Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Recipe

The Sweet Tea Fried Chicken is an incredible fusion of flavors that you should definitely try. This recipe combines the traditional fried chicken technique with a unique brine made from sweet tea. The brine imparts a subtle sweetness and extra juiciness to the chicken, while the flour and cornmeal coating creates a delightfully crispy exterior. The result is a dish that is both comfortingly familiar and excitingly new.

Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Recipe
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Most of the ingredients for this recipe should be readily available in your local supermarket. However, there could be a few exceptions. For instance, cornmeal is sometimes located in the baking aisle, but it can also be found in the gluten-free or natural foods section. Kosher salt, with its larger, coarser grains, might be in a separate area from regular table salt. Lastly, buttermilk - crucial for the chicken's tender texture, might not be in your typical milk section, so make sure to check the dairy or baking aisle.

Ingredients for Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

Black tea: Used for the brine, black tea gives a unique flavor to the chicken.

White sugar: This is used to sweeten the brine.

Kosher salt: Used in brine and coating for seasoning.

Chicken legs and thighs: These parts are used for their juiciness and flavor.

Buttermilk: Used to tenderize the chicken.

Hot sauce: This gives a kick to the buttermilk mixture.

All-purpose flour: This gives the chicken its crispy coating.

Cornmeal: Adds texture to the chicken's coating.

Cornstarch: This makes the chicken's coating extra crispy.

Garlic powder, Onion powder, Black pepper, Cayenne pepper, Paprika: These are used for seasoning the chicken.

Vegetable oil: This is used for frying the chicken.

Flaky sea salt: Used for finishing to enhance the flavor.

One reader, Emmalyn Lara says:

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This sweet tea fried chicken recipe is a game-changer! The brine infuses the chicken with a subtle sweetness, and the buttermilk adds a perfect tang. The crispy coating is packed with flavor, and the chicken turns out juicy and tender. It's a must-try for anyone who loves a unique twist on classic fried chicken!

Emmalyn Lara

Essential Techniques for Making Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

How to brine the chicken: Brining the chicken in sweet tea helps to infuse it with flavor and keep it moist and tender during frying.

How to coat the chicken: Coating the chicken in a buttermilk mixture and seasoned flour ensures a crispy and flavorful crust.

How to fry the chicken: Frying the chicken in hot oil until golden brown creates a crispy exterior while keeping the meat juicy and flavorful.

How to check for doneness: It's important to ensure the chicken is fully cooked by using a meat thermometer or checking for clear juices to guarantee it's safe to eat.

How To Make Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

A mix of sweet tea and crispy fried chicken comes together in this amazing recipe which uses sweet tea as a chicken brine, then fried to crispy perfection.

Preparation: 45 minutes
Cooking: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 30 minutes



For Brine:

  • 6cupswater
  • 8bagsblack tea
  • 1cupwhite sugar
  • ¼cupkosher salt

For Chicken:

  • 5chicken legs,skin on
  • 5chicken thighs,bone in and skin on
  • 2cupsbuttermilk
  • 1tbsphot sauce,optional, but recommended
  • 3cupsall-purpose flour,(420 g)x
  • 1cupcornmeal,(160 g)
  • 2tbspcornstarch
  • tspgarlic powder
  • tsponion powder
  • 1tspblack pepper
  • 1tspkosher salt
  • ½tspcayenne pepper
  • ½tsppaprika
  • 3cupsvegetable oil,such as corn, avocado, or peanut oil

To Finish:

  • flaky sea salt,such as Maldon



  1. Bring the water to boil in a large stockpot.

  2. When it boils, remove from heat and add the tea bags, cover, and steep for 20 minutes.

  3. Gently squeeze the bags to extract as much flavor as possible and remove them.

  4. Stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved.

  5. Leave uncovered for an hour or until it reaches room temperature.

  6. Place a gallon freezer-style resealable bag in a large bowl and open it up.

  7. Carefully pour the room temperature tea brine into the bag, holding onto the sides to minimize spilling (or just simply place it in a large bowl).

  8. Place the chicken into the bag, and seal it, trying to squeeze out as much air as possible.

  9. Refrigerate overnight (minimum of 8 hours) or up to 24 hours.

  10. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

  11. Combine the buttermilk and the hot sauce, if using, in a medium bowl.

  12. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, and paprika in a separate large bowl.

  13. Remove 1 piece of chicken from the brine and dunk it in the buttermilk, turning the piece to coat it.

  14. Then coat the chicken in the flour mix, turning to coat completely.

  15. Move to a rimmed baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken.

  16. Discard the brine when done.

  17. Pour the oil into an 11-inch cast-iron skillet, straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven. Heat the oil to 375 degrees F.

