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.
Nothing is worse than craving a nostalgic regional food and not being able to find it. When I lived in DC and had major pregnancy cravings 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we all agreed KFC should’ve gone the way of the dinosaurs instead of Pioneer Chicken, yet here we were with two outdated fledgling locations left.
After much research and recipe testing, 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. Taking old school pencil and paper notes, I could tell he was on to something when 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.
For many who grew up in LA, this chicken is as much a childhood memory as playing Mario and all the wonder of Nintendo. It might be funny when to talk about video games, but I think every one of us has memories of being a kid and playing them! You can make this chicken for your kids while they enjoy today’s video games, and they might carry on the tradition! Next thing you know you’ll be buying them one of those pencil cases with hidden compartments… Or maybe just make more nostalgic copycat recipes like Tommy’s Chili, In-N-Out Animal Style Fries, and Hostess Cupcakes for dessert.
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How to Make Pioneer Fried Chicken
- Mix all the dry ingredients except for the reserved ¼ cup cornstarch. Add the water and whisk.
- Put ¼ cup of cornstarch in shallow pan and coat chicken with it.
- 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.
How to Store Pioneer Fried Chicken
- Serve: Don’t leave cooked chicken at room temperature longer than 2 hours before refrigerating.
- Store: Fried Chicken will last up to 4 days in the refrigerator, sealed in an airtight container.
- Freeze: Wrapped tightly in plastic, freeze Fried Chicken up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or reheat from frozen in the oven at 375 degrees for 20-40 minutes. Reheat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- 1 chicken , cut into 8 pieces
- 1 cup cornstarch , ¼ 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
- 3/4 cup water
- 3 cups peanut or canola oil
- Mix all the dry ingredients except for the reserved ¼ cup cornstarch.
- Add the water and whisk.
- Put ¼ cup of cornstarch in shallow pan and coat chicken with it.
- Dip the chicken that has been coated in cornstarch into the wet batter until completely coated.
- Let drip for a couple of seconds and gently lower into pot of oil.
- 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.
Photo used in a previous version of this post.
I grew up in San Francisco and we had a Pioneer Chicken on Mission Street near Geneva Ave. Pioneer chicken was so good, unique flavor, nothing else like it. AT one time, a very busy spot and open late. The building is still there, still looks like the original Pioneer except for the signage, now El Pollo Supremo, sort of a Cuban-style El Pollo Loco. Can’t wait to try this recipe and see how close it is to the original.
Hope you enjoy it Frank!
Hands down DELISH. Took me back to my childhood first bite!
This receipe doesn’t make a batter, it’s a watery liquid. Terrible.
OMG My sister worked at one in Ontario, CA. Seriously this was the best chicken I ever had!! Thank you for sharing I am going to try this!
Thank you so much for this recipe! It was more than I expected and the taste was great. It was not salty which made the taste even better.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this recipe. It is seriously delicious. I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into smaller pieces and pounded thinner and make them into chicken sandwiches. Everyone, and I mean everyone, LOVES them. I completely forgot about Pioneer Chicken until I ran across your post on Pinterest. And I am so happy that I did. Delicious!
Love this recipe use it every other week
This fried chicken looks nothing like what I grew up eating, but it looks SO GOOD! My husband and I are very interested in trying this recipe (We love getting in the kitchen together and trying out new-to-us recipes.) but I was wondering, do you possibly know if gluten-free flour would work to substitute in this recipe? I’m new to the gluten-free lifestyle, and it makes me feel SO much better; however, I understand if this isn’t something you have tried with this recipe, yet. Perhaps my husband and I can give it a go? I mean, after all, it would DEFINITELY be a COMPLETELY new-to-us recipe that way!! 😉
I LOVE your blog! I just found it today, have already bookmarked it, and see so many incredibly yummy recipes I need in my life. 🙂 Thanks so much!!
