How Long To Soak Chicken In Buttermilk

The way to make crispy fried chicken begins with a simple question: “How long to soak chicken in buttermilk?” To achieve tender, juicy chicken, I recommend you marinate it in buttermilk for at least 12 hours or as long as 24 hours. Remember, marinating chicken is not a fast process, it takes time for the buttermilk to work its magic over time.

What Does Marinating Chicken in Buttermilk Do?

The acidity in buttermilk helps to tenderize the meat, breaking down its proteins. This results in a more tender and juicy fried chicken.

Why Should I Soak Chicken in Buttermilk?

Marinating chicken in buttermilk creates a perfect harmony between taste and texture. The cooked chicken is left with a tangy flavor and a juicy inside.

Buttermilk makes the exterior very crispy, just like the classic Southern fried chicken recipes we all love.

Can You Soak Chicken in Regular Milk?

Regular milk lacks the acidic content of buttermilk which is essential for tenderizing the meat.

However, regular milk can still add a touch of richness to your chicken. While it won’t make the chicken as tender as buttermilk would, soaking chicken in regular milk will still result in a moist and flavorful dish.

How To Cook Chicken Soaked In Buttermilk

Marinate your chicken pieces in the buttermilk

After soaking the chicken in the mixture for the recommended time, remove them from the fridge.

Shake off the excess buttermilk marinade

Gently shake off excess buttermilk, then dredge the chicken pieces in flour seasoned with salt, black pepper, and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper for some heat.

Heat olive oil in a deep fryer

Preheat a deep fryer with oil or a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. The oil is ready when a small amount of flour sizzles upon contact.

Place coated chicken in a fryer or skillet

Gently place the chicken pieces into the hot oil, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook until the chicken is golden brown and crispy, approximately 15 minutes per side for larger pieces.

Remove chicken from the oil

Use tongs to remove your chicken from the oil and transfer it to a wire rack over a baking sheet to drain. Keep the cooked pieces in a warm oven while you cook the remaining chicken.

Soaking Chicken in Milk – Regular vs Buttermilk

When it comes to marinating chicken, your choice of milk for soaking impacts the taste and texture of the cooked chicken.

Regular milk

Regular milk adds moisture to your chicken, but it falls short when it comes to tenderizing by comparison. Your chicken will still be delicious, but tenderizing and crispiness will be less pronounced.


The acid in buttermilk is the secret to breaking down and tenderizing the chicken. When used as a marinade, it also gives you a crispier exterior when frying, thanks to the thicker consistency which adheres better to the flour coating.

Regular milk, while it does contribute to a tasty chicken, won’t provide the same level of crunch.

What Are the Benefits of Soaking Chicken in Buttermilk?


The acids in buttermilk tenderize the chicken by breaking down proteins, leading to a melt-in-your-mouth result.

Flavor Infusion

Buttermilk is a great vehicle for infusing flavors. Mixed with your choice of spices, it can create deeply flavorful chicken.


The fats in buttermilk help to keep the chicken moist during the cooking process, making every bite juicy.

Crispy Coating

When frying, it helps create a deliciously crispy and golden exterior that’s irresistible.


The lactic acid found in buttermilk aids in the digestion of your meal, making your delicious chicken not only tasty but also a bit healthier!

Can You Oversoak Chicken in Buttermilk?

Yes, it is possible to “oversoak” your chicken.

While soaking chicken in buttermilk for an extended period can lead to tender, flavorful meat, there is a limit. If left too long—beyond 24 hours—the chicken might become too tender, losing its firmness, and the flavor can become overly tangy.

Remember, balance is key, even when it comes to marinating chicken.

Do You Rinse the Chicken After Soaking in Buttermilk?

No. Rinsing would remove the thin layer of buttermilk that helps the flour adhere to the chicken, which gives you that crispy, golden brown exterior when fried.

So, remember, no rinsing—just let the excess buttermilk drip off before you move to the flour dredging stage

Buttermilk Substitute for Fried Chicken

Just add one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of regular milk, stir it, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. The acid will curdle the milk slightly, mimicking the acid in buttermilk that’s perfect for your chicken marinade.

Can You Make Buttermilk from Regular Milk?

Yes, indeed! As mentioned above, making buttermilk from regular milk is quite easy and straightforward.

By adding lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk, you’re introducing acidity, which acts like the properties of buttermilk.

This homemade buttermilk might not be exactly the same as store-bought, but it will produce the same results.

Can You Reuse Buttermilk Marinade?

It’s not a good idea. Once the marinade has been in contact with raw chicken, it can contain harmful bacteria that can lead to foodborne illnesses. It’s safest to discard the used marinade.


Remember, the answer to “How long to soak chicken in buttermilk?” is typically between 12 to 24 hours. This process is followed by a spicy flour dredge and careful frying, which leads to a delicious, crispy. Whether you’re making a simple weeknight dinner or hosting a special family event, buttermilk-soaked fried chicken will always be a crowd-pleaser.

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