Pioneer Take-Out Fried Chicken

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Shatteringly crisp, flavorful Pioneer Fried Chicken that tastes so nostalgic you will feel like you've gone back in time! Easy to make, only takes five minutes to make the wet batter and straight into the fryer! Serve with corn on the cob and your favorite cole slaw to make this meal complete!

Shatteringly crisp, flavorful Pioneer Fried Chicken that tastes so nostalgic you will feel like you’ve gone back in time! Easy to make, only takes five minutes to make the wet batter and straight into the fryer! Serve with corn on the cob and your favorite cole slaw to make this meal complete!

Are you by any chance a kid of the 80s? Are you from Southern California? Do you remember Saved By The Bell? Ok ok, the last one doesn’t really apply, but this Pioneer Fried Chicken is legendary and going the way of Latin since the chain began closing shops years ago. Currently there are only a couple of Pioneer Chickens left and those that still exist haven’t been updated in 20 years.

Shatteringly crisp, flavorful Pioneer Fried Chicken that tastes so nostalgic you will feel like you've gone back in time! Easy to make, only takes five minutes to make the wet batter and straight into the fryer! Serve with corn on the cob and your favorite cole slaw to make this meal complete!

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When I was pregnant with our oldest we were living in DC and I got the worst craving for this chicken. I scoured the internet and found absolutely NO recipes. A lot of people were talking about how much they missed Pioneer Chicken and how it was a food memory they treasured, but no one could decode the dish in a way that would satisfy us all. We grew up with this chicken, we all agreed KFC should’ve gone the way of the dinosaurs instead of Pioneer Chicken, yet here we were with two outdated fledgling locations left.

To top it off I was 3300 miles away from the closest one! So I started playing with recipes. It is hard to decode a recipe for something you can’t currently taste, so I tried and failed.

Recently I had another craving for it when I had finished making Ad Hoc’s Fried Chicken by Thomas Keller (wow talk about low and high brow huh?) and I figured since it had been years since my last attempt, I could possibly find something.

Shatteringly crisp, flavorful Pioneer Fried Chicken that tastes so nostalgic you will feel like you've gone back in time! Easy to make, only takes five minutes to make the wet batter and straight into the fryer! Serve with corn on the cob and your favorite cole slaw to make this meal complete!JACKPOT. In the strangest of places, some guy had made a youtube video of the recipe where he mixes and fries it with no audio and no recipe to copy. Old school pencil and paper writing it down as I watched, I could tell he was on to something when I saw that wet batter come together. Sure enough when it came out of the oil it was gorgeous! The perfect orange brown tinted shade, with a smooth surface. It may not sound exciting to you if you aren’t familiar with Pioneer Chicken, but if you know what I am talking about here you are probably salivating as you read this.

I also need to take a minute and go completely off on a tangent. I’m having a fit of nostalgia today and it made me think about my childhood. A childhood full of Mario and all the wonder of Nintendo. So today as I was browsing the internet I came across a back to school list someone made (why a video game is on that list is lost on me, but hey to each their own). It also made me think of this website Games Like Zone my husband showed me that tells you other games you would like based on the one game you do like. I’m just waiting on the list for my only other nostalgic game I loved, Zelda!

My friends think it is pretty funny when I talk about video games but I think every one of us has memories of being a kid and playing them! I still remember holding the antenna on the television for my brother to play the original Mario! Okay enough of my kid memories, lets get back to some fried chicken…ok wait one more memory…do any of you remember those pencil cases with hidden compartments? Ok, ok I am really done now…

Mix all the dry ingredients except for the reserved 1/4 cup cornstarch. Add the water and whisk. Shatteringly crisp, flavorful Pioneer Fried Chicken that tastes so nostalgic you will feel like you've gone back in time! Easy to make, only takes five minutes to make the wet batter and straight into the fryer! Serve with corn on the cob and your favorite cole slaw to make this meal complete!Put 1/4 cup of cornstarch in shallow pan and coat chicken with it. Shatteringly crisp, flavorful Pioneer Fried Chicken that tastes so nostalgic you will feel like you've gone back in time! Easy to make, only takes five minutes to make the wet batter and straight into the fryer! Serve with corn on the cob and your favorite cole slaw to make this meal complete!

