Popeyes' culinary chief explains secret behind chain’s chicken, shares roasted thigh recipe

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Popeyes chicken has accomplished a lot in the last year. It sparked a war. It inspired a sexy Halloween costume. And it proved the loyalty of its legions of fans.

Now, those same Popeyes chicken fans can (kind of) get their fast-food fix while in quarantine thanks to a recipe from the beloved Louisiana-style chain’s Head of Culinary Innovation, Amy Alarcon.

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The chicken at Popeyes is clearly different than the chicken at other fast-food chains, as Popeyes fans can attest. But why? Well, according to Alarcon, it all comes down to the marinade.

So, if you’re planning on throwing together a Popeyes-worthy dinner, you have to plan at least a half-day in advance.

So, if you’re planning on throwing together a Popeyes-worthy dinner, you have to plan at least a half-day in advance. (Getty Images/ Jim McKinley)

“One of the hallmarks of Popeyes chicken is the amount of flavor we get from marination, whether it’s a sandwich fillet, a piece of fried chicken, or a tender,” she told Forbes in an interview. “It’s all been seasoned and allowed to sit for at least 12 hours to add maximum flavor. I find myself doing this at home all the time too and chicken is the perfect canvas.”

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As far as upping the flavor, Alarcon told Forbes she always keeps buttermilk on hand, as well as a "well-stocked spice cabinet" and “an assortment of different hot sauces to choose from."  However, Alarcon says she isn't always looking for a “tongue scorcher” when choosing a hot sauce, but rather something that adds a little kick to the marinade, the main job of which is to keep the chicken juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

As far as upping the flavor, Amy Alarcon always keeps buttermilk on hand, as well as “an assortment of different hot sauces to choose from”

As far as upping the flavor, Amy Alarcon always keeps buttermilk on hand, as well as “an assortment of different hot sauces to choose from” (Popeyes)

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For those at home interested in trying their hand at a Popeyes-inspired chicken menu, Alarcon shared how to make her roasted chicken, because, as Popeyes shared with Fox News in a statement, the chain's fried chicken recipe is a secret.

That being said, no one will stop you if you want to deep-fry a cutlet and slap it on a bun, à la the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich.

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Amy Alarcon's recipe for Popeyes-style roasted chicken thighs.

Amy Alarcon's recipe for Popeyes-style roasted chicken thighs. (Popeyes)

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons Crystal Hot Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Tony Chachere’s Creole Spice, plus extra for sprinkling on top
  • 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • Olive oil pan spray

Directions:

For the marinade:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, hot sauce, and 1 tbs of the seasoning. Place inside a gallon size freezer bag and then add in the chicken thighs. Squeeze out the excess air and seal tightly. Massage the bag for 1 minute to make sure the marinade gets thoroughly coated and mixed around the chicken. Place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for a minimum of 12 hours, preferably overnight.

To make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Take out a sheet pan or baking sheet and place a wire rack on top. Spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  3. Carefully drain the chicken thighs in a colander and shake to remove excess buttermilk/hot sauce marinade. Place on wire rack, skin side up, and allow to sit for about 15 minutes to help the skin dry out a bit. Lightly sprinkle more of the Creole seasoning on the skin just to add a little more flavor and color. Using a good quality olive oil spray, lightly coat the surface of the chicken skin, this will aid in crisping.
  4. Cook for 40 minutes. Some ovens are temperamental, so always use a thermometer to make sure you cook poultry to a minimum of 165 degrees F, and 170 degrees for bone-in chicken. The skin should be medium brown and crispy at this point, too.