Pioneer chicken was my very first job it’s funny I found this post today because I was telling my girlfriend about it yesterday so thank you now I can make what I grew up knowing
Oh my, this chicken was amazing! I had completely forgotten about Pioneer Chicken until I happened upon your recipe and saw the logo with the little covered wagon. I followed the recipe exactly except I had the butcher cut up and de-bone a whole chicken. The crust was super crisp and flavorful and the chicken was moist and delicious. It’s been many years since I’ve had Pioneer Chicken but it tasted just as I remembered. It was a hit with the whole family. Great recipe.
I made this with boneless chicken thighs. It was great and delicious.
When I was a kid in the 60’s my mom would bring us Pioneer Chicken somewhere off Sunset Blvd I forget right now but there was also yhe Pioneer Market there too anyway best chicken ever between the 60’s and the 80’s always had Pioneer till I moved away . Thank you for this recipe…
I made this pioneer fried chicken and it didn’t turn out. The chicken didn’t get done by the bone. It failed.
All you do is lower the oil temp and fry longer. Mine turned out great by the third batch. Having a deep fryer also helps. Alot. If you happen to have one, cooking legs for 15 – 18 at 330 – 340 works like magic.
Cook it in the oven at 175* for two hours first, then follow this recipe. You won’t be disappointed
Back when I was 16, in the early 70’s,my friend and I would go to the Pioneer Chicken on Victory Blvd in North Hollywood. The cashier was a real cutie so we would go there and eat tons of chicken just to be in the pleasure of her company! Good memories. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. Thanks for posting it.
I made this for dinner and it was great chicken was moist and tender the crispy crunch was fantastic
I did add Sage and I marinated the chicken over night in butter milk.
I now live in North Texas and I will not go to any chicken place but Chicken Express. I sure wish we had a Pioneer Chicken here! I always get the large iced tea(a rule here ;)or lemonade) with my chicken order. They have the tiny pebble style ice and giant cups. You made my day posting this recipe! I can now go back in time in my own kitchen!
Oh my goodness! We had one back in the early 80’s we went to in Fontana. THANK YOU! That was better than Kentucky Fried Chicken! Now all we need are the fake pretty lemon scented wet naps they give you with your order 🙂 The mashed potatoes and gravy….I could go on and on!
Hello… I’m from New Zealand and fell in LOVE with Pioneer Chicken when living in Hawaii. One of the best bits was the gravy… it was bright yellow and SO delicious… does anyone know how that was made?
Its hard to find small chicken today. Most are 5lb or better. I find it too big to fry. By the time the chicken is done the batter is all but burnt. If you have a solution to that I would love to hear it. I love fried chicken but kind of give up on it due to this. I remember the best frying chicken was around 3lb.
The recipe is very different but looks like the crust should be crispy
It’s a cut up whole chicken… so you have 8 pieces to fry, not the whole chicken. But I agree, finding a whole chicken under 5 lbs is like trying to find a unicorn. Impossible.
OMG Pioneer Chicken!! HAHA I loved their chicken so much. I have a couple of the Titos Tacos OG recipes (grew up in Culver City in the 80s and 90s). Its good to have friends lol.
Now Lets make some Johnnies Pickles !!!
Not a bad idea!
I used to work at Pioneer Chicken as a teenager in the 70’s on Oahu, so this recipe puts a great big smile on my face. I will attempt your recipe soon and add another comment later about the results. But just some info when I worked there: to prepare the wet batter, we added ice cubes with the water to the dry ingredients; we used fine wheat flour (Wonder brand?) to coat the chicken before dipping it in the wet batter; we fried cod fish (for fish and chips) in the same batter, but coated the fish with the Pioneer dry batter first; I remember the dry batter smelled like curry, so I think there might be turmeric, coriander and, or cumin in the original recipe. And don’t forget about the “Hawaiian” bbq sauce served on the side! Thanks for the memories!! I’ll give your recipe a five-star rating because it sounds (and looks) promising…will send update….
