I Tried KFC’s Leaked Secret Recipe and Here’s How It Went (2024)

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Sarah Rae Smith

Sarah Rae Smith

Sarah Rae Smith has lived all across the Midwest and currently calls the bratwurst-laden city of Sheboygan home. She seeks out kitchens that make the best pie and farmers with fresh eggs.

updated Jun 21, 2021





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I Tried KFC’s Leaked Secret Recipe and Here’s How It Went (1)

If there was a magical list of secret recipes that everyone on the internet has attempted to make before, KFC’s fried chicken is pretty much at the top of that list. There are many copycat recipes around the internet, and they all claim that theirs is the one that reigns supreme, but KFC claims that none come close to the original.

Recently I found out

real mixture of magical 11 herbs and spices was released, and of course I scrambled to put it to the test. Man oh man, I’m sure glad I did!

Our friends over at the Chicago Tribune had a chat with the the nephew of Colonel Sanders, who spent his summers, back in the day, cutting up chickens and making up the secret 11-spice mixture to sell to local restaurants. I decided that this recipe — found in a family photo album — obviously needed to be tested in my own kitchen.

As any good cook would do when replicating such a trusted and iconic food and taste, I overthought everything. You see, the recipe found in the photo album gives us the spice and flour ratio for the coating to the chicken — but it doesn’t tell us how the chicken is treated prior to frying, oil temperatures, length of frying, cooking method (although that’s not exactly a secret), or any additional tricks of the trade.

Most recipes aren’t rocket science, however, so I stopped analyzing every last fried chicken recipe out there (because it was seriously making my hungry) and decided to trust my gut and do my best to honor what I felt would yield the best results. Surely my Midwestern upbringing had prepared me for this exact moment.

Prep Work

Here’s what I came up with on a few of the undeclared recipe points for this batch.

I soaked my chicken pieces in buttermilk and egg for an hour before starting. I let the buttermilk and eggs come to room temperature before soaking and, when all was said and done, my chicken (which came from the refrigerator) was also room temperature. Room temperature is ideal because it will not decrease the temperature of the hot oil once the chicken is submerged.

I decided on wings, thighs, and drumsticks, which, although they don’t cook for the same amount of time, would be more close in time than a larger section of breast meat would be.

The Coating

This is where the Colonel’s Secret Recipe comes into play. The seasoning is as follows:

  • 2/3 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon basil
  • 1/3 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons white pepper

I mixed the above seasoning with two cups of flour. While I am a large fan of the paper bag method for fried chicken, I don’t see every KFC on the planet shaking chicken in a bag before frying, I skipped it this round and went with the more traditional flour-egg-flour dredge in shallow pans.

Frying Method

I, like most people I imagine, don’t own a pressure fryer. These things are a few hundred dollars and aren’t exactly a go-to small appliance for most homes. I do own a pressure cooker, but adding hot oil to a pressure cooker can create all sorts of havoc. So I fried the chicken in my tabletop fryer (360°F until internal chicken temperature reaches 165°F — roughly eight minutes), as I am a fan of the lid which regulates temperature and lack of splatters.

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The Results

You know how you try “the ultimate” whatever recipe that surfaces online and, although it tastes good, it never really lives up to the brand name of the real thing? This recipe … this isn’t that. You guys. Seriously. I can’t. The taste of its crispy skin is a dead ringer for its commercial counterpart. KFC might deny that the spice mixture given to the Chicago Tribune is incorrect, but it sure tastes like the real thing.

The taste of its crispy skin is a dead ringer for its commercial counterpart.

The texture, on the other hand, was not an identical match to KFC. Although I greatly enjoyed the extra-crunchy, thick skin of the chicken, it didn’t foster the same memories of the soft yet textured skin that come spilling out of the traditional red-and-white bucket. If I wanted to make this recipe as KFC as possible, I think my beloved paper bag method for flouring would have been more thin and even. In addition, if it had been cooked in a pressure fryer, the time would have been lessened and the texture on the outside would have been a little softer, making the thickness less noticeable.

Now, keeping in mind that my job is to be overly critical of a few pieces of chicken, the masses that wandered into my home — children from the yard, husband from repairing the roof, neighbors from doing neighbor things — everyone was a fan. Every. Last. One. This recipe is a winner! When you give it a go in your own home, make sure to make enough to feed a pack of wolves.

All hail the overabundance of white pepper and 10 other delicious seasonings, as this recipe will be around our home for a while!

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Recipe Review

I Tried KFC’s Leaked Secret Recipe and Here’s How It Went (2024)


Do KFC employees know the secret recipe? ›

“It's kept in a vault in Kentucky,” she told UK documentary Secrets of the Fast Food Giants. “Across KFC, only two or three people actually know the exact recipe.” The fast food chain has two different factories to make part of its recipe so no one company would ever know the entire formula.

