Yes, this Paleo and gluten-free fried chicken is for real: juicy chicken in a crunchy crust!
And if you’re intimidated by deep-frying, it’s easier than you think and I’ll walk you through everything you need to know.
And this grain-free, dairy-free and Whole30 fried chicken is also nut-free!
But really, you can serve this to anyone, regardless of what they can or can’t eat. This fried chicken recipe is the real deal.
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Paleo & Gluten-Free Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is one of the ultimate comfort foods, but if you’re gluten- or grain-free, you probably haven’t had it in a long time.
And since a lot of fried chicken is coated in buttermilk, you also can’t have it if you’re dairy-free.
So this Paleo and gluten-free version swaps out the flour and buttermilk for cassava flour and coconut milk, both of which give it that perfect crunchy coating around juicy chicken.
And it doesn’t even taste like coconut milk!
A note for Whole30: This recipe technically uses Whole30-compatible ingredients. So if you can eat it as part of well-balanced meal without it triggering any issues for you, this will work on your Whole30. But if you think it might trigger cravings or unhealthy eating patterns, you can save it for your food freedom phase.
What is cassava flour?
Cassava root (also sometimes called yuca) is a starchy tuber that is peeled, dried and ground into a soft powder remarkably like flour. But it’s not actually flour so this is a flourless fried chicken recipe. How cool is that?
Since it’s grain-free, it has become more popular in the Paleo/gluten-free baking world so cassava flour recipes are popping up more frequently.
Cassava flour recipes often recommend it as a 1:1 substitute for regular flour and that’s true for this recipe as well.
You don’t even need to combine it with other flours.
I tried other gluten-free flours and starches – coconut flour, arrowroot flour, tapioca flour – and they all didn’t work for one reason or another.
However, I did not try almond flour. Almond flour is just peeled, ground up almonds. I’ve found that when I fry with it the food ends up greasy.
What you need to make paleo and gluten-free fried chicken
Like I said, this is actually easier than you might think. You just need a few tools:
- a large, wide Dutch oven
- a probe thermometer for measuring the temperature of the oil
- an instant thermometer for measuring the temperature of the chicken
- metal tongs and/or metal spider strainers for handling the chicken
- a baking sheet and drying rack
- cheesecloth, a sieve, a canning funnel and a large mason jar for saving the oil
And the ingredients are pretty simple, too:
- full-fat unsweetened coconut milk and an acid (lemon juice or apple cider vinegar) to marinate the chicken as you would with buttermilk, which makes this fried chicken without milk
- cassava flour for the breading
- coconut oil and palm shortening for the frying. I find frying chicken with coconut oil and palm shortening to be the best tasting and most relatively affordable combination, compared to other Paleo oil options.
- chicken – I’m including instructions for both bone-in and boneless pieces. Both are good but obviously you want boneless if you want these in sandwiches, biscuits or to cut up for kids or to put on salads.
how to deep fry chicken
- First you marinate the chicken in the coconut milk and apple cider vinegar mixture.
- This will help tenderize the chicken. You can marinate anywhere from 1 hour (at room temperature ) to up to 24 hours (in the fridge). Don’t marinate any longer than that or the acids in the vinegar will start breaking down the meat too much.
- Once you’re ready to fry, heat up both oils in a large, wide Dutch oven.
- I clip on a probe thermometer to the side of the pan to constantly measure the temperature of the oil. You’ll aim for 350° to start and then try to keep it in the 325-350° range as you cook the chicken.
- You want to cook the the chicken pieces to 160° for white meat at 175° for dark.
- I find using an instant thermometer is the best way to make sure. You definitely don’t want to over- or under-cook your chicken! Although in general I find dark meat to be a little more forgiving if it’s in the oil too long. White meat will definitely dry out, though.
- Then you simply dry the chicken on paper towels and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the rest in batches.
And you’re done! You did it! You successfully fried chicken in your own home!
