PSA: Someone Has Reverse-Engineered KFC Chicken

PSA: Someone Has Reverse-Engineered KFC Chicken

An enjoyable bout of foodie one-upmanship has yielded not only one “reverse-engineered” home recipe of KFC’s 11 herbs and spices, but an improved version of fried chicken that strips out the MSG. Get the napkins ready and see for yourself.

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Since 1991, KFC has been synonymous with fried chicken but the fast-food franchise has plans to kill off its iconic logo and name for the past three decades in favour of nostalgia. That's right: we're apparently ditching the acronym and going back to 'Kentucky Fried Chicken'.

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Ron Douglas, author of America’s Most Wanted Recipes, claims to have nailed down a home recipe that most people can’t tell apart from Colonel Sanders’ widely available version. See for yourself:

  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons Accent (MSG)

It’s a bit disappointing to learn that you can’t quite replicate the ultimate fast food guilty pleasure without loading your chicken skins with Accent, (AKA monosodium glutamate) and using a high-pressure deep fryer.

So the Word of Mouth blog at the Guardian UK’s site crowd-sourced a remix of Douglas’ seasoned flour coating, and came up with a version that host Tim Hayward finds “very, very good.” It lacks the “facepunch” of mouth-filling flavor, known as umami, but it’s apparently quite agreeable—and Hayward lists both spice mixes, so you can give in to your overwhelming cravings if needed.

Here’s the easier ingredients list:

  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried onion flakes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper

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Secret menus are pretty awesome. You get access to tasty morsels most people don't realise exist, making you part of a culinary illuminati. KFC has a secret menu. As well as the The Nug-a-Lot, there's an entire menu of secret goodness. Here's how to access that menu and join KFC's secret society.

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Have you tried either recipe? Have your own pan-fried chicken recipe passed down under lock and key that you want to open-source? By all means, tell us about your chicken in the comments.

The Word of Mouth KFC challenge [Guardian UK via Serious Eats]

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • KFC is hardly the “ultimate fast food guilty pleasure”. Like all of the American fast food we have here, it’s downright filthy.

    • People still hold the false belief that MSG is bad for you. Not realizing that MSG is essentially just salt.

      • It is clear MSG will not affect your health in sensible quantities. So why the hype; MSG sends most people into an uncomfortable thirst frenzy.

      • Food scientists have done multiple double blind tests with MSG and all of them have come to the conclusion that “MSG sensitivity” is just a placebo.

      • Readers can enrich articles by adding comments to these great hacks.

        Others choose to add nonconstructive negative comments with every comment which LH and its readers can do without.

  • Substitute ingredients conspiracy theories aside, if you reverse engineer KFC chicken won’t you get… a chicken?

  • So I think I’ve missed the spot where we mix with four. How much flour do we need for that amount?

  • The sneaky ingredient – MSG. No wonder Kentucky Fried needed to make the recipe secret. No wonder we gulp down heaps of beverages with the chicken. If you fail to make flavoursome food without MSG then the recipe is a cheat. Just like using cream in cooking.

    Once again Life Hacker proves it’s self to the masses.

    There is a good reason it is called Take-Away:-
    Take-Away – the flavour
    Take-Away – your money
    Take-Away – cooking skills
    Take-Away – your health

    My Take-Away is leave the stuff alone.

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