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Hot chicken

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Hot chicken
Prince's hot chicken
Alternative namesNashville hot chicken, Prince's chicken, Nashville-style chicken
CourseMain course
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateNashville, Tennessee
Created byPrince family
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsChicken, cayenne pepper
VariationsDeep fried, skillet fried, hot fish

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 covered in a paste or sauce that has been spiced with cayenne pepper. This method of preparation originates within African American communities in the Southern United States. A richly pigmented seasoning paste gives the fried chicken its reddish hue. Spice blends, preparation methods and heat intensity vary from recipe to recipe or depending on the chef.

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 citywide festival and competition celebrating 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 dish. Nearly all hot chicken is marinated in buttermilk to impart flavor and to retain the meat's juices upon frying (sometimes in olive oil).[3][4] 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.[5][unreliable source?][6] 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.[7][unreliable source?]


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.[8]

Hot fish[edit]

Nashville-style 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 other restaurants may specialize in hot fish alone.[9][10]


Anecdotal evidence suggests that spicy fried chicken has been served in Nashville's African-American communities for generations.[11] The 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 André Prince Jeffries, owner of Prince's Hot Chicken Shack.[12] She has operated the restaurant since 1980; before that time, it was owned by her great-uncle, Thornton Prince III.[13] 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 Saturday night out, his girlfriend at the time cooked him a fried chicken breakfast with extra pepper as revenge.[14] 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.[15][16][17]

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.[18] Between 2001 and about 2006, country music stars Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw owned and operated a now-defunct hot chicken restaurant called "hotchickens.com".[11][19][20] 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".[21][unreliable source?][22]

Reflecting the growing popularity of the dish, many cities in the United States host restaurants that serve hot chicken or a variation thereof, including Atlanta, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago,[18] Los Angeles,[23] Birmingham,[15] Louisville,[24] Ann Arbor,[25] Columbus,[26] Salt Lake City,[27] and Seattle.[28] Hot chicken restaurant chains have also begun to appear. The appeal of hot chicken has spread beyond the United States, with restaurants in Seoul, South Korea,[29][unreliable source?] and Melbourne, Australia,[18] also serving this style of chicken.

In January 2016, fast food chain KFC began selling "Nashville Hot Chicken" and "Nashville Hot Tenders" in its U.S. restaurants.[30] This follows a trial run in the Pittsburgh area that it stated was "the most successful product testing in the company's recent history."[31] Following this, KFC released "Nashville Hot Chicken" in its UK restaurants for a limited run between May 22 and June 18, 2017.[32][33] Other established chains, such as Buffalo Wild Wings, offer Nashville hot-chicken-style wings.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Music City Hot Chicken Festival". Musiccityhotchickenfestival.com. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  2. ^ Raskin, Hanna (May 26, 2009). "Hot Chicken - What the Heck is It?". Slashfood.com. Archived from the original on May 28, 2009. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  3. ^ Oil, About Olive. "Nashville Hot Chicken Made with Olive Oil". www.aboutoliveoil.org. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  4. ^ "Nashville Hot Chicken". SAM THE COOKING GUY. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  5. ^ ""Nashville" Hot Chicken | Dixie Chik Cooks". April 29, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  6. ^ "The secret to making Nashville hot chicken is in the oil". www.yahoo.com. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  7. ^ Barnes, Steve; January 22, senior writer on; PM, 2016 at 1:46 (January 22, 2016). "Anybody seen Nashville hot chicken locally?". Table Hopping. Retrieved July 15, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "The History of Nashville Hot Chicken". Wilde Brands. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  9. ^ Krall, Hawk (November 29, 2011). "A Sandwich a Day: Hot Fish from Bolton's in Nashville". SeriousEats.com. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  10. ^ 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 978-0547416441.
  11. ^ a b Martin, Rachel L. (July 2015). "How Hot Chicken Really Happened". The Bitter Southerner. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  12. ^ "The Family Business That Put Nashville Hot Chicken on the Map". The New Yorker. January 28, 2019. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  13. ^ "How A Cheating Man Gave Rise To Nashville's Hot Chicken Craze". NPR.org. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  14. ^ Alfs, Lizzy. "The history of Nashville hot chicken: How a spurned lover burned millions of mouths". The Tennessean. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  15. ^ a b 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.
  16. ^ Cornish, Audie (June 1, 2008). "The Quest for Spicy Chicken". NPR.org. NPR. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  17. ^ "André Prince Jeffries - Prince's Hot Chicken". Southernfoodways.com. Archived from the original on May 5, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  18. ^ a b c 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.
  19. ^ Lawson, Richard (February 9, 2007). "Hot Chicken Burned Kershaw". Nashville Post. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  20. ^ Lawson, Richard (September 12, 2007). "'90s country star's bankruptcy deepens as he runs for Louisiana Lt. Governor". Nashville Post. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  21. ^ Crump, Rebecca (December 29, 2008). "Prince's Hot Chicken Makes List of 100 Must-Try Southern Foods". Ezra Pound Cake. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  22. ^ "Hot Chicken Story". Musiccityhotchickenfestival.com. Archived from the original on September 25, 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "Joella's Hot Chicken opens fourth location in 8 months". WDRB. June 1, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  25. ^ Justus, Jennifer (March 7, 2014). "How Hot Chicken Became Nashville's Signature Dish". Time. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  26. ^ Wood, Urquhart (April 7, 2016). "How one chicken restaurant is disrupting fast casual". Columbus Business First. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
  27. ^ Turner, Larrisa Beth (April 26, 2018). "Salt Lake City's Pretty Bird restaurant hits a sweet spot with its flavor-first hot chicken". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  28. ^ Guarente, Gabe (May 28, 2020). "Nashville Hot Chicken Favorite Sisters and Brothers Debuts New Location Next Week". Eater Seattle. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  29. ^ Chung, James (December 5, 2018). "Nashville Hot Chicken in Seoul: Rocka Doodle vs. Brave Rooster's". ZenKimchi.com. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  30. ^ Kavilanz, Parija (January 15, 2016). "KFC's gets hot and spicy with its new Nashville Hot Chicken". CNNMoney. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  31. ^ Waxman, Olivia B. (January 17, 2016). "KFC Introduces Nashville Hot Chicken". Time. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  32. ^ Kenny, Lucy (May 27, 2017). "KFC Ditches Its Original Recipe For a Little Spice". Popsugar. Retrieved May 28, 2017.
  33. ^ Turrill, Katrina (May 17, 2017). "KFC UK has adds Nashville Hot Chicken to its menu". Sunday Express. Retrieved May 28, 2017.

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