Buttermilk Roast Chicken

Buttermilk. It’s not just for pancakes, people.

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I almost always have a carton (or two) of buttermilk in my fridge. If you haven’t already heard, you can make your own buttermilk at home by adding a little lemon or vinegar to regular milk – if you let it sit on the counter for five minutes or so, the acid will cause the milk to curdle and become buttermilk-like. I’ll do this when I’m in a pinch, but there’s nothing quite like the real thing. I stick to the low-fat cultured stuff and I always have cakes with a tender crumb, creamy salad dressings with a little zip and a brine that can’t be beat.


Let’s back it up a bit and talk about the process of brining. I’ll spare you the scientific stuff, but if you want to do your research, check out this wikipedia article on brine. All you really need to know is that once you brine meat, you’ll never want to not brine it. Say goodbye to the days of dry poultry and pork chops…from here on out …you’ll only end up with the most tender, moist meat. Sounds sort of dirty, but it’s not. Sorry.

Like most everything else I make, this dish is super simple to prepare. All you have to do to make the brine is combine a couple ingredients – buttermilk, salt, sugar, paprika, garlic and pepper – and that’s it. Whisking those together won’t take you too long, will it?

The hurry up and wait part starts now. You’ll want to allow the meat to sit in this solution overnight or for up to forty-eight hours. I know – I’m telling you all about the benefits of brining today and making you wait until tomorrow or – gasp – the day after that. I’m unbelievably impatient, but believe you me – this chicken is worth the wait. Look at that picture of raw meat below and try to tell me that doesn’t already look good enough to eat.


You will stare, longingly, at that lovely bag or container o’ chicken for a day or two. You’ll wonder what kind of witchcraft is taking place within. The suspense will kill you, which is completely okay. Use this time to brace yourself for the best bite of chicken into which you’ll ever sink your teeth.

Once the wait time is up, there are still a couple steps to take before you can chow down, but they’re just as easy as the first part of this recipe. Before throwing everything in the oven, line a baking dish with foil for easy clean up. Then, arrange the chicken pieces in your prepared baking dish, sprinkle on a little extra paprika and some flaked sea salt and roast away!


See that crispy skin? How about the gorgeous color we got from adding those last minute spices? Well, they’re more than just good looks, okay? They add a ton of flavor – and partnered with our buttermilk brine – this chicken packs a one-two punch for your taste buds.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Servings: 4
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Inactive Time:
24-48 hours
Cook Time:
35-45 minutes

2 cups low-fat buttermilk
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken parts
Drizzle of olive oil
Flaked or coarse sea salt, to finish

Whisk buttermilk with garlic, table salt, sugar, paprika and lots of freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Place chicken parts in a gallon-sized freezer bag (or lidded container) and pour buttermilk brine over them, then swish it around so that all parts are covered. Refrigerate for at least 24 and up to 48 hours.

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil (not absolutely necessary, but I never minded having dish that cleaned up easily). Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and arrange in dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with additional paprika and sea salt to taste. Roast for 30 minutes (for legs; approximately 35 to 40 for breasts), until brown and a bit scorched in spots. Serve immediately. We enjoyed it with a baked potato and a simple green salad.


Well, well, well…would you look at that breast? Woops. Once again, sounds dirty, but it’s not. No dirt. Just delish.

Okay, I’m done being immature.

All kidding aside, can we talk about how I could live off of these leftovers? I shred the extra meat and add it to soups, chop it to top salads, or take it directly from tupperware to mouth…you get the idea.

Buttermilk roast chicken. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving.

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