This roasted buttermilk chicken recipe is going to be your new favorite dinner. Marinating the chicken in a mixture of buttermilk and salt adds a ton of flavor to the meat. The salt absorbs into the chicken, while the buttermilk tenderizes and creates a crisp, golden skin.
I love a good Netflix binge watching experience, and we’ve been on a role lately (have any of you watched Russian Doll or The Haunting of Hill House? SO GOOD). A few months ago, we watched Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which is based on Samin Nostrat’s cookbook of the same name. This buttermilk chicken recipe is adapted from her book and TV show.
The salt episode, which takes place in Japan, was my favorite. I haven’t stopped experimenting with Japanese cooking since we watched it (keep an eye out for one of those recipes soon).
She prepared the buttermilk chicken during her episode on heat. I prepared it the next night, and it’s now one of my favorite ways to roast a chicken. The buttermilk tenderizes the meat while infusing it with so much flavor!
Since I’ve prepared this recipe so many times now, of course I had to start tweaking it. While I love the simplicity of her original recipe, I find that adding some aromatics is always worthwhile when roasting chicken (plus it makes the kitchen smell amazing). The black pepper, which is such a basic addition, adds a nice, subtle kick.
Tips on How to Make Buttermilk Chicken
- The original version of this recipe doesn’t include the pepper, onions, garlic and herbs. The only ingredients are chicken, buttermilk and salt. You can prepare it her way and the results are still fantastic. I do recommend still adding black pepper. It’s definitely adds the most flavor bang for your buck.
- The original recipe starts with the oven at 425 degrees F and then lowers the temperature to 400 degrees. While this cooks the chicken more quickly, I found that the skin would char in a few places if I didn’t watch carefully. Lowering the temperature to 375 degrees browns the chicken more evenly in my oven. These results may vary by oven, but it doesn’t hurt to roast the chicken longer and a lower temperature.
- This is not a good recipe to use with my homemade buttermilk substitute. Buttermilk substitute should only be used in baked goods. However, plain yogurt may be substituted for the buttermilk.
- I’ve included Samin’s recommendations for how to arrange the roasting pan and chicken in the oven. I’ll be honest; I’ve never had issues with my roasted chicken cooking unevenly in the past. However! She has a lot more experience than me, so I defer to her expertise.
What Does Buttermilk Do To Chicken?
Buttermilk tenderizes chicken prior to cooking, and it also creates a golden, crispy skin. No basting required! Adding salt to the buttermilk allows the seasoning to absorb into the meat, adding tons of flavor.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken in Buttermilk?
At a minimum, marinate the chicken overnight for 8 hours. For best results, marinate the chicken in buttermilk for 24-48 hours. I tried a 2 hour marinade once, and it did absolutely nothing. Don’t go past two days or the chicken can become mushy. At a certain point, the acid in the buttermilk will begin breaking down the meat.
More Chicken Recipes
- 3 1/2 - 4 pound chicken
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more as needed (4 teaspoons fine sea salt may be substituted)
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
- 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
- Optional: fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or tarragon (see notes)
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 24 hours before roasting (or up to 48 hours), use kitchen shears to remove the wingtips. Cut through the first wing joint (see notes). Remove the giblet bag from the chicken cavity, then season the entire chicken generously with salt, inside and out. Let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Stir 2 tablespoons of kosher salt into the buttermilk until it's dissolved. Place the chicken in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag, then add the salted buttermilk.
- Seal the bag and turn over several times to coat the chicken, then place on a rimmed plate or a casserole dish (to prevent leaking). Place in the refrigerator and chill for 24-48 hours. Turn the bag over periodically to help the chicken marinate evenly (once or twice is plenty).
- Remove the chicken from the fridge an hour before roasting so it can come to room temperature. Place an oven rack on the center shelf, then preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the leftover marinade. Use paper towels to gently blot off the excess buttermilk without disturbing the skin. Stuff the chicken cavity with the onion, garlic and herbs (if using), then use butcher's twine to truss the chicken legs (this helps the chicken cook evenly). Season the outside liberally with ground black pepper.
- Place the chicken on a roasting pan, legs up. (Note: I recommend using a roasting pan with an insert that prevents the chicken from sitting directly on the bottom).
- Place the roasting pan in the oven on an angle, pointing the legs toward the rear left corner with the breasts near the center of the oven (this will help prevent the breasts from overcooking since the back of the oven is more hot).
- After 15 minutes, when the chicken is beginning to brown, reduce the heat to 375 degrees F. Adjust the pan so the legs face the opposite back corner of the oven. Cook for an additional 45-60 minutes, until the skin is completely brown and a digital thermometer registers 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh. The juices should run clear. If the legs ever begin looking like they're darkening too much while roasting, you can rotate the pan so the breasts are in the back of the oven.
- Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.
- Leftovers cam be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
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