Did KFC reveal their recipe? ›

KFC Accidentally Revealed The Top-Secret Recipe For Its Fried Chicken. KFC has made a real thing out of how guarded a secret their recipe is for their fried chicken. But someone got their hands on what appears to be the recipe. the Tribune test kitchen tried the recipe and compared it with the real thing.

Does anyone know the secret to KFC? ›

The original handwritten recipe is securely kept inside a vault at KFC's headquarters in Louisville. Additionally, KFC employs various companies to contribute different ingredients to the recipe — so not even they could know the full recipe.

What are Colonel Sanders 11 herbs and spices? ›

According to Joe, his uncle's secret KFC recipe consists of the following 11 herbs and spices:
  • 2⁄3 tablespoon salt.
  • 3 tablespoons white pepper.
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon thyme.
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon basil.
  • 1⁄3 tablespoon oregano.
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt.
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt.
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper.
Feb 20, 2023

What is the KFC secret recipe slogan? ›

The secret recipe is regularly identified with the phrase "eleven herbs and spices," the amount and identification of which remain a trade secret.

How many times was KFC recipe rejected? ›

Kentucky Fried Chicken Begins

When World War II ended, Sanders began working to sell franchises of his chicken business. He was in his 50s by this time. His delicious recipe was rejected 1,009 times! He had over a thousand rejections, yet he didn't quit.

Did KFC apologize? ›

KFC has apologised after sending a promotional message to customers in Germany, urging them to commemorate Kristallnacht with cheesy chicken. The Nazi-led series of attacks in the country in 1938 left more than 90 Jewish people dead, and destroyed Jewish-owned businesses and places of worship.

Which recipe was accidentally revealed in 2016 by Sanders's nephew? ›

The recipe was written on the back of the last will and testament of Ledington's aunt, Claudia. Handwritten with blue ink, the list is titled: "11 Spices — Mix With 2 Cups White Fl." Ledington casually explained: "That is the original 11 herbs and spices that were supposed to be so secretive."

What is hidden in the KFC logo? ›

There is a popular urban legend that the letters "KFC" in the KFC logo stand for "Kentucky Fried Chicken." However, the company has never officially confirmed this and the current KFC logo does not include any hidden messages or symbols.

Why does KFC only follow 11? ›

Their recipe uses 11 herbs and spices, so that's exactly who they follow on Twitter. Don't believe us? Well, the 11 people KFC follows on Twitter are: the five former members of the pop group The Spice Girls, and six men named Herb.

What frying oil does KFC use? ›

KFC products are fried in oil which may contain the following: Canola Oil and Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid Added To Protect Flavor, Dimethylpolysiloxane, an Antifoaming Agent Added OR Low Linolenic Soybean Oil, TBHQ and Citric Acid Added To Protect Flavor, Dimethylpolysiloxane, an Antifoaming ...

Why does KFC taste different? ›

They used to fry their chicken in lard using the Colonel's 11 herbs and spices. Now they fry it in vegetable oil with a microscopic amount of the 11 herbs and spices, enough to still make a valid claim that it contains the herbs and spices, but not enough to affect the taste. So it's no longer Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Is KFC chicken healthy? ›

KFC CHICKEN IS OFTEN SERVED IN LARGE PORTIONS AND WITH HIGH-CALORIE SIDES. A small amount of chicken could theoretically be eaten in a well-rounded healthy diet, but KFC portions are far too large to support any healthy portion choices.

What are the elderly spices? ›

SPICES is an acronym for the common syndromes of the elderly requiring nursing intervention:
  • S is for Sleep Disorders.
  • P is for Problems with Eating or Feeding.
  • I is for Incontinence.
  • C is for Confusion.
  • E is for Evidence of Falls.
  • S is for Skin Breakdown.

What is the secret behind the KFC logo? ›

The image of Colonel Harland Sanders is the most recognizable element of the KFC logo. The Colonel is shown in a white suit and black tie, with his signature goatee and glasses. The image of the Colonel is a nod to the company's founder and his original recipe of 11 herbs and spices that is still used today.

What does KFC call their employees? ›

KFC Team Member (Customer Service or Cook)

When you join the KFC Brand, you join our Family!

Are KFC employees happy? ›

How satisfied are employees working at KFC? 57% of KFC employees would recommend working there to a friend based on Glassdoor reviews. Employees also rated KFC 3.1 out of 5 for work life balance, 3.3 for culture and values and 3.2 for career opportunities. What are the pros and cons of working at KFC?

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