I’m really into hot sauce. At any given moment I can open the fridge and have 10 different hot sauces staring back at me. If my younger self could’ve seen me now dousing everything in hot sauce she wouldn’t know what to think. I was the pickiest eater ever as a kid and any little hint of hotness would cause real tears. Back then I’d rather starve than eat something spicy. Fast forward to today and I’m making a HOT and crispy panko fried chicken sandwich! It’s perfect for all the spicy lovers. And if you’re not into that, just omit the heat!
Why This Sandwich is SO GOOD
Here’s a short list to get your mind convinced you need to make this sandwich. There are lots of reasons why I love this sandwich but I’ve narrowed it down to five. This sandwich is incredible because it’s
- Simple – just panko-fried chicken, slaw, and white bread
- Crispy – from using the best breadcrumbs ever (panko!)
- Spicy – thanks to loads of cayenne and hot sauce
- Juicy – from boneless, skinless chicken thighs, of course
- Creamy – due to the buttermilk ranch slaw (cuts the heat!)
Those 5 reasons should send you high-tailing it to your local grocery store. But if I haven’t convinced you yet, there’s one more amazing thing about this hot chicken sandwich. This sandwich can be made on a weeknight. Hooray! I love having a good rotation of recipes for my weeknight meals and this one has made the cut. It’s so easy to put together. The most time-consuming thing, which isn’t saying much, is prepping the chicken. You could have this on the table in less than an hour!
Why You Should Be Using Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
There’s no surprise my favorite chicken is boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I use them 85% of the time when I cook chicken. Chicken breasts are in the past for me. They had to move on over for boneless skinless chicken thighs. Thighs are more exciting, super flavorful, tender, and versatile. I highly recommend this cut of meat for these sandwiches. You may end up with bland, dry sandwiches if you use chicken breasts. Thighs work because they won’t dry out even if you overcook them a little. If you often find yourself overcooking meat, boneless skinless thighs are for you. They’re foolproof!
What Makes This Chicken Sandwich So HOT?
I don’t want to beat around the bush, but there’s a lot of spice in this recipe. It comes from two different places. The flour dredge and the egg dip. The flour is mixed with heaps of cayenne pepper. And the egg dip has just as much hot sauce as it does eggs. What?! Yes, it’s a hot chicken sandwich for a reason! Surprisingly, even after all the heat, it could still be hotter. You can always play around and make it your own heat level but I think this is a happy medium for most spicy lovers.
Prepping the Chicken
Just like with my pork schnitzel recipe or an Italian Milanese you’ll want your meat thin. This is an extra step that may not seem necessary but it ensures your chicken is all the same thickness and that it cooks quickly. Chicken thighs are usually thicker on one end than the other. You can focus on thicker areas until it’s all even. Since chicken thighs are already tender, you don’t need to tenderize them with the spiky side of your tenderizer. I have a flat side that I use for chicken. If you don’t have a flat side just use the side with the smallest teeth.
Note on pounding meat: It’s a little annoying having to deal with sticky, clingy plastic wrap when pounding out your chicken, but it’s necessary so the chicken pieces don’t go flying. Trust me.
Easy 1-2-3 Breading
This is a super simple breading. You simply need to have everything prepped before you get started. Start with a large plate of flour. Add some cayenne, smoked paprika, and cinnamon. Swirl it gently with your fingers. Next, add eggs and hot sauce to a medium bowl and give it a whisky whisk with a fork. Last, dump breadcrumbs on a plate. Lightly season all three containers with salt.
The idea behind this breading is to add layers of crispiness and heat. The flour mixture gets the chicken dry so the eggs will stick. The cayenne obviously gives tons of heat while the smoked paprika and cinnamon add depth. Once the chicken is coated in a layer of flour, the egg mixture coats the chicken so the breadcrumbs will stick. After dipping in breadcrumbs, the chicken is ready to get fried and crispy. The chicken should sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the crust to stick. But if you’re in a hurry, you’ll be just fine using the chicken right after you bread it. It will still taste great!
