If you thought a healthier version of crispy fried chicken didn’t exist, think again! This pan fried chicken marinates boneless chicken breasts in low fat buttermilk before adding a light breading and frying in just enough olive oil.
The end result is extra juicy and tender chicken with a crispy, flavorful crust. And each massive piece of this buttermilk chicken has 38 grams of protein with only 10 grams of carbs, 10 grams of fat, and 285 calories.
Since this chicken is pan fried in a small amount of oil, you don’t have to worry about a big mess or a complicated frying process. I’ll walk you through the easy recipe from start to finish below, and you can find a printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
How to Make Healthier Buttermilk Pan Fried Chicken
This is a super easy recipe with the only caveat being you’ll need to marinate the chicken first. The slight acidity of buttermilk works as a great tenderizer in the chicken and gives that classic fried chicken flavor we’re after.
The recipe calls for at least 4 hours in the marinade but if you’re in a rush, 30-60 minutes would probably do the job. But like I mentioned in my cilantro lime pan fried chicken thighs recipe, lower your expectations if you shortcut this step.
As for the chicken itself, I used individually wrapped chicken breasts from Perdue Farms. These are typically very close in size and thickness. You may want to place your chicken between some plastic wrap and use a blunt object to lightly pound them to the same thickness for even cooking.
Disclaimer: I’m a sponsored Perdue Farms ambassador.
Update Jan 2020: You can now order Perdue Farms products like these individually wrapped chicken breasts online! And my affiliate link will save you 15% off your order.
How to Dredge the Chicken Breasts
Once the chicken has marinated in the buttermilk mixture, it’s time to lightly coat it with a blend of flour and spices before pan frying. A wire rack is helpful in this step so you can remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and let any excess run off while you mix the dry ingredients.
Then it’s as simple as dipping the buttermilk chicken in the dry ingredients to coat.
Ingredients for Lightly Breaded Chicken
- all purpose flour
- paprika, black pepper, salt, ground mustard, and white pepper
This spice blend isn’t make or break. If you don’t have a spice like white pepper on hand, you can omit or replace with a bit more black pepper. Have fun—KFC uses 11 herbs and spices, after all! And don’t stress about cleaning the bowl for every last bit.
How to Pan Fry Chicken Breasts
Unlike my naked pan fried chicken tenders recipe, these buttermilk chicken breasts will start on the stovetop but finish in the oven. So be sure you’re using an oven-safe skillet that’s large enough for 3 chicken breasts. I used a 12″ cast iron skillet.
Begin by heating 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Be sure the oil is hot before you add the chicken breast (beginning to smoke/sizzles if you flick tiny drops of water from a safe distance).
Carefully add the chicken breasts to the oil and pan fry for 3 minutes before flipping, cooking another 2 minutes, then transferring to a 400-degree oven for 5 minutes (or until the chicken reaches an internal temp of 165F).
That’s it. Transfer the chicken to a clean wire rack to rest for at least 5 minutes to let the juices settle and relax. If the juices run out all over the plate when you cut into your pan fried chicken, you didn’t let them rest!
Oil Notes for Pan Frying Chicken
In case you’re wondering, I found 1 tablespoon to be barely enough and 2 tablespoons to be more than enough. If you’re using a smaller pan, 1 tablespoon may work great. You want just enough to fully coat the bottom of the pan and cover the entire bottom of each chicken breast.
As far as using other oils go, you’re not deep frying here so I think you’ll be safe with just about any oil.
Crispy Buttermilk Pan Fried Chicken Recipe Troubleshooting
I love pan frying chicken because it tends to produce moist and tender chicken nearly every time. It’s much easier to overcook chicken during long bakes or in a pressure cooker. That said, it’s not entirely foolproof.
Here are a few things to watch out for when making your pan fried chicken breasts:
- If your dry ingredients get clumpy after dredging the first chicken breast, you probably went straight from the marinade to the dry ingredients.
- You can carefully move the pan around to promote even oil distribution during the pan frying steps.
- If the pan gets too hot, you may accidentally burn the first side. Check a corner or two to make sure it’s not getting too crispy.
- If you notice the pan was too hot, this may reduce your bake time. This is where having a food thermometer comes in handy.
Speaking of, you can find links to the cast iron skillet, food thermometer, and other kitchen tools/staple ingredients on my Amazon storefront.
What to Serve with Your Buttermilk Chicken
Here are some of my favorite side dish recipes that would go great with this pan fried chicken.
- Low Fat Cajun Mac and Cheese or Bacon Mac and Cheese
- Rosemary Parmesan Potatoes (air fryer or oven)
- Southern Style Pasta Salad
- Air Fryer Roasted Potatoes and Carrots
- Garlic Parmesan Carrot Fries or Spicy Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries
You could also cut the chicken breasts in half to make something like my crispy chicken sandwiches.
And that should do it. If you have questions about this pan fried buttermilk chicken recipe, drop a comment below or join my Facebook group with 10,000+ home cooks that would love to help you!
- 3 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (about 5-6 ounces each)
- 1/2 C (120mL) Low Fat Buttermilk
- 1 large Egg
- 1/4 C (30g) All Purpose Flour
- 1 Tbsp Paprika
- 1/2 Tbsp Ground Mustard
- 1/2 Tbsp White Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 1/2 Tbsp (24g) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the Marinade
Whisk the egg and buttermilk together in a resealable container or shallow dish. Add the chicken breasts and toss to evenly coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Cooking the Chicken
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on a wire rack. Discard remaining marinade.**
- Mix the flour and spices together. Place one chicken breast at a time in the flour mixture and toss to coat. Add the coated chicken breast back to the wire rack. Repeat until no flour (or very little) remains.
- Heat a 12" cast iron skillet or large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. Once hot, gently place the chicken breasts in the skillet.
- Cook for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for an additional 2 minutes before adding the skillet to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temp of 165F. Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean wire rack or dish to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
*I used Perdue Harvestland Individually Wrapped Chicken Breasts thawed from frozen before going in the buttermilk marinade. These tend to be even in thickness. If you're using something else, you might want to place your chicken breasts between plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness.
**The nutrition information includes the marinade as it's difficult to calculate what's left behind.
Each pan fried chicken breast has 4 Smart Points.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Chicken Breasts Serving Size: 1 Chicken Breast
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 285Total Fat: 10.3gCarbohydrates: 9.6gProtein: 38g
Nutrition information was calculated with 16 ounces of chicken. For accuracy, weigh and calculate your own ingredients.