Fried Chicken Salad

If you’ve been wondering how to make your salads more delicious and satisfying, the answer is simple: add homemade fried chicken. The combination of crunchy fried chicken with the fresh and crisp ingredients of a salad creates an absolutely craveable contrast of flavors and textures. This fried chicken salad starts with juicy, pickle and buttermilk brined chicken thighs and ends with a flavorful crispy coating. Tossed with simple salad ingredients, pickle chips (shoutout to the fried chicken sandwich!), and a creamy homemade buttermilk ranch dressing, this fried chicken salad is a true crowd-pleaser.

fried chicken salad in a bowl

Salad Inspiration

Let’s be honest here. There are good salads, bad salads and everything in between. And then there are those special salads that leave a lasting impression long after the meal is over. The fried chicken salad from The Old Gold in Portland, Oregon is truly the latter. The Old Gold is an unassuming bar/restaurant in the North Williams neighborhood of Portland with a simple menu and a chill, no-fuss atmosphere. But don’t let the simplicity of the location (or the salad!) fool you. Simple dishes can often be the most challenging to perfect because they have to be just that- perfect.

The salad from Old Gold is an uncomplicated mix of salad greens topped with homemade fried chicken thighs, creamy ranch dressing and then finished with pickled red onions for much needed acidity. Their simply perfect fried chicken salad inspired us to make our own homemade version.

fried chicken thighs

Fried Chicken Perfection

Achieving crispy fried chicken perfection at home is not as complicated as you might think. If you follow these basic steps, you’ll be a frying pro in no time.

  • Prepare the chicken: Begin by selecting your chicken pieces. This recipe uses boneless, skinless thighs because the additional fat in the thighs helps retain moisture during the frying process making them juicier and more flavorful than breasts. They also cook more quickly and evenly than bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. To prepare the chicken thighs for frying, simply use a pair of kitchen shears to remove any excess fat.
  • Marinate the chicken: Fried chicken is often brined or marinated before it’s dredged and fried. Marinating in buttermilk or pickle juice adds some flavorful tanginess and also tenderizes the chicken. Since this salad recipe uses a homemade buttermilk ranch and is also topped with pickles, we thought: let’s use both! The result is as juicy and flavorful as you can imagine.
  • Make the dredge: Dredging is the process of coating the chicken with seasoned flour or breadcrumbs before frying. Make your dredge by combining all-purpose flour with salt, pepper, spices, and a little baking powder. After the chicken has marinated, remove it from the buttermilk and pickle juice mixture. Allow some of the marinade to drip off, then place into the flour dredge and toss to coat.
  • Heat the oil: In a deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat canola or vegetable oil to 350°F. You’ll want to use enough oil to submerge the chicken pieces at least halfway. When heating the oil, allow it to come up to temperature gradually over medium heat rather than rush it over high heat. If the oil and pan get too hot, the chicken will brown too quickly on the outside and leave you with undercooked chicken on the inside.
  • Fry the chicken: Carefully place the coated chicken pieces into the hot oil, two pieces at a time. Fry the chicken for about 4-6 minutes per side (8-12 minutes total) until golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165°. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, don’t be afraid to cut into your chicken to make sure it’s done.
  • Drain and cool: Once the fried chicken is done cooking, place it on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet to drain the excess oil. Draining the chicken on a cooling rack rather than a paper towel allows it to stay crispy.

fried chicken salad in bowls

More Delicious Salads

  • Peach Burrata Salad
  • Strawberry Salad With Strawberry Vinaigrette
  • Kale Salad With Pine Nuts & Parm
  • Blueberry Pecan Salad
  • Grilled Peach Salad

Fried Chicken Salad

Tyler Anastasio PrintServings: 4Prep Time: 15minsCook Time: 30minsMarinating time: 2hrsTotal Time: 2hrs45minsDifficulty: IntermediateWith a combination of crunchy fried chicken, simple salad greens, pickle chips (shoutout to the fried chicken sandwich!), and a creamy homemade buttermilk ranch dressing, this fried chicken salad is truly one of the greats!

