Southern Baked Chicken

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It’s been 2 weeks that I have been hiding this recipe from you and I’ll tell you without hesitation that it has been down-right wrong of me to do so.  Why?  Because this recipe is up there on the list of my favorite things I’ve ever made.  Far up there.

Lately, I’ve been craving Southern Fried Chicken, but being that a) good fried chicken is hard to find in the north, and b) no one I live with really appreciates when I fry things (I think it’s a combination of after-dinner guilt and the lingering oil smell in the house), I was pretty much out of luck.  That is, until I came across a recipe for Southern “Baked” Chicken.  And another.  And another.

These recipes looked pretty good in the pictures, but I was apprehensive.  I mean, Southern Baked Chicken?  I know there are a ton of fried chicken purists currently screaming “NOOOOOO!” at their computer screens, slamming their palms against their desks, and maybe even letting out a whimper or two.  Southern Baked Chicken.  The horror!

Southern Baked Chicken
However, at this point I was desperate for some sort– any sort– of Southern chicken, so I took some ideas from exactly one million-billion-trillion recipes, combined them, and came up with a basis to start from.  Believe it or not, I made this chicken once and had absolutely nothing I would even dream about changing in it, which rarely basically never happens when I have pretty much no idea what I’m doing.  I made it for myself and Amanda, who said something amazing about the chicken that I really wanted to remember to tell you… but it was 2 weeks ago and I’m drawing blanks.  Just know that, in essence, she said it was the best chicken she’d ever had.  My mom, who had leftovers 2 days later, said the same. 

(By the way, my mom isn’t one of those moms who pretend to like everything I make.  In fact, 20 people might try something I make, love it, ask for seconds and thirds, and my mom will usually be the one to say, “Eh.  It was… good.”  But not this time.)

Southern Baked Chicken

Besides the fact that this Southern Baked Chicken tastes awesome and doesn’t leave that nasty oil smell for days, it also is far less messy to put together and much lighter than it’s fried counterpart.  It’s the kind of meal you can add to your weekly rotation, bring to parties, pack for picnics, and find any possible reason to make because you really just want to eat it again.  For example, James didn’t have a chance to try this chicken, so I will be making it very soon for him.  And of course by “for him” I really mean “for me, and I guess he can have some too.”  I’m telling you, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have plenty of seemingly selfless acts of Baked Chicken in the future to disguise your obsession.  No one has to know the truth… I’ll never tell if you won’t.

Southern Baked Chicken
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This easy, less-mess, lightened up recipe will shock you. Southern Baked Chicken that is just as flavorful as its fried counterpart? You can bet this is going to be a regular in my house.
Serves: 4
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Cooking spray (olive oil spray works best here!)
For the brine:
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • Dash hot sauce
For the breading:
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
For the dredge:
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 ½ cups skim milk
  1. In a large bowl, combine all of the brine ingredients and stir until the salt has dissolved.
  2. Place the chicken thighs in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  3. Remove the chicken thighs from the brine, rinse them off, and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
  5. Combine all of the breading ingredients in a large bowl and mix until all of the ingredients have blended. (I simply washed out the first bowl that held the brine and used that to save dishes.)
  6. In another bowl, beat the eggs and add in the milk. Whisk to combine.
  7. Take each chicken thigh and dip it in the egg and milk mixture, turning if necessary to ensure an even dip.
  8. Take the thighs and press them into the breading, and use your hands to push breading on the top half of the thigh and press down. Let the chicken sit in the breading for a few minutes and then remove to a rack. Repeat with each thigh.
  9. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Then, spray the chicken generously with the cooking spray. This will help it crisp up in the oven. Go ahead and give it another spray. It's got enough when there are no dry-looking patches of breading left.
  10. Bake the chicken for about 40 minutes, or until the breading has reached the desired golden-brown color.


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  1. stacy says

    this looks delicious! any suggestions on what could be a substitute for the fish sauce? that is not easy to come by in my neck of the woods (italy). thanks!

    • says

      The fish sauce is there to give a umami (or savory) flavor to the meat. Typically, MSG would be used by chain restaurants instead of the fish sauce for a similar flavor, but there is a lot of controversy over MSG and its effects on health, which is why I use fish sauce instead. Any glutamine-rich sauces will have a similar effect. Mushrooms, shellfish, and soy sauce are all known to give a similar umami flavor, so mushroom stock, shellfish stock, or soy sauce may work as substitutes (or, of course, MSG if you can find it).

      If you’d like, you can make your own fish sauce that you’ll be able to use to add awesome flavor to your meats and veggies in other meals besides this one. Here’s a good recipe if you’re interested– make sure you use anchovies and not just any fish!

