BEST Korean Fried Chicken (No Gochujang)

A thin, crackly batter for maximum crunch. A spicy, sweet sauce that will leave you licking your fingers. The BEST Korean Fried Chicken recipe!!

Korean fried chicken, held by hand

Who doesn’t love fried chicken? And a big, heaping platter of crackly, spicy-sweet Korean fried chicken — otherwise known as KFC — is especially delicious!

In North America, there’s a bit of a Korean Fried Chicken craze right now. The flavors are so exciting and tasty! The texture is impossibly light and crispy! Plus — that mouth-watering sticky, saucy, impossibly crunchy glaze! Make it once and see what the hype is about!

What is Korean Fried Chicken?

Korean Fried Chicken is a popular South Korean drinking food, snack, appetizer, or main dish. Known as Anju (drinking food), it’s also called Chimaek because it’s so often paired with beer. Chi = chicken, maek = maekju (beer in Korean).

The two most popular flavors are Soy Sauce and Garlic (Dak Ganjang) and Gochujang (Yangnyeom Chicken). But there’s other flavors as well: Snow (cheese powder), Honey Butter, Buldak, etc. There’s even plain (no sauce) that’s more about the texture with a mild curry flavor.

My recipe is a Soy Sauce and Garlic or Dak Ganjang Korean Fried Chicken recipe. You get the perfect balance of salty soy sauce, aromatic garlic and ginger, and heat from dried chili flakes! SO irresistible!

Dak Ganjang stays perfectly crispy and crunchy with just the right amount of heat from the chili flakes. The BEST recipe!!

platter of Korean fried chicken, on wood background

What makes Korean Fried Chicken different?

Compared to American Fried Chicken, the key differences are:

  1. DOUBLE FRYING. Korean Fried Chicken is fried twice for maximum crunch and crispiness. Double frying the chicken renders out the fat, resulting in chicken that is impossibly crunchy.
  2. THIN, CRACKLY BATTER. Koreans use potato starch for a non-greasy, light, and impossibly crunchy coating. American Fried Chicken tends to have a thick, heavy batter from the combination of buttermilk and flour. But Korean fried chicken wings are lightly coated with a thin layer of potato starch batter instead.
  3. SAUCE. Sauce is kind of a big deal to Koreans and there’s lots of different kinds. The sauce is either tossed with the chicken or brushed on, right before serving, to ensure the chicken stays crunchy.

Ingredients:

There are 3 components to KFC: marinade, glaze, and garnish.

Marinade:

  • Chicken Wings. I recommend a mixture of chicken wings and drums. Look for meaty pieces!
  • Potato Starch. Potato Starch ensures the crispiest, crunchiest texture for Korean Fried Chicken! Compared to regular all-purpose flour, potato starch produced a lighter, crispy, almost brittle texture. Look for potato starch at your local Asian grocery store. Corn Starch is an acceptable substitute.
  • Garlic Powder + Ginger Powder + Curry Powder. The seasoning. Adds so much flavor! The curry powder, especially, is subtle but so tasty.

Glaze:

  • Corn Syrup. An essential ingredient for creating that hard, crispy coating that’s iconic for Korean fried chicken wings (also known as “candy” wings). I’ve tried subbing with maple syrup, agave, honey, and regular sugar and the texture doesn’t come out quite right. Corn syrup works like a shellac that is both flavorful and super crunchy.
  • Chinese chili flakes. For heat. Different from Italian dried chili flakes, it’s more vibrantly red, aromatic, and spicy.
  • Soy sauce + rice vinegar. The sauce base. Don’t use low sodium soy sauce – it won’t taste the same!
  • Garlic + Ginger. The essential aromatics.
  • Oil. Prevents the sauce from becoming too thick and gloppy. Makes it easier to coat the chicken.

Garnish:

The aromatic garnish is ESSENTIAL! Cuts through the greasy, heavy nature of fried chicken. Mince finely and scatter all over.

  • Green onions
  • Cilantro

How to Make Korean Fried Chicken:

1. Marinate the chicken. Preferably overnight but even 30 minutes works.

2. Right before frying, add the potato starch. That’s what makes it so crispy and crunchy. (You can substitute with corn starch but regular flour will NOT produce the same result.)