Buttermilk Ranch Slaw Cools It Off
Since the chicken is blazing hot, it needs something to balance out the heat. That’s where a creamy, tangy slaw comes into play. Only four ingredients: mayo, buttermilk ranch powder, lime, and shredded lettuce. This super simple slaw can be made right before the chicken is finished cooking. Or you could prepare the wet ingredients beforehand and toss it in the lettuce at the last second. Whatever you do, don’t mix the buttermilk ranch mayo with the lettuce until the last second. If you prepare the slaw too far in advance, the lettuce will wilt and everyone will hate you for it.
I like to make the buttermilk ranch mayo mixture before anything else. I keep it in the fridge until I’m ready to use it. Once the chicken is cooked, I place the shredded lettuce in a large bowl and add a few dollops of the ranch mayo mixture. I give it a tossy toss with two forks until it’s coated. When you’re making this, you can decide how much or how little ranch mayo mixture you add. It all depends on your preference.
Prepping the Bread
Man, I love a good country loaf as much as the next person. But, for this sandwich, only one kind of bread will do. Classic, sliced white bread. It totally works with this sandwich. The classic, soft, enriched, super-refined white bread that you grew up on is the perfect bread for this sandwich. It’s simple, inexpensive, and so NOT fancy. This sandwich is no frills and deserves to be served on bread that matches that identity. Pro tip: toasting it under the broiler gives it a little more heft to hold the chicken.
Assembling the Sandwich
It’s so simple, y’all. Take your toasted bread and lay a piece of hot, fried chicken on top. Add a large helping of slaw on top of the chicken and add the other slice of toasted bread. That’s it. If you’re really into it, you can add more hot sauce to the chicken when assembling, but it’s plenty hot for me. Take a look at that beautiful sandwich and then sink your teeth into all the goodness. You just got transported to hot chicken heaven. You’re welcome!
If you love this recipe, check out my Pork Schnitzel recipe here!
Panko Fried Chicken Sandwiches Recipe
For the Buttermilk Ranch Slaw
1/3 c mayo
1/2 tsp buttermilk ranch powder
2 tsp lime juice
1 head lettuce, shredded
For the Chicken
1 pack boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 c flour
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 1/2 Tbsp cayenne
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 c panko breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
1/4 c hot sauce
1 loaf of sliced white bread
For the Buttermilk Ranch Slaw
In a small bowl combine mayo, buttermilk ranch powder, and lime juice. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use. Don’t dress the lettuce until the last minute or it will wilt.
For the Chicken
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Prep a surface area by adding a large layer of plastic wrap to a cutting board. Add several chicken thighs on the plastic wrap and season with salt on both sides. With “skin side” (it’s skinless but you know what I mean) facing up, fold over the plastic wrap to cover the chicken. If you don’t have enough to fold over, just add another piece of plastic wrap over the chicken. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken until it’s 1/2 inch thick. The chicken will spread out as it gets thinner. Place chicken on sheet pan lined with parchment paper and repeat pounding process with remaining chicken.
Have 2 plates and one medium bowl ready. In one plate carefully combine flour, paprika, cayenne, and cinnamon. You can use your fingers or a small whisk but don’t go crazy or you’ll have flour everywhere. In the bowl, add eggs and hot sauce and whisk to combine. In the last plate add the breadcrumbs. Lightly season all three with salt.
Dredge chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip in eggs and let excess drip off. Lastly, dip chicken in breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess. Place back onto the sheet pan and continue with the rest of the chicken. If you have time, you can let the chicken sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to ensure the crust sticks to the chicken. If not, don’t worry.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with an inch of oil. Once the oil is hot carefully add one piece of chicken and fry approximately 2 minutes (more or less) or until golden brown. Flip the chicken over and fry another 2 minutes or until golden brown. If using a meat thermometer, cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove from pan to a paper-towel-lined plate. You could also move chicken to a wire rack over aluminum foil. Lightly sprinkle with flaky Maldon salt (optional). Repeat with remaining chicken.
While Chicken is Cooking
Toast your bread. Set the oven to broil. Place slices of bread on a sheet pan. Broil on one side until lightly toasted. Remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use.
Prepare the slaw. In a large bowl add shredded lettuce and a few dollops of buttermilk ranch mayo. Toss with two forks until coated. Add more ranch mayo if desired. Assemble the Sandwich
Place one slice of bread on a plate and add a piece of chicken. Add a generous helping of slaw and top with the other slice of bread. You can cut your sandwich diagonally or leave it whole. Enjoy it!