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Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken

If you’re a fan of Nashville Hot Chicken, you’ll really appreciate this air fryer version. It’s just as fiery, spicy, and kick-butt as the traditional but without the messy stovetop frying. Serve it on white bread or buns with pickles to cut the heat!

Over the past few years, Nashville Hot Chicken seems to have taken the food world by storm. But most southerners have been enjoying this tongue torch version of fried chicken for decades!

Nashville hot chicken sandwich on a white plate.

Nashville Hot Chicken is fried chicken that is blazing hot with spicy pepper sauce and cayenne. It’s rubbed in a spicy dry mixture before being cooked and then dipped in a fiery sauce for good measure.

It’s said to have originated at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack but thousands of restaurants have adapted the recipe with some even offering a milder version.

A word of warning. This is really hot. If you don’t like hot, spicy foods then this recipe is most definitely not for you. And be very careful serving this to children. I don’t advise that at all.

Ingredient Notes

All ingredients required for the recipe.

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  • Dill Pickle Slices and Juice – Also called “hamburger dill slices.” Use any brand that you like. I use either my favorite homemade dill pickles or Mt. Olive brand.
  • Hot Pepper Sauce – I prefer Tabasco, but Frank’s or Louisiana Hot Sauce are also great.
  • Chicken Tenderloins or Breast Strips – Tenderloins are delicious and convenient, but the least expensive option usually is to purchase frozen chicken breasts, thaw them, and cut them into strips.
  • Buttermilk – Gives a nice background tang to the chicken.
  • Cooking Spray – or olive oil in a pump mister.
  • Olive Oil – Plain olive oil, extra virgin not necessary.
  • Cayenne Pepper – The recipe calls for two tablespoons to create a medium heat level. See notes in the post on how to adjust the heat.
  • Dark Brown Sugar – The sugar helps to balance the pepper and gives a slight sweetness to the heat.
  • Paprika – I use McCormick brand.
  • Chili Powder – For this recipe, use a common grocery store, American style chili powder such as McCormick brand.
  • Garlic Powder
  • White Buns or Bread – It’s traditional to serve hot chicken with white bread to help moderate the heat.

The complete ingredient list with detailed measurements is included in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken

Pickle juice, hot sauce, and salt in a shallow bowl.
Chicken breast strips in a bowl.
  1. In a shallow dish, combine one tablespoon of the pickle juice, one tablespoon of the hot sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  2. Add the chicken strips and turn to coat.
  3. Refrigerate, covered for at least 1 hour. Drain the chicken and discard the marinade.
  4. Preheat the air fryer to 375-380 F.

My Favorite Air Fryer


Cosori Pro Gen 2 Air Fryer 5.8 Quart
  • HEALTHY & EFFICIENT: Cooks up to 50% faster than a traditional oven.
  • ONE-TOUCH COOKING: Choose from 13 convenient cooking functions with a single touch. 
  • LARGE CAPACITY: Spacious 5.8-quart square baskets can fit a whole 5-pound chicken.
  • MESS-FREE COOKING: The removable, dishwasher-safe basket has nonstick coating that makes cleanup quick and easy.
This post contains affiliate links. Lana's Cooking is reader-supported and earns a tiny commission at no extra cost to you when you shop from our links.
Flour, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
Egg and buttermilk mixture in a shallow bowl.
Dipping chicken to coat in buttermilk and flour.
  1. In a shallow bowl, mix the flour, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.
  2. In another shallow bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, remaining one tablespoon pickle juice, and one tablespoon hot sauce.
  3. Dip the chicken in flour to coat both sides; shake off any excess.
  4. Dip in egg mixture, then again in flour mixture.
Chicken in air fryer basket.
Chicken turned to cook on second side in air fryer basket.
  1. Working in batches, arrange the chicken in a single layer on a well-greased tray in the air fryer basket; spritz with spray/oil.
  2. Cook until golden brown, 5-6 minutes.
  3. Turn and spritz with spray/oil. Cook additional 5-6 minutes or until the second side is browned. Remove from the air fryer. Continue with additional batches until all the chicken is cooked.
Hot sauce mix in a small bowl.
Chicken tenders tossed in hot sauce mixture.
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and seasonings.
  2. Pour over hot chicken and toss to coat.

How to Adjust the Heat Level

For mild heat – start with 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper (mild is definitely hot but tolerable if you enjoy spicy food).

