How to Make Korean Fried Chicken (Chimaek)
Learn how to make authentic Korean fried chicken (Yangnyeom chicken) at home with this easy-to-follow, 1 hour recipe. The trick for the best Korean fried chicken is to double deep fry the chicken wings — this creates the famous crispy, crunchy texture. Brush or coat the Korean chicken with homemade gochujang sauce and enjoy! Korean chicken is perfect game night food and for a Chimaek to share with family and friends.
“I have been using your recipe for KFC for ages now, and just wanted to say that it is the BEST! My partner even thinks it is better than any KFC he has had before (in restaurants)!”bianca
What is Korean Fried Chicken?
Yes, they are known as the other “KFC” – Korean Fried Chicken (yangnyeom chicken, 양념치킨). They have become world famous for their addictive, crunchy texture coupled with a thick, sweet and spicy gochujang sauce.
Who would not love them?
There are different variety of yangnyeom chicken in Korea, and this spicy Korean fried chicken is perhaps the most popular type.
On another note, Korean fried chicken wings are often paired with beer in Korea. It is called Chimaek (Chimac, 치맥). Chimaek is an iconic cultural food in Korea to enjoy when watching popular sports, such as soccer.
What is Chimaek (Chimac)?
The term ‘Chimaek (치맥)’ combines the English word “chicken (치킨)” with the Korean word for beer (maekju 맥주). This popular pairing of Korean fried chicken and beer is not only a game night finger food, but it also takes center stage every Friday after work during happy hour get-togethers among friends and co-workers in Korea.
You will find numerous chimaek restaurants in back allies in business districts or the downtown area of major cities. There are more chimaek restaurants in South Korea than there are McDonald’s in the entire world!
Chimaek is a significant social phenomenon in South Korean drinking culture. You will often find chimaek scenes in Korean movies and K-dramas.
We don’t drink alcoholic beverages in my household, so we enjoy it with our favorite soda drink: root beer!
People often confuse these Korean chicken wings with another dish, Korean chicken nuggets called dakgangjeong. Dakgangjeong is made with boneless chicken thigh pieces, like chicken nuggets coated with a sticky sauce. That sauce recipe is different. I have published a similar Korean fried chicken recipe with a very different sauce, so be sure to check out my cookbook.
These Korean chicken wings are a great appetizer or snack for game night or impressive potluck party food to wow your friends and family.
What make Korean fried chicken different
The chicken party wings (or drumettes) are coated with cornstarch batter and deep-fried to a deep, golden brown crispiness.
Then, they are coated with rich homemade gochujang sauce with a slight hint of spicy heat and a tang.
The chicken’s irresistibly crunchy texture, coupled with a coating of sticky sauce, is finger-licking delicious. Not to mention how moist and tender the chicken is inside!
Want to avoid the deep frying, but still would like to enjoy the goodness of Korean chicken wings? Try my Korean honey garlic chicken wings. They are healthier wings and still as delicious.
What makes Korean fried chicken so crispy?
The secret is double-frying the chicken. Frying it twice ensures the chicken is fully cooked without burning the outside coating. The second fry boils off the extra moisture in the chicken after the first fry.
Besides the double-frying method, the addition of cornstarch in the coating keeps the chicken extra crispy for an extended period of time, even with a glaze!
Korean fried chicken sauce
The sauce is made with gochujang (Korean chili paste) with the addition of ketchup, sugar, vinegar, and an unusual ingredient — apricot jam (or strawberry jam)!
This restaurant secret is a key to the sauce. You don’t taste it much but it adds brightness to the flavor.
The sauce comes together very fast – just mix the ingredients in a pan and heat it up.
This Korean fried chicken sauce is then brushed (or otherwise coated) onto the crispy chicken wings. They are sweet, salty, tangy, and mildly spicy – mild enough that even young kids can handle the heat.
Gochujang is a traditional fermented condiment used in Korean cuisine. Its savory and pungent taste is created with brown rice, fermented soybeans and red pepper powder.
It’s easy to adapt this recipe to be a gluten-free Korean fried chicken by using gluten-free gochujang in the sauce.
These few recipe tips will help you make the best Korean fried chicken you’ve ever tasted.
- Gluten-free recipe: Using cornstarch instead of wheat flour makes these chicken wings not only crispier but make them gluten-free chicken wings as long as you use gluten-free gochujang in the sauce.
- Add a touch of baking powder in the coating: A small amount of baking powder mixed in with the cornstarch will enhances the browning of the chicken. The tiny air pockets created in hot oil makes the coating of the chicken crisper and crunchier.
- Double deep-frying: Double deep-frying always creates a crispier texture for any deep-fried dishes. The first frying should maintain a low temperature (about 330˚F), par-cooking the chicken to cook evenly, so it takes longer than the second frying. The second frying is at a higher temperature (about 350˚F) and takes a short time to complete. It is to brown the chicken coating and to crisp it up.
- Korean fried chicken sauce: The crispy texture is one thing, but the flavor of the sauce is another. The addition of pureed onion and apricot preserve (or strawberry jam) in the sauce adds a layer of flavor that differentiates it from others.
