Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) is a popular dish in Japan. Karaage is traditionally deep fried chicken (or veggies or seafood) however this nontraditional way is shallow fried that yields the same crispy golden brown results! This version is also Paleo, Gluten Free, and Whole30 friendly.
I first had karaage when I was in Hawaii and it is all I ever think about. The crispy but airy chicken pieces are deep fried into golden brown perfection. They are the perfect appetizer before hitting the beach or spending the day exploring the island.
When I asked the chef what went into his karaage, I was pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of the dish! It only took a handful of ingredients to make this flavor packed dish, and I knew I had to get into the kitchen to recreate it.
Luckily, this Japanese fried chicken is naturally gluten free and it did not take many adjustments to make it fit my dietary needs. Traditionally, it’s also deep fried, but if you know me, you know deep frying is not my jam. It makes me nervous and I really don’t think it’s necessary to make things crispy golden brown delicious! Seriously.
Now don’t get me wrong. There is definitely a time and a place for deep frying, but I’m leaving it to the experts. Plus, I don’t think it’s something you should be doing on a daily basis. All that oil you’re wasting and the cleanup can be a hassle but to each their own.
Here are a few key things that will help you get delicious Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken):
- Chicken thighs are definitely the best option, but if you want to use chicken breast be sure to use chicken breast with the skin still on. This will help with the texture and ensure the chicken stays nice and juicy.
- Potato starch is traditionally used (so I’ve been told) but people also use corn starch. If you can’t find either or don’t do corn starch, I would use tapioca flour/starch as the next best thing.
- When cutting your chicken thighs, cut into 3-4 pieces. You don’t want anything smaller because as the chicken cooks it will shrink and you want decent size pieces to munch on.
- The amount of oil you use will depend on the size of your skillet. I start off with a quarter cup and go from there. You want enough to cover the bottom of your skillet.
- Serving karaage with lemon wedges is a must. The lemon juice brings freshness to the dish and helps cut the fattiness.
I am almost certain this will be a popular dish with your friends and family. Might want to consider making a double batch! You won’t regret it.
UPDATE: Because so many of you asked, YES this can be made in the air fryer. Here’s what to do: dredge chicken, make sure to shake off any excess potato starch. This is really important. Place chicken into air fryer basket skin side up. Lightly spray with cooking oil and cook at 375F for 20 minutes tossing halfway through. Try not to overcrowd the air fryer. Cook in batches if you need to.
Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)
Karaage or Japanese Fried Chicken is chicken (or veggies and other animal protein) lightly coated using potato starch or corn flour and then fried until golden brown and crispy.
- 4-6 skin-on boneless chicken thighs
- 2 garlic cloves minced or grated
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 2 tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar or Japanese sake
- 1 tsp kosher salt more to taste
- 1 cup potato starch or cornstarch*
- ¼ - ½ cup avocado oil more depending on size of skillet
- lemon wedges
Cut chicken thighs into 3-4 bite size pieces.
In a bowl, add in the chicken thighs, garlic, ginger, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, and kosher salt. Mix until well combined and let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat with avocado oil. Use enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
While oil is heating up, add potato starch to a shallow bowl. Lightly coat each piece of chicken thigh in potato starch making sure to shake off any excess.
Add chicken to the skillet (making sure not to overcrowd, cook in batches if you need to) and cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through.
Place fried chicken on a paper towel lined plate and season with kosher salt to taste.
Air Fryer method: Place chicken into air fryer basket skin side up. Lightly spray with cooking oil and cook at 375F for 20 minutes tossing halfway through. Try not to overcrowd the air fryer. Cook in batches if you need to.
Serve karaage with lemon wedges. Be sure to squeeze lemon over chicken before eating!
*If you can't find potato starch or don't want to use cornstarch, you can substitute both with tapioca flour/starch.
Air Fryer method: when dredging chicken, make sure to shake off any excess potato starch. This is really important. Place chicken into air fryer basket skin side up. Lightly spray with cooking oil and cook at 375F for 20 minutes tossing halfway through.
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