Dip the chicken that has been coated in cornstarch into the wet batter until completely coated. Let drip for a couple of seconds. Fry in 350 degree peanut or canola oil. for 8-10 minutes until cooked through in small batches. Drain on metal rack, not paper towels, that would make it soggy. Shatteringly crisp, flavorful Pioneer Fried Chicken that tastes so nostalgic you will feel like you've gone back in time! Easy to make, only takes five minutes to make the wet batter and straight into the fryer! Serve with corn on the cob and your favorite cole slaw to make this meal complete!

Recipe

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Pioneer Fried Chicken

4.91 from 31 votes
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Course: Main
  • Cuisine: American
  • Author: Dinner, then Dessert
Shatteringly crisp, flavorful Pioneer Fried Chicken that tastes so nostalgic you will feel like you've gone back in time! Easy to make, only takes five minutes to make the wet batter and straight into the fryer! Serve with corn on the cob and your favorite cole slaw to make this meal complete!

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken , cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 cup cornstarch , 1/4 cup reserved for coating
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • add 3/4 cup of water
  • 3 cups peanut or canola oil

Instructions

Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients except for the reserved 1/4 cup cornstarch.
  2. Add the water and whisk.
  3. Put 1/4 cup of cornstarch in shallow pan and coat chicken with it.
  4. Dip the chicken that has been coated in cornstarch into the wet batter until completely coated.
  5. Let drip for a couple of seconds and gently lower into pot of oil.
  6. Fry in 350 degree peanut or canola oil. for 8-10 minutes until cooked through in small batches.

  7. Drain on metal rack, not paper towels, that would make it soggy.

Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from Youtube.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 6 servings, Amount per serving: 482 calories, Calories: 482g, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 95mg, Sodium: 1244mg, Potassium: 317mg, Fiber: 1g, Vitamin A: 750g, Vitamin C: 2.5g, Calcium: 38g, Iron: 1.8g

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Keyword: Pioneer Take-Out Fried Chicken (Copycat)
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Shatteringly crisp, flavorful Pioneer Fried Chicken that tastes so nostalgic you will feel like you've gone back in time! Easy to make, only takes five minutes to make the wet batter and straight into the fryer! Serve with corn on the cob and your favorite cole slaw to make this meal complete!

Shatteringly crisp, flavorful Pioneer Fried Chicken that tastes so nostalgic you will feel like you've gone back in time! Easy to make, only takes five minutes to make the wet batter and straight into the fryer! Serve with corn on the cob and your favorite cole slaw to make this meal complete!

About the Author

Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

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Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. ok this was really really good..but..i used my deep fryer and when i went to check the chicken..they were so stuck to the basket..i had to pry them off which left the battered skin on that side stuck fried on..lol i don’t understand why..i put six peices in..maybe they were too croweded??..i’ve used my fryer for home-made fries..never a prob..oil was heated to 350..so ..checken took about 15min. to cook thru..i think i should have done 3 and 3..and the tip putting on the rack..boy what a difference..i always put my other recipe on paper towels to suck up the oil..hubby loved it this way..ty

  2. being a Canuck i have never heard of this place..I never do fried chicken with skin on as i di oven fried chicken..but i want to try this tonight..will be back to let you know tomorrow..it sure sounds good..huggzz

  3. Tried this tonight on boneless chicken breast and it was really good. I should have either seasoned the chicken a little or pounded a bit thinner. I also didn’t have celery salt so I used Lawry’s seasoned salt. Hubby and I both think it would be great on fish and shrimp as well.