  18. If there’s no thermometer, drop a 1-inch cube of bread into the oil. The bread should brown in about 60 seconds.

  19. If it browns too fast, the oil is too hot. If the bread takes longer than a minute to brown, it isn’t hot enough.

  20. Once the oil is at the right temperature, use tongs to carefully move the chicken legs to the pan, one at a time, making sure part of the chicken is submerged before letting go.

  21. Fry the chicken on 1 side for 4 to 5 minutes or until the bottom part of the chicken is golden brown.

  22. Flip the chicken with the tongs and cook the other side for an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

  23. Move the legs to the baking sheet with the wire rack.

  24. Repeat the process with the chicken thighs, this time frying each side for 5 to 6 minutes.

  25. Move the thighs to the baking sheet along with the legs.

  26. Move the entire sheet with chicken into the oven.

  27. Bake for an additional 15 to 18 minutes, or until the thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thighs reads 165 degrees F.

  28. If there’s no thermometer, pierce the thigh with a sharp knife. The liquid that comes out should run clear and not look red.

  29. Move to a serving platter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

  • The brine can be made up to 3 days ahead of time. If there’s already pre-made or store-bought sweet tea, use 6 cups of it in place of the brine listed below. Just add the ¼ cup of salt to the sweet tea and stir vigorously to make sure it is completely dissolved before submerging the chicken in the brine.
  • When frying the chicken, do not drop the chicken pieces in the oil; it will splatter and possibly burn you.
  • Leftover fried chicken can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and is great cold. To reheat it, bring the chicken back to room temperature (about 30 minutes on the counter) while preheating the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the chicken on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet and reheat for about 8 to 12 minutes.


  • Calories: 2462.27kcal
  • Fat: 186.32g
  • Saturated Fat: 27.71g
  • Trans Fat: 1.17g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 111.14g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 34.88g
  • Carbohydrates: 110.63g
  • Fiber: 3.13g
  • Sugar: 37.90g
  • Protein: 84.82g
  • Cholesterol: 427.48mg
  • Sodium: 2351.95mg
  • Calcium: 156.44mg
  • Potassium: 1172.32mg
  • Iron: 7.38mg
  • Vitamin A: 139.73µg
  • Vitamin C: 3.41mg

Pro Tip for Achieving Perfectly Crispy Fried Chicken

When frying the chicken, it's crucial to maintain the right oil temperature. Too hot, and the outside will burn before the inside is cooked. Too cool, and the chicken will absorb too much oil, becoming greasy. A cooking thermometer is a handy tool to ensure the oil is at the perfect temperature. If you don't have one, the bread cube test mentioned in the recipe is a reliable alternative. Remember, consistency is key in achieving that perfect golden-brown crust and juicy interior.

Time-Saving Tips for Making Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

Prep ahead: Marinate the chicken in the sweet tea brine the night before to save time on the day of cooking.

Double up: Make a larger batch of the sweet tea brine and freeze it in portions for future use.

Organized workspace: Set up a breading station with all the ingredients and tools you need to streamline the coating process.

Batch frying: Fry the chicken in batches to ensure even cooking and prevent overcrowding in the pan.

Invest in a thermometer: Use a kitchen thermometer to accurately monitor the oil temperature for frying, ensuring perfectly cooked chicken.

Substitute Ingredients For Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Recipe

  • black tea - Substitute with green tea: Green tea can provide a similar depth of flavor and tannins to the brine, while adding a slightly different herbal note.
  • buttermilk - Substitute with plain yogurt mixed with milk: The combination of plain yogurt and milk can mimic the tangy richness of buttermilk in the marinade for the chicken.
  • cornmeal - Substitute with breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs can provide a similar crispy texture when used as a coating for the fried chicken, although the flavor and texture will be slightly different.
  • vegetable oil - Substitute with canola oil: Canola oil has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, making it a suitable substitute for frying the chicken.

How to Beautifully Present Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

  1. Elevate the plating: Arrange the fried chicken pieces in a visually appealing manner, ensuring they are evenly spaced and the presentation is balanced.

  2. Incorporate garnishes: Add a pop of color and freshness by garnishing the dish with sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary.

  3. Utilize high-quality serving ware: Present the sweet tea fried chicken on elegant ceramic plates or wooden serving boards to enhance the dining experience.

  4. Pair with complementary sides: Serve the fried chicken alongside classic Southern sides such as buttermilk biscuits and collard greens to create a cohesive and satisfying meal.

  5. Highlight the brine infusion: Emphasize the use of the sweet tea brine by drizzling a small amount over the chicken just before serving, showcasing the unique flavor infusion.

