Everything you need to know about Nashville hot chicken in one place
A tried-and-true RECIPE for Prince's Hot Chicken, running reviews of Nashville's best hot chicken establishments, and more!
Hello, and welcome to Civic Renaissance!
This post includes:
A tried-and-true recipe for Prince’s Hot Chicken!
Announcement about my NEW favorite Nashville Hot Chicken Establishment: Moore’s!
Nashville hot chicken: An empirical study of three establishments
Nashville hot chicken: A definitive recipe
When my husband and I first went to Nashville, Tennessee in February 2021, along with discovering the joys of the Other Parthenon (an exact replica of the original built by the ancient Athenians), we visited three hot chicken places during our three days there.
We’ve since undertaken a series of experiments to recreate the divine taste of what is among our favorite spicy poultry: the original Prince’s Hot Chicken.
It has been no easy task. Prince’s set a high bar.
But, I’m delighted to inform you that we have come pretty close. The moral of the story is: if you’re in Nashville, or have the luxury of living there, go out for hot chicken. Don’t make it yourself!
If you don’t have those options, though, this recipe can get you fairly close to the original’s hot-yet-delightful deliciousness.
We’ve tried dozens of variations of this recipe in an attempt to replicate the original. So you understand how seriously we have taken this endeavor, here are the variables we experimented with:
Number of eggs in the hot wet bath (we tried both 1 & 2)
Cook time in hot oil (do not under-cook!)
One coat or two of dry bath (one is ideal!)
Brine or no brine, and what kind of brine (we found a 24-hour wet brine to be best, but an hour or two will also work)
Amount of hot sauce in wet bath (more is better!)
Amount of cayenne pepper in final hot sauce (ditto above!)
Without further ado, here is the recipe!
2 lbs chicken tenderloin / breast
Pickles! Lots of them. Savory dill. Nothing else will do.
1.5 cup vegetable oil for frying (we’ve been using avocado oil and have been happy with it!)
4 tbsp hot sauce (we’ve been using Frank’s red hot, but Louisiana Hot Sauce works great too!)
1 cup whipping cream / buttercream / milk (this is an innovation from traditional fried-chicken recipes, but we liked it with whipping cream best)
2 cups flour
black pepper to taste
2 tbsp garlic salt
Hot sauce (to put on the chicken at the end):
Oil from frying (half to 3/4 cup)
3 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/2 tbsp garlic salt
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp habanero powder
Brine (place in salt water) chicken for 2-24 hours (we found 24 hours to be ideal; that gives the salt time to work its way into the chicken and produce juicy chicken at the end).
Heat oil on medium to high heat in wok or large frying pan. Pat down chicken with paper towel to remove excess brine (this is important for getting the coating to stick).
Toss chicken in wet spicy bath. Thoroughly coat in dry bath. Place in hot oil.
Let chicken cook for 7+ minutes, or until crisp and brown. Flip and cook other side.
While chicken is cooking, prepare hot sauce (except for the oil, which will have to wait until right after the chicken is done).
Remove chicken from pan, add the oil to the hot sauce, and then drizzle the hot sauce on both sides of the chicken.
Place chicken on white bread, top with pickles.
If you try this recipe, or some variation of it, please let me know what you think! 🍽🍗🍻
Encomium en Moore’s
[Side note: this title is a joke about a joke. One of my favorite thinkers in history is Desiderius Erasmus, an intellectual superstar of the European renaissance. One of his most famous books is called, In Praise of Folly, and is a satire on the limits of reason and the “folly” of the Christian faith. The original title of this work is “Moriae Encomium” a play on the name of his friend Thomas More, in whose London home Erasmus wrote In Praise of Folly. I know that explaining a joke invariably means that either a) the joke’s intrinsically unfunny or b) it becomes un-funny during the process of explanation, but I hope you’ll forgive me—I couldn’t resist!]
We recently passed through Nashville en route to visiting family in the South. On our way, we decided to try Moore’s Spicy Fried Chicken, which The Tennessean dubbed Nashville’s best hot chicken in 2018. It was amazing. No words.
Our friends who recommended Moore’s warned us before hand that going there would be like experiencing the hot chicken version of The Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. But our experience with David Moore, the owner, was nothing but wonderful. He takes his craft seriously, and the result is the best hot chicken in Nashville.
