Spiced Buttermilk Roast Chicken

February 11, 2014

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: This is my take on Smitten Kitchen's take on Nigella Lawson's buttermilk roast chicken. Marinating the chicken in buttermilk makes the meat incredibly moist and juicy; the longer this marinates—up to 2 days—the better it gets. I flavor the marinade with honey, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, which gives the chicken a mysterious, almost medieval flavor. You can add almost anything you want to the marinade, but try it at least once with the spices—it's really terrific.ieatthepeach

Food52 Review: The flavor achieved on this chicken in the minimum two-hour marinating time is surprising! It's tangy, with just a hint of the underlying flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Since it is called "spiced" chicken, I wished the spices were more prominent; as it is, the ground spices are being added directly to the buttermilk marinade and prior to roasting, the chicken pieces get patted dry. Patting dry is crucial to getting crispiness on the skin, so I suggest adding some additional spices to be sprinkled over the top the pieces before they're roasted. Overall, this chicken tasted very good, was juicy, and obtained crispy skin. The roasting temperature and timing were perfect.Jennifer Philipp

Serves: 4 to 6


  • 1 3-pound whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces OR 2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 5 large garlic cloves, lightly crushed with the back of a knife
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 splash olive oil (not extra-virgin) for drizzling
In This Recipe


  1. Place the whole chicken or chicken parts in a gallon zip-top freezer bag. Pour the buttermilk over the chicken, then add garlic, salt, honey, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper. Seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, then use your hands to squish the chicken around until the marinade ingredients are thoroughly mixed and everything is evenly coated. Place the bag in a bowl or other large rimmed container (just in case there are leaks), and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days—the longer this sits, the better it’ll be.
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and rinse off any lingering buttermilk. Pat the pieces as dry as you can with paper towels. If you have time, lay the chicken pieces out on a baking sheet and refrigerate it, uncovered, for a few hours—this will help dry out the skin and make it crisp in the oven.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425° F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with aluminum foil, and lightly grease the foil. Lay the chicken pieces out in the foil-lined pan skin side up, leaving a little space between each piece.
  4. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and use your hands to rub it over till the chicken is evenly coated. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Roast skin-side up for 30 to 40 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken or parts), or until the juices run clear and the skin is browned.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

More Great Recipes:
Buttermilk|Cheese|Chicken|Clove|Honey|Nutmeg|Serves a Crowd|Gluten-Free|Entree

Reviews (9) Questions (2)

9 Reviews

Laffy T. December 4, 2018
Tasty tasty chicken! I’ve made this dish many times, it’s a favorite. I triple the amounts of spices so I don’t need to marinate it so long.
Missy May 25, 2016
My husband, 3 and 9 year old love this recipe! I make sure to marinade it for 24-48 hours. I don't rinse the marinade off- just shake it a bit to get excess off. Then I brush on a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I cooked it for an hour @375 with some chopped potatoes dressed in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and curry powder in the center of the pan, chicken parts surrounding them. Amazing recipe. Thanks so much
ghainskom March 6, 2016
Didn't rinse but did let dry in the fridge. Nice color, and very tasty and moist too!
Kevin F. February 7, 2016
I made this yesterday after letting the chicken marinade about 1.5 days. I too just wiped off the marinade, but didn't rinse. Chicken started to color, but I am sure it would have looked more like the photo had I rinsed, and dried the chicken really well. Flavor is really good. This is a keeper, for sure.
Guggie January 17, 2016
I really enjoyed this, but I hated throwing away the marinade. Any thoughts on how to use it with the meal?
ghainskom March 6, 2016
Never seen poultry marinade get used in a meal. High risk of salmonella contamination, I assume...
Tom January 5, 2016
I marinated 2 days, used buttermilk that was starting to sour, brushed off marinade instead of rinsing, ad spritzed with olive oil half way through. It turned out great!
Michelle L. January 2, 2016
One of our favorite chicken recipes ever. You have to add more spices and salt after you rinse off the marinade to keep it flavorful.
Idalu December 16, 2015
I had high expectations for this recipe. Seems rinsing off the marinade just turns it into an OK meal. Easy and moist though.