5 Ways To Cook Chicken Soaked In Buttermilk (Most Tender And Succulent)

In this post, I will cover how to cook chicken soaked in buttermilk. Wheater you are cooking drumsticks, thighs, wings, or chicken breasts, I will show you from start to finish how to cook the most succulent, moist, and tender chicken ever. And, it is surprisingly simple!

When you think of mouth-watering chicken, it doesn’t matter whether it is fried, grilled, slow-cooked, roasted, or even barbecued; whatever the cooking method, the inside is always juicy and tender. This is the marker of perfectly cooked chicken.

So, how do we stay away from that overcooked, dry chicken that is less than a pleasure to eat and ensure that our chicken is always perfectly tender and juicy?

The key is in the one simple, fermented, tangy-tasing ingredient that can transform your chicken before you even start to cook it.

store-bought buttermilk with live active cultures
Buttermilk is a sour-tasting cultured, fermented dairy product.

That ingredient is buttermilk. Soaking chicken in a buttermilk marinade will give you the most tender, succulent, juicy meat you’ve ever had, as well as being truly effortless to make. 

But Why Soak The Chicken In Buttermilk And Why Does It Give You Such A Delicious, Tender Result? 

buttermilk tenderize chicken

Really it comes down to what buttermilk does to the chicken itself. Buttermilk’s natural acidity is due to fermenting lactose. The lactic acid and enzymes present in buttermilk helps to break down the proteins in the chicken, creating a tender and more juicy meat in the process. All you have to do is leave it in the fridge and let it do its work.

I will take you through all the ways you can cook buttermilk chicken after marinating, and you can finally make a chicken dish to be proud of.

How To Make Buttermilk Marinade?

chicken soaked in buttermilk marinade

For this incredibly easy marinade, all you need is buttermilk, sea salt, paprika, garlic, and cayenne pepper, and black pepper. 

  1. In a bowl, mix together 2 cups of buttermilk, smashed large cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of paprika powder, cayenne pepper, and a pinch of sea salt.
  2. Put whatever type of chicken you’re using in a large Ziploc bag. (It is not required but removing the skin will help absorb the marinade).
  3. Pour the buttermilk marinade into the Ziploc bag over the chicken.
  4. After sealing the bag, give it a gentle shake so that all the buttermilk covers the chicken and coats it thoroughly. Making sure that all the air has been pushed out. 
  5. Place the bag in the fridge and let the buttermilk work its magic.

Because this is such a simple recipe, you can always use this as a base and then spice up your chicken with whatever flavors you like. 

You can add garlic, lemon juice, dill, paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powder, chili powder, mustard, parsley, the list goes on! Whatever you choose, just add them to the buttermilk mixture and combine.

How Long Do You Marinate Chicken In Buttermilk?

Most buttermilk chicken recipes recommend that you marinate for anywhere between 1 hour to 48 hours, depending on how much time you have before you want to cook it. 

The general consensus is that marinating overnight to 24 hours is the sweet spot. Less than 24 hours and your chicken might not be tender enough, as the natural acid of the buttermilk hasn’t had enough time to break down the proteins. 

A 24-hour buttermilk chicken will be perfectly moist and flavourful, but don’t fret if you don’t have that much time. Any amount of marinating is better than no marinating. A couple of hours is better than none!

Can You Marinate Chicken For Longer Than 48 Hours? 

It is best not to marinate longer than two days; although probably still safe, the marinade will start to break down the proteins and fibers too much, causing the chicken to become mushy.

Yes, you want to break down some of the proteins but not all of them. There should still be some bite to your chicken when you tuck in.

Do You Wash Buttermilk Off Chicken Before Cooking?

There is no need to wash the buttermilk off the chicken after marinating. 

However, to prevent smoking or burning on the grill and ensure properly browned meat when frying or sautéing, wipe or shake off the excess marinade before you start to cook. 

But in most cases, (except when cooking in the crockpot) simply giving each piece of chicken a little shake while removing it from the marinating bag, before cooking, is quite sufficient.

5 Ways How To Cook Buttermilk Chicken 

There are many ways to prepare buttermilk chicken, but for many, it is all too easy to get stuck using the same cooking method over and over again. That is why I have rounded up 5 of the most appetizing and easy cooking methods. Just follow these recipe instructions for cooking juicy and tender chicken.

Always make sure the chicken is cooked through before serving. If you have a thermometer, the internal temperature should always read 165°F (74°C)

1. Oven-baked Buttermilk Chicken

oven-baked buttermilk chicken
  1. After marinating your chicken (ideally overnight), remove it from the fridge for 30 minutes before cooking for maximum tenderness.
  2. Once the chicken has reached room temperature, remove each piece from the buttermilk and just let the excess marinade drip off.
  3. Line a roasting tray with foil, drizzle with olive oil, and evenly space out your chicken on the tray.
  4. Cook in the oven for the recommended amount of time, depending on which part of the chicken you cook. (See below for cooking temperatures and times).
  5. Your chicken will be brown and crispy with a flavourful crust and moist and tender within. Enjoy!

Recommended cooking times and temperature:

  • Drumsticks – 425°F (218°C) for 30 minutes.
  • Thighs – 425°F (218°C) for 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Wings – 400°F (204°C) for 20 minutes.
  • Breast – 425°F (218°C) for 20 minutes.

