Make air fryer Nashville Chicken! This spicy hot chicken is juicy, crispy and delicious fried chicken brushed with hot sauce for a tasty dinner. Using the air fryer means the chicken is crispy without the mess and effort of deep frying.
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My family and I enjoy spicy foods, and not much is spicier than Nashville Hot Chicken. So when I wanted to make fried chicken in my air fryer it made sense to make air fryer Nashville chicken.
Deep fried chicken is tasty, but it is certainly not very good for you! An air fryer lets you get crispy, crunchy fried chicken without the messy and greasy oil.
But there is one thing you need to be clear on – this isn’t going to taste the exactly same as deep fried chicken. This air fryer Nashville chicken is crispy and golden brown, but it tastes like really good oven fried chicken.
What is Nashville Hot Chicken?
Nashville hot chicken is chicken cooked with cayenne pepper and hot sauce. It is extremely spicy and if you are a fan of very hot chicken you will might find my recipe is not spicy enough.
To make this chicken spicy I soak it in a mixture of buttermilk and hot sauce and add cayenne pepper to the flour coating. If you want it even hotter you can brush some hot sauce on the chicken after cooking. With all that I’d say this recipe rates as medium spicy.
How to Make Air Fryer Nashville Chicken
This recipe is a little involved, with quite a few steps. These steps aren’t difficult but it will take some time to make. This is definitely not a meal to make when you need dinner on the table fast!
1. Soak the Chicken
Before cooking the chicken it is marinated in buttermilk. Soaking the chicken in buttermilk is kind of like brining it. Buttermilk is slightly acidic so it tenderizes the chicken and helps keep it juicy inside.
The buttermilk also means the flour coating will stick better to the chicken pieces. This gives you crispier chicken. And fried chicken is supposed to be crispy!
For this hot chicken recipe I combine the buttermilk with some hot sauce and submerge the chicken in the mixture. Then refrigerate the mixture and let the chicken sit for anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. You will get best results if you let the chicken soak at least 4 hours.
2. Flour the Chicken
After the chicken has soaked in buttermilk the next step is to coat the chicken pieces with flour.
I combine flour with spices including garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika and old bay. This combination gives the chicken a distinctive spicy kick.
Coating the chicken works best if you work with one piece of chicken at a time. Use tongs to take a chicken piece out of the buttermilk, letting any extra buttermilk drip back into the bowl. Then put the chicken piece into the bowl with the flour mixture and coat the chicken.
Take the chicken piece out of the bag and tap off any excess flour. Set the piece of chicken on a wire rack to rest. Repeat this until all the chicken that will fit in your air fryer basket is coated.
It is important not to crowd the chicken in the air fryer, so you will likely have to cook the chicken in batches. Put the chicken that will go in the air fryer for the second batch back in the refrigerator.
3. Let the Chicken Rest
Now let the flour coated chicken rest on the wire rack for about 15 minutes. This resting time lets the coating sink into the chicken and will result in crispier chicken.
The chicken will also cook better since it will not be as chilled after sitting out for 15 minutes. There is no food safety risk to letting the chicken sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.
4. Air Fry the Chicken
Put the chicken in the air fryer basket in a single layer. Do not stack the chicken or overcrowd the basket! The air fryer cooks by circulating air, so there needs to space between the chicken pieces.
The time that the chicken needs to cook will vary, depending on your air fryer brand and type of chicken you are using. For these pictures I used bone-in thighs, which I cooked at 390 F for 25 minutes.
About halfway through the cooking time open the air fryer basket and check the chicken. If there are spots where you can still see flour spray them with a little oil. This will ensure your chicken comes out golden brown.
At this point you should also flip the pieces of chicken over. Then return the basket to the air fryer to finish cooking.
If you are cooking a bone in chicken breast it would need longer cooking time and if you are cooking chicken tenders they would cook more quickly. I put approximate cooking times in the recipe card below.
But the best thing to do is always check the temperature of your meat with a digital instant read thermometer! Don’t guess when it comes to food safety, test the chicken. It should reach 180 F for dark meat and 165 F for white meat.
5. Coat the Chicken with Hot Sauce
While the chicken is air frying melt 1/2 cup of butter and combine it with 2 Tablespoons of hot sauce. Once the chicken is done take it out of the air fryer and use a pastry brush to coat the chicken with spicy butter.
This step is the easiest place to adjust the spiciness of the chicken. If you want it very spicy add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the buttery sauce. If you don’t want it spicy skip this step altogether.
What to Serve With Air Fryer Nashville Chicken
The traditional thing to serve with Nashville Hot Chicken is pickles and white bread. I served mine with refrigerator bread and butter pickles and white sandwich bread.
It was very good – the chicken was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside and very spicy! So if you want to recreate the classic Nashville hot chicken taste give this recipe a try.
- 8 bone in chicken thighs
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup hot sauce
- 2 cups flour
- 2 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon old bay
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 Tablespoons hot sauce
- Mix the buttermilk with the hot sauce in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and submerge the chicken. Refrigerate for 1-24 hours.
- Mix the flour with the garlic powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, old bay and paprika.
- Depending on the size of your air fryer you will likely need to cook this in batches. Do not crowd the chicken in the air fryer basket.
- Using tongs take a piece of chicken out of the buttermilk. Let any excess buttermilk drip off the chicken. Then put the chicken into the flour and coat it. Set the chicken piece on a rack to rest.
- Repeat the process with as many chicken pieces as will fit in your air fryer (four for me.) Put the rest of the chicken back in the refrigerator while you cook the first batch.
- Let the chicken rest on the wire rack for 15 minutes before air frying for the crispiest chicken.
- Put the chicken in the air fryer basket, leaving room between the pieces for air to circulate.
- Cook at 390 F for 25 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time take the air fryer basket out. If there are spots where you can still see flour on the chicken spray them with a little cooking spray. Flip the chicken, then put the basket back in to finish cooking.
- Make the second batch of chicken while you serve the first batch.
- Melt the butter and mix it with the 2 Tablespoons of hot sauce. Brush the chicken with the mixture before serving.
- Serve with white bread and pickles.
Chicken drumsticks will take about 20 minutes to cook. Chicken breasts will take about 30 minutes to cook. Chicken tenders will take about 12 minutes to cook. Check the chicken temperature to make sure it reaches 165 for white meat and 180 for dark meat, because air fryers can vary.
If you want to increase the spiciness of the chicken add 1/2 teaspoon - 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper to the hot sauce and butter mixture before coating the chicken.
The spiciness will vary depending on what brand of hot sauce you prefer.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 530Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 199mgSodium: 1060mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 36g