If you live on planet earth then you know the chicken sandwich battle of the century has been going down on social media. If you don’t know what I’m referring to then just drive to your nearest Popeyes and ask for their newest menu item, their chicken sandwich. As you’ll find out, the food item has been so popular that they had to discontinue it due to its high demand. The brand is now currently working with its supply chain to figure out when the can bring the sandwich back to the masses.
Being a foodie at heart I planned on trying the sandwich but also being an introvert at heart I was not prepared to stand in line before the restaurant opened. I figured I would wait until the hype simmered but it seems like I will have to wait a bit longer.
When the sandwich initially launched I was content with watching comparison videos where hosts had a head to head taste test between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A. This eventually led me down the all too familiar YouTube rabbit hold and before I knew it I was watching and taking notes on copycat fried chicken sandwiches. Then when I heard that the sandwich had been temporarily discontinued I knew that I had no choice but to make my own.
Now for my disclaimer. This recipe is inspired by but is not a copycat Popeyes chicken sandwich. I couldn't make a copycat sandwich of something I never got to try. So this is just a spicy chicken sandwich. I was also inspired by Healthy Junkfood’s Youtube video. Check it out if you can.
The Popeyes chicken sandwich consists of 4 major components:
Buttered brioche bun
Crispy fried chicken breast
Naturally brined pickles
I only made two of those components as I strongly identify with working smarter not harder. I was able to purchase my brioche buns at Walmart but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them at Aldi and other grocers as well. I did the same with the pickles. Also, since I don’t purchase regular mayo for my home (vegan mayo for the win!) my spicy mayo sauce is more like a spicy mayo cousin.
I actually tried this once before...and made a few mistakes that I have learned from.
Try to use your regular, dinky meat thermometer you use for your Thanksgiving turkey to measure the temperature of the oil. Your oil needs to be at least 325 and your dinky thermometer will likely max out at 260.
Spend days debating whether or not you should go back to the store to get sour pickles. The sweet pickles are a no go!
Do not cook the largest chicken breasts in the package. A good rule of thumb is to remember that once you cook this the sandwich actually has to fit in your mouth.
Do not overcrowd your pot or handle the chicken too much once in the oil. Just leave it be!
Purchase an actual, high-temp, deep-fry thermometer with a clip so you can attach it to your pot. Precariously holding a thermometer in hot oil is not the way to go on this. Trust me. You can find the thermometer I purchased here: (link)
Buy the correct ingredients from the start. This recipe is very simple, no need to over complicate it by substituting ingredients.
Make sure your chicken breasts are a reasonable size. Cut them if need be. Sizing your chicken breasts to be slightly larger than your bun is perfect.
Actually use butter to make your buttered brioche buns. I used my spicy mayo which worked but made the sandwich a little too spicy for my taste.
Marinade your chicken in buttermilk for AT LEAST a few hours. I wasn't a buttermilk believer until this recipe and wow, it really does make a difference.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 brioche buns
Butter to spread on buns
Dill pickle chips
Vegetable oil for frying
HOMEMADE SPICE BLEND
1 ¼ tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp paprika
4 cups buttermilk
½ homemade spice blend
¼ cup hot sauce (I use Cholula Original)
2 cups flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
½ homemade spice blend
1/2 cup mayo (I use Hellman’s Vegan Mayo)
2 tbsp hot sauce
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
½ tbsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
Create your spice blend. In a small bowl mix, all of your pre-measured spices. Set aside. Half of this mixture will be used in the marinade while the other half will be used in the flour mixture.
Prep your chicken breasts. Make sure your chicken breasts are about the size of or slightly larger than your brioche buns. Cut them if necessary. Place the breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound if thick.
Prepare your marinade. Pour buttermilk, pre-measured hot sauce, and ½ of your homemade spice blend into a container. Mix well then add your chicken breasts. Allow to marinate for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
Prepare your flour mixture. In a large bowl combine your pre-measured flour, cornstarch, baking soda and remaining half of the spice mixture. Set aside until chicken is finished marinating.
Prepare your spicy mayo. Combine your pre-measured mayo, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika garlic powder, and onion powder. Set aside or refrigerate until ready you are to assemble sandwiches.
Batter your chicken. Drizzle a little of the marinade into the flour mixture and mix with a fork. This will create little clumps that will help add crunch to the chicken. Remove your chicken from the marinade and toss it in the dry batter mixture. Make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies. It’s okay if your chicken breasts are wet, this will help the batter stick to them. Use your hands to gently squeeze the flour mixture to the wet chicken breasts. Place on either a tray covered in parchment paper or a cooling rack and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat your oil. In a deep pot pour enough oil so that when you place your chicken breasts in, they are fully submerged with enough room to float around. Allow your oil to preheat to 325° Fahrenheit. The temperature will drop once you place your chicken inside. Try to maintain a temperature of between 320°F and 325°F for while you fry.
Fry your chicken. Now, this is where I messed up. DO NOT crowd your pot or turn your chicken too much as the more the chicken breasts bump into each other and the more you handle them, the more batter will come off. Depending on the size of your pot you may be able to fry two at a time but if you can’t that's okay! Take your time. Fry your chicken until they reach an internal temperature of 165. Time will vary based on how large your pieces of chicken are. They should take about 8-12 minutes each.
Once fried, place your chicken on a cooling rack or a plate lined with paper towels. I prefer to use cooling racks to allow excess oil to drain from my food as using paper towels can make fried foods soggy.
Toast those buns! Butter the sliced portion of your brioche buns generously and place sliced side down into a hot non-stick skillet. Allow to toast just long enough to get a nice brown crust. The time for this will vary based on how hot your skillet is but should not take more than about a minute.
Assemble your sandwich. Spread your spicy mayo sauce generously on the sliced sides of your buns. Place the dill pickle chips (as many as you’d like) on the bottom bun, then your chicken breast then the top bun.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family and I did!