2. Air-Fried Buttermilk Chicken

air fryer buttermilk chicken
  1. After marinating your chicken (ideally 12-24 hours), remove it from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking to achieve maximum tenderness.
  2. Once the chicken has begun to reach room temperature, remove each piece from the bag and shake off the excess buttermilk marinade. 
  3. Place the coated chicken in the preheated air fryer, ensuring that they all sit in a single layer.
  4. Spray with a little oil, and fry for the amount of time listed below, turning halfway through.
  5. When fully cooked, your chicken should be golden and beautifully crispy. 

Optional: To create a crispy crust, mix together one cup of all-purpose flour, half as a teaspoon of paprika/chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Generously coat each piece in the flour and spice mixture before frying.

Recommended cooking times and temperature:

  • Drumsticks – 400°F (204°C) for 20 minutes.
  • Thighs – 390°F (199°C) for 25 minutes.
  • Wings – 400°F (204°C) for 20 minutes.
  • Breast – 390°F (199°C)for 20 minutes.

3. Slow Cooker Buttermilk Chicken

making buttermilk chicken in crockpot
  1. After marinating, remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before you start cooking.
  2. Pour the chicken and all the buttermilk marinade into the slow cooker and cover.
  3. Cook on the low or high setting (see the cooking times below) until your chicken is deliciously tender.

Recommended cooking times and temperature:

  • Drumsticks – 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
  • Thighs – 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
  • Wings – 2 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low.
  • Breast – 2-3 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low.

4. Barbecued Buttermilk Chicken

bbq buttermilk marinated chicken
  1. After marinating the chicken overnight, take it out of the fridge for 30 minutes before cooking.
  2. Remove each piece from the marinade and gently wipe off the excess buttermilk.
  3. Whether you are using coal or gas, make sure your barbecue is hot and ready to go before cooking. For coal barbecues, let the flames die down till you are left with an amber glow. Then the BBQ is ready for cooking.
  4. Lightly grease the cooking grates.
  5. Transfer the chicken onto the barbecue rack and BBQ with the grill lid closed for the recommended amount of time (see below). Use tongs to flip the pieces.  
  6. If too hot or the grill flares up, temporarily move the pieces to the cooler side of the barbecue.
  7. Once cooked, your chicken will be a little charred on the outside and wonderfully moist inside.

If not sure whether the chicken is cooked throughout, take one piece and cut it to ensure there is no pink left in the center.

Recommended bbq times and temperature with the lid closed:

  • Drumsticks –  barbecue on medium-high heat for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally.
  • Thighs – barbecue on medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes, turning halfway through.
  • Wings – barbecue on medium heat for 12-15 minutes, turning occasionally.
  • Breast – barbecue on medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes, turning halfway through.

5. Deep-Fried Buttermilk Chicken

These instructions will also work for shallow frying.

deep fried buttermilk chicken
  1. After marinating your chicken (preferably for 12 hours or more), remove it from the fridge for about 30 minutes before deep frying for maximum tenderness.
  2. Gently shake/clean off excess marinade.
  3. To create a crispy crust, coat the pieces with flour mix before deep frying. To make the flour coating, mix one cup of all-purpose flour, half as a teaspoon, garlic powder, paprika/chili powder, black pepper, and salt in a bowl. You can also use other spices and herbs that you like.
  4. Generously coat each piece of chicken in the flour mixture.
  5. Use an appropriate oil for deep frying. Here are some of the best oils for deep frying.
  6. Heat the oil until it reaches about 350°F (177°C). Test the oil with a small piece of food. The oil is ready when bubbles appear around the piece of food.
  7. Carefully place the chicken pieces in the hot oil.
  8. Fry the chicken in small batches, turning regularly until the outside is golden brown. (See the recommended cooking times below).
  9. Place the fried chicken pieces on a wire rack over kitchen paper to drain the excess grease. 

When flipping the chicken pieces, do it carefully so you won’t disturb the fried crust that forms as the chicken fries in the hot oil. If you do not have a deep frier, you can use a deep cooking pot, deep stockpot, saucepan, wok, or even a frying pan.

Recommended oil temperature and frying times:

  • Drumsticks – 350°F (177°C) for 15-20 minutes.
  • Thighs – 350°F (177°C) for 15-20 minutes.
  • Wings – 350°F (177°C) for 8-10 minutes.
  • Breast – 350°F (177°C) for 10-15 minutes.

Freezing Raw Buttermilk Chicken

To freeze raw chicken that is still marinating in the buttermilk, simply place the chicken and the marinade in an airtight container or a freezer bag, making sure that it is completely sealed, and freeze for up to a month. 

When you are ready to use the chicken, thaw for 24 hours in the fridge, and then cook using one of the cooking methods above.

You can also freeze chicken that has already been marinated in exactly the same way. Place the chicken in an airtight container (without the marinade) or freezer bag, seal tightly and freeze for up to a month. Again, thaw for 24 hours in the fridge and then cook as desired. 

Read Also: Best Way To Fry Frozen Rrench Fries In The Pan.

About Jen Evansy

Nutritionist, researcher, avid home cook, and writer interested in everything nutrition and food-related. Striving to inform, encourage, and inspire all the readers to make healthy and informed choices when it comes to cooking, food, diet, and nutrition.