Sometimes, you’ve just gotta have fried chicken. For me, the mood strikes when the it’s overcast and cold outside– I call it “comfort food weather.” The trouble with fried chicken is the fat… and cholesterol… and all of that grease. As yummy as it tastes, our waistlines don’t love it. “A minute on the lips, forever on the hips,” as they say! Too much grease gives me a tummy ache; it’s like my body saying, “what the heck were you thinking??” Also, a lot of fried chicken recipes contain buttermilk. It makes for a terrific, flavorful coating, but it can’t be enjoyed by folks who keep kosher.
So the other night, I was craving fried chicken, but I most definitely wasn’t craving the calories (or the tummy ache). I decided to experiment and come up with my own healthier version– an “unfried” chicken, if you will. There are lots of recipes out there for unfried or oven fried chicken, but I’ve never really found one I like. Most use oil or egg to bind breadcrumbs or cornflakes directly to the chicken, which results in a kind of wimpy coating. I wanted something more like batter-fried chicken, with the crispiness of frying without oil. I already knew cornflakes would be a great way to get that crunchy texture. I decided to try a seasoned tempura-style batter, which I hoped would bake up thick and crispy beneath the cornflakes. After testing and varying the recipe multiple times, I finally nailed it. Success! This chicken is SO good, with no fatty skin and hardly any oil at all– the batter holds in the moisture, and the coating is every bit as crunchy as the fried stuff. My husband said he likes it even better than the fried version, because there is no guilt involved. I also tested a gluten free modification for my GF readers, and it rocked too! I love it when that happens.
A few tips: use dark meat on the bone, not white– a breast will turn out kind of dry because you need to cook it a long time. Plus, the dark meat has more natural flavor to it. I’ve offered two liquid options for the batter, seltzer or ginger ale. I used ginger ale one night on a whim, and it adds a really nice flavor to the coating. The ginger ale gives a light sweetness to the batter, almost imperceptible in the finished product– it just adds a little extra “something.” Use seltzer instead of ginger ale if you’re watching your sugar intake. Don’t be afraid to let the chicken cook a little longer than you think it needs. The batter is somewhat thick, and you want to make sure it cooks all the way through. For the coating, I like Erewhon Organic Corn Flakes, which are simply made with corn and salt (they’re also gluten free and kosher certified). Any cornflakes will do, as long as they’re not overly sweetened (make sure they’re kosher certified if you’re keeping kosher). Finally, don’t forget that extra sprinkle of salt and pepper at the end of cooking– it’s the perfect way to “finish” the dish.
I like serving this Oven Fried Crispy Cornflake Chicken with green beans (try my Green Bean Pepper Salad) and mashed potatoes, along with a side of hot sauce or sriracha. It’s a cozy, filling meal without the guilt. How awesome is that?
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- 2 1/2 lbs chicken legs and thighs, bone in, skin removed (about 8 pieces)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/4 cups ginger ale or seltzer
- 3/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (adds spice)
- 4-5 cups cornflakes
- Nonstick cooking oil spray
- Salt and pepper
Gluten Free Modification
- 1 cup King Arthur Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour (substitute for flour)
- Gluten Free Cornflakes (I used Erewhon brand)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pour the cornflakes into a plastic zipper bag. Use a mallet or the back of a large metal spoon to pound and crush the cornflakes into smaller pieces. Reserve.
- In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the seltzer or ginger ale, flour, cornstarch, 1 tsp salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper till smooth. The batter will bubble at first, then settle.Pour the crushed cornflakes into another bowl. Keep an empty plate handy for the chicken.
- Working one piece at a time, dip the chicken into the batter. When you pull the chicken out of the batter, let any excess batter drip back into the bowl.
- Gently roll in crushed cornflakes to coat. Place the cornflake coated chicken onto the empty plate. Repeat for remaining chicken pieces.
- Spray a baking sheet generously with nonstick cooking oil spray. Place chicken pieces onto the sheet, evenly spaced. Spray the tops of the chicken pieces with a light, even layer of cooking oil spray.Place chicken into the middle rack of the oven (not the top!) and bake for 45-55 minutes till golden brown, crispy and cooked through. The batter coating is thick; it will take a while to cook through and become completely crisp. Err on the side of cooking it longer if you’re unsure of doneness—letting it cook a few more minutes won’t hurt, the coating locks moisture into the meat. The chicken will be dark in places- this is good!
- Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot directly from the oven; like any fried or "unfried" chicken, the coating will lose its crispness over time. I like serving it with a side of Louisiana hot sauce or sriracha.