Crispy Southern Fried Chicken Recipe: Finger-Licking Good!

Picture the hot sweltering sun of the southern states, the smell of crispy fried chicken wafting in the air, and hungry bellies waiting to be satisfied. Fried chicken is considered an institution in the south and is enjoyed by people from all walks of life. But, have you ever wondered what makes Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken Recipe stand out from the rest?

Founded in Harlem in 1962, Sylvia’s Restaurant quickly became famous for its Southern-style cooking with a unique twist. Their signature dish — the Crispy Fried Chicken — has become legendary among food enthusiasts around the world. The iconic restaurant has been featured on various TV shows and has won numerous awards, including a prestigious plaque in their honor at The Smithsonian Institute.

With my personal experience as a chef specializing in Southern cuisine, I guarantee that this recipe will leave you craving for more with every bite.

Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken Recipe has a special place in my heart as it is not just simple to make but full of flavor that transports me to the hot tarmacs of southern soil. So, get your flour dusted and your frying pan ready as we recreate this classic dish right at home!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Sylvia's Southern Fried Chicken
Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken

Fellow foodies, let me introduce you to the mouthwatering taste of Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, this recipe is a must-try for anyone craving authentic southern-style cuisine.

What sets Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken apart from other fried chicken recipes? It’s all in the seasoning. The seasoned flour mixture that coats each piece of chicken includes a delicious blend of paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt, giving the chicken a bold and flavorful taste that you’ll crave again and again.

Not only is this recipe packed with flavor, but it is also incredibly versatile. Use it to create classic southern dishes like smothered chicken or baked chicken or simply enjoy it as a standalone dish. Plus, it can be made with boneless chicken thighs or chicken breasts if you prefer.

If you’re worried about the unhealthy nature of fried foods, have no fear – you can achieve that perfect crispy crunch without deep-frying using an air fryer. This recipe is also easily customizable for those with dietary restrictions or preferences. Use gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose flour or substitute cornstarch for flour for extra crispiness.

Whether you’re looking to recreate an iconic restaurant experience in your own home or simply seeking out some soulful comfort food, Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken Recipe is sure to elevate your kitchen game. Give it a try and get ready to fall in love!

Ingredient List

 Golden and crispy, just the way southern fried chicken should be!
Golden and crispy, just the way southern fried chicken should be!

Gather These Ingredients for Some Mouthwatering Southern Fried Chicken

This recipe is all about bringing some good old-fashioned soul food to your kitchen. So, let’s get started by bringing together the ingredients you’ll need:

  • Chicken Pieces: I prefer to use bone-in chicken pieces like drumsticks, wings, and thighs because they add more flavor and stay tender. You can even use a combination of chicken pieces, which will make your fried chicken even more exciting.
  • All-Purpose Flour: This will be the base of your seasoned flour mixture that will coat your chicken, giving it that crispy texture everyone loves. Be sure to sift your flour to avoid lumps.
  • Cornstarch: Adding cornstarch to your flour mixture brings another layer of crispiness to the chicken.
  • Paprika: Provides a subtle smoky flavor and gives the chicken an appetizing redness.
  • Garlic Powder: Garlic powder is the backbone of the seasoning in this recipe, offering so much flavor without overpowering other aromas.
  • Black Pepper: Fresh black pepper gives a light peppery taste and enhances other spices for a balanced flavor.
  • Salt: Essential for any recipe in the kitchen. Mix it with the rest of the dry ingredients before coating your chicken and season according to your taste preference.

Note: By changing up the seasoning in this recipe, you can create endless variations on this family classic!

Other essential ingredients needed include eggs, milk, and vegetable oil. That’s it!

Now that you have all these items gathered up let us move on to section (4) The Recipe How-To where I will show you how to take these separate components and turn them into something special that’ll have everyone coming back for seconds!

The Recipe How-To

 The ultimate comfort food that will make your taste buds sing.
The ultimate comfort food that will make your taste buds sing.

Now, the good stuff – here’s how to make Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken at home, just like they do at her famous Harlem restaurant.


  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, or 3 pounds of chicken tenders
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk (substitution in section 5)
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  1. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, salt and cayenne pepper (if using) to make the seasoned flour.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk/buttermilk to create a dipping mixture.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat to a temperature of about 350°F.
  4. Dredge each piece of chicken in the seasoned flour mixture until well-coated.
  5. Dip each coated piece into the egg mixture and then back into the seasoned flour mixture again.
  6. Shake off any excess flour mixture and place the chicken in the hot oil.
  7. Fry the chicken for approximately 12-15 minutes, making sure that each side is crispy and golden brown.
  8. Remove the chicken from the oil with a slotted spoon and place it on a wire cooling rack or paper towel-lined plate.

Pro tip: If you’re cooking boneless chicken thighs or tenders instead of a whole chicken, reduce your frying time by several minutes.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully made Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken at home. Serve with your favorite side dishes and enjoy the delicious, crispy goodness of this iconic soul food classic.

Substitutions and Variations

 Fried to perfection with a well-spiced and crunchy crust.
Fried to perfection with a well-spiced and crunchy crust.

