This craggy, crunchy, slightly spicy version of fried chicken topped with spicy honey is the perfect comfort food! As written, this recipe prepares the chicken as easy to snack on strips, but you can easily adapt for full pieces or even go smaller for spicy chicken nuggets!
Place one sheet of plastic wrap on a clean cutting board (see Cook’s Note). Put one chicken piece in the center of the plastic wrap and top with another sheet. Pound the chicken with the flat side of a meat mallet, starting in the center and working your way to the edges, until the chicken is 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut each chicken thigh into 3 even strips. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
Pour 1 cup buttermilk over the chicken. Marinate at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes or overnight in the fridge if time allows.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Pour about 1 inch of oil into a deep, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Heat over medium-high until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 to 375 degrees F.
Stir together the 1/4 cup honey in a small bowl with as much hot sauce as you like (I use 1 tablespoon, but I like it spicy.) Set aside until ready to serve.
Stir together the flour, paprika, cayenne, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the garlic powder and onion powder if using.
Stir the remaining 1/3 cup of buttermilk into the flour mixture until it has a chunky consistency.
Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge the chicken in the flour mixture so that each piece is fully coated and place on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
Working in batches to avoid crowding the pot, add 3 to 4 pieces of the coated chicken and fry, undisturbed, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and fry until the crust is golden brown and the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the fried chicken strips to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet, season with a pinch of salt and hold in the warm oven. Check the oil temperature and adjust the heat as needed to bring it back to 350 to 275 degrees F, then repeat with the remaining chicken.
Serve the fried chicken strips immediately with the hot honey.
You can also use a large resealable plastic bag.
If you do not have buttermilk on hand, try adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to milk and allow it to sit for 10 minutes until it sours.