Essential Kitchen Tools for Making Fried Chicken

  • Stockpot: A large pot used for boiling, simmering, and preparing large batches of soups, stews, or brines.
  • Wire rack: A metal rack with a grid pattern used for cooling or draining fried foods, as well as for roasting meats and vegetables.
  • Gallon freezer-style resealable bag: A large, durable plastic bag with a resealable closure, often used for marinating or storing food.
  • Cast-iron skillet: A heavy-duty, versatile pan that provides even heat distribution and is ideal for frying, searing, and baking.
  • Thermometer: A tool for measuring the temperature of liquids or oil, essential for ensuring proper cooking temperatures when frying or baking.
  • Tongs: Long-handled, scissor-like utensils used for gripping and lifting hot or delicate foods, such as fried chicken pieces.
  • Dutch oven: A heavy cooking pot with thick walls and a tight-fitting lid, suitable for braising, stewing, frying, and baking.
  • Baking sheet: A flat, metal sheet with raised edges, used for baking, roasting, and holding food items in the oven.
  • Food thermometer: A device used to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods, ensuring they reach the appropriate level of doneness and food safety.

Storing and Freezing Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

  • Allow the fried chicken to cool completely before storing or freezing. This will prevent the chicken from becoming soggy and help maintain its crispy texture.

  • To store leftover fried chicken in the refrigerator:

    • Place the cooled chicken in an airtight container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
    • Store the container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
    • When ready to reheat, place the chicken on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350°F (175°C) oven for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through and crispy.
  • To freeze leftover fried chicken:

    • Wrap each piece of cooled chicken individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, ensuring a tight seal to prevent freezer burn.
    • Place the wrapped chicken pieces in a freezer-safe container or resealable freezer bag, removing as much air as possible before sealing.
    • Label the container or bag with the date and contents for easy reference.
    • Freeze the fried chicken for up to 3 months.
    • To reheat frozen fried chicken, remove the desired number of pieces from the freezer and let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
    • Once thawed, place the chicken on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350°F (175°C) oven for 20-25 minutes, or until heated through and crispy.
  • For best results, consume refrigerated or frozen fried chicken within the recommended time frames to ensure optimal taste and texture.

How To Reheat Leftover Fried Chicken

  • The best way to reheat leftover sweet tea fried chicken is in the oven. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and place the chicken pieces on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. This allows the hot air to circulate around the chicken, helping to crisp up the exterior while keeping the interior juicy and tender. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through and the skin is crispy.

  • If you're short on time, you can also reheat your fried chicken in an air fryer. Set the air fryer to 375°F (190°C) and place the chicken pieces in the basket, making sure they're not overcrowded. Cook for 5-7 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the chicken is hot and crispy.

  • For a quick and easy method, you can use the microwave, although this may result in a softer, less crispy exterior. Place the chicken pieces on a microwave-safe plate and cover them with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high for 30-second intervals, checking the temperature after each interval, until the chicken is heated through.

  • If you want to add a bit of extra flavor to your reheated fried chicken, try brushing it with a mixture of melted butter and honey before placing it in the oven or air fryer. This will give the chicken a sweet and savory glaze that complements the tea-infused brine.

  • Lastly, if you find yourself with a lot of leftover fried chicken, consider repurposing it into a new dish. Shred the chicken and use it in a salad, sandwich, or quesadilla. You can also chop it up and add it to a soup or stew for an extra boost of protein and flavor.

Interesting Trivia About Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

Sweet tea fried chicken is a popular dish in the southern United States, known for its unique blend of flavors. The brining process with black tea, sugar, and salt not only adds a hint of sweetness but also tenderizes the chicken, resulting in a juicy and flavorful final product. This dish perfectly combines the refreshing taste of sweet tea with the savory crunch of fried chicken, creating a delightful culinary experience.

Is Making Fried Chicken at Home Cost-Effective?

This sweet tea fried chicken recipe is quite cost-effective for a household. The main ingredients, such as chicken, black tea, and flour, are generally affordable and can be found in most households. The recipe yields a substantial amount of food, making it suitable for a family of four. The estimated cost for the entire meal is approximately $15, making it a budget-friendly option. In terms of taste and satisfaction, this recipe receives a solid 8 out of 10. It offers a delightful combination of sweet and savory flavors, making it a popular choice for a comforting family meal.

Is Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Healthy or Unhealthy?

The sweet tea fried chicken recipe, while undeniably delicious, is not particularly healthy. The main concerns are:

  • Deep frying the chicken in vegetable oil adds a significant amount of unhealthy fats and calories
  • The brine contains a high amount of sugar, which can contribute to obesity and other health issues when consumed in excess
  • The breading mixture includes all-purpose flour and cornmeal, which are refined carbohydrates lacking in nutrients

However, the recipe does incorporate some healthier elements, such as using chicken legs and thighs, which are less fatty than other cuts, and the addition of spices like garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper, which offer some health benefits.