Looking forward to it Ron! Thank you!
Not updated in 20 years??? More like 45-50!
Fair enough, they look like 80s restaurants even when they were going out of business 20 years later, lol. Gosh don’t you miss them though?
FINALLY! After more than 40 yrs of marriage and numerous disasterous attempts at making fried chicken I got it right! Super crispy on the outside, nice and moist on the inside instead of the usual blackened on the outside and raw on the inside I tend to end up with. I had a rather large boneless, skinless chicken breast and I didn’t want to cook it forever to make sure it was edible so I cut it into 3 peices, of close to the same size. In 14 minutes they were done – same time as the corn on the cob (which doesn’t happen often either that everything was ready at the same time lol). Living in Canada I had never heard of Pioneer chicken, our only choice growing up was the Colonel. Man I think I missed out big time! Thank you so much for the recipe, and the confidence to make it again knowing what to do now!
That is so awesome to hear! Thank you for the review!
So it would be similar to something like a fish and chips batter? The wet kind. I always try so many fried chicken recipes (because I love it so much) and they never turn out ?? I use a thermometer, the right oil everything. But it’s always over cooked to the point of burnt on the outside and not cooked inside. Funny thing is I can do chicken wings perfectly. But I want whole pieces of chicken. 🙁 well I’m still definitely giving this one a try!! Ty for the recipe! Looks amazing!
I hope you enjoy it!
I wasn’t a cook, but worked the front for two years, sometimes helped in the back. I remember staring at the dry mix trying to figure out what was in it. Pretty sure sugar was one of the ingredients, which explains the sweetness. I remember the cooks telling me the wings and legs were around 8-10 minutes in the fryer, the breasts were large breast pieces and took 18 minutes if I remember correctly. Last thing, I’m pretty sure I remember them being fried in lard or shortening – it was thick and white before being warmed, came in solid cubes consistent with lard.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Rick!
By the way. Some pioneer trivia. On the TV series Full House. During the intro theme song for every show. When they are at the park having a picnic. There is a box of Pioneer Chicken on the blanket. Happen to see it when my nieces were watching it recently.
Now I have to go watch it, haha! Thanks for the tip!
I use to watch the show back in the day during my late teens. I remember that part of the introduction about the blanket, but never paid attention to the name on the box. Good to know that. Btw, I grew up in Bakersfield and we use to go to Pioneer Chicken. Miss those days. It’s too bad that they can’t branch out again. Thanks for sharing this recipe
I worked at Pioneer Chicken on Sepulveda in Harbor City back in 1980. My first job. The batter came in bags we would mix with water. The batter when wet was pinkish beige. It turned that reddish color hard crispy shell that sealed in all of the juices.
Good stuff. I, too went looking for the chain when I came back to Cali. Disappointed only 2 stores left.
Trying it with slice potatoes tonight-not wedges. Chicken is so good, time to try dunking potatoes in it and frying!!
Followed recipe exactly. Split chicken breasts – (Just two). The batter was very thick and we needed to put them in the oven because they were not cooked enough when we sat down for dinner.I think a lot more water is needed to thin this recipe. My chicken turned out as if it had a thick, cake like, salty crust.
Forgot to give it a rating: FIVE stars for sure, but the cook time of eight minutes can’t be right. Like I said, I went 18 minutes and the meat (thighs) was tender and juicy and the coating was spot-on.
Four thighs – 10 minutes in the deep fryer and my meat thermometer read 110 degrees. Five more minutes got it up to 140. Shouldn’t it be 165?
Yes, definitely 165 minimum with chicken. It will carry over cooking when you take it out. But not 25 degrees worth. Did it work out for you? Was it good?
I tried making this recipe twice..and both times it tasted nothing like Pioneer chicken the only thing that’s close to it is the crust.
Excellent recipe. I did add some Cajun seasoning for some extra kick.