We recommend a visit next time you are in town!
Nashville hot chicken: An empirical study
Three days in Nashville. Three hot chicken establishments.
Day One, we visited Hattie B’s. This place had been recommended to me by a local authority who ought know. My husband, Kian, and I were very (small c) conservative the first night in our approach to the heat level. “We love spicy food,” we thought. “But this is Nashville hot chicken we’re talking about.” We ordered “hot” when in any other circumstance, we probably would have gone extra or even extra-extra hot.
We were disappointed. The chicken was good! The spice level was not.
We thought we had learned our lesson about how “Nashville hot chicken” spice levels compared to our own internal heat gauge. We thought it was, shall we say, manageable. But we did not know what was still in store for us.
Day Two, we visited a Prince’s Hot Chicken food truck. Apparently the original Prince’s establishment had, sadly, shut down during the pandemic. But the food truck was still a great experience.
We decided to swing by before our trip to the Other Parthenon, and arrived right as it opened at around 11:30. We were the first there, and a line of twenty people rapidly formed behind us. It was a freezing day, so even just minutes waiting for them to open felt like ages.
Feeling daring and empowered from our experience at Hattie B’s the night before—but still dispositionally a bit wary—Kian ordered both “hot” and “extra hot” chicken tenders.
There are no words to describe either the pureness of the joy—or the severity of the cognitive dissonance—that we experienced eating Prince’s hot chicken.
It was both incredibly delicious—and incredibly hot.
Our brains were befuddled by the fact that our mouths were on fire but our extremities were so cold! (Outdoor dining in Nashville during a historically cold winter is not recommended.)
I haven’t gotten to the last day or establishment yet, but I’ll tell you that Prince’s was far and away our favorite of the three.
Braving a very cold day in Nashville was so worth it to enjoy the most delicious chicken we’ve ever had at Prince’s.
It’s also the original place for hot chicken in Nashville. The story goes something like this.
A woman was dating a notorious philander—one Mr. Prince—and she was sick of it. The hot chicken was part of her revenge plot.
She added hot spices to the batter—and added hot sauces on top of the chicken as well—with the intent of teaching him a lesson about fidelity.
I don’t know if we can say it backfired, but her plan to make him suffer and know pain certainly didn’t work. Mr. Prince loved the chicken, so much so that he begged her to make it for his family and friends, who apparently also loved it so much that he opened a hot chicken establishment in the early 1900s.
While I do not support the infidelity involved in Prince’s hot chicken origin story, I wholeheartedly support the fact that it exists today and continues to nourish and scald the hearts and tastebuds of visitors to Nashville and locals to this day.
We loved it so much, that once we got home, I immediately took to the internet to see who had found an approximate recipe to re-create the delectable Prince’s hot chicken. To my chagrin, no one had. So I was mostly on my own!
Our son, Percival, was as eager to try the hot chicken we made as we were! (Don’t worry, we didn’t let our then-11 month-old eat the chicken made with 7 table spoons of cayenne pepper).
The result was, to put it mildly, sensational. Not quite as good as Prince’s itself—and never will be. But it was still amazing. (See our fine-tuned recipe above).
My attempt to re-make Prince’s hot chicken at home was, I would say, rather successful.
Day Three was Bolton’s Hot Chicken and Fish. They were out of catfish, the sandwich they are known for, but the hot whitefish sandwich was delicious and also a fun addition to our spicy culinary journey in the South.
In short, Bolton’s was HOT. Definitely the hottest of the three. While it pushed our limits, we were still able to enjoy Prince’s “extra-hot” chicken. So, we thought we might take the same approach at Bolton’s, order both hot and extra hot.
“You don’t want to do that,” the cashier warned. “Prince’s ‘extra hot’ is our ‘hot.’”
I am so glad we listened, because that was an understatement.
I could not finish my Bolton’s “hot” chicken. I downed three water bottles and countless containers of ranch and my mouth was still on fire. (I ended up purchasing another order of chicken at the “medium” spice level, which was more my speed. Embarrassing, I know, but I wanted to enjoy it! And there is never shame in self-awareness of one’s own limits. Right?)
All in all, our foray into Nashville hot chicken was a wild success. I cannot tell you how much we enjoyed it, or how excited we are to go back for more. I am accepting excuses to re-visit Nashville on a rolling basis—so please keep them coming!