To make this recipe healthier, consider the following modifications:

  • Instead of deep frying, try oven-baking the chicken on a wire rack to allow excess fat to drip off
  • Reduce the amount of sugar in the brine or replace it with a natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup
  • Use whole wheat flour or almond flour instead of all-purpose flour to increase the fiber and nutrient content of the breading
  • Experiment with using Greek yogurt or buttermilk as a marinade instead of the sweet tea brine to reduce sugar intake
  • Serve the fried chicken with a side of fresh vegetables or a salad to balance out the meal and add more nutrients

Editor's Opinion on Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

The sweet tea fried chicken recipe is a delightful blend of Southern flavors. The brining process infuses the chicken with a subtle sweetness and depth of flavor, while the buttermilk and hot sauce add a tangy kick. The combination of flour, cornmeal, and spices creates a crispy, well-seasoned coating. The frying technique ensures a golden, crunchy exterior, while finishing in the oven ensures juicy, tender meat. The touch of flaky sea salt at the end adds a final burst of flavor. This recipe is a perfect balance of sweet, savory, and spicy, making it a standout dish for any occasion.

Enhance Your Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Mashed Potatoes: Creamy mashed potatoes with a hint of garlic and chives, topped with a dollop of butter.
Grilled Vegetables: Colorful assortment of grilled vegetables drizzled with a balsamic glaze and sprinkled with fresh herbs.
Fruit Salad: Refreshing fruit salad featuring a mix of seasonal fruits, tossed in a light honey-lime dressing.
Cornbread: Moist and buttery cornbread, served warm with a side of honey butter.
Coleslaw: Crunchy coleslaw made with a tangy vinegar-based dressing, perfect for balancing out the richness of the fried chicken.

Similar Recipes to Try If You Love Fried Chicken

Crispy Parmesan Roasted Asparagus: This recipe is a delicious way to enjoy asparagus, with a crispy and cheesy twist. It's a perfect side dish for any meal, and the flavors will have your taste buds dancing.
Honey Garlic Glazed Salmon: This recipe is a sweet and savory delight, with tender salmon fillets coated in a sticky honey garlic glaze. It's a quick and easy dish that's perfect for a weeknight dinner.
Mango Coconut Chia Pudding: This recipe is a refreshing and healthy dessert option, with the tropical flavors of mango and coconut combined with the goodness of chia seeds. It's a great make-ahead treat for a guilt-free indulgence.

Appetizers and Desserts That Complement Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

Spinach and Artichoke Dip: Create a creamy and flavorful dip with a perfect balance of spinach, artichokes, and cheese. Serve it with crispy tortilla chips or warm bread for a delightful appetizer that will leave your guests wanting more.
Stuffed Mushrooms: Prepare savory and indulgent stuffed mushrooms filled with a delicious mixture of cream cheese, garlic, and herbs. These bite-sized treats are perfect for any gathering and will impress even the most discerning palates.
Chocolate Mousse: Indulge in a rich and creamy chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. The smooth texture and decadent flavor will satisfy any chocolate lover's cravings.
Apple Pie: Savor the warm and comforting flavors of a classic apple pie, with tender slices of cinnamon-spiced apples nestled in a flaky, buttery crust. Pair it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness.

Why trust this Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Recipe:

This sweet tea fried chicken recipe offers a unique and flavorful twist on a classic dish. The brining process using black tea imparts a subtle sweetness and depth of flavor to the chicken, while the combination of buttermilk and hot sauce in the marinade ensures tender and juicy meat. The use of cornmeal and cornstarch in the breading creates a crispy and crunchy texture, elevating the overall dining experience. With a carefully crafted blend of spices and a perfect frying technique, this recipe promises a delightful balance of savory and sweet flavors, making it a trustworthy and delicious choice for any occasion.

Share your thoughts on the Sweet Tea Fried Chicken Recipe in the Recipe Sharing forum and let us know if you have any tips or variations to make this delicious dish even better!
How long should I brine the chicken for?
I recommend brining the chicken for a minimum of 8 hours, but it can be left in the brine for up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.
Can I use a different type of tea for the brine?
Yes, you can experiment with different types of tea to infuse different flavors into the chicken. Just keep in mind that the strength of the tea may vary, so adjust the amount of tea bags accordingly.
Can I bake the chicken instead of frying it?
Yes, you can bake the chicken after frying to ensure it's fully cooked. Once fried, transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 15-18 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Can I use boneless chicken for this recipe?
Absolutely! You can use boneless chicken thighs or breasts for this recipe. Adjust the cooking time accordingly, as boneless cuts may cook faster than bone-in pieces.
Can I make the chicken ahead of time and reheat it?
While the chicken is best enjoyed fresh, you can reheat it in the oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes to maintain its crispiness. Avoid using the microwave, as it can make the chicken soggy.

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