Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken

Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken Recipe
This flavorful fried chicken is brined in sweet tea, then battered in buttermilk and flour for a crunchy finish!

Shhh! This fried chicken recipe is TOP SECRET, okay? It’s that good! Brining the chicken in sweet tea and spices makes it juicy and flavorful, and battering in buttermilk and flour gives the chicken a ton of satisfying crunch! The addition of powdered sugar adds just a little more sweetness, and the finished product is just… so good. Fried chicken is one of my favorite foods, so I do not take a fried chicken recipe lightly!

Recipe Options

In addition to fried chicken nuggets, this recipe can also be used to make fried whole chicken pieces on the bone, and both are ah-mazing! For chicken on the bone, brine the pieces 24 hours. Drain from the brine and allow the chicken pieces to sit out for 20 minutes to come to room temperature before dredging, (a cold bone means unevenly cooked meat.) And, fry the pieces longer, about 20-30 minutes at a lower temperature of 300F. 

Additionally, if you’re in a hurry, (I get it, sometimes you need fried chicken RIGHT NOW), you can follow this recipe and skip the brine, and its still freaking delicious fried chicken.

Frying Tips

As always, when it comes to frying, a few things are necessary. First, always use a thermometer– I use this infrared one. Second, have a good heat-proof slotted utensil for scooping, I like to use a spider. Third, safety first! Never fill your frying vessel more than halfway with oil, and know how to put out a grease fire should you need to (I’ve never had to, but it’s always food to know how!) Last, have a wire rack for your fried goods on hand so they don’t get soggy. Gotta maintain that crunch!


Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken Recipe
Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken Recipe

Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken Recipe

Special thanks to Sweet Chick NYC and People Magazine for the original recipe on which this recipe is based!

Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken

Pressed for time? Follow this recipe without the sweet tea brine and you'll still have some incredible fried chicken! This recipe makes a lot of chicken because it is a lot of work. It always feels more worth the trouble to me to make extra!
Course: Main Dish
Servings: 6 Servings


For The Brine:

  • 3 plain tea bags I use Red Rose Tea
  • 1 pinch baking soda
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp kosher salt
  • 20 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 cups cold water

For The Fried Chicken:

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 lbs chicken breast cut into 3/4 inch nuggets
  • canola oil or other neutral high smoke point oil


Make The Sweet Tea Brine:

  • Place the tea bags, sugar, and baking soda in a very large heatproof bowl or pot. Pour the boiling water over the top, cover, and steep for 15 minutes. Remove the tea bags and discard. Stir in the salt, peppercorns, lemon juice, garlic cloves, oregano, thyme, and cold water and allow the brine to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, add the chicken pieces, cover, and refrigerate 12 hours.

Dredge + Fry The Chicken:

  • Pour the buttermilk into a large bowl. In a second large bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, paprika, thyme, kosher salt, and black pepper. Drain the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Dredge the chicken by coating first in the flour mixture, then in the buttermilk, and once again in the flour mixture. I like to dredge multiple chicken pieces at a time for efficiency. (Don’t worry about buttermilk getting in the flour-- those little chunks that are formed make the fried chicken extra crispy!)
  • Heat 1 inch of oil in a dutch oven (or cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet) to 350F. Fry the chicken in batches for 8-10 minutes, stirring initially to keep pieces from sticking together, then stirring occasionally. Fry until dark golden brown and crispy, and the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165F. Drain on a wire rack and keep warm in a 200F oven while you fry the remaining chicken. Remember to allow the oil to come back up to temperature between batches. Enjoy!

Tell me what you think in the comments below!

Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken Recipe

What do you like to eat with fried chicken? I’ll take mine with waffles, please!

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