    I saw your comment that you use table salt for baking and wondering if you are talking about Morton’s Iodized salt or something else???? I only have kosher and fine sea salt in my pantry. Is the sea salt a good sub for table salt?

  4. I am so so happy that I came across your recipe. I’m going to try it tomorrow night. I used to live next door to Pioneer Chicken on Sherman Way and Mason. At the time (in the 70’s) there was a Lucky Market in this tiny shopping center. According to Google Map, it looks like it is now a Smart & Final and where Pioneer Chicken was, there is a Chinese restaurant. I used to be able to walk to Pioneer and they would give out (or sell, I cant remember) cone cups of just the skin that would drop or fall between the metal racks. I so love that chicken and really wish they would come back. I dont understand why they went away. Such a shame and loss of fabulous chicken to the world.

  5. Hello! I tried it today and boy it was soooo yummy and oh so crunchy! I’ll keep the recipe, promise! Hahaha! 1 question though, how long will it stay crunchy? The batch i made didn’t sit long to cool down ?

    1. I’m so glad you loved it! If you allow the chicken to cool on a wire rack, they’ll stay crispy and not get soggy. Hope this helps!

    1. Either works but make sure your pan is deep enough to cover the chicken and not cause a huge mess of splatter in your kitchen too. Enjoy!

  6. This was some of the best fried chicken I have ever had! I will definitely be making this again! It was super moist, the texture was phenomenal, and the flavor was outstanding! I’m sold on pioneer chicken. Thank you so much for the recipe!!

  7. OMGoodness!!!!! I grew up in SoCal and I am ALWAYS talking about Pioneer Chicken. The only Fried chicken place I have ever loved. You are right in saying that KFC should have been the place to close. It is gross!!!! While scrolling Pinterest I could NOT believe my eyes when I came across your post. WOW! I am so over the moon excited right now. I will be trying this, this weekend! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for understanding Pioneer love (Insert laughing emoji here)….

  8. I just made this and followed recipe as written. I have never had Pioneer Chicken; however, as fried chicken goes this was okay. Loved the light, crispy coating. Next time I will play a little with the spices as the flavor needs a little more kick. Like that the recipe is adaptable to suit your personal taste. I recommend trying as written first and then tweak if you need to. Also do fry in small batches; chicken cooks better. I used chicken tenders.

  9. I have been craving Pioneer chicken for years, my family used to have it all the time back in the 70’s. I found your recipe and decided to try it last night. It’s been a really long time since I have had Pioneer, and this was pretty much exactly how I remember it, from the dark color and crunchy texture of the skin, to the juicy flavorful chicken inside. You got this recipe pretty much spot on. Thank you Sabrina for your research and for posting this, I’ll definitely be making this again soon. And I am looking forward to trying some of your other recipes too!

  10. OMG!!!!! I grew up on Pioneer Chicken in southern CA. About a year ago started searching for one and wasn’t able to locate any. This chicken is soooooo goooood. I did work at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Van Nuys CA when in High School but my fav was Pioneer! Thank you so much for posting this I can’t wait to try it!!!
    Patty D

    1. For the 1/4 cup cornstarch? Yeah you keep it from the 1 cup you start with. The 1/4 cup flour is not reserved, it goes into the batter with the rest of the ingredients.

  11. I just tried your recipe and it was delicious! I don’t know if it really tasted like Pioneer Chicken, because it has been decades since I last had ( or have even seen ) Pioneer. But your recipe was so good. Thank you very much. Have you ever considered trying to duplicate their Pioneer Sauce??

  12. I tried the fried chicken recipe and I must say, it was delicious! The crust was light and airy and the crunch didn’t break your teeth. My daughter and I said that next time, we’re trying this on catfish. Almost like Captain D’s.

      1. Hey, Sabrina, thank you for this recipe it tasted great! I am from Germany and I would like to try the chicken from Willie Mae’s either could you send me a copycat recipe of them?