Ingredients

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

  • 3/4cupsour cream
  • 3/4cupbuttermilk
  • 1largelemon, zest & juice
  • 2tablespoonsminced, fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
  • 2tablespoonsminced, fresh chives, plus extra for garnish
  • 1clovegarlic, finely grated or minced
  • 1teaspoononion powder
  • 1/2teaspoongarlic powder
  • 2teaspoonsDiamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1 1/2teaspoonsfresh cracked black pepper

Fried Chicken Thighs

  • 4largeboneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3/4cupHomemade Ranch Dressing
  • 1/2cuppickle brine
  • 1teaspoonhot sauce
  • 1.5cupsall-purpose flour
  • 2teaspoonsDiamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 2teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2teaspoonsgarlic powder
  • 2teaspoonsonion powder
  • 2teaspoonsmustard powder
  • 2teaspoonssmoked paprika
  • 2teaspoonsbaking powder
  • 4-6 cupscanola or vegetable oil
  • flake sea salt for garnish (optional)

Salad

  • 8ouncesromaine lettuce, baby romaine, or a mixture of both***, rinsed and dryed
  • 1cupcherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2cupradishes, thinly sliced
  • 2/3cupbread and butter or dill pickle chips, drained

Instructions

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

  • Whisk together the sour cream and buttermilk with the zest and juice of one lemon. Add the minced, chives, and garlic to the sour cream mixture. Add the spices (reserving some of the dill and chives for garnish) along with the kosher salt and the black pepper and whisk to combine.
  • Reserve 3/4 cup of the buttermilk ranch dressing for the fried chicken marinade. Pour the remaining dressing into a jar and refrigerate until you are ready to toss the salad. Save any extra for up to one week in the refrigerator.

Fried Chicken Thighs

  • Mix together the reserved 3/4 cup of buttermilk ranch dressing with 1/2 cup of pickle brine and 1 teaspoon of hot sauce to make the marinade. Add the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into a container or a large zip top bag. Pour over the marinade and seal. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for about 2-3 hours. Remove from the fridge about 30 min before you plan to fry to allow the chicken to come up to room temperature.
  • When ready to dredge and fry, combine the flour with the kosher salt, cracked black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, smoked paprika and baking powder in a large bowl.
  • In a cast-iron skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil to 350° over medium heat.* Set a cooling rack directly over a sheet tray where you will transfer the chicken after frying. Draining the chicken on a cooling rack rather than a paper towel allows it to stay crispy.
  • Using tongs, remove each chicken thigh from the buttermilk marinade and allow some of the marinade to drip off. Then place it into the flour mixture and toss to dredge. Be sure to get a good coating of flour on the thighs. Drop 2 chicken thighs at a time into the 350° preheated oil. Leave the chicken to fry undisturbed for about 4-6 minutes. When ready to flip, use a slotted spatula to lift the chicken and flip carefully with the help of the tongs.** Cook for an additional 4-6 minutes after flipping (8-12 minutes total).
  • The chicken is done when it is a deep golden brown on top and bottom and the interior temp reaches 165°. Remove from the hot oil with the slotted spatula assisted with the tongs, drain on a cooling rack with a sheet tray underneath, and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt.

Fried Chicken Salad Assembly

  • Toss the romaine, tomatoes, radishes, and pickles with the homemade ranch dressing to taste (you will not need all of it). Top each serving with a fried chicken thigh, garnish with reserved chive and dill, and serve immediately with extra ranch on the side.

Equipment

  • 1 Cast Iron Skillet, or dutch oven
  • 1 cooling rack
  • 1 sheet tray
  • 1 pair of heat-safe tongs
  • 1 heat-safe slotted spatula
  • 1 deep fry or instant read thermometer

Notes

*It’s best to allow your pan with oil to come up to temp gradually over medium heat rather than rush it over high heat. If the oil and pan get too hot the chicken will brown too quickly on the outside and leave you with undercooked chicken on the inside. **Grabbing the chicken directly with the tongs can lead you to accidentally tear the crispy batter off of the chicken thigh. Use a heat-safe slotted spoon to scoop under the chicken and use the tongs as support while you carefully flip. ***Use romaine lettuce for crunch, tender baby romaine leaves, or a mixture of both.

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