This healthier chicken-fried chicken with country gravy cuts the fat and sodium

Eric and Shanna Jones
Healthier Southern Cooking
Chicken fried chicken with much less sodium.

About the recipe

Reprinted with permission from Healthier Southern Cooking by Eric and Shanna Jones, Page Street Publishing, co. 2022. 

“No, not chicken-fried steak. Chicken-fried chicken.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to repeat this as if others are in denial that chicken-fried chicken is a thing. Well, in the South, it is a huge thing.

While this recipe is a variation of the traditional chicken-fried steak, I may be a little biased and will admittedly call this my favorite of the two. On top of the fact that it tastes great, this easy protein swap is healthier. Crispy and juicy butterflied chicken breasts are battered using light coconut milk instead of buttermilk then pan-fried in just enough sunflower oil to ensure the chicken is perfectly golden. The gravy is thick and can hold its own, yet made with lighter ingredients, so it doesn’t weigh you down. And then the two come together; it is Southern cooking at its finest.

Makes: 4 servings


1 pound (454 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 teaspoons (4 g) smoked paprika

3 teaspoons (6 g) black pepper, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons (5 g) garlic powder, divided

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoons (4 g) Himalayan pink salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground thyme

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons(510 ml) sunflower oil

2 large eggs

1/2 cup (120 ml) canned light coconut milk

1 tablespoon (15 ml) Sriracha sauce

2 1/4 cups (281 g) all-purpose flour, divided

2 tablespoons (16 g) cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon (9 g) minced garlic

2 cups (480 ml) 2% milk

1 tablespoon (6 g) grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoons onion powder


Cut each of the chicken breasts in half. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap, and lightly pound it with a meat tenderizer until it is 1/2-inch thick.

Season the chicken evenly with the smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons of the black pepper, 1 teaspoon of the garlic powder, chili powder, 1 teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt, thyme and cayenne pepper.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, coconut milk and Sriracha sauce. Submerge the chicken into the egg mixture. Allow the chicken to marinate for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

In a large ziplock bag, combine 2 cups of the flour, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the Himalayan pink salt, cornstarch and baking powder. Place the marinated chicken breasts in the flour mixture. Close the bag, shake it well to coat the chicken and then place it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Heat 2 cups of sunflower oil in a deep 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Preheat the oven to 175°F. Add the chicken to the skillet and pan-fry it for 4 minutes on each side, until it is golden brown and crispy and its internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Transfer the fried chicken to a large nonstick baking sheet, then place the baking sheet in the oven to keep the chicken warm while you make the gravy.

Next, heat a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the minced garlic and cook it for 1 minute. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup flour to form a thick paste, then add the milk. Stirring the mixture constantly, add the Parmesan cheese, oregano, onion powder, remaining 1teaspoon of black pepper, remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt. Reduce the temperature to low and cook the gravy for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is thick and silky. To serve, pour the gravy over the chicken or serve the chicken with the gravy on the side.