If you didn’t know any better, you’d never guess this Dill Pickle Fried Chicken is 100% gluten-free, grain-free and Paleo friendly! I’m telling you, it’s the real deal. Tender, juicy, crispy and insanely delicious!
This Dill Pickle Fried Chicken is actually very similar to my Popcorn Chicken recipe. There are just three minor differences. First and foremost, in this recipe I brine the chicken in some dill pickle juice overnight. The pickle juice doesn’t impart much pickle flavour, but it does season and tenderize the meat thanks to the salt and acid in the liquid. It’s also just a great way to use up pickle juice, which usually goes down the drain.
In an ideal world, you would serve the Dill Pickle Fried Chicken with my homemade Dill Pickle Mayo. It’s a match made in heaven! But you can’t go wrong with your favourite hot sauce and some lemon wedges for squeezing.
Secondly, I don’t bother cutting up the chicken thighs into smaller pieces and choose to leave them whole. I find it to be a more adult version, and I quite like being able to take a bite out of the chicken as I would if I were eating traditional fried chicken.
Lastly, for the Dill Pickle Fried Chicken I season the egg wash with some vinegar-based hot sauce. This gives the chicken a bit of twang and pop of flavour that is otherwise missing. You can, of course, omit the hot sauce if preferred. You’re the boss, applesauce.
Beyond those three minor differences, the recipes are almost identical. After being brined in the pickle juice, the chicken is thoroughly dried, dredged in arrowroot starch, dipped in the egg wash and breaded with cassava flour.
Each of these components is crucial for flavour and texture. The arrowroot starch coats the chicken and helps the egg wash to stick to it, which in turn acts a glue for the cassava flour.
But What If I Don’t Have Cassava Flour?
Short answer? Get some! It’s by far the most versatile alternative flour and thanks to places like Thrive Market, you can get it for a reasonable price and delivered to your door.
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If, however, you can’t get your hands on cassava flour, the best alternative to use is a combination of 1-part arrowroot starch and 2 parts almond flour. In other words, if using ½ cup arrowroot starch, mix it with 1 cups almond flour. The arrowroot starch will ensure an even coating and the almond flour adds flavour and texture.
Do I Have To Use Chicken Thighs?
Nope, but they are usually the juiciest and most flavourful. You can definitely substitute chicken breast if preferred. You can also use bone-in and skin-on pieces if you like. Those have even more flavour. But the catch is you will likely have to cook them for a little longer and possibly finish them in them in the oven to prevent them from burning in the pan. I haven’t tried this recipe with bone-in, skin-on chicken just yet so I’m afraid I don’t have a time. But that just means I’ll have to make a batch!
Tips for Extra Crispy Dill Pickle Fried Chicken
Keep the Oven Running
Unless you plan on only frying a couple of thighs, you’ll need to work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. So, before you even get started, preheat your oven to 225F so that you can keep the cooked pieces of chicken warm while you finish frying the rest. This will prevent the already fried chicken from getting soggy, which is common with alternative flours.
Score the Skin Side.
The real secret to perfectly crispy, crunchy fried chicken is developing a great breading. Using boneless chicken puts us at a disadvantage (in addition to using alternative flours) because the skin side is very smooth and covered by a filmy layer that isn’t very sticky. To circumvent this, I like to gently score it with a sharp knife in a crosshatch pattern. This way, I can work the dredge into the crevasses.
Dredge Like You Mean It
Once you’ve scored the skin side, you’ll need to work the flour into the crevasses. Think of them like little pockets of crispy potential. The clumpier you can make the breading, the crunchier your chicken will be. Don’t be afraid to really work it in there. Scrunch it up in your hands. You can be pretty aggressive here.
Dredge Immediately Before Frying
Unlike regular wheat and rice flours, alternative flours like arrowroot starch tend to get gluey once they’ve come into contact with liquids. Once this happens, it’s nearly impossible to get a nice, crispy crust. So, it’s very important to dredge the chicken immediately before frying so that it doesn’t get gluey.
Use a Non-Stick Pan and a Smaller One at That
Traditional wisdom calls for cast-iron when frying chicken. It’s true, cast-iron is the king of materials for all things fried. It’s not the greatest conductor of heat but it retains heat extremely well and distributes it more evenly than other materials. However, it also tends to soak up some of the oil and, unless you have a well-seasoned pan, can cause things to stick to the bottom. This is especially true when frying things dredged in alternative flours, which are not nearly as sticky as regular flours.
To avoid this, I use a non-stick skillet. The pan doesn’t absorb any oil and nothing ever sticks.
Also, I like to use a smaller sized pan because it forces the oil up along the sides of the chicken, meaning I need to use less oil to achieve a shallow fry. The larger the pan, the more oil you’ll need!
Work in Batches
One of the most important factors for crispy fried chicken is the heat of the oil. Ideal frying temperature is 350F. The more chicken you add to the pan, the more the temperature will drop. Especially if you are frying chicken straight from the fridge. To maintain an ideal temperature, fry the chicken in batches. This also ensures each piece of chicken makes full contact with the oil and bottom of the pan, which helps get it golden brown.
Cook the Skin Side Last
Remember those score marks we made on the skin side of the chicken? I guarantee they won’t be as pretty looking as the other side of the thighs. So, I recommend frying the chicken skin side-up at first. The first side you fry always gets the best colour.
It’s OK to Flip More Than Once
If you need to flip more than once, go for it. If anything, the chicken will get a bit crispier, kind of like it’s been twice-fried. Just make sure you give it your best shot to develop a good, golden-brown colour on the chicken before serving.
Dill Pickle Fried Chicken - Gluten-Free, Paleo
- 2 to 2.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, or boneless, skinless breasts
- 1 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- ¾ cup dill pickle juice
- 2 cups cassava flour
- 1 cup arrowroot starch
- Kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vinegar-based hot sauce such as Frank’s, Crystal or Tabasco, plus extra for serving
- 2 tablespoons water
- ¾ cup avocado oil plus more if needed, for frying
- 1 lemon cut into wedges, for serving
- 1 batch Dill Pickle Mayo for serving (optional)
- Trim chicken of excess fat and lightly score the skin side with a sharp knife. This will help the flour to stick.
- Lightly season the chicken with the pepper and transfer it to a zip-top bag set in a bowl to catch any drips. Pour in the dill pickle juice, seal the bag and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to cook, place the cassava flour, arrowroot starch, and eggs into three separate bowls. Season the cassava flour and arrowroot starch with ¼ teaspoon salt each. Add the hot sauce and water to the eggs and whisk vigorously until frothy.
- Dredge each piece of chicken in the arrowroot starch, then dip into the egg wash, and finally dredge in the cassava flour.
- Heat a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the avocado oil and heat for 1 to 2 minutes, until it shimmers. Working in batches, carefully add the breaded chicken, scored side-up at first, to the hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or until the thickest part registers 185F on an instant read thermometer.
- Transfer the fried chicken to the cooling rack. Lightly season with a pinch of salt and serve with hot sauce, Dill Pickle Mayo, if desired, and lemon wedges.