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Healthy Living Blog

Information and inspiration to help you make a habit out of living healthy.


Eat Local: Healthier Hot Chicken

Thursday, October 19, 2017

By , YMCA Registered Dietitian Nutritionist


Nashville is known for many things, from talented musicians to the iconic “Batman” building. More recently hitting the spotlight: hot chicken. Sometimes called Nashville’s “best kept secret,” this food fad is causing a craze for those who like it HOT!

The story goes that hot chicken was created accidentally by the Andre Prince Jeffries family, who own Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in North Nashville. Their great-uncle, Thornton Prince III, was dating a woman who wanted to punish him for his poor behavior. She cooked him a fried chicken breast covered with extra spices, but to her surprise, he liked it! He went on to work with his brothers to create their own recipe, and opened the hot chicken restaurant we know today.

Prince’s isn't the only restaurant in Nashville serving up hot chicken. Hattie B’s, Pepperfire, Bolton’s, Helen’s, and even KFC are just a few of the other places around town who are selling hot chicken to those who dare to try!

Packing heat and calories

These scorching plates, however, can pack some hefty numbers when looking at the nutrition facts. On average, one hot chicken breast or wing can contain anywhere from 500 to 800 calories, 20 to 30 grams of fat, and more than 1,100 mg of sodium (and that doesn’t include the side dishes)!

But how do these numbers add up so quickly? Hot chicken begins like any other fried chicken: it's breaded and deep fried until it becomes crispy and takes on a golden brown color. From there, it is given a “wet application.” In this process, the fried chicken is dunked into a mixture of spices and hot oil, taken directly from the deep fryer.

So how can you get the taste of hot chicken without ruining your diet? Make your own healthier version! Here are four tips for lightening up this Nashville classic.

1. Bake it.

Baking your hot chicken instead of frying it greatly decreases the calories and fat typically found in fried chicken. The recipe below uses flour, low-fat buttermilk, and Panko crumbs to give the chicken its “fried” crunch, while retaining the heat with cayenne pepper, mustard, and paprika.

  • Baked Nashville Hot Chicken from Spices, Inc. 

  • 2. Use a healthier breading.

    Making the breading out of low-fat buttermilk and cornflakes, while still using the traditional hot chicken spices, cayenne and paprika, gives this recipe the same hot kick while cutting calories, fat, and sodium!

  • Nashville Hot Chicken from EatingWell 

  • 3. Grill it.

    As the weather cools and football season begins, the grill becomes a great option for healthy cooking. Cayenne pepper, paprika, and chili powder give this recipe the desired heat, and with the extra char-grilled flavor. I give this recipe two thumbs up!

  • Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken from Plain Chicken 

  • 4. Enjoy in moderation.

    If you can’t seem to shake your addiction to Nashville’s classic hot chicken, then moderation is key! Share the meal with a friend or skip the sides to avoid overdoing it when eating out.

    Hungry for more?

    Check out these 4 healthy fall dishes your whole family will love. Plus, get to know our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and learn more about our nutrition counseling services. Let us partner with you to reach your healthy living goals!

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