      Lastly, it’s okay if you decide just to skip the fish sauce (or replacement) all-together. The flavor of the chicken won’t be as crazy good, but you’ll still wind up with some great baked chicken!

      I hope I was of a little help, Stacy!

    • Danielle says

      I use miso paste- for this purpose- adds a wonderful umami to even vegetarian dishes. You should be able to find this in a supermarket. As a substitute I suspect you could get away with worcestershire sauce- Lea and Perrins is a great sub for umami.

    • says

      Deb, you can use chicken breast but I definitely recommend the thighs. I tend to choose breast over thighs because I prefer white meat, but the thighs really stay juicy in this recipe, whereas breast will be slightly less so. That’s not to say that breasts shouldn’t still be tasty– if you’re not a dark meat person, go ahead and try them out!

  2. J says

    Hi Morgan! I just wanted to know if you used panko bread crumbs or just plain (Fine) bread crumbs?
    Also, can I ask what you served the chicken with?

    • says

      Hi J! I usually use just plain bread crumbs, but in the pictures it’s about a half and half mixture of panko and fine because I didn’t have enough plain bread crumbs on hand for the whole batch. Either way works great, but don’t use just panko as it might not give you as good of coverage. I served the chicken with Buttermilk Biscuits with Jalapeno-Honey Butter and Lightened Up Baked Mac n’ Cheese.

  3. J says

    Thanks Morgan! I plan on making a deviled version of this tonight! Hope it comes out like yours!
    Have a Great Day. =)
    (P.s.-I’m a new follower of yours, and love the blog)

    • says

      How’d it turn out, J? Also, I’m so glad to have you here! Hope you enjoy what I’ll be sharing in the future =) and I hope you have a great day as well!

      • J says

        Wow! I didn’t expect a follow up. It turned out Great! Only thing, I knew to check the chicken after 30-35 minutes, and possibly flip it around that time mark , because my oven (sucks) seems to be a little hotter than others. It worked like a charm. Thank you so much for your hard work =)
        Will be checking in on a regular basis and I receive your Emails already. Have a Great Day!

        • says

          I’m so glad you liked it! That’s a good point– I didn’t have to turn my chicken but some people might want to depending on their ovens… I know if I had baked them when I still lived in my old apartment, I definitely would have needed to. Thanks for reporting back!

  4. says

    I made this for the fam tonight and it was delicious! I made mine with 1/2 panko and 1/2 breadcrumbs – I love the crunch that the panko adds. Next time I made it, I might add in a little more panko to see if it’ll get even crunchier. Oh – and I will make more chicken. hehe I made just enough for each person to have some, but I can imagine this would be awesome as leftovers.

    Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  5. Akumar says

    What do you think about marinating the chicken overnight in buttermilk rather than the brine? If you were to use buttermilk, would you still use the egg mixture?

    • says

      You can make a buttermilk brine by replacing the water in the brine with buttermilk and that is delicious, too! I would still use the egg mixture because the buttermilk, while thick, might not be thick enough to make the breadcrumbs stick while baking.

  6. Hazel says

    Just wow! I add hot sauce to the brine and chilli powder to the breadcrumbs to give it that KFC hot wings spiciness. Oh and I bake it on a grill pan rather than a baking tray so it’s healthier and crispy all over. Thank you so much for this recipe and the addiction I now have

    • says

      I’m so glad to hear you enjoy the recipe, Hazel! It’s definitely one of my favorites. I think adding hot sauce and chili powder sounds great– I’m going to try that next time. I’ll also be giving the grill pan a try. Thanks for all of your suggestions!

  7. Jamie says

    I make A LOT of chicken and this is by far the best I have ever made! The boyfriend even loved it! I added chili powder (quite a bit) and cayenne pepper to my dry mixture and then I baked it on a cookie sheet in the pan so it would get crispy on all sides. I then broiled it for about 3 minutes until there were just a couple burnt spots on the top and it was perfect! I made it with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy that also had pepper and cayenne added to it. I definitely will be making this again and will be letting the kids try it.

    Great recipe and thanks for sharing!

  8. Curtis Taft says

    Great recipe, family loved it. I was getting a bit grossed out by the thigh on the bone with skin, so I bought boneless skinned thighs, scoured the interweb for a brined oven fried recipe that didn’t include buttermilk (because I didn’t have any). Only deviation was no white pepper, and the addition of ground celery seed (a major note in KFC chicken, atleast to my palate). All the schmaltz cooked out, nice texture on the breading, great flavor, juicy meat, A+. Being the only one at the table that likes spice, I made a honey, soy, vinegar, chili flake and cayenne glaze to brush on mine when it came out of the oven, similar to BobChon chicken (which we just got here in Ohio). YUM!


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