Double fried to crispy perfection, this saucy Korean fried chicken recipe is sweet and comes with a gochujang kick. This recipe is specifically the sweet and spicy version, called yangnyeom-chikin, which means “seasoned chicken,” but you can leave this sauceless for an amazing treat too.
What’s so special about Korean fried chicken?
Korean fried chicken, also generally called “huraideu-chikin,” is a genre of Korean foods that differs itself from American fried chicken and even other Asian fried chicken, like Japanese tori karaage. If you’re wondering about origins, Americans stationed in South Korea during the late 1940s helped influence fried chicken in Korea. It’s often an appetizer or a snack that can be bought in food stalls and restaurants in South Korea and now in America.
Unlike American fried chicken, which has a thick crust, Korean fried chicken has a thin outer layer made using potato starch, and is double fried to get that extra crispy crunch. These days, I’ve gotten to try many different Korean fried chicken restaurants in the US like Bonchon (over 300 stores worldwide), Love Letter Pizza and Chicken, and Pelicana (over 2,000 stores in South Korea alone).
After falling head over heels with Pelicana’s sweet and spicy fried chicken, I wanted to create my own recipe to make at home. After tinkering and scouring the Internet for any notion of their recipe, I’ve gotten a fairly close recipe. One of the most important parts of this recipe is marinating the meat so that it’s nice and juicy on the inside. Since you double fry, you want to prevent it from drying out.
The chicken & marinade ingredients
For this recipe, you can use chicken thighs or wings. I prefer skin-on thighs so that I still get the fattiness of the skin. Prep your chicken by deboning the chicken thighs and/or cutting the wings into separate pieces so that the wing and the drumstick are separated (this helps with frying evenly and eating).
For the marinade, combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder, ginger powder, and onion powder in a mixing bowl. Then add the water and white vinegar and make sure all the ingredients are incorporated. This marinade is pretty thick and chunky, like applesauce. If you do need to add more water, add one tablespoon at a time. Place your prepped chicken in an airtight container, pour the marinade over the chicken, and make sure all the pieces are coated.
Now, you need to marinate overnight (or at least 12 hours)–I know, the agony of waiting! But what’s great is that you can prep this ahead of time. Similar to tori karaage, we realized the longer we marinated, the better the flavor. You can marinate up to 18 hours and it’s still fine (I have not marinated longer than this)!
Wet marinade & flouring
What makes this chicken super crispy is the use of potato starch (and double frying). Potato starch also prevents the skin from darkening too fast when you double fry the chicken. I got the best results when I used a two to one ratio of potato starch to all purpose flour.
One tip I would recommend is removing the marinating chicken from the fridge at least 30 minutes before you want to start frying. This way the chicken can come to room temperature and not be too cold, which could cause uneven cooking.
For the dry batter, combine the potato starch, all purpose flour, and salt into a bowl and stir. Take a piece of chicken and coat it with the dry batter, remove excess marinade off with your fingers. Make sure to dust off excess batter and then place it on a wire rack. Repeat with all the pieces of chicken.
Cooking – double fry method
In a heavy-bottomed pot, add about two inches of vegetable oil (or another neutral oil) and heat it until it reaches 375 °F. It’s really important to make sure the oil is hot before adding chicken because this can change the timing.
Carefully lower the chicken into the oil and don’t crowd the pot. Each batch should fry for about two to four minutes depending on the size of the chicken–check a piece of chicken with a thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 °F. The chicken should be a pale brown at this point and slightly crispy.
Remove the batch from the oil and place onto a paper towel lined wire rack. I like to place the chicken in sections on the rack so I know which batch was fried first; This will help with the second fry. Make sure the oil is back up to the right temperature and repeat with the next batch.
Once all the chicken is fried, you want to place them back in for the double fried portion. Double frying will help get the outer layer super crispy and golden, similar to crispy sweet potato fries. It’s also a very significant part of what makes Korean fried chicken different from other variations.
Fry for another two to three minutes until the coloring begins to turn golden brown. If you touch the fried chicken with your tongs you should be able to see quite a difference in hardness between chicken that has been fried once vs. a second time.
While you are frying the chicken, you can also make the sweet and spicy sauce. This sauce is specifically for yangnyeom-chikin and typically includes a combination of gojuchang (fermented red chili paste) and sweetener like rice syrup or honey along with other spices and ingredients. Most of the time, this sauce is spicy due to the gojuchang, which is sold in varying degrees of spiciness. You can find it at your local Korean grocery store, or online.
