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I absolutely love the KFC Famous Bowl! It’s the only thing I order when I go since the Zinger sandwich of my youth is nowhere near me anymore. I usually get the popcorn chicken on the side so I can add it myself; that way it’s still crunchy when I’m eating it.
Anyway, here’s a recipe for my version of the KFC Famous Bowl. Many of you requested this after I posted it on Instagram earlier this week, and I had some free time today.
This recipe is really 4-in-1: popcorn chicken, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, and everything that makes up the entire bowl. It’s a long recipe with a lot of steps and ingredients, and I recommend reading through it entirely before you start cooking.
The instructions assume you’re going to multi-task so that all the food is as fresh as possible, all at the same time. If this makes you uncomfortable just pull the recipe apart and cook one thing at a time: it’ll still be the same Copycat KFC Famous Bowl in the end. Do what makes you happy!
Tips + Such:
KFC has super light, completely smooth mashed potatoes, and for the lightest, fluffiest, smoothest potatoes possible, you’ll want to pick up a potato ricer. It works by forcing the cooked potato pieces through a bunch of holes that are too tiny for any lump to survive and eliminates the need to mash them. Simply stir in your additions and you’re good to go.
You can substitute milk or half-n-half for the heavy cream in the mashed potatoes, and water for chicken broth in the gravy.
The browning called for in the recipe is simply for color. If you want to allow your roux (the flour and oil mixture that starts your gravy) to cook until it’s a deeper brown, you won’t need it. Just start the gravy a bit earlier in the whole process.
Don’t expect the flavors to be the same as KFC. I’m copying the concept, only, and their flavors are proprietary anyway!
Don’t forget to rate this Copycat KFC Famous Bowl recipe if you try it. If you’re looking for a good biscuit recipe to make with this, check out my How High Buttermilk Biscuits.
Preheat your oven to the lowest possible setting, or to ‘warm’.
About half an hour before you’re ready to begin cooking – up to the night before – place your chicken in a large bowl and season with kosher salt. Stir in the buttermilk and hot sauce until well combined. Make sure the buttermilk completely covers the chicken; add more if needed.
Make your flour dredge by combining the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, seasoned salt, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika in another large bowl. Use a fork to sprinkle some of the buttermilk marinade from the chicken into the flour and stir it around. This creates crunchy craggies.
Grab a large stockpot and add your potatoes. Add just enough water to cover them and place the stockpot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook until fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
While waiting for the potatoes to come to a boil go ahead and prep the chicken for frying. Transfer it from the buttermilk to the flour dredge, allowing the excess buttermilk to drip off first. Toss well in the flour and press the dredge into the sides of the chicken as you go. Set the chicken aside to rest while you preheat the oil. Check the potatoes if you haven’t already.
Add enough oil to a large cast-iron skillet to reach 1/2 way up the sides of the pan. Preheat it over medium heat until it’s around 360ºF. Fry the chicken in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Popcorn chicken will cook quickly, in 3-5 minutes depending on how small the dice, so when they’re golden-brown all over and floating freely on top of the oil, go ahead and pull them. Transfer to a wire rack above a baking sheet to rest, and continue frying until all the chicken is done. Place in the preheated oven to keep warm.
The potatoes should be done by now (you’ll probably need to follow this step right in the middle of your first batch of chicken frying). When they can be pierced easily with a fork drain them well into a large bowl. Turn off the heat and place the stockpot back on the burner.
If you have a potato ricer rice your potatoes directly into the pot. If not, use a potato masher or hand mixer to mash the potatoes, then add back to the pot. If you’re still frying chicken cover the potatoes with a lid and wait until you’re on or finished with the last batch before you move to step 9.
Add the warm cream and butter to the potatoes, and stir in until well combined. Taste and add salt if needed. Cover the potatoes to keep warm.
Set a medium saucepan over medium heat and add 4 tbsp of the oil you used to fry the chicken. When the oil is shimmering – it should still be hot so it shouldn’t take long – sprinkle in the flour. Whisk together into a thick paste and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes. Around this time you want to heat up your corn, either in a small saucepan over medium heat, or in the microwave.
Whisk in your chicken broth until there are no lumps, then whisk in the seasoned salt and browning, if using. Let the gravy cook, stirring frequently, until thickened to your liking, usually about 7 minutes or so. Add more broth or water if needed to reach the consistency you desire. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.
Assemble the bowl: plop some mashed potatoes into a bowl, sprinkle on a few spoonfuls of corn, then a handful of popcorn chicken. Ladle some brown gravy over the whole thing, crack over a bit of black pepper, then finish with a sprinkle of shredded cheese.
I use breasts, but thighs work just as well.
Don’t marinate your chicken for more than 8 hours or so, unless you want it to taste like buttermilk through and through. It’s cut up too small for a long soak.
I have an electric stove with radiant rings that retain heat for a little while, which is enough to keep my potatoes warm. Depending on your stove you might want to keep it on, set to low, while you finish up the chicken and gravy. If you do, make sure to stir them intermittently, scraping the bottom of the pot so the potatoes on don’t brown and overcook.