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Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich in the Air Fryer

My Air Fryer Crispy Sandwich is one of my favorite recipes of all time.

But I must admit, I think this Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich has it beat.

At its core, it’s the same crispy chicken, but the hot sauce coating takes this one over the top.

If you like heat, this Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich delivers.

Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich

 

What is Nashville Hot Chicken?

If you’ve ever been to Nashville, you’ve heard of hot chicken. Hattie B’s has the hot chicken game on lock, and if you’ve visited, you’ve likely waited in an extremely long line to get yourself some fried chicken.

What exactly is Nashville hot chicken?

Nashville hot chicken starts like any other fried chicken, which is deep-fried to crispy perfection. But, what sets this style of fried chicken apart is the sauce.

A Nashville-style hot sauce is oil-based, which creates a nice thick coating without making the fried chicken soggy. Traditional hot sauce, like Buffalo sauce, is vinegar-based and not nearly as thick, which works better for wings.

Taste-wise, the heat levels can vary, but you’ll also find some combination of cayenne pepper + brown sugar in a Nashville hot sauce. While there’s typically a ton of heat, it’s balanced well with the subtle sweetness.

This recipe is going to utilize a very quick Nashville-style hot sauce, but it’s not quite authentic.

Rather than use hot oil as the base, we’re going to start with regular hot sauce and then dress it up to taste like a Nashville hot sauce. It won’t be nearly as thick as an authentic Nashville hot sauce, but I wanted to keep this lighter in calories.

Don’t worry, the taste is all there!

If you prefer an authentic Nashville sauce, here’s a recipe I found.

To make our own Nashville hot sauce, we’re going to mix together hot sauce (I started with Frank’s, but any hot sauce will work), butter, brown sugar, and ground cayenne pepper. Add all the ingredients to a bowl, then microwave for 30-60 seconds before whisking all together.

The addition of butter and brown sugar will not only thicken the sauce, but will also cut the vinegar flavor. However, it will also lessen the heat a little bit, too.

To combat this, we’ll also add a small amount of ground cayenne pepper to kick the heat back up.

 

How to make Nashville Hot Chicken in the air fryer

For this recipe, we’re going to make crispy chicken in the air fryer the same way as my original Crispy Chicken Sandwich.

To make this healthy fried chicken, we’ll be using chicken breast rather than chicken thigh, and we’ll be using the air fryer to achieve an awesome crunch without deep-frying.

And while traditional fried chicken will use some kind of buttermilk coating, we’ll be keeping simple (and healthier) by skipping that buttermilk mixture.

To start, we’ll be trimming 4 chicken breasts into 6oz chicken pieces. I like a nice big chicken sandwich, but if you prefer a smaller sandwich, you can make smaller chicken cutlets.

Cover each chicken breast with plastic wrap, then pound them down slightly. This step helps them to cook evenly in the air fryer.

Once the chicken breasts are ready to go, you’ll prep 3 separate bowls: One dry flour mixture, one wet mixture of eggs & hot sauce, and one final dry mixture of panko breadcrumbs, flour, and cheese.

For most chicken recipes out there, you’ll likely find the final coating being just breadcrumbs.

However, I’ve found that leaves bare spots on the chicken. By adding some extra flour into the final mixture, it helps create much more of a “skin” on the chicken.

Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel to help the seasoned flour stick, then go dry-wet-dry. First into the flour, then into the eggs, then into the final breadcrumb mixture.

When you dip the chicken into the mixtures, be sure to fully coat as much as possible. If there are folds in the chicken, make sure you are getting in between them as seen here:

From the flour, you’ll dip the chicken into the eggs, then into the breadcrumbs.

Add the chicken patties to the air fryer basket once coated. Since these are large chicken breasts, you’ll likely only be able to fit 2 in the air fryer basket, so plan on cooking 2 batches.

Once the chicken is in the air fryer, spray the tops with cooking spray to wet the flour.

Air fry the chicken at 380 degrees for 18 minutes, flipping them halfway through.

Once the chicken is fully cooked, carefully remove from the air fryer with tongs and add to a cooling rack.

Allow the fried chicken to cool for 5 minutes. This is important.

The first time I made this Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich, I immediately coated the chicken in sauce. Unfortunately, that makes the breading soggy almost immediately.

By allowing the breaded chicken to cool first, it will help keep that crisp in the outer layer. You will always lose a little bit of crunch when you add sauce, but by letting the chicken cool, we drastically cut that down.

I pour my Nashville hot sauce right over the top of the chicken patty, then flip to coat the other side.

You can toss the fried chicken in a large bowl with the sauce, or you can brush it over the top as well. Any method works!

As you can see in the above photo, I definitely wasted some of the sauce by pouring it over the top. Ah well.

Add to a toasted brioche bun, then top with some pickle and the condiment of your choice (I made a simple spicy mayo by adding sriracha to fat-free mayo). Or, you can top your hot chicken sandwich with a traditional southern comeback sauce.

Serve your fried chicken sandwich with fries (preferably waffle fries), coleslaw, or extra pickles!

 

How to reheat your leftovers

If you’re not planning on eating all of the fried chicken right away, you can store it in the fridge to enjoy throughout the week.