For this recipe, I like to add sesame oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add minced garlic. Cook the garlic until it’s fragrant (about 30 seconds), and lower the heat to medium-low. Then, combine the gojuchang, honey, soy sauce, and ketchup in the saucepan. Cook the sauce for another one minute until all the ingredients are fully incorporated–you don’t want to really boil this sauce since it’s already thick.
In a large mixing bowl, add your chicken and pour about half of the glaze over the chicken. Shake the bowl around to fully coat the chicken and add more sauce based on your preference. Serve Korean fried chicken with a side of pickled daikon radish, some french fries, and a nice cold beer.
What is different about Korean fried chicken?
Korean fried chicken is different from American fried chicken because it uses potato starch in its batter to create an extra thin, but crispy outer layer. It is also double fried to create this golden brown layer on the outside too.
Why is Korean fried chicken so crispy?
Korean fried chicken is super crispy due to the addition of potato starch in its batter and double frying the chicken. This second fry also boils off the extra moisture in the chicken after the first fry. Korean fried chicken is known to stay extra crispy for an extended period of time, even with a glaze!
What is Korean fried chicken called?
Plain Korean fried chicken is called huraideu-chikin and Korean fried chicken with a sweet and spicy sauce glaze is called yangnyeom-chikin.
What does Korean fried chicken taste like?
Yangnyeom-chikin, or Korean fried chicken that is seasoned with a glaze, has a sweetened spicy flavor with hints of spices like garlic, ginger, and onion.
Korean Fried Chicken
- 2 lb (907.2 g) chicken skin-on, deboned thighs or wings/drumsticks
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ c garlic powder
- 3 tbsp ginger powder
- 6 tbsp onion powder
- ¾ c water add more if needed
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
Dry batter & frying
- vegetable oil
- 1 c potato starch
- ½ c all purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- Prep your chicken by deboning chicken thighs or cutting the wings in half so that the wing and drumsticks are two separate pieces (this will help with frying and eating).
- If you are using chicken thighs, cut them into 1 ½ to 2 inch pieces. I like to make sure each piece has skin.
- In a bowl, combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder, ginger powder, and onion powder. Use a fork or whisk to mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Add the water and vinegar into the bowl and whisk until all the ingredients are combined. Your marinade should be on the thicker end, similar to applesauce. If you need more water, add one tablespoon at a time.
- In an air-tight container, add the chicken pieces and pour the wet marinade on top. Make sure each piece is thoroughly coated. Leave it in the fridge to marinade at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours.
Dry batter & frying
- Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge about 30 minutes before frying so it comes to room temp. If you fry them straight from the fridge, there is a possibility the centers will be raw when the outside is properly cooked.
- In a heavy-bottomed pot, add about two inches of vegetable oil and heat it to 375 °F.
- In a shallow bowl, combine the potato starch, all purpose flour, and salt.
- Take one piece of chicken, remove excess marinade, and coat it with the dry batter thoroughly, pat excess powder off, and place on a drying rack over a half sheet pan. Repeat with all the pieces of chicken.
- Before frying, make sure the oil reads 375 °F (repeat this when you are doing new batches too). Using tongs, carefully lower the pieces of chicken into the oil, but do not crowd the pot. Fry each batch for about two to four minutes depending on the size of the chicken. Turn over the chicken every so often so both sides brown. Use a thermometer to check the temperature--chicken should be at 165 °F. The outside should be light brown. Remove the chicken and lay flat on a paper towel lined wire rack. Repeat with the rest of the chicken pieces.
- Second fry: once all chicken pieces are fried, fish out any charred or browned pieces at the bottom of your pot (I like to use a small strainer to fish these items out). In small batches double fry the chicken again by placing them back into the oil and cooking for another two to three minutes or until the outer layer is very crispy and medium to dark golden brown. Remove the chicken and dry them on paper towels over wire racks.
- Add sesame oil in a saucepan over medium heat, and add the garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant (about 30 seconds), lower to medium-low heat and add the gojuchang, honey, ketchup, and soy sauce. Stir the sauce and cook for about one minute to warm it up. You don’t want to boil this sauce just to simmer slightly and warm it up for the chicken.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the chicken and pour about half the sauce to start. Mix the chicken and sauce until it’s coated, adding additional sauce if necessary.
- Serve your chicken with daikon radish pickles, french fries, and an ice cold beer!