Friends, if you’re anything like me – a true culinary enthusiast, then you know that experimentation is the spice of life. While Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken recipe is undoubtedly a champion in its own right, there may come a time when you’d like to switch things up a bit, or perhaps cater to the dietary restrictions of a guest or loved one. Fear not, as I’ve got some tips and substitutions for you.

Firstly, let’s talk flour. To create that initial layer of crispiness on your chicken, purpose flour is your go-to flour. However, if you’ve got gluten intolerance or simply want to switch things up, cornstarch also works wonders. Combine cornstarch with seasoned flour for best results.

Secondly, when it comes to seasoning, the recipe calls for garlic powder, paprika, salt, and black pepper; but don’t be afraid to incorporate other spices such as cumin, turmeric, or chili powder for that extra kick.

Next up is frying methods. While pan-frying remains the golden standard at Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem, you can air fry your chicken using an air fryer or bake it in the oven if grease-free cooking is more aligned with your desires.

And lastly, for our health-conscious comrades out there: boneless chicken thighs are an excellent replacement for traditional fried chicken pieces. Additionally, smothered chicken and baked chicken recipes should definitely be on your radar as they make for divine alternatives while still maintaining that Southern-style flavor profile.

Remember friends- “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child

Serving and Pairing

 You can't go wrong with a plate full of Sylvia's famous fried chicken.
You can’t go wrong with a plate full of Sylvia’s famous fried chicken.

I absolutely love serving my Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken with a side of creamy coleslaw and buttery cornbread. The crunchiness of the chicken pairs perfectly with the creaminess of the coleslaw, while the sweetness of the cornbread complements the savory flavors.

For a healthier option, I like to serve my fried chicken with a simple salad tossed with a tangy vinaigrette dressing. The lightness of the salad helps balance out the richness of the chicken.

But if you’re feeling indulgent, why not try smothering your chicken with some gravy and pairing it with some fluffy mashed potatoes? This classic comfort food combo will have your taste buds singing hymns of joy. Just be sure to leave some room for dessert––a slice of sweet potato pie or bread pudding would make for the perfect final touch to any southern-style feast.

And if you’re looking to switch things up, try using Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken as a sandwich filling. Layer it in between two slices of buttered bread and top it off with some lettuce and tomato for a delicious lunchtime treat that’s sure to satisfy any craving.

No matter how you choose to serve your fried chicken, just be sure to enjoy it while it’s hot and crispy!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 If you're not drooling yet, you will be after you see this.
If you’re not drooling yet, you will be after you see this.

For those who want to prepare Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken in advance, you can do so by preparing the chicken and coating it in the seasoned flour mixture. Store the uncooked chicken pieces in airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

When ready to cook, take out the chicken from the refrigerator, let it rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes, and then proceed with pan-frying or deep frying according to the recipe instructions. Rest assured, the refrigeration won’t compromise the crispy texture of this delicious southern-style favorite.

In terms of storing the leftover cooked fried chicken, it’s best to place them in an airtight container or wrap them tightly with foil before refrigerating. Enjoy them within 2 days to ensure that they remain fresh and tasty.

If you’re planning on reheating the leftovers, avoid using the microwave as it will make the crispy texture soggy. Instead, reheat them in the oven by placing on a baking sheet at 350°F for about 10-12 minutes. If you’re short on time, you can also use an air fryer to reheat and restore their delightful crunchiness.

Just remember that nothing beats freshly cooked crispy fried chicken straight from the pan or deep fryer!

Tips for Perfect Results

 Flavorful and juicy on the inside, this fried chicken is a crowd-pleaser.
Flavorful and juicy on the inside, this fried chicken is a crowd-pleaser.

As a chef specialized in southern-style cuisine, I’ve come across many fried chicken recipes out there. But, believe me when I say that Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken Recipe is one of the best you’ll ever taste. Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced cook, here are some tips to help you achieve perfect results every time:

1. Double Dip for Extra Crispiness

For extra crispy fried chicken, dip each piece of chicken in the egg mixture, coat it in the flour mixture, then dip it back into the egg mixture and coat it again in the flour mixture. This double-coating will help create the perfect crunch without overcooking the chicken.

2. Season Your Chicken Generously

Season your chicken generously with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika before dipping it in the egg and flour mixture. These spices will bring out the flavors of the chicken and give it that mouth-watering aroma.

3. Use a Cast Iron Skillet if Possible

If possible, use a cast iron skillet instead of a regular frying pan to fry your chicken. A cast iron skillet heats more evenly and retains heat better than other skillets or pans, making it easier to fry your chicken evenly.

4. Don’t Overcrowd Your Skillet

Frying too much chicken at once results in overcrowding and uneven cooking. So, make sure you fill your skillet with just enough pieces to cover the bottom and allow space between each piece.

5. Drain Excess Oil on Paper Towel

Once your fried chicken is done cooking, transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate or wire rack to drain off any excess oil. This will prevent your chicken from becoming greasy and soggy.