I made this exactly, and got to say it was really too strong on the Paprika, and super salty. It might be close to Pioneer, but was really toooo strong on flavor to match.. so maybe putting less of the ingredients might be the key, not sure. The other recipe I made was Knotts Chicken, and that recipe was too weak on ingredients, next time I will hopefully get it right on both.
Made it tonight. It was very good def will be making it again! Thank you..?
Living in Australia, I’m even further from a Pioneer than you were! I can’t wait to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing.
looks like this maybe close….only thing that sticks out as different is the dry dredge….it maybe had corn starch…maybe mostly…..maybe entirely…but the dredge we used when cooking had more grit to it than “normal” corn starch. ……I was a cook for pioneer and my step Dad was a regional manager…although I never saw it made…and never knew any of the true ingredients (the batter came in one bag and the dredge in an other)…it must of had something else or been really gritty corn starch.
….all that mentioned I am anxious to see how good this version is…thanks
Man I gotta find out about the Hawaiian Sauce…that stuff was soooo good on everything I put it on.
I made this chicken last week and my family loved it esspecially my husband so I’m making it again tonight thank you for the recipe
Question, how do i make the chicken not stick tot he wire basket when i deep fry it? is the batter supposed to be a lil thick or still runny?
You’ll want to hold the chicken for a second or two in the oil to set before letting it go into the basket. That will help avoid it from sticking. HOpe this helps for next time.
My parents used to make this in the 60’s, they called it “broasted” chicken. Wonderful memory. They also made homemade donuts in the fryer with canned biscuits then sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon and sugar. So yummy.
Those donuts sound delicious and oh so easy! So glad it brought back fond memories 🙂
There’s a restaurant in Burbank, CA that serves “broasted” chicken!! It’s called Lancers. Unsure of the origin of “broasted” just seemed like fried chicken to me. It is nothing close to my childhood favorite – Pioneer Chicken, of course, but not bad at all!
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
I agree, it sounds like it was too overcrowded. But I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed even still!
Don’t use the basket next time. Just put them in without it. That’s what I do. No sticking.
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
Can’t wait to hear how it turns out!
I use the skinless/boneless breasts only and it works just fine.
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?
I use Morton’s Iodized for baking but you can absolutely sub fine sea salt for table salt.
Hi Sabrina. Do you use Kosher salt or table salt?
I use kosher salt for cooking, table salt for baking. Hope this helps!
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.
I’m glad to hear this recipe brought back fond memories for you, hopefully it tastes just was good as the original. Enjoy!
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 ?
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!
Do you suggest a deep fryer or is a pan fry okay too?
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!
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!!
You’re welcome, Kellie!
I’m wondering if this can be made in an air fryer. I know it wouldn’t be the same. I’ve never had Pioneer chicken and I don’t own a deep fryer and prefer not to deep fry in a pan but I think this looks so yummy!
I’ve not tested it yet but you might be able to find a similar recipe online using one and follow that as a guideline. Good luck!
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)….
So glad you found this recipe!! Pioneer chicken lovers unite, lol!
I also grew up in Southern Cal. I would save my allowance money and walk to Pioneer and buy a drumstick or a thigh. Long story short, my dad was military and we moved away. Later, as a Marine, I was stationed back in San Diego. You can imagine my distress when I discovered my beloved Pioneer was no more. I saw your recipe and tried it last night and I was transported back in time to the mid 1970’s and remembered walking through canyon that took me to the shopping center where Pioneer was located. Thank you for doing the work and research! The recipe is spot on.
Thank you so much for your kind words and your service.
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.
This recipe is FIRE! Super easy to make and delicious AF.
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!
This just makes me so happy! I’m so glad you all enjoyed it, John.
Hi! I loved this recipe. However, is the batter supposed to be so thick. It was hard to keep the batter on the chicken. Other than that, the flavor was spot on. Im going to try making the chicken again.
So glad you enjoyed it. Next time, completely pat down your chicken so that it’s dry before starting. Hopefully this helps.
