees" (PDF) (Press release). James Beard Foundation. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  6. Cornish, Audie (June 1, 2008). "The Quest for Spicy Chicken". Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  7. "André Prince Jeffries - Prince's Hot Chicken". Archived from the original on May 5, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  8. 1 2 3 Embiricos, George (August 10, 2015). "We Took A Nashville Chef To Two NYC Hot Chicken Restaurants. Here's What We Found". Food Republic. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  9. Lawson, Richard (February 9, 2007). "Hot Chicken Burned Kershaw". Nashville Post. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  10. Crump, Rebecca (December 29, 2008). "Prince's Hot Chicken Makes List of 100 Must-Try Southern Foods". Ezra Pound Cake. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  11. "Hot Chicken Story". Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  12. Harris, Jenn (April 22, 2016). "There's finally a Nashville hot chicken restaurant in Los Angeles". Los Angeles Times. Daily Dish. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  13. "Joella's Hot Chicken opens fourth location in 8 months". WDRB. June 1, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  14. Justus, Jennifer (March 7, 2014). "How Hot Chicken Became Nashville's Signature Dish". Time. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  15. Wood, Urquhart (April 7, 2016). "How one chicken restaurant is disrupting fast casual". Columbus Business First. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
  16. Waxman, Olivia B. (January 17, 2016). "KFC Introduces Nashville Hot Chicken". Time. Retrieved January 19, 2016.

Further reading

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