My advice is to cook the chicken slightly less initially. In fact, I’d aim for about 12 minutes total cook time (6 minutes per side) instead of the 18 minutes this recipe calls for.

That way, when you’re ready to eat the fried chicken, you can toss it back into the air fryer for 5 minutes to reheat it without completely drying it out.

Just be sure you wait to add the hot sauce until after the chicken is reheated so it doesn’t turn completely soggy on ya.

Crispy Chicken Sandwich Photo

You can skip the hot sauce altogether if you want to enjoy a regular Crispy Chicken Sandwich, but if you love spicy food as much as I do, you’re not going to want to miss out on this sauce.

 

Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich in Air Fryer

Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich in the Air Fryer

Yield: 4 Sandwiches
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 33 minutes

If you're a fan of heat, this Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich will not disappoint! We're using the air fryer to create a crispy chicken sandwich, then coating the chicken in some homemade Nashville-style hot sauce.

Ingredients

Ingredients for 4 Sandwiches

  • 24oz Chicken Breast (trimmed and cut into four 6oz portions)

Flour Mixture (First Coating)

  • 84g Flour (roughly 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • Dash of Paprika

Liquid Egg Mixture (Second Coating)

  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Hot Sauce of Choice

Breadcrumb Mixture (Final Coating)

  • 45g Flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 60g Panko Breadcrumbs (about 1 cup)
  • 30g Shredded Parmesan Cheese (about 1/4 cup) *Not grated Parmesan cheese!
  • Pinch of Salt & Black Pepper

Hot Sauce Coating (enough for ONE chicken patty- 4x these measurements for all 4 sandwiches)

Toppings

  • 4 Brioche Buns
  • Fat-Free Mayo + Sriracha (or sauce of choice)
  • Pickles

Instructions

  1. Trim the fat off your chicken breasts and cut them into 6oz portions. You can estimate these sizes if you do not want to weigh them. Note that 6oz makes a larger sandwich (which I prefer), so you can use 4oz portions if desired.
  2. Cover the chicken breasts with plastic wrap, and use a meat tenderizer to flatten the chicken down. They don't need to be extremely thin, but we want them to be uniform so they cook evenly.
  3. Preheat the air fryer at 380 degrees F while you prep the chicken. Preheating the air fryer for about 5 minutes makes a big difference in crisping up the chicken.
  4. Prep all 3 mixtures by adding the ingredients into 3 separate wide bowls. Give everything a quick mix to make sure it is all incorporated well.
  5. Pat your chicken breasts dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture (this will help the flour stick), and coat the chicken in the first flour mixture. Be sure to cover the entire piece of chicken, then shake off any excess flour.
  6. Add the chicken to the egg + hot sauce mixture, making sure the eggs coat the entire chicken cutlet. Then, add directly to your last mixture and fully coat.
  7. Add the chicken to your air fryer basket. The size of your air fryer will dictate how many batches you need- I was able to fit 2 pieces of chicken, meaning I made this recipe in 2 batches.
  8. Spray the tops of the chicken with cooking spray to wet the flour. Air fry at 380 degrees for 18 minutes. Flip the chicken halfway through (after 9 minutes) and spray the tops with cooking spray before finishing for the final 9 minutes. Note: if you cut your chicken smaller than 6oz, you won't need a full 18 minutes.
  9. Once done, remove the chicken and let cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. It's crucial we let our fried chicken cool! If you coat the chicken in the sauce right out of the air fryer, it will lock in the moisture and make the breading soggy.
  10. Make the hot sauce coating by adding all the ingredients to a small bowl. Microwave for 30-60 seconds, then whisk it all together. The measurements above were enough to fully coat one piece of chicken.
  11. Pour the hot sauce over the fried chicken, then flip to coat the other side. You can also toss the chicken in a large bowl with the sauce in it, but I chose to simply pour it over the top. If you prefer to use less sauce, you can also brush it on to control exactly how much you are using.
  12. Add the Nashville hot chicken patty to a toasted brioche bun, then add the condiments/toppings of your choice! I mixed together some fat-free mayo with a little sriracha as a condiment, but anything will work.

Notes

  • To be clear: all the measurements in this recipe reflect making 4 sandwiches. The hot sauce is the exception, as it's just the measurements needed for one. If you're making leftover sandwiches, you'll want to hold off on the hot sauce until ready to serve anyway.
  • Traditional Nashville hot sauce is made with hot oil as the base, but I wanted to save some calories here. By starting with hot sauce as the base, it drastically cuts down the calories. Once we spice it up with butter and brown sugar, it transforms it very well.
  • If you are making extra fried chicken for leftovers, I recommend cooking them for less time. You can stop the cooking process with 5-6 minutes left since you will be reheating them the following day.
  • For the nutrition facts below, I estimated how much of the coating I used (I ended up using most of it, but had some of each dry mixture leftover). If you want to be exact, you can weigh the mixtures before & after, but I just wanted to estimate here. If you use all of the coating, the calories will be about 20 calories more per sandwich (roughly).

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Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 1 Sandwich No Toppings
Amount Per Serving Calories 500Total Fat 15gCarbohydrates 47gProtein 46g

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