For medium heat – use 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper (medium is fiery hot and great for those who TRULY enjoy very spicy foods).

For hot heat – use 3 tablespoons of cayenne pepper (hot is SUPER HOT and only for those who are highly tolerant of very spicy heat).

A hot chicken sandwich being assembled on a white plate.
  1. Serve with pickles on a bun. Some people like it with ranch dressing.

Serving Suggestions

Serve your chicken with coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad, French fries, or tater tots.

Storage

Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for two to three days. Reheat either in the air fryer for about 5 minutes at 380 degrees or in a low oven.

Questions About Nashville Hot Chicken

Can I make Hot Chicken without an air fryer?

Absolutely! Instead of adding the prepared chicken to an air fryer, you can either fry it in hot oil on your stovetop or cook it in the oven. To cook in the oven, preheat to 400 degrees, place the prepared chicken on an oiled baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes. Then flip it over and cook for 10-12 minutes more or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165.

Can I make this with frozen chicken?

Certainly! Nashville Hot Chicken can easily be made with frozen chicken. Simply let your chicken thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then proceed with the recipe.

Is Nashville Hot the same as Buffalo Sauce?

Nashville Hot and Buffalo Sauce are different. The Nashville recipe always contains brown sugar creating a slight sweetness and its sauce is oil-based. Buffalo sauce doesn’t contain any sugar and has butter as a major ingredient.

Lana Stuart.

Questions? I’m happy to help!

If you have more questions about the recipe, or if you’ve made it and would like to leave a comment, scroll down to leave your thoughts, questions, and/or rating!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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Nashville hot chicken sandwich on a white plate.

Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken

Fans of Nashville Hot Chicken will appreciate this air fryer version. It's just as fiery as the traditional with no messy stovetop frying.
5 from 5 votes
Print It Rate It
Course: Main Dishes, Sandwiches
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 454kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice divided
  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce divided (Tabasco or Frank’s)
  • 1 teaspoon salt divided
  • 2 pounds chicken tenderloins or chicken breast strips
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • Cooking spray or olive oil in a pump mister
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper (or adjust to your preferred level using the guide in the recipe notes)
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • dill pickle slices
  • burger buns if desired

Instructions

  • In a shallow dish, combine 1 tablespoon pickle juice, 1 tablespoon hot sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • Add chicken and turn to coat.
  • Refrigerate, covered for at least 1 hour. Drain chicken and discard the marinade.
  • Preheat the air fryer to 375-380 F.
  • In a shallow bowl, mix flour, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper.
  • In another shallow bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, remaining 1 tablespoon pickle juice, and 1 tablespoon hot sauce.
  • Dip chicken in flour to coat both sides; shake off any excess.
  • Dip in egg mixture, then again in flour mixture.
  • Working in batches, arrange the chicken in a single layer on a well-greased tray in the air fryer basket; spritz with spray/oil.
  • Cook until golden brown, 5-6 minutes.
  • Turn and spritz with spray/oil. Cook additional 5-6 minutes or until second side is browned. Remove from the air fryer. Continue with additional batches until all the chicken is cooked.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and seasonings.
  • Pour over hot chicken and toss to coat.
  • Serve with pickles on a bun.

Notes

How to Adjust the Heat Level:
  • For mild heat – start with 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper (mild is definitely hot but tolerable if you enjoy spicy food).
  • For medium heat – use 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper (medium is fiery hot and great for those who TRULY enjoy very spicy foods).
  • For hot heat – use 3 tablespoons of cayenne pepper (hot is SUPER HOT and only for those who are highly tolerant of very spicy heat).
 
  • Nashville hot chicken is typically served on white bread slices or buns with pickles to help cut the heat. This recipe is very spicy and should be given to children with extreme caution.
  • Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for two to three days. Reheat either in the air fryer for about 5 minutes at 380 degrees or in a low oven.

Nutrition Information

Serving 1 | Calories 454kcal | Carbohydrates 22g | Protein 36g | Fat 24g | Saturated Fat 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat 3g | Monounsaturated Fat 15g | Trans Fat 1g | Cholesterol 126mg | Sodium 717mg | Potassium 678mg | Fiber 1g | Sugar 5g | Vitamin A 944IU | Vitamin C 7mg | Calcium 46mg | Iron 2mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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