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!!!
for the reserved flour do I take that from the 1cup of flour or is it 1/4 on its own
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.
SO – to be PERFECTLY clear, the BATTER itself contains 3/4 c of cornstarch plus 1/4 cup of flour, correct?
Yes, that makes up the wet batter.
Has anyone tried this with the air fryer? Never had pioneer but will try this, sounds nice.
I guess no since this is a wet coating recipe! Try it with the classic dry coated recipe!
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??
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I’ll have to add the sauce to my “to do” list. Thanks for the suggestion.
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.
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?
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.
Hello,can I bak e thai chicken? Thanks
I’ve never tested it so I’m not sure. If you did, it wouldn’t be a copycat recipe anymore.
What is everybody talking about? The recipe says 1/4 cup flour and 1 cup cornstarch with 1/4 of it reserved. This doesn’t make a batter. How is everyone getting a batter from following this recipe???
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!
Thanks for coming back to let me know, Rama! So glad you love it so much!!
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 .
Thanks for the suggestion!
Delicious! Just as I remember from when I was a child. I miss Pioneer Chicken…
Happy to have brought back a bit of nostalgia for you.
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?
I wish I did but sadly, this is the only recipe I have.
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
Yay! I’m so happy you found it too. Can’t wait to hear what you think.
Does the recipe look the same?
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!
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!
That’s normal and is caused by moisture coming to the surface. Look into the double-frying method, e.g., J. Kenji López-Alt.
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
I’ve never tested it so I’m not sure. If you decide to try, I’d love to know how it turns out, thanks!
Great and simple recipe! Delicious! Brought back childhood memories.
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!
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!
Ummm maybe a little cumin powder?
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 ????
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.
Thanks for all of your feedback!
I’ve had this pin pinned for a month already and I finally got all the ingredients. The process is a bit messy but the outcome of that crust is so worth it!
So glad you decided to give it a try!
Thank you thank you thank you! For the first time in my over 38 years of married life I have FINALLY managed to make amazing fried chicken! I’ve made other attempts over the years with unsatisfactory results….this came out nice and crisp and tender and the meat stayed so moist! When I told hubby that I was going to try fried chicken again the poor fellow had this look of horror on his face lol. Then he took a bite and his eyes lit up! I WILL be making this again!
So glad I was able to play a role in finally getting over that hump! I’m sure your years of practice also played a large role in that too!
I’ve been salivating over the photos of this chicken on Pinterest for MONTHS now, and, to quote Rod Stewart, tonight’s the night. I changed two things — I soaked the chicken pieces all day in buttermilk, and I also put in a few dashes of Maggi seasoning (basically salty, liquid MSG) and reduced the salt by 1/4 of a teaspoon to allow for that. Because I am a heathen and love MSG.
Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!!! The flavor, the crispiness…it was truly magnificent. It was a spiritual experience. A sexual experience. My husband fell deeper in love with me. My children looked at me with renewed respect and awe. At least…that’s what I’m telling myself.
I’m so anxious to try this out….almost as good if not better is/was the Hawaiian Sauce (BBQ)!!
Glad to have this recipe saved again (I found a version a ways back but never got to try it). Now to search for the sauce recipe…idk why I never ? for it till now.
I was a cook for PTO and recommend it be done in a “deep” fryer or the bottom crust will get harder & not have the same bite experience (crunchy experience is a flavor in my book), so maybe that should be noted in the recipe.
It’s sad PTO is gone. Almost everything they had was as good if not better than El Pollo loco…KFC..&/or Popeyes.
Mm the fish..chicken strips..gizzards..& even though at the time I had a near puke reflex even the liver was good..it taught me to like well prepared liver. …badly prepared still can cause the choke puke in me.
5tars cuz I’m pretty sure the recipe is spot on minus using a fryer.
Oops a note to shake your fryer basket around 3-5 minuets in to keep it from sticking..or it may hit the bottom of the fryer & give more of a pan fried experience.