3. Fry the chicken wings, in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer to a sheet pan. The chicken will be golden and crispy looking.

4. Fry a second time. The second fry will result in darker, golden-brown wings and a crunchier coating.

5. Make the sauce. Coat the chicken wings in the sauce. Garnish and serve. Enjoy!

PRO TIPS:

  • Set up a deep frying station. To make frying easier at home, use a cast iron dutch oven with high walls so there’s no splatter and for even, stable heat. If you have it, clip on a candy thermometer to better gauge the oil temperature.
  • Double fry the chicken wings. Deep frying the chicken might seem excessive or even overkill but it’s essential for achieving the right overall texture!
  • Use frying oil. Use oil with a high smoke point and high fat content for best flavor and texture. I recommend peanut oil, grapeseed oil, vegetable oil, canola oil.
  • For the glaze, fry aromatics first. Releases the fragrance and intensifies the flavor of the garlic and ginger.

FAQ:

What kind of chicken can I use?

For best flavor and texture, I recommend smaller-sized chicken with bones and skin. The smaller pieces and inclusion of skin and bone will ensure extra juicy and crispy fried chicken. My recommendations:

  • Chicken wings and drummettes
  • Chicken thighs and breast (with skin and bone) that are cut into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
  • Chicken drumsticks. Look for smaller ones!

However, if you prefer, boneless, skinless chicken also works. It just won’t get as crispy. Also, you’ll have to lessen the cooking time, as it may easily dry out.

I don’t recommend regular-sized chicken thighs, and breasts. They are too big and won’t achieve the right texture.

Can I make this ahead of time?

Yes, Korean Fried Chicken can be made several hours before serving and still remain crispy and crunchy. Reheat on a parchment lined sheet pan at 350F until warm and crispy. Then garnish and serve.

Or, fry the chicken once and make the sauce ahead of time. About an hour before guests come over, deep fry the second time and quickly coat with sauce. That’s my preferred method of serving, as it tastes optimally fresh and crispy.

How do I store leftovers?

Store leftovers at room temperature, loosely covered. Reheat in an air fryer or oven at 350F. Good for 1-2 days.

Or, for longer storage, refrigerate in an airtight container. Reheat in an air fryer or oven at 350F. Good for 3-5 days.

Korean Fried Chicken is the BEST party food! Perfect for game days, movie nights, BBQs, Oscar Night, and for whenever friends come over.

Serve with cold beer, Kimchi Fries, or Kimchi Queso Dip for a snackable feast!

More Korean Inspiration:

Korean Fried Chicken, drumette

BEST Korean Fried Chicken (No Gochujang)

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
A thin, crackly batter for maximum crunch. A spicy, sweet sauce that will leave you licking your fingers. The BEST Korean Fried Chicken recipe!!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Marinating Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 40 mins
Course Appetizer, Booze Food, Party Food, Snack
Cuisine Korean
Servings 4
Calories

Equipment

  • candy thermometer
  • Cast Iron Dutch Oven
  • Cooling Rack + Sheet Pan

Ingredients
  

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 2 lb chicken wings
  • 11/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder (optional)

Frying ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup potato starch or corn starch

Sauce ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup neutral oil (Peanut or Vegetable oil)
  • 2-3 Tbsp Chinese chile flakes from Asian Grocer (depending on taste)
  • 1 inch ginger minced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup

Garnishes (optional):

  • sesame seeds
  • 1 green onion chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro chopped

Instructions
 

Instructions:

  • Place chicken wings in a large bowl. Add garlic, curry powder, and salt. Mix throughly. Cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight. If cooking right away, do not refrigerate but keep at room temperature.
    Korean Fried Chicken, marinade
  • Right before frying, add potato starch and mix thoroughly with your hands. The potato starch should stick to the chicken wings in a thin coating. Feel free to pat the starch onto the chicken wings firmly with hands.
    Korean Fried Chicken, potato starch

Prepare for deep frying:

  • Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Set aside.
  • Attach a thermometer to the side of a deep, cast iron Dutch oven. Another alternative is a regular pot with high sides. Add 2-3 inches of cooking oil with a high smoking point. (I use vegetable oil.) The goal is to add enough oil for the chicken wings to float in the pot and not stick to the bottom.
    cast iron dutch oven with candy thermometer attached
  • Wait until the oil temperature reaches 380F. Then, add the chicken wings in batches until golden and crispy, about 8-10 minutes. The temperature will initially dip but keep the oil temperature at 350F for the rest of the cooking time. Drain wings and set aside.
    Korean Fried Chicken, first fry
  • Now it’s time for the second fry. The temperature of the oil will not dip down as much as the first fry. Fry the (already-fried) chicken wings in batches until they are darker and golden-brown in color, about 8-10 minutes per batch, at 350F. The wings are done when they look shrunken and compacted with a very crispy coating. Drain and set aside.
    Korean Fried Chicken, second fry

Prepare the sauce:

  • Add corn syrup, soy sauce, and rice vinegar in a measuring cup. Mix throughly with a spoon and set aside.
  • Prepare the minced garlic and ginger. Set aside.
  • Heat a wok or deep stock pot over medium-high heat and add oil. (I use oil from deep frying but be careful, it's hot.) When hot but not smoking, add chili flakes, garlic, and ginger. Mix around with a spatula or wooden spoon until fragrant and crispy looking, about 1 minute.
  • Add the corn syrup mixture and mix until the sauce bubbles vigorously, about 2-4 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • Add the chicken wings to the wok, directly on top of the sauce. Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until each wing is coated in sauce. Transfer to a platter and garnish with sesame seeds and green onion and/or cilantro Serve with ice cold beer!
    Korean Fried Chicken, platter

Notes

*I reuse deep-frying oil. When the oil has cooled to room temperature, drain over a fine mesh sieve into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. The oil should keep indefinitely. (If you feel squeamish about re-using oil this way, just remember that restaurants re-use oil all the time, too!)
Keyword Korean Fried Chicken
All Recipes, Appetizer, Chicken, Dinner with Friends, Holiday, Korean, Main, Potluck

25 Comments

  1. First time I’ve ever made Korean fried chicken & it was better than any I’ve had at restaurants. Corn syrup not readily available in Australia so I used rice syrup instead. So delicious & will make again & again. Liz

  2. 5 stars
    My BF and I made this a few weeks back and about lost our minds over it. It’s too good for this world. I cooked the sauce too long so we joked that these were candy coated wings but even then, they blew our minds. Add the presentation with that vibrant green cilantro and crunchy white sesame? Seriously, I feel like I’m in a dream just staring at it. It’s my birthday this weekend, and guess what we’re making to celebrate?
    As always, thank you for sharing your amazing recipes with us, Lis! Our lives are richer for it!

  3. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! The crispiness + sticky sauciness here to me makes the perfect fried chicken 🙂 .

  4. Is radically different ,reflecting an Asian frying technique that renders out the fat in the skin, transforming it into a thin ,crackly and almost transparent crust.

  5. is the wings skinned? or do you cook it with the skin on?

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  9. these were AWESOME! definitely a crowd pleaser. Any way that you could fry them and then freeze them so u can make large batches a head of time just without the sauce? or will it lose its crunchiness. thanks!!

    • I have never tried frying and then freezing them ahead of time. But let me know if you find success with this method. If I want to make them ahead of time, I’ll do the first fry the day before. Then on the day of, I’ll do the second fry and the sauce. Hope this helps and good luck!

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  12. Would this work as chicken tenders?

    • Hi! Yes, it should work for chicken tenders but I don’t think you’ll need to cook as long. I’ve never tried it this way so the only danger is that the wings will dry out faster than with the bone and skin that come with the wings. Let me know how it goes if you try it!

  13. For the corn syrup which is better light or dark??? I can’t wait to make this recipe.

  14. These are the best wings EVER! We have brought them to our offices and everyone loves them! Thanks for sharing!

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  16. This is delicious! I just made it and it came out fabulous! Thank you!

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  18. this looks amazing lis!! if i am making this for kids who do not like any spice i can just remove the chili flakes right?

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