Pat yourself on the back, just not while you’re holding the fried chicken because that could get messy.
Once the oil has cooled to room temperature, strain it through a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl or mason jar.
You can reuse the oil to fry 2 more times. I discard it after that as the taste starts to change.
What to serve with gluten-free fried chicken
What’s fried chicken without biscuits? These almond flour biscuits will make for the perfect fried chicken biscuit sandwich.
I also would not turn down a forkful of fried chicken (or really, any Paleo chicken recipe) with mashed parsnips.
If it’s strawberry season, I’d go with this strawberry cucumber salad with a creamy poppy seed dressing.
But you could also serve this hearty Creamed Kale.
Storing fried chicken
Once cooled to room temperature, the chicken will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
To freeze, place the fried chicken pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place the sheet uncovered in the freezer.
Once the pieces are totally frozen (at least 1 hour), place them in a freezer-safe baggie or container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
To reheat, place on a rack on a baking sheet in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes. Note that it won’t be quite as crispy as when first cooked.
Other recipes you might like:
- Crunchy Plantain Chip Chicken (Paleo, gluten-free)
- Chicken and Biscuit Pot Pie (Paleo, gluten-free)
- Baked BBQ Chicken (Paleo/Whole30 options)
- Sheet Pan Chicken, Potatoes and Peas (Whole30, gluten-free)
Paleo and Gluten-Free Fried Chicken
- 1 (15 oz.) can full-fat coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
- 3 teaspoons black pepper, divided
- 2½-4 lbs. bone-in or boneless chicken pieces (see notes)
- 1.5 cups palm shortening
- 1.5 cups refined coconut oil
- 2 cups cassava flour
To marinate the chicken:
- Combine the coconut milk, vinegar/lemon juice, 2 tsp. fine sea salt and 1 tsp. black pepper in a large, resealable plastic bag or bowl. Add the chicken pieces (make sure to unfold boneless thighs, if using) and seal tightly. Flip the bag or bowl a few times so the chicken is evenly coated with the marinade. Let sit for 1 hour (at room temperature) or up to 24 hours (in the fridge; do not marinate longer than 24 hours).
To fry the chicken:
- Bring the chicken to room temperature.
- Heat the oven to 200-250°.
- Line a baking sheet with a rack. Cover half the rack with paper towels.
- Combine the palm shortening and coconut oil in a large, wide pot. Heat over medium-high heat until both fats are melted. Attach a thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure the tip is not touching the bottom of the pan (this will throw off the reading). Heat the fats until they reach 350°.
- Meanwhile, combine the cassava flour, 2 tsp. salt and 2 tsp. pepper in a large bowl. Use tongs to lift the chicken out of the marinade, letting the excess drip off. Toss half the chicken pieces with the flour, making sure they get evenly covered.
- Once the fats have reached 350° (should take about 15-20 minutes), you can add 3-4 pieces of chicken or however much fits in your pot without touching each other or the thermometer. Whether using bone-in or boneless, add the breasts in the first batch. They're the biggest and will therefore need the most oil (the oil level will decrease as it cooks due to absorption and evaporation). Cook the pieces as follows, flipping each piece once halfway through with metal tongs. Cook white meat to 160° and dark meat to 170° on an instant read thermometer (make sure the thermometer is not touching the bone):- bone-in breasts: 20-25 minutes total- bone-in thighs, drumsticks and wings: 10-12 minutes total- boneless breasts: 15-20 minutes total- boneless thighs: 8-10 minutes total
- While the first batch cooks, you can toss the other half of the chicken pieces in the flour. Discard the remaining marinade.
- Once the pieces are cooked through, remove to the paper towels. Drain for a few minutes, then move the pieces to the part of the drying rack without paper towels and place the pan in the oven to keep warm while you cook the other pieces (if you leave them on the paper towels they'll get soggy). Bring the oil back to 350° before starting the next batch
- Let the final pieces drain on the paper towels for a few minutes minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.