Serves a Crowd

Spiced Buttermilk Roast Chicken

February 11, 2014
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4 to 6
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • mmsJack
  • Kevin French
    Kevin French
  • Guggie
  • Michelle Landry
    Michelle Landry
  • Idalu

12 Reviews

NXL August 15, 2021
Wow! This was so good! Subtle flavors, but moist and delicious. I made two whopping big chickens for a family lunch and nearly all was eaten. I didn't rinse off the buttermilk, but did dry it well, so the skin got great color. I'd definitely make this again.
mmsJack May 30, 2020

So happy I made it with the ingredients as written this first time. Highly recommend that approach first.

I did marinade a full 48 hours + maybe 4 hours in fridge sans marinade on a cookie sheet to allow the skin to dry. Followed others lead and did not wipe off excess buttermilk but by the time it was time to go in the oven it was fairly dry. Mine did not get as dark and I assume that's why but it was still delicious.

Tossed some roasted veggies in the oven so everything was done at about the same time.

Quite wonderful. I agree with the whole *medieval* essence of the spices, frigging YUM. Everyone loved it, some enjoyed the spice combo more than others (though no one was disappointed by any means!)

I'd definitely use the buttermilk/garlic/honey as a base and experiment with seasonings next time. I'm a total fresh herbs kind of girl but it would take an insane amount of fresh chopped herbs to get past all that buttermilk and really impart flavor so dried herbs may be the way to go?

We tossed around some other ideas like a *hot chicken* version with hot honey and sriracha. We have a go to recipe for summer grilled chicken that includes diced, canned chipotle peppers and fresh poblanos (which carmalize - yum) - we wondered if this would be an option to add to the buttermilk. I'd definitely do this with a boatload of fresh oregano and thyme plus a bay leaf, maybe two. Endless seasoning possibilities but the original recipe is fabulous.

Thanks for this fantastic, easy, versatile recipe!
MadoToo January 22, 2020
This was delicious. I tripled the spice amount, (as suggsted below) and more garlic of course..., I had 2 chickens, and I marinated them for 1 1/2 days. Then I let the pieces air dry on a rack for about 2 hours, (in fridge), did not wipe the buttermilk. By the time it was ready to go in the oven, the buttermilk was basically gone. Rubbed a little oil and sprinkled a bit of Piment d'Espelette for a little kick. It was enjoyed by all. Will make this again. Thank you.
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.