The BEST crispy, crackly Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich! Kimchi juice + buttermilk brine PLUS a thin, potato starch batter makes for the crispiest buttermilk fried chicken sandwich ever!
If you love Korean Fried Chicken, you will love this sandwich!
What is Korean Fried Chicken?
Korean Fried Chicken is a special kind of fried chicken that originates in South Korea. Chicken is coated with a thin batter of potato starch then double fried for maximum crunch and crispyness. A variety of sauces can also be slathered on top.
The texture of Korean Fried Chicken is especially addicting. Thin, shattering bites of extra crispy and crunchy batter! So satisfying and tasty!
What are Korean Fried Chicken Sandwiches?
To make a Korean-style fried chicken sandwich, I was inspired by Kenji Lopez-Alt’s kimchi brined chicken sandwich. I simplified his amazing recipe and leaned into my Korean American roots for a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich that can easily be made at home.
A classic preparation for fried chicken, with a Korean twist!
The adjustments are subtle but significant:
- Add kimchi juice to buttermilk brine for flavor, depth, and salty, spicy goodness.
- Combine Potato Starch and Flour for an ultra-crispy, shattery batter.
- Double fry the chicken for extra crunch.
- Kimchi mayo for the win!!
For the marinade:
- Boneless Skinless Chicken. Makes juicy, tender fried chicken that doesn’t dry out.
- Kimchi Juice. Pour off a little bit from the jar of kimchi in your fridge. So flavorful and delicious!
- Buttermilk. A classic ingredient that tenderizes the chicken.
For the batter:
- Potato Starch + Flour. A 50-50 ratio creates the best texture. So crispy and crunchy!
- Gochukaru. Korean dried chili flakes.
- Black Sesame Seeds. For added crunch and flavor.
- Kimchi Mayo. An easy upgrade that takes this sandwich to another level!
- Brioche Buns. Buttered and toasted buns, preferably.
- Pickles. Flat, sandwich-style pickles are an essential!
- Butter Lettuce or Green Cabbage. Choose one to add fresh crunch.
How to Make Korean Fried Chicken Sandwiches:
- Marinate chicken thighs in buttermilk and kimchi juice brine for 8 hours or overnight.
- Dredge chicken thighs.
- Deep fry.
- Make kimchi mayo.
- Assemble sandwiches.
Watch how to make it:
- Marinate chicken thighs overnight. Like any brine, the flavor needs to soak into the meat.
- For extra craggy batter: add 1-2 Tbsp of the brining liquid to the flour dredge and mix to combine. This will create shaggy, craggy bits that will stick to the chicken in thick shards.
- Set up a deep frying station. A cast iron dutch oven with a candy thermometer regulates the oil temperature. A cooling rack fitted over a sheet pan keeps chicken crispy. A wire strainer makes for easy removal.
- Don’t crowd the chicken! When deep frying, make sure not to crowd the chicken! Fry in batches so the oil temperature doesn’t dip too low.
- Double fry the chicken. Although optional, double frying creates a super crispy batter that does not get soggy. After deep frying the first time, fry for an additional 1-2 minutes.
Why is there no sauce in this Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich?
Korean fried chicken is enjoyed both saucy and plain (non-saucy). For this recipe, I decided to make a non-saucy version to highlight all the crispy crunchiness of the batter. I found that adding a sauce made the chicken soggy and wet.
Where can I find Gochukaru? Can I sub with something else?
Gochukaru is Korean dried chili flakes. Look for it at the Korean market. Good Gochukaru is made in Korea or produced by a Korean company. Although I do not normally recommend Gochukaru substitutes in Korean recipes, you can substitute with cayenne or mustard powder in this recipe. Make sure to halve the amount, as they are both spicier than Gochukaru. Notes are in the recipe card below.
Where can I find kimchi juice?
When kimchi ferments, it releases juices. If you have a jar of kimchi in your fridge, pour off some kimchi juice. The older the kimchi, the more juicy it will be.
If your kimchi is freshly packed, there won’t be much juice at all. If that’s the case, wait a few weeks for your kimchi to age and release enough liquid.
Other recipes you may enjoy:
- Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwiches
- Lime Cilantro Slaw
- Buttermilk Waffles with Black Sesame Whipped Cream
- Crispy Panko Fried Fish Sandwiches with Spicy Tartar Sauce
Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich with Kimchi Mayo
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup kimchi juice (preferably from old, well fermented kimchi)
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6-8 oz each)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup potato starch
- 1/4 cup Gochukaru (Korean chili flakes) (can be subbed with 2 Tbsp cayenne or mustard powder)
- 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
- 2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellman's)
- 1/2 cup kimchi, chopped (drained)
- 1-2 Tbsp sriracha (optional)
Additional Sandwich Ingredients:
- 4 brioche buns
- 8 sandwich pickles (the flat sliced kind) (2 for each sandwich)
- 8 butter or gem lettuce leaves (2 for each sandwich)
- Combine buttermilk and kimchi juice in glass food container. Add chicken thighs and mix until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Deep Fry Chicken:
- Set up a deep frying station: Place a cooling rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet, for transferring fried chicken. Clip a candy thermometer to a cast iron Dutch oven. Fill with 3 inches of oil. Heat on medium high heat until 350F.
- While the oil heats, add batter ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk with a fork.
- To create craggy chunks, add 1-2 Tbsp of the buttermilk brine to the flour mixture and gently mix with your hands. The flour will take on a chunkier texture this way.
- Remove chicken thighs from brine. Dredge both sides with flour mixture. Gently add dredged chicken to hot oil (when it reaches 350F), making sure not to overcrowd the pan.
- Fry chicken thighs in batches, until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes total. Flip the chicken about halfway through. When finished, they should be golden and crispy looking. Remove from the hot oil and transfer to the cooling rack fitted over a baking sheet.
- Optional but highly recommended: After the chicken has been fried, fry a 2nd time for 1-2 minutes each. That extra frying time will ensure the crispiest, crackly chicken!
- Mix ingredients in a bowl and set aside. This can be made ahead of time, up to 1 day in advance.
- Toast brioche buns and add kimchi mayo to both top and bottom buns. Assemble sandwich, starting from the bottom: brioche bun with kimchi mayo, pickle, fried chicken, lettuce, top bun with kimchi mayo. Serve with additional kimchi mayo on the side.