6. Rest Your Chicken Before Serving

Allowing your fried chicken to rest for a few minutes before serving lets the juices settle back into the meat, making it more tender and juicier.

By following these tips, you’ll have the perfect crispy and juicy southern-style fried chicken. Enjoy!


As an experienced chef specializing in southern-style cuisine, I know that every cook has unique experiences and preferences. With that in mind, I have prepared this section on frequently asked questions (FAQ) to address some common queries and provide solutions for the southern fried chicken recipe. These tips and tricks will help you perfect your technique and achieve a crispy, delicious outcome every time. Read on to find out more.

What is the difference between fried chicken and Southern fried chicken?

Southern fried chicken is a famous dish made from chicken pieces that are coated with a mixture of flour and seasoning before being cooked in oil. This crispy layer outside of the chicken helps to lock in the moisture of the meat, creating a savory texture that is widely adored.

Why is Southern fried chicken so good?

When it comes to fried chicken, the crunch is what counts. The perfect deep-frying technique creates a delightful contrast between the crunchy exterior and juicy chicken inside. This crunchy texture has a significant impact on our brain, as it signals that the food is fresh and in good condition.

Why do you put cornstarch in fried chicken?

One useful tip to make your fried chicken extra crispy is to add cornstarch to the flour coating recipe. By adding a quarter of cornstarch to the all-purpose flour, you can prevent gluten from developing, resulting in a crispy coating. The cornstarch also absorbs moisture during the frying process, leading to an even crispier texture. If you have a go-to fried chicken recipe, try swapping out a portion of the flour with cornstarch and see how it turns out.

How to make Paula Deen’s fried chicken?

As a chef with expertise in southern-style cuisine, the first step in making a delicious fried chicken dish is to prepare the seasoning mix. To do this, I suggest combining a blend of flavorful herbs and spices and keeping it in an airtight container for up to six months.

Next, take a medium-sized mixing bowl and beat together a few eggs with some water until it is well mixed. In another bowl, combine some flour and ground black pepper, stirring it together to create a smooth and consistent mixture.

To properly coat the chicken in the seasoning and flour mixture, begin by taking each piece of chicken and fully dipping it into the egg mixture, ensuring that it is well-coated. Then, coat it in the flour mixture, making sure that every inch of the chicken is covered with the delicious combination of flavors.

Once the chicken is fully coated, it is time to fry it up. Heat a deep pot of oil on the stove at a temperature of around 300 degrees Fahrenheit. To ensure that the chicken is cooked evenly, add one or two pieces at a time to the pot, being careful not to crowd it. Cook it until the chicken is golden brown and crispy all over, making sure to flip the pieces over to cook on both sides.

By following these simple yet effective steps, you can create a mouth-watering and satisfying southern-style fried chicken that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at your next family gathering or social event.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a true taste of Southern hospitality, then Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken Recipe is the perfect meal for you. With its crispy outside texture and juicy inside flavor, this recipe creates a mouthwatering explosion with every single bite.

Whether you are an experienced cook or a kitchen novice, creating a dish that is both delicious and satisfying can be a daunting task. But with the right ingredients, tools, and step-by-step instructions, anyone can master this recipe and create a crispy fried chicken that would make even Sylvia Woods proud.

So why not step out of your comfort zone and try something new? Immerse yourself in our culture and taste the Queen of Soul Food’s legacy by following this recipe to perfection. With just a few simple ingredients and a passion for cooking, you’ll have everyone raving about your homemade crispy fried chicken in no time. Trust us, your taste buds will thank you.

Sylvia's Southern Fried Chicken

Sylvia’s Southern Fried Chicken Recipe

Who needs eleven herbs and spices?! This delicious pan-fried chicken comes from "Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook" by Sylvia Woods. It's best to season the chicken overnight, but 20 minutes will do. The seasonings are delicious but don't overpower the meat itself, and it's just as good cold! Try it! I've included overnight seasoning in the prep time, but it could actually be as little as 20 minutes. I'm also allowing a little extra time for the frying because not all pieces cook in the same amount of time.
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Prep Time 8 hrs
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Southern American
Calories 813.8 kcal


  • 1 (3 1/2 lb) chicken, cut up in eighths
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I prefer corn)
  • 1 1/2-2 cups flour


  • In plastic bag, combine salt, 1 teaspoon of the black pepper, and the garlic powder.
  • Sprinkle over the chicken and let stand at least 20 minutes (but overnight in the refrigerator is better).
  • Place flour, the remaining 1/4 tsp. black pepper and paprika in a plastic bag.
  • Add the seasoned chicken and shake until each piece is covered with flour.
  • In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat, add chicken pieces and reduce heat to medium.
  • Cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until chicken is nicely browned on the bottom.
  • Turn and cook on the other side for another 7 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  • Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels before serving.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 307gCalories: 813.8kcalCarbohydrates: 36.6gProtein: 49.9gFat: 50.5gSaturated Fat: 12.3gCholesterol: 181.1mgSodium: 1042.5mgFiber: 1.6gSugar: 0.2g
Keyword Chicken, High In..., High Protein, Lunch, Meat, Poultry, Stove Top
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