Article by Guest Contributor
KFC’s secret recipe is one of the most fiercely guarded properties in fast food.
Its mystical blend of 11 herbs and spices is so well protected that it remains in a locked vault at KFC HQ – even chefs only get half the formula at any one time in order to maintain secrecy.
However, in 2016, Colonel Harland Sanders’ nephew, Joe Ledington, leaked what he claimed to be the KFC secret recipe after finding it scribbled down in a notebook that once belonged to his late Aunt Claudia – the Colonel’s second wife.
“That is the original 11 herbs and spices that were supposed to be so secretive,” he told the Chicago Tribune.
So what are the top secret ingredients that KFC is desperate to keep hidden? Let’s find out…
The KFC secret recipe is one of the most valuable fast food formulas (Credit: Alamy/Michael Neelon)]]
What is the KFC secret recipe?
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
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 4 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
These ingredients should also be mixed with two cups of all-purpose flour.
After sharing the KFC secret recipe, Joe noted that the handwriting in his late aunt’s scrapbook didn’t match his uncle’s.
However, he was certain that the recipe was the original Colonel’s recipe as he worked for his uncle growing up and could remember mixing up these exact ingredients for his uncle.
“I mixed them over the top of the garage for years,” he explained, recalling the summers he spent working at his family’s motel-restaurant complex.
Following several tests using the formula, reporters believe that the recipe Joe shared can produce fried chicken batter that is “indistinguishable” from KFC.
How to make the KFC secret recipe at home
According to the Colonel’s very own nephew, the exact instructions for the KFC secret recipe are allegedly as follows:
- Mix the flour in a bowl with all the herbs and spices; set aside.
- Mix the buttermilk and egg together in a separate bowl until combined. Soak the chicken in the buttermilk mixture at room temperature, 20-30 minutes.
- Remove chicken from the buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off. Dip the chicken pieces in the herb-spice-flour mixture to coat all sides, shaking off excess. Allow to sit on a rack over a baking sheet, 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat about 3 inches of the oil in a large Dutch oven (or similar heavy pot with high sides) over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Lower the heat to medium to maintain it at 350. Fry 3 or 4 pieces at a time, being careful not to crowd the pot. Fry until medium golden brown, turning once, 15-18 minutes. Transfer chicken pieces to a baking sheet covered with paper towels. Allow the oil to return to temperature before adding more chicken. Repeat with remaining chicken.
It’s also suggested that you add a sprinkle of MSG to enhance the flavour immediately before service.
There is only one copy of the real KFC chicken recipe (Credit: Alamy/Cum Okolo)]]
Is KFC chicken boiled first?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no boiling in the KFC cooking process.
Instead, chefs marinate and brine the chicken in a secretive blend, before adding the chain’s signature 11 herbs and spices.
Cooks then plunge the bird bits into a hot oil-filled pressure fryer, producing the restaurant’s distinctive crispy coating.
READ MORE: How to make McDonald’s Big Mac sauce at home
KFC is well aware that customers remain sceptical over its cooking practices. For instance, in 2017, an Australian store manager went out of her way to explain how skilful the process actually is.
Nikki Lawson told news.com.au: “There’s a perception that, because it’s fast food, it’s going to arrive pre-cooked and then it gets thrown in a fryer and then served up.
“The art of cooking that goes on is something that gets misunderstood.”
It might look straightforward, but there’s clearly more to the method than meets the eye.
Cooking the KFC secret recipe is more complicated than it seems (Credit: Alamy/dp VUE images)]]
How does KFC keep its recipe secret?
According to multiple media reports, there is only one copy of the certified recipe in existence and KFC ensures this is kept secret by storing it in a vault at its HQ.
In order to maintain secrecy even further, KFC uses two separate companies to create the blend for its restaurants, using a computer system to mix them all together.
This way, no one person knows precisely how both parts combine.
Interestingly, the KFC recipe itself is not under the protection of a patent. This is because, under US law, a patent requires a clear list of contents, which would obviously compromise the element of secrecy.
Whatever the true formula, however, there’s no doubt the skullduggery adds to the brand’s mystique.
KFC no longer uses palm oil to fry its chicken (Credit: Alamy/The Yarvin Kitchen)]]
What oil does KFC use?
All KFC restaurants in the UK use high oleic rapeseed oil. Prior to this, the chain used palm oil as a cost-effective method of cooking its chicken, but made the switch to a more environmentally friendly alternative.
Similarly, in New Zealand, the chain uses a blend of canola oil and sunflower oil to create a blend low in both saturated and trans fats.
Per the KFC website, all KFC products have actually been palm oil-free since 2015.
There’s a There’s good reason why KFC chicken tastes so good (Credit: Alamy/Cum Okolo)]]
Why does KFC taste so good?
There are several reasons why the classic KFC formula tastes so delicious. For starters, fried food provides a unique texture combination, perfectly blending crispiness and juiciness into one addictive mouthful.
However, the main reason for KFC’s most addictive quality is arguably the addition of MSG. As a popular flavour enhancer, MSG accentuates the natural taste of fried chicken.
READ MORE: This Is What’s Really In KFC Gravy
This gives KFC a salty, savoury kick that appeals to the fifth taste, also known as umami. It is the same thing that makes many other fast foods so difficult to stop eating.
Coupled with KFC’s unique spice blend, and you have all the ingredients necessary to make a seriously addictive dish. It’s no wonder that people obsess over discovering the recipe for themselves.