Pickle Brined Fried Chicken

This is a delicious fried chicken recipe that uses up the brine left in the pickle jar when you’ve finished all the pickles. This recipe calls for legs, but if you prefer white meat, feel free to substitute bone-in chicken breasts instead. 

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Why Brine Chicken in Pickle Juice?

How many times have you finished a jar of pickles and then just tossed the juice and seasonings down the drain? I bet you’ve probably done that every time you’ve finished a jar of pickles! Well, don’t. That salty flavorful pickle juice is perfect for brining chicken. Pickle brined fried chicken not only uses up what you would otherwise throw out, it’s also some of the juiciest, tastiest fried chicken you will ever make.

pickle brined fried chicken in a wire basket with a small bowl of coleslaw near by.

What is Brining?

Brining became all the rage several years ago when people started brining their turkeys for Thanksgiving, but the technique has been around forever. (You can see how to brine a turkey here.) Basically, brining means to soak or marinate a meat in a salty liquid. The salty liquid initially draws the moisture out of the meat, but then the meat draws the liquid back in, taking all the flavors of the liquid with it. The meat ends up with a high moisture content and is seasoned throughout. The result once cooked is super juicy, tender and well seasoned. 

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A glass jar of bread and butter pickles, lid open on a wooden table.

What if you don’t have Pickle Juice?

Once you’ve made this pickle brined fried chicken once, you’ll probably want to make it again in less time than it takes to eat a whole jar of pickles in order to have leftover pickle juice. What to do? Well, just make your own pickle juice brine. You can add whatever seasonings you like to the brine, but here’s a basic recipe:

1 cup vinegar (apple cider or white wine)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons mustard seed
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon whole cloves
½ cup fresh dill leaves (or 1 tsp dried dill)
2 cups ice cubes

Combine everything except the ice cubes in a small saucepan and bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Then, remove the pan from the heat and add the ice cubes to dilute and cool the brine. It’s very important that the brine be cold before you pour it over the chicken.

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pickle brined fried chicken in a wire basket with pickle spears.

How to Make This in the Oven

This recipe calls for an air-fryer to cook the chicken, which is a lot easier and less messy than deep-frying. It also makes you feel a little better about enjoying fried chicken because the calorie and fat count is a lot lower. If you don’t have an air fryer, don’t fret. You can bake this chicken in your oven. Place the breaded chicken on a rack on a baking sheet. If you have a regular oven, bake it at 400ºF for about 30 minutes. If you have a convection oven, bake it at 375ºF for about 20 to 25 minutes. Whichever oven you’re using, remember to flip the chicken over halfway through the cooking time. The timing will depend on the size of your chicken pieces, so be prepared to adjust the time accordingly and check the chicken with an instant read thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken – it should register 165ºF when fully cooked.

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pickle brined fried chicken in a wire basket with pickle spears.

What to Serve with Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken

You can serve all the usual fried chicken sides with pickle brined fried chicken. A good coleslaw is always a great choice. I prefer a mayonnaise-based coleslaw dressing over a vinaigrette to accompany the briny chicken. You could also serve a macaroni and cheese or a great potato salad. A bread roll or biscuit would be a nice touch on the side as well. Oh, and don’t forget a pickle spear or two.

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Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken

  • Prep Time: 20 m
  • Cook Time: 47 m
  • Marinating Time: 6 h
  • Total Time: 7 h 7 m
  • Servings:
    4

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken legs bone-in and skin-on, cut into drumsticks and thighs (about 3½ pounds)
  • pickle juice from a 24-ounce jar of kosher dill pickles
  • ½ cup flour
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • vegetable or canola oil in a spray bottle

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken in a shallow dish and pour the pickle juice over the top. Cover and transfer the chicken to the refrigerator to brine in the pickle juice for 3 to 8 hours.
  2. When you are ready to cook, remove the chicken from the refrigerator to let it come to room temperature while you set up a dredging station. Place the flour in the a shallow dish and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Whisk the eggs and vegetable oil together in a second shallow dish. In a third shallow dish, combine the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper.
  3. Pre-heat the air fryer to 370ºF.
  4. Remove the chicken from pickle brine and gently dry it with a clean kitchen towel. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour, then dip it into the egg mixture, and finally press it into the breadcrumb mixture to coat all sides of the chicken. Place the breaded chicken on a plate or baking sheet and spray each piece all over with vegetable oil.
  5. Air-fry the chicken in two batches. Place two chicken thighs and two drumsticks into the air fryer basket. Air-fry for 10 minutes. Then, gently turn the chicken pieces over and air fry for another 10 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces and let them rest on plate – do not cover. Repeat with the second batch of chicken, air frying for 20 minutes, turning the chicken over halfway through.
  6. Lower the temperature of the air fryer to 340ºF. Place the first batch of chicken on top of the second batch already in the basket and air fry for an additional 7 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy.
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Comments (13)Post a Reply

  1. Looks good, however, I am on nutrisystem so what is the serving size? one piece, two pieces? 535 calories is almost my daily allotment. Maybe in another lifetime!

    1. The serving size would be for 2 pieces, one chicken drumstick and one thigh. The recipe calls for 4 whole legs cut in two pieces and it serves 4, so if you only have one piece of chicken you can cut the calories in half. And you definitely save some calories on air frying over deep frying. Good luck with your program!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this tonight in the oven. I used breasts because that’s what we had and substituted Panko bread crumbs for regular ones. Hubby loved it. Definitely had a bit of tang from the juice.

  3. 5 stars
    Just made this tonight with boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins. Oh my!! So fabulous! You’d never know it was brined in pickle juice, it’s not overpowering in flavor at all; so subtle. The chicken turned out extremely moist and tender. Dredging the “proper” way is the ONLY way. I’m reformed! I admit, I was a lazy dredger, skipping important steps. No more!! 🙂 Thanks, BJC for another winner and teaching proper techniques. I baked the chicken tenderloins in a 400 oven for 25 minutes, time was perfect. I put them on a rack over a foil-lined pan. Also, I used Pam for spraying the breaded chicken pieces before baking.

  4. I wondered if you could use chicken breasts with skin and bones? If so what would the time change be for air frying? Thank you!

    1. Hi Patricia. Yes – you can use bone in, skin on chicken breasts instead. The cooking time will be roughly the same, but it really depends on the size of the chicken pieces. Bone in breasts cook slightly faster than bone in legs. Check it after 20 minutes of cooking and then determine how many more minutes it needs. Chicken should be cooked to 165ºF on an instant read thermometer and will feel firm to the touch when you push on it with your finger.

  5. I have made these several times & it is one of the most requested foods for movie night.. others get to make their own unique sauces!! Please try these you won’t be disappointed

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