Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich + Kimchi Mayo

Level up your cooking game with a crispy, crackly Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich! Kimchi Juice + Buttermilk brine and a generous helping of Kimchi Mayo make it truly special.

A Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich is exactly what we all want to eat right now.

Crispy, crackly crust. Saucy, decadent Kimchi mayo. Soft butter lettuce. Toasted brioche bun. So good!

All the crispy, craggy splendor of fried chicken. With subtle Korean flavors in the brine and dredge. So much crunchy goodness!

If you love Korean Fried Chicken, you will love this sandwich!!

My Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich is inspired by Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Kimchi Brined Chicken Sandwiches. His very chef-y recipe includes 7 components! (Brine, dredge, hot oil, mayo, cabbage + pickles, spice mix, and black sesame biscuits.) So delicious!

I simplified Kenji’s process and ingredient list to make this easier to make at home. But I kept the kimchi juice + buttermilk brine. It really takes the fried chicken over the top.

Kimchi Juice plus buttermilk is truly the most glorious brining liquid. Kimchi Juice adds so much salty, spicy, deep, acidic flavor! And it’s really not that spicy! 😉

What is Kimchi Juice?

Korean food lovers know: kimchi juice is liquid gold. Salty, spicy, fermented, brine-y goodness — kimchi juice is super-charged with flavor!

When kimchi ferments, it releases juices. You can find kimchi juice in any jar of kimchi. The more kimchi ages, the more juicy it will be.

If you have a jar of kimchi in your fridge, it’s probably sitting in a puddle of kimchi juice. Simple pour the juice into a measuring cup. You don’t need much.

But 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.

(Side note: Korean cooks regularly add kimchi juice to Bibimguksu, Kimchi Jjigae, and Kimchi Pancakes for extra flavor. Usually, it’s added according to taste. Sometimes you need a lot, other times you don’t.)

What is Gochukaru?

For this recipe, Gochukaru is a key ingredient to the dredge. It adds so much flavor and texture!

Gochukaru is Korean dried chili flakes. Most people don’t have Gochukaru in their pantry. But if you love Korean food, level up your cooking game and buy a small bag. The flavor is complex, rich, deeply spicy, fruity, and somewhat smoky.

I buy Gochukaru from the Korean market. Good Gochukaru is made in Korea or produced by a Korean company abroad. For example, Korean companies based in California.

jar of Korean gochukaru

To store Gochukaru, keep a small amount in a glass jar at room temperature for daily use. Keep the rest of the Gochukaru in the freezer for long term storage. The flavor keeps best that way.

I’ve seen recipes with Gochukaru substitutions – Italian chili flakes, paprika, cayenne, etc. But trust me, they are NOT the same. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for Gochukaru! If you don’t have it, just leave it out. Or better yet, buy a small bag and fall in love with this essential Korean ingredient.

PIN FOR LATER:

How to Make Korean Fried Chicken Sandwiches:

Marinate chicken thighs in buttermilk and kimchi juice brine for 8 hours or overnight.

Dredge chicken thighs and deep fry.

Make kimchi mayo. Toast brioche buns. Assemble sandwiches in layers: bottom bun, kimchi mayo, pickle, fried chicken, lettuce, more kimchi mayo, top bun. Enjoy!!

korean fried chicken sandwich on cutting board

Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich + Kimchi Mayo

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
Level up your cooking game with a crispy, crackly Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich! Kimchi Juice + Buttermilk brine, Gochukaru + Black Sesame dredge, and a generous helping of Kimchi Mayo make it truly special.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Marinating Time 8 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Fusion Food, Korean
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

Marinade:

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup kimchi juice (preferably from old, well fermented kimchi)
  • 6 6-8 ounce boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1lb total)

Dredge:

  • 2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup Gochukaru (Korean chili flakes)
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 2 tsps salt

Kimchi Mayo:

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup kimchi, chopped (drained)
  • 1 Tbsp sriracha (or less, if you like things less spicy)

Additional Sandwich Ingredients:

  • 4 brioche buns
  • 4 sandwich pickles (the flat sliced kind)
  • 8 butter or gem lettuce leaves (2 for each sandwich)

Instructions
 

Marinate Chicken:

  • 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.

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 enameled Dutch oven. Fill with 3 inches of oil (peanut or vegetable oil). Heat on medium high heat until 350F.
    cast iron dutch oven with candy thermometer attached
  • While the oil heats, add dredge ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk with a fork. To create craggy chunks of dredge, add 1-2 Tbsp of the buttermilk brine to the flour mixture first 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.
    fried chicken pieces on cooling rack
  • Optional but high recommended: After the chicken thighs have been fried, fry a 2nd time for 1-2 minutes each. That extra frying time will ensure the crispiest, crackly chicken!

Kimchi Mayo:

  • Mix ingredients in a bowl and set aside. This can be made ahead of time, up to 1 day in advance.
    kimchi mayo on bun

Assemble Sandwiches:

  • 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.
    korean fried chicken sandwiches spread out on cutting board

Notes

*Chicken breast can be substituted for this recipe. Simply pound down 6 ounce chicken breasts evenly before marinating.
Keyword Korean Fried Chicken, Sandwich

If you loved this recipe, you might also love: Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwiches!!

Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich on dark plate with jar of pickles and plate of fried chicken in background
All Recipes, Chicken, Dinner with Friends, Kimchi, Korean, Main, Weeknight Meals

2 Comments

  1. Can you use potato starch instead of flour for the fried chicken batter?

    • Yes, you definitely can! I’ve tried it with potato starch and it comes out more thin and crispy instead of thick, like a typical fried chicken sandwich. Potato starch will also yield a slightly powdery finish, like Taiwanese Fried Chicken. If you want a combination of both worlds, try half potato starch and half flour — that’s delicious too. For the sake of keeping a simple recipe, I listed regular All Purpose Flour. But I like the half and half combination best, actually. Happy eating!

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