Is Fried Chicken Paleo? (No, Here’s Why)

Is Fried Chicken Paleo

Fried chicken is a popular food in the United States and has been around since the late 1800s. You can find fried chicken, chicken strips, and chicken fingers on menus at restaurants around the country as well as at numerous fast-food chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chick-fil-A, and more. You might assume that fried chicken is Paleo because it contains chicken which is Paleo.

Traditional fried chicken isn’t Paleo because the breading can contain wheat, corn, and milk products. Most fried chicken in restaurants and fast-food chains isn’t Paleo. However, you can make a Paleo-friendly version by using almond or tapioca flour. Some Paleo-friendly chicken dishes to consider are Primal Kitchen Chicken Fried Riced Cauliflower Skillet and Kevin’s Natural Foods Paleo Cilantro Lime Chicken.

So how is fried chicken made, and how do you make it Paleo? Read on to learn all about fried chicken, both regular and Paleo-friendly!

Refresher course – what’s a Paleo diet?

The Paleolithic diet is otherwise known as “Paleo” or “the caveman diet. The primary goal of the Paleo diet is to eat foods that our caveman ancestors ate thousands of years ago through hunting and gathering. The Paleo diet includes foods like meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It avoids foods that became popular once farming began, such as dairy, legumes, grains, and refined sugars.

Potential Benefits of the Paleo Diet

Low in refined sugars

The Paleo diet is low in refined sugars compared to the typical Western diet. The majority of sugar-sweetened foods are sweetened with refined sugars like cane sugar and corn syrup. This means that your added sugar intake would likely decrease if you adopted a Paleo diet.

Avoids refined carbohydrates

Many of the grains consumed in a Western diet are refined grains such as white bread, white pasta, and others. Refined grains are lower in fiber and other nutrients. Because the Paleo diet is free of these grains, there is more room for more nutrient-dense foods like sweet potatoes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.

Might help symptoms of certain autoimmune disorders

Some people find some relief from symptoms of their autoimmune disorders while following a paleo diet, such as those suffering from Crohn’s disease. The “Autoimmune Protocol”, an extension of the Paleo diet, has been scientifically proven to reduce symptoms in inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

What is fried chicken?

Fried chicken is usually made by coating chicken in batter and submerging it in oil at very high temperatures. If it’s done well, the chicken becomes crispy on the outside and remains moist and juicy on the inside.

One of the first recipes for fried chicken appeared in the cookbook The Virginia House-Wife by Mary Randolph in 1824.

“Chicken fingers” or chicken strips are a popular type of fried chicken available in many restaurants. According to Taste of Home, the 10 most popular fast-food restaurants known for fried chicken include:

  • Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
  • Zaxby’s (popular in the Southwestern part of the United States)
  • Bojangle’s
  • Raising Cane’s
  • Shake Shack
  • Wingstop
  • Church’s Chicken
  • Jollibee
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Popeye’s

What’s in fried chicken?

1. Chicken

You can use most cuts of chicken for fried chicken. The most popular cuts of chicken to use for fried chicken include breasts, thighs, legs, and wings.

2. Flour

Chicken is usually coated in flour prior to being dipped in the liquid. The typical order for dredging chicken is: coat chicken in flour, dip it in a liquid, and roll it in the breading mixture.

3. Breading

The key to crispy fried chicken is in the breading. Most recipes call for regular flour and cornstarch, but you can get creative and use other grain alternatives as well. Cornstarch helps give the fried chicken an extra crispy texture. Other recipes might call for breadcrumbs or crunched-up cornflakes as breading.

4. Egg wash

Some recipes call for eggs to dip the chicken in before coating it in the breading. Without a liquid-such as eggs, the breading won’t stick to the chicken.

5. Buttermilk

Some recipes don’t call for an egg wash but instead use buttermilk to coat the chicken before coating it in the breading.

6. Spices

The sky’s the limit as far as spices to add to your breading. Salt and pepper are basics, but you can also add garlic powder, cayenne, creole seasoning, and even powdered Ranch dressing seasoning.

7. Oil

Peanut oil is a popular oil for frying chicken because it has a high smoke point. Other types of preferred fats are vegetable shortening and lard.

High smoke point fats like these withstand high temperatures without burning, which is why they’re preferred for deep-fat frying. The temperature of the fat should be 350 degrees Fahrenheit for good fried chicken.