        Thank you!!

        1. I don’t have a copycat recipe for that one. I’ll have to add it to my list of things to research. Thanks for the suggestion.

  13. Hi, just dropping by to say that I’ve made this recipe five times already. It’s by far the BEST fried chicken we’ve ever had. I literally daydream about this chicken when I’m at work!

  14. You left out the toasted sesame oil in the fry oil. (got to be the toasted oil )
    Trader Jo’s has it
    Thats the secret flavor, try it you will see !
    About a tsp to a bottle of oil .
    Cheers

  15. This is social to find I worked as a cook at Pioneer Chicken in the 80’s before it’s demise. I miss the food so much and KFC could never live up to Pioneer chicken. Have you ever come across a recipe for the biscuits?

      1. Just found this and I grew up in Honolulu , Hi and then moved to Los Angeles in 1986. I lived in Hollywood Rossmore and Melrose which had a Pioneer Chicken. This was well Known Chain in Honolulu which I preferred over KFC and still do. I was trying to explain the difference to my wife and kids as my boys love Fried Chicken . I make good Buttermilk version but not the same as the batter. So I am happy that I found this sight going to attempt it for them and it seems faster and lots of great reviews. Thank you for the self discovery. Happy to have all the ingredients and not having to run to store or improvise. Stay tuned

  16. Just made this, and it turned out Amazing! Usually our fried chicken is blah. Not this time. The kids kept picking at the crispy skin of the freshly made chicken. I couldn’t keep them out of the kitchen! Once the chicken is taken out of the oil, the pieces are nice and crunchy but after a few minutes they turn soggy. I wish there was a way for them to retain their crunchiness. Maybe a heat lamp or some-such? I thank you very much for sharing your recipe, it will be made a lot!

    1. I’m so glad you love this recipe! Next time try placing the fried chicken on a wire cooking rack on a sheet pan in the oven to stay crispy. Thank you so much for the 5 star rating!

  17. Hi Trish, I’m about to make your recipe right now as you have listed above, with oil. My question is: We just bought a NuWave Brio air fryer. Will your recipe come out the same as if frying with oil? Thanks

  18. I LOVED Pioneer Chicken and grew up with one across the street! My all time fave was the spicy fried chicken. How would you modify this recipe to give it that spicy kick? Thank you for the memories and the recipe!

    1. I totally wish I knew what to add to modify it! The flavor is so distinct but I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is. So sorry!

  19. Omg omg omg,,,, this is the greatest day ever!!!!!!! Lol am so hungry for pioneer chicken . THE BEST CHICKEN IN THE WORLD. What a saint in the chicken world you are. Can’t wait to try it. Wait till my husband hears about this ????

  20. First of all thank you for taking the time to copy down the recipe from the guy on youtube. As for the recipe itself, here are my comments. 

    I am not quite sure if it tastes exactly like Pioneer or not, as it has been more then 30 years since I’ve had that chicken. However, the coating was very crunchy like I remember. The first batch I made, I cooked in the deep fryer basket and it was a complete mess. The coating stuck to the fryer basket, so half of it came off when I removed the chicken.  Also it tasted a little bit bland and oily.

    The second batch I made I went ahead and marinated the chicken in pickle juice for a couple hours and I added cayenne pepper, a couple squirts of hot musturd, and twice the amount of regular pepper to make it spicier. I also thinned the mixture down a little bit with more water, which helped it from sticking as much. 

    Overall, I think this is a good base recipe for chicken or fish that you can tweak to make to your liking. It definitely has its roots in a tempura fish coating recipe, but tastes pretty good on chicken. I don’t recommend cooking it in a deep fryer with a basket though, as it will stick to the basket. I prefer the spicier chicken, that I made with the second batch, but I tend to like spicy chicken. My family did like the recipe, so I will make it again sometime. As far as fried chicken recipes go, this one is really crunchy and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a tempura puffy style crunchy chicken.