Stonehenge. Jack the Ripper. The Bermuda Triangle. The Colonel’s 11 secret KFC herbs and spices.
It looks as though one of these mysteries may have finally been solved: the legendary 11 secret ingredients of KFC’s finger lickin’ good fried chicken. The big reveal took place in a somewhat underwhelming way. Chicago Tribune reporter Jay Jones was on assignment covering the Harland Sanders Café and Museum in Corbin Kentucky, the location of the service station where the Colonel first dished up his fried chicken to hungry travellers in the 30s.
While there he met with 67-year-old Joe Ledington, nephew of the Colonel and his second wife, Claudia. While going through an old scrapbook, they found a list with 11 herbs and spices written on the back of Claudia’s will. Is this what makes up the original recipe or just another pretenders to the greasy throne? You can read the full Tribune story here and decide. And should you want to make like a culinary Sherlock Holmes and recreate the wonders of KFC in your own kitchen, the Tribune has thoughtfully recipe-tested and supplied a recipe for you here:
Fried chicken with 11 herbs and spices
Prep: 30 minutes
Soak: 20-30 minutes
Cook: 15-18 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1/3 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried mustard
4 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons ground white pepper
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
1 chicken, cut up, the breast pieces cut in half for more even frying
Expeller-pressed canola oil
1 Mix the flour in a bowl with all the herbs and spices; set aside.
2 Mix the buttermilk and egg together in a separate bowl until combined. Soak the chicken in the buttermilk mixture at room temperature, 20-30 minutes.
3 Remove chicken from the buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off. Dip the chicken pieces in the herb-spice-flour mixture to coat all sides, shaking off excess. Allow to sit on a rack over a baking sheet, 20 minutes.
4 Meanwhile, heat about 3 inches of the oil in a large Dutch oven (or similar heavy pot with high sides) over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. (Use a deep-frying thermometer to check the temperature.) When the temperature is reached, lower the heat to medium to maintain it at 350. Fry 3 or 4 pieces at a time, being careful not to crowd the pot. Fry until medium golden brown, turning once, 15-18 minutes. Transfer chicken pieces to a baking sheet covered with paper towels. Allow the oil to return to temperature before adding more chicken. Repeat with remaining chicken.
A note on MSG: A number of readers have asked how much MSG to use in the recipe above. Although KFC has confirmed that its present-day recipe uses MSG, that ingredient was not part of the list of herbs and spices we received from the Colonel’s nephew, so we didn’t include MSG in the published recipe. But we did taste the fried chicken with a sprinkle of MSG. If you want to try the chicken with MSG, we suggest doing as we did: Sprinkle a little on the finished chicken pieces right before eating.