9 minuets to cook legs & wings..breasts & thighs take 12 minuets at 350ish f. Everyone knows breasts and thighs need to get really HOTTTAFIED before they get juicy..depending on your breasts & thighs.
I really hope enjoy this!
I miss Pioneer Chicken! But do you have a (knock-off) recipe for their side dishes? Btw, thanks for the chicken recipe
We always just went for chicken, lol!! If you have specific ones you’d like for me to try, let me know!
I had a tongue in the cheek attitude about this recipe, but decided what the heck I’ll try it. I remember a chicken restaurant from long ago with a light tempura -like crust and really moist inside. Wondered if this might be it. Well, I tried it yesterday. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As soon as in bit into the chicken I knew this was the right recipe. Soooooooo light and crunchy and moist inside!!!! Couldn’t wait to report on it. As a side note I bought Red Lobster biscuit mix at the store, mixed it and fried teaspoons of it in the peanut oil afterwards – had the best little biscuits, crunchy and yummy and great with honey butter! (If you haven’t tried Red Lobster baking mix, please do, these biscuits will float out of your hand!!) Thanks for researching this, and I enjoyed reading all the comments. Also I played around a bit with the seasoning – adding garlic, onion, black pepper and a little seasoning salt – only about 1/2 tsp. of each. Hate to admit it but I’m about to have it again for dinner with mustard greens, cornbread, corn on the cob and a green mixed veggie salad. Know my grandkids are going to love this recipe (kids love crunch – so do husbands!) A p.s. – try this with wings to be able to taste a lot of crunch.
This is so awesome! I loved reading your comment and by the way….My recipe for Red Lobster Biscuits is coming soon. Stay tuned!!
I am a kid of the 70s and 80s, but never have had Pioneer Chicken. I stumbled across this recipe and tried it last night. I made chicken tenders with the batter. We were skeptical when the first batch came out of the fryer, but they were delicious! I brined the tenders for a few hours in dill pickle juice, then prepared as instructed. So crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I LOVE the tip on placing the chicken on a rack instead of paper towels. Thank you for a great recipe.
Thanks for dropping by to let me know! I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it!
My brother accidentally knocked out my teeth in a pillow fight in the early 80s when I was around
12 and my dad brought home a bucket of Pioneer and I was so upset because with my teeth I thought it was too crispy to eat
But I managed to work my way thru it . I loved the chicken so much I had to figure out a way 🙂
The love we have for Pioneer chicken, hahahaha. I love that. I remember waiting in line OUTSIDE because it was so popular and huddling under the overhang of the building in the rain just to get that delicious chicken with my mom and brother.
I LOVED Pioneer chicken! I will definitly try this!
I’d love to know what you think after trying it, Gale. I hope you enjoy it!
i did make this and yes, it did look like pioneer chicken…very pretty but not the taste i remember…i live in Sacramento and miss the bell gardens pioneer chicken so bad…and i am a vegetarian, and give my one exception to this…i tried making this recipe but there is just something missing…almost like a sweetness. I tried this recipe in the past and in the past i added i believe it was just a dab i mean a tiny tiny bit of brown sugar to the mix and it was pioneer chicken in my sac home…so i know its possible to do. This recipe just seemed very bland to me…it looked beautiful just like pioneer did out of the box but just not the same taste i remember…my hopes were so high as i was frying but i said well lets try it maybe someone finally got it….sorry…so close though…so close….got to give props to the writer for putting it all together…it is a great recipe for fried chicken though not pioneer.
Yes, it’s missing the MSG. I didn’t want to include it in the recipe but that’s the flavor you’re missing from the original.
how much MSG ?
I only added it once, I believe it was 1/2 teaspoon, but I couldn’t be certain. It was a long time ago.
I realize this comment is very old, so I am so sorry for the delay in replying.
Yum this looks like it came straight out of a restaurant. I hope my attempt turns out to be as good as yours. That’s dinner for tomorrow night sorted.