Is fried chicken healthy?

Fried chicken isn’t very healthy because it’s high in fat. It can also be high in carbs depending on the amount of breading/batter used. Frozen fried chicken is typically high in sodium like most convenience/processed foods.

Can you make healthier versions of fried chicken?

Air frying

Air fryers are becoming more popular for people who want to enjoy the texture of fried foods while also eating healthy. Air fryers circulate air constantly while heating it, resulting in a crispy texture similar to fried foods but without the oil.


You can achieve a texture similar to true fried chicken by baking it in the oven at a high temperature. The process is similar because you still need a liquid and some kind of breading. The difference is that you don’t need oil, just an oven preheated to a high temperature (around 425 degrees Fahrenheit).

Is fried chicken Paleo?

Traditional fried chicken isn’t Paleo because it includes flour and cornstarch for the breading, both of which aren’t Paleo. Buttermilk (dairy) is often used as part of the frying process, which also isn’t Paleo.

However, if you alter the recipe and use Paleo-friendly ingredients, fried chicken can be Paleo.

How can I make Paleo fried chicken?

Use Paleo grain alternatives

Some popular Paleo fried chicken recipes use almond flour, arrowroot flour, and tapioca flour for the breading. Almond flour and tapioca flour are both Paleo-friendly!

Paleo liquid for coating the chicken

Instead of buttermilk, Paleo fried chicken recipes call for coconut milk or eggs for the liquid.

Paleo-friendly fat for frying

Ghee, or clarified butter, is Paleo-friendly and can be used for Paleo fried chicken. Avocado oil is another great choice because it has a high smoke point and is Paleo.

Fried Chicken Nutrition

Kentucky Fried Chicken Extra Crispy Chicken Breast


  • Fresh Chicken Marinated With:
    • Salt
    • Sodium Phosphate and Monosodium Glutamate
  • Breaded With:
    • Wheat Flour
    • Salt
    • Tricalcium Phosphate
    • Spices
    • Monosodium Glutamate
    • Corn Starch
    • Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate)
    • Garlic Powder
    • Canola Oil
    • Citric Acid
    • Natural Flavorings
    • Sugar
    • Corn Syrup Solids
    • With Not More Than 2% Calcium Silicate Added as an Anti-Caking Agent
  • Or Fresh Chicken Marinated With:
    • Salt
    • Sodium Phosphate and Monosodium Glutamate
  • Breaded With:
    • Wheat Flour
    • Salt
    • Tricalcium Phosphate
    • Spices
    • Monosodium Glutamate
    • Corn Starch
    • Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate)
    • Garlic Powder
    • Canola Oil
    • Modified Corn Starch
    • Spice Extractives
    • Citric Acid
    • With Not More Than 2% Calcium Silicate Added as an Anti-Caking Agent

Nutrition facts (per 178 grams):

  • Calories: 530
  • Total Fat: 35 g
  • Saturated Fat: 6 g
  • Sodium: 1150 mg (48% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 18 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0 g
  • Total Sugars: o g
  • Protein: 35 g

Chick-fil-A Chick-n-Strips®


  • Boneless, Skinless Breast Tenderloins
  • Yeast Extract
  • Salt
  • Maltodextrin
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Spice
  • Flavor
  • Chicken Fat
  • Garlic Powder
  • Sugar Syrup
  • Onion Powder
  • Citric Acid, Paprika [Color]
  • Sodium Diacetate
  • Silicon Dioxide [Anticaking Agent]
  • Molasses
  • Tomato Powder
  • Smoke Flavor
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Enriched Bleached Flour [With Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid]
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Monosodium Glutamate
  • Nonfat Milk
  • Leavening [Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate]
  • Spice
  • Soybean Oil
  • Color [Paprika]
  • Pasteurized Nonfat Milk
  • Pasteurized Egg
  • Fully Refined Peanut Oil [With Dimethylpolysiloxane {An Anti-Foam Agent} Added])

Nutrition Facts (per 3 pieces):

  • Calories: 310
  • Total Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.5 g
  • Sodium: 870 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 16 g
  • Total Sugars: 2 g

