Fried Chicken, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, March 18, 2011
Low-Fat Fried Chicken
Food Network Kitchens' Oven-Fried Chicken

We’ve given you tips for lightening up your fried favorites. Now it’s time to hone in on this crunchy comfort food classic. We’ve got tips for every step in making crispy, juicy, and less-fattening fried chicken.

Nutrition Facts
On average, one piece of traditional fried breast meat chicken has 350 calories, 15 grams fat (4 of them saturated). Pieces of dark meat are typically smaller but higher in fat. You’re not really saving calories with those boneless chicken strips – we found popular fast food chain offerings that had as much as 160 calories and 9 grams of fat per piece! Fried nuggets were not much better at about 50 calories and 3 grams of fat each.

As mentioned above, breast meat is slightly lower in fat than dark meat – it has about 10 calories and 1 grams of fat less per ounce. So, choosing breast meat or a smaller portion of dark meat for any breaded chicken recipe is a good start. The skin also contains a hefty amount of fat – each ounce of fried chicken skin adds 140 calories and 12 grams of fat so best to opt for skinless cuts of chicken.

Wet Ingredients
Most fried chicken recipes require some sort of wet ingredients to add flavor and to get the coating to adhere to the meat. The good news is, just about all of them are healthy choices. Low fat buttermilk helps to keep the meat tender and juicy. Yogurt, egg whites, Dijon mustard and honey are other good ways to get the dry ingredients to stick.

Dry Ingredients
Basic fried recipes may only call for seasoned flour. If you want to save calories by baking the chicken, you’ll want a more substantial coating (especially if you’re getting rid of the skin). Crunch and flavor are key so try out any of the combinations below:

•    Panko breadcrumbs
•    Dry breakfast cereal (puffed rice and corn flakes work best)
•    Cornmeal
•    Homemade breadcrumbs

•    Seasoned breadcrumbs
•    Shredded coconut
•    Sliced almonds

Cooking Methods
Baking is obviously the healthier option. To get the crunch you crave follow these four steps:

1)    Shake off all excess coating – a thin layer is best.
2)    Drizzle with olive or canola oil or spray with nonstick spray before baking.
3)    Place coated chicken on a wire rack (over a sheet pan) so it gets crisp all over.
4)    Bake in a preheated oven (375 to 400-degrees F).

It won’t save as many calories, but you can also shallow fry chicken in a small amount of canola oil and then transfer to the oven to finish cooking. This will cut down on the amount of oil the chicken absorbs, keeping the calories and fat lower than deep frying.

Recipes to Try:
Food Network Kitchens’ Oven Fried Chicken
Ellie’s Oven Fried Chicken
Pat and Gina’s Oven Fried Chicken
Chicken Fingers with Curried Ketchup
Toby’s Honey Chicken
Dana’s Crispy Coconut Chicken

TELL US: How do you lighten up fried chicken?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (208)

  1. happy, pa says:

    thank you food i am trying to learn to eat better foods. i was raised on meat, potatoes, veggies and gravy. now at age 55 i can only lose about 10 pounds. i wish to lose about 30. any help you can give about information cutting down on the fat and calories would be helpful. i only started looking on your website recently and i love it. thank you, thank you.

    • sue says:

      try looking in the book The Comfort Food Diet by Taste of Home..lightened up recipes that we eat everyday..good luck..

  2. Sharon Spears says:

    If you are speaking about lightening up fried food, it would make sense to include the nutrition information for the recipe. Just saying it is lighter does not mean anything if you can't compare the recipes.

  3. Sharon says:

    I agree about the nurtiion information. I am trying to do WeightWatchers Points Plus program and really need the nurtition information to figure out the points. I probably won't even try this recipe as there are no nutritional values available.

    • danawhite says:

      Hello Sharon Spears, Mary ann and Sharon
      5 of the 6 recipe in this post include nutrition information – just scroll down to the bottom of the recipe and you'll find it. "Pat and Gina's Oven Fried Chicken" does not have nutrition info listed but it does meet our Healthy Eats criteria. You can view how we chose our recipes here:

      Thanks for your comments!

    • Sharon says:

      Sharon – I too am doing the WW program. If you use the online site, you can put all of the ingredients into the recipe builder. It will tell you how many points each serving is. It's easy to use and opens up a whole new world of recipes. Hope this helps. Sharon (My name is Sharon also!)

  4. Linda says:

    Also, the recipe shown above does not say how long to bake the chicken…

  5. Oumou says:

    It is a great recipe and i would like to try it .

    Please can someone tell me how long should i bake the chicken.

    Thank you.

  6. Rob says:

    I've been making "chicken tenders" using a coating made of ground (uncooked) quinoa – adds a "breading" like coating that's gluten free, has some extra protein, and tastes good.

  7. LanieInCan says:

    I used leftover potato chips or multigrain chips for the crunch. Yesterday I used Sunchips!

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