Ingredients you’ll need
For the chicken coating:
- chicken party wings – fresh or frozen (thawed)
- pureed ginger – reduce the gamy smell and adds a hint of aroma
- rice wine
- salt and pepper – to season
- cornstarch – helps chicken to bind with the coating
- baking powder – enhances the browning on the surface
For the Korean fried chicken sauce:
- onion, garlic, ginger – savory ingredients
- Korean chili paste (gochujang) – adds flavor, heat and thickness to the sauce
- soy sauce – to season
- ketchup – adds the tanginess and helps the bright red color in the sauce
- rice wine – Korean sweet rice (mirim)
- rice vinegar – adds the tanginess in the sauce
- sugar – sweetener
- apricot or strawberry jam – adds a fruity delicious taste in the sauce
- corn syrup – brings a nice sheen to the sauce
How to make Korean fried chicken
1. For chicken seasoning
- To season: Combine chicken wings, pureed ginger, rice wine, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl; toss well together and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. For Korean fried chicken sauce
- Puree: Put diced onion, garlic, and rice wine in a mini blender and process until smooth.
- Combine: In a small saucepan, combine all the sauce ingredients and pour in the onion garlic puree; mix well.
- Simmer: Bring the sauce to boil over medium heat until it bubbles up and thickens slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Cool: Remove from heat and set aside to cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
3. For chicken coating
- Mix cornstarch and baking powder in a large plastic bag.
- Add the chicken wings and shake them well to coat. Shake off extra coating from the chicken wings.
4. For deep-frying
- First fry: Heat oil in a wok or skillet over medium-low heat, to reach about 330˚F. Drop the chicken wings, shaking off the extra cornstarch coating, into the oil, and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes.
- The oil temperature shouldn’t be too hot and the chicken will fry slowly. If the oil bubbles vigorously, reduce the temperature.
Tips: Do the deep-frying in small batches so that you don’t crowd the pan. Too much meat in one batch can drop the temperature of the oil and won’t cook the meat evenly. After each batch is finished, skim off any floating debris with a mini fat strainer to keep the oil clean for the next batch.
- Second fry: When all the batches of the first deep fry are finished, raise the heat to medium, about 350˚F. Drop the chicken again into the hot oil and deep-fry until the coating turns a deep golden brown, about 1-2 minutes.
- Adjust the heat if it browns too quickly. Shake off the excess oil from the chicken and place them on a wire rack to allow the remaining oil to drip off the chicken.
5. For brushing with sauce
- Brush: Using a pastry brush, apply sauce on the hot chicken wings.
- Alternately, you can pour the sauce over the chicken and toss them to coat. I prefer brushing so that I can control the amount of sauce per chicken.
- Garnish chicken wings with toasted sesame seeds or finely chopped nuts.
What do you eat Korean fried chicken with
- As always, fried chicken tastes best when it is hot. You’ll want to enjoy the crispy and crunchy texture of of skin coating. It’s best to serve with a cold beverage, such as your favorite beer or soda.
- Often these crispy Korean wings are served with pickled white radish cubes.
- You can also serve this Korean fried chicken as a main dish. In that case, serve with rice and simple Korean side dishes.
How to reheat
Reheating in the oven is the best way to maintain taste and texture. Place the chicken in the preheated 400˚F oven, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes until piping hot throughout, flipping halfway through.
This recipe was originally posted in January, 2012. I’ve updated the recipe with a minor change, new photos, and more information.
Other party food ideas
Korean food is great for parties. Check out my Korean appetizer recipes for ideas. Some of my favorites are;
- Korean Honey Garlic Chicken Wings
- Mini Seaweed Rice Rolls (Mayak Gimbap or Kimbap)
- Rice Cake Skewers (Tteok Kkochi)
- Korean Scallion Pancakes with Seafood (Pajeon)
How to Make Korean Fried Chicken (Chimaek)
For gochujang sauce
- 1/4 large onion , diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp sweet rice wine (mirim)
- 1 tsp pureed ginger
- 3 tbsp Korean chili paste (gochujang), see note for a gluten-free gochujang
- 2 tbsp soy sauce, low sodium if possible
- 3 tbsp ketchup
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp apricot preserve or strawberry jam
- 2 tsp rice vinegar, or white vinegar
- 2 tbsp corn syrup
For the chicken seasoning
- Combine chicken wings, pureed ginger, rice wine, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl; toss well together and set aside for 10 minutes.
For the sauce
- Put diced onion, garlic, and rice wine in a mini blender and process until smooth.
- In a small saucepan, combine all the sauce ingredients and pour in the onion garlic puree; mix well. Bring the sauce to boil over medium heat until it bubbles up and thickens slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
For the deep-frying
- Mix cornstarch and baking powder in a large plastic bag. Add the chicken wings and shake them well to coat. Shake off extra coating from the chicken wings.
- For the first fry: Heat oil in a wok or skillet over medium-low heat, to reach about 330˚F. Drop the chicken wings, shaking off the extra cornstarch coating, into the oil, and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes. The oil temperature shouldn’t be too hot and the chicken will fry slowly. If the oil bubbles vigorously, reduce the temperature.
- For the second fry: When all the batches of the first deep fry are finished, raise the heat to medium, about 350˚F. Drop the chicken again into the hot oil and deep-fry until the coating turns a deep golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Adjust the heat if it browns too quickly. Shake off the excess oil from the chicken and place them on a wire rack to allow the remaining oil to drip off the chicken.
- Brush or coat with sauce: Using a pastry brush, apply sauce on the hot chicken wings. Alternately, you can pour the sauce over the chicken and toss them to coat. Garnish chicken wings with toasted sesame seeds or finely chopped nuts. Serve these wings with your favorite cold beverage.