Popeye’s Handcrafted Chicken Tenders


  • Chicken
  • Mild Seasoning:
    • Salt
    • Monosodium Glutamate
    • Seasoning Including Dried Garlic And Dried Onion
  • Poultry Batter:
    • Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Enriched With Niacin, Reduced
      Iron, Thiamine, Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
    • Salt
    • S­pack [Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Enriched With Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine, Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
    • Salt
    • Sugar
    • Fd&C Yellow #5 (May Also Contain Yellow #6, Red #40, Red #3, Grape Color Extract, Blue #1, Blue #2, Beet Color Extract, Annatto Extract And / Or Turmeric Extract)
    • Spices
    • Dried Whole Eggs
    • Nonfat Dried Milk
    • Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate And/Or Sodium Aluminum  Sulfate)
    • Microcrystalline Cellulose
    • Natural Flavor
  • Flour:
    • Bleached Wheat Flour, Malted Barley

Nutrition Facts (per 3 pieces):

  • Calories: 445
  • Total Fat: 21 g
  • Saturated Fat: 9 g
  • Trans Fat: 1 g
  • Sodium: 1821 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 29 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2 g
  • Total Sugars: o g
  • Protein: 38 g

Paleo-friendly alternatives to fried chicken

There aren’t any ready-made Paleo-friendly chicken strips/tenders, etc. on the market at this time. Your best bet is to make your own homemade Paleo fried chicken at home. If you want a Paleo-friendly prepared chicken meal, there are a couple of options, though they aren’t necessarily similar to fried chicken.

Primal Kitchen Chicken Fried Riced Cauliflower Skillet

Frozen Paleo-friendly meals aren’t necessarily healthy because they’re high in sodium. However, if you’re looking for a quick chicken-based meal, this fits the bill.


  • Riced Cauliflower
  • Cooked Organic Dark Meat Chicken (Organic Dark Meat Chicken, Water, Sea Salt)
  • Organic Onions
  • Peas, Scrambled Eggs (Cage-Free Whole Eggs, Water, Tapioca Starch, Sea Salt, Pepper)
  • Carrots
  • Green Onion
  • Organic Coconut Aminos (Water, Organic Coconut Syrup, Salt)
  • Organic Toasted Sesame Oil
  • Organic Garlic Powder
  • Dried Chicken Broth
  • Mushroom Powder (Dried Mushroom, Salt)
  • Salt
  • Spice

Nutrition facts (per 1/2 package):

  • Calories: 270
  • Total Fat: 12 g
  • Saturated Fat: 3 g
  • Sodium: 920 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 22 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 5 g
  • Total Sugars: 10 g
  • Protein: 20 g

Kevin’s Natural Foods Paleo Cilantro Lime Chicken

Kevin's Natural Foods Cilantro Lime Sauce - Keto and Paleo Simmer Sauce - Stir-Fry Sauce, Gluten Free, No Preservatives, Non-GMO - 3 Pack (Cilantro Lime) This frozen entrée is Paleo-friendly and certified gluten-free.


  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast (Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, Water, Vinegar, Sea Salt, Yeast Extract, Citrus Extract, Granulated Garlic, Granulated Onion, Spices)
  • Cilantro Lime Sauce (Water, Sunflower Oil, Roasted Poblano Chilies, Cilantro, Parsley, Dehydrated Garlic, Roasted Garlic, Lime Juice Concentrate, Jalapeno, Sea Salt, Lemon Peel, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Tapioca Starch Spices, Sunflower Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Monkfruit Extract)

Nutrition Facts (per 5 oz.):

  • Calories: 180
  • Total Fat: 7 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Sodium: 450 mg (20% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 4 g
  • Protein: 23 g

Related Questions

Is fried chicken keto?

Fried chicken can be keto-friendly when the breading isn’t high in carbs. Almond flour breading is popular for keto fried chicken.

Is fried chicken bad for you?

Restaurant fried chicken isn’t very healthy because it’s loaded with sodium and saturated fat. For a healthier option, try making baked crispy chicken in order to obtain a similar texture without all the fat and salt.

Is fried chicken gluten-free?

Traditional fried chicken isn’t gluten-free because it uses wheat flour as part of the breading. You can make your own gluten-free fried chicken by choosing gluten-free breading ingredients like almond flour or tapioca flour.

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Diana Gariglio-Clelland

Diana Gariglio-Clelland is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She obtained her Bachelor's in Nutrition from the University of Idaho in 2012 and has worked in clinical, community, and primary care nutrition settings. She currently works as a freelancer on various health- and nutrition-related projects.

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