Excited to hear what you think!
Pioneer Chicken was NOT just in Socal btw…Hawaii had quite a few locations as well from the 70’s on etc I know this as my folks used to own a Pioneer franchise in Hawaii (Kahala Mall location) in the 80’s and I know the owner of one last 2 Pioneer Chickens in CA.. Great chicken tho a bit too oily for my taste. I was born and raised in Hawaii and now live in Japan (25+yrs) with my wife and kids so classic foods from my childhood can only be found online these days thanks for sharing!
I didn’t know that! How cool!
When you say DC, do you mean Daly City, CA by any chance? If so….. MAN! That was the best fried chicken EVER. I love fried chicken and love to cook, but I don’t deep fry at home ~ not just for my health, but because I don’t like the idea of having a lot of excess oil after frying, saving the used oil or re-using oil that’s already been used to deep fry other stuff. Also because it gets the surfaces in my kitchen very sticky with oily residue. But with that aside, yeah… Daly City/SF’s Pioneer chicken… I always nagged my parents to get fried chicken from there instead of KFC (back before KFC was ever abbreviated that way). Indeed, it has since become an El Salvadorian restaurant that focuses on their own style of BBQ chicken. It’s not bad, but not quite what I usually desire when I crave anything “chicken”. Sure, there’s also a Popeye’s, the next block over. But it’s not the same thing! There’s quite a few vacant buildings further south along El Camino Real, near Jefferson High School. And the old Toyota dealership at the Top of the Hill… it’s gone now. I don’t know what they plan on doing with that lot, but it’d be really nice to have a Pioneer Chicken/Take Out in any of these areas! BRING BACK THE 80’S! There’s a Jollibee nearby too… a Filipino restaurant that also focuses on fried chicken. They do a pretty mean spicy fried chicken, whose color somewhat approaches that of Pioneer’s lava red-orange hue…. but the texture is very different, so all in all, not the same thing either. I enjoyed your post and reading through your recipe… maybe if I ever get some sort of outdoor deep-frying setup, I’ll most likely give your recipe a try; no telling if the owner of the last remaining 2 Pioneers chicken restaurants on the entire planet will ever decide to make it 3 restaurants. lol.
No, we were in Washington DC, the one I used to go to was in Hollywood and when it closed I was pretty upset. There are two left now, but the one near Hollywood that is left gave me semi raw chicken last time I was there so I don’t want to go back. I do miss 80’s everything though!
OMG , let me just start by saying
THANK YOU! I just made this as chicken tenders. My better half and I are big fans of Pioneer Chicken and it’s always a special treat when he makes the journey to surprise me with it (yes, pioneer still exists in Los Angeles) however because it’s quite the journey I decided to check the internet and I stumbled upon your recipe. I can’t thank you enough. It came out so yummy. I definitely will be making this again and again.
5 ??’S allllllll the way.
Yay! I’m so glad you found this recipe too!!
You held the antenna for your brother to play Mario? You do realize that Nintendo doesn’t depend on over the air signals. Your brother was playing now than Mario ??
More than Mario. <- correction
Haha, I totally get what you’re saying but our tv was pretty bad so I had to hold the antenna otherwise you weren’t able to get any picture at all…just static. Thankfully, I no longer have to do that now that I play on my computer but I’m sure my brother enjoyed it.
We had Pioneer chicken in Arizona through the end of the 80’s. I was so sad when the one across the street from my high school closed. Once a friend and I drove to California just to get some! I can’t remember what they called their boneless ‘sticks’ of chicken, but those were my favorite. The closest thing I”ve found to them is the chicken tenders from Long John Silver’s because they are made with a wet batter. I’m going to try this recipe with chicken tenders and see how it comes out. Thanks for sharing!
That certainly is dedication to cross state lines, haha! I remember those sticks too but can’t think of the name either. They’re so good!!
