Sweet and spicy, crispy and crunchy, savory and scrumptious. These are the words that describe the epic Korean fried chicken my husband and I made last weekend. Everyone in my family loves fried chicken, and we do make a pretty mean recipe, but it’s always fun to mix up flavor profiles and try something new!
What is Korean fried chicken and how is it different from the fried chicken you’re accustomed to eating? There are four distinct differences that I’ll break down for you:
1. The Marinade: Instead of reaching for traditional fried chicken spices such as cayenne, paprika and garlic powder, this version uses ginger, garlic and gochugaru. Gochugaru is a Korean chili powder used in just about everything such as kimchi, soups, stews, salads and marinades. Although looks very spicy, it’s fairly mild and lends a sweet and fruity flavor.
2. The Dredge: Korean fried chicken is known for being ultra crispy and crunchy, and we achieve that texture by using a combination of potato starch and cornstarch instead of wheat flour. The starches create a very light and shatteringly crunchy exterior that’s unique to this style of friend chicken. This also makes the chicken gluten free, so even if you don’t go the Korean flavor route, you can still use the same dredge for a yummy traditional fried chicken.
3. The Sauce: This is a crucial element, because it’s where the sweet and spicy components come into play. The sauce is a base of Gochujang, which is the backbone of Korean condiments. It’s a thick and savory red chili paste made from gochugaru (Korean chili flakes), glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt, and sometimes sweeteners. It’s a bit spicy and funky due to the fermented soybeans, and we balance it with sugar, rice wine vinegar and ketchup. Note: Gochujang doesn’t contain wheat, but is typically made in a factory that also processes wheat. Long story short, it can potentially contain some traces of wheat.
4. The Double Fry: Anything that’s fried twice better, right? It’s traditional to first fry the chicken at 325° until golden brown and crisp and cooked through. Take the chicken out of the pan, increase the heat to 355° and fry the chicken again for about a minute on each side to increase the crunch factor tenfold. And let me tell you… it’s extremely effective!
We served the fried chicken with kimchi fried rice and a Korean-style marinated cucumber and carrot salad to balance the rich flavors of the chicken. Making this recipe was a fun way to get more familiar with the Korean flavors of gochugaru and gochujang, and now that I have them in my kitchen, I’m excited to experiment with more Korean recipes.
Gluten-Free Korean Fried Chicken
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 3-4 servings
Active time: 1 hour
Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes
For the marinade:
5 chicken legs
5 chicken thighs
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon gochugaru chili flakes (see note, below)
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola or corn for frying
For the sweet and spicy sauce:
1 tablespoons gochujang (see note, below)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon oyster sauce (see note, below)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated
1/4 cup water
For the dredge:
1 cup cornstarch
1 cup potato starch
1 tablespoon baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup water
1. Place the chicken legs and thighs in a bowl, and add the ginger, garlic, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Mix well, and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes but up to overnight. Tip: If marinating for under 4 hours, you can leave the chicken at room temperature. If longer than 4 hours, refrigerate the chicken.
2. Fill a large cast iron pan just below the half way mark with oil; you can also use a French oven. Gently heat the oil until it reads 325° on a deep fry thermometer.
3. While the oil is heating, prepare the sauce. In a small saucepan, measure together all of the sauce ingredients. Set over medium-low heat, and bring to a simmer while whisking to combine the ingredients. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. To make the dredge, whisk together the cornstarch, potato starch, baking powder, salt and pepper.
5. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the dredge onto the marinated chicken, and mix well to combine. Add the 1/3 cup of water to the bowl with the dredged chicken and mix well to create a thin batter-like consistency.
6. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, place the wet chicken in the remaining dry dredge ingredients, and coat well. Transfer to a plate.
7. Fry the chicken, in batches if necessary, until the dark meat reads 165° on a meat thermometer. Using a skimmer, transfer the chicken to a rack set over a sheet tray or a paper bag.
8. Once all of the chicken has been fried, increase the oil temperature to 355° to 360° and fry the chicken a second time for about 1 minute per side or until a deep golden brown.
9. Transfer the chicken back to the rack and generously brush both sides with the sweet and spicy sauce.
10. Eat while hot!
- Most varieties of oyster sauce do not contain soy sauce, but double check the label to be sure if you’re gluten free.
If you’re curious about Asian food and are interested in learning about essential techniques and ingredients, then join us for our new Asian Boot Camp on Saturday, March 23 at 10am.
If you’re gluten free and would like to learn how to make a good-for-your-soul southern meal, then join us for Gluten-Free Comfort Food on Friday, March 29 at 6pm.