Weren’t they chicken sticks or stix? That’s what prompted my recipe search. I need to know if they used ground chicken breast or chicken tenders for those. My God I want them now!!!
Chicken tenders, 100%. https://www.yelp.ca/biz_photos/pioneer-chicken-los-angeles-3?select=vPOLLQSkL4mr-aOPZ7cbmA
I loved those too!
Can you use this same recipe for chicken strips like they used to have at Pioneer?
I can’t say I ever had the strips. A quick google image search for them definitely looks like it is the same coating. When you take a bite you’ll definitely feel nostalgic.
Nobody mentioned their fish, but it had the same coating.
There are still a few Pioneer Chicken locations, (SE Corner of Whittier Blvd. and Soto St. in Los Angeles, for example). I must try this recipe and then compare!!
Well I sure do miss pioneer chicken, man I have not had it since the late 80’s early 90’s, they used to have one in san francisco, used to go there all the time, one thing I did find searching the net is a cook from pioneer chicken said they would soak there chicken in buttermilk, so I going to do this recipe trying both regular and one with buttermilk, was supposed to go to LA this year and drive to disney land, I was gonna hit up pioneer chicken on way, now im bummed out cause I cant go, but hopefully this will do it. Now if only I can find the gravy recipe that comes with their mashed potatoes I would be set. After I make this I will report back, but since I have not had this in 25 to 30 years, dont know how much help I could be.
Thank you for pulling this together. I’m inspired to learn how to fry my own chicken.
Of course, anyone who grew up in the 70s can tell you that Pioneer was already in decline by the 80s. Did you ever get a bag of magic tricks with your box of chicken? A Happy Meal could only dream of being so great.
Pioneer made such crazy good chicken that I remember being disappointed ordering it at Bob’s Big Boy or Kentucky Fried (*not* KFC). The only thing that came close were the corn dogs at Der Wienerschnitzel. You really have to be from Los Angeles to critically appreciate fast food, I think. Cheers!
I don’t think Los Angeles is the *exclusive* realm of delicious fast food, but we certainly had/have a lot of great chains! I hope you enjoy the walk down memory lane with this recipe!
I’m making this tonight! I grew up on the central coast of California and a favorite place to eat was Pioneer Chicken. The crunch is just so different than ANY other fried chicken. The other thing I loved about going there as a kid was ordering an Orange Whip. Those drinks were so delicious! I live in Austin, TX now where my wife and I home cook every night. I do lots of fried chicken a frankly some have been outstandingly good (especially buttermilk overnight soaked) but nothing comes close to that Pioneer crunch. I plan on making this tonight. Thanks for porting the recipe for us nostalgic Pioneer Chicken fans. Now off to find an Orange Whip recipe….hmmmm….haha
I hope this recipe successfully brings back those childhood memories – I know it did for me!
Well I guess my post got deleted, so I will just ask this question, are you frying the chicken in a pan or deep fryer, I ask cause I have a delong deep fryer that goes up to 385 degrees,
Sorry I think the message got snared in the spam filter! Yes, deep fry!
I just had Pioneer Chicken in LA on Soto Street. I grew up having Pioneer Chicken all the time as there was one on Olive Avenue in my hometown of Porterville in Central California. Theres never been a place thats made fried chicken thats even been close, and thus is the closest to the original. Amazing!
I grew up with it too! I’m really glad it came out close to the original recipe too!
I am a culinary arts teacher at a high school in Southern California. We are making chicken strips this week, and I have been trying to crack the Pioneer code for years. I had to explain to my students the obsession with Pioneer. You really had to grow up on it to truly understand how amazing it was and still is. I even went to the one that still exists in Bell Gardens and dumpster dove to figure out what ingredients they use. So I decided to check the Internet tonight to see if anyone had discovered a potential recipe. I am not going to be able to sleep tonight knowing that tomorrow the search for the elusive Pioneer recipe may come to an end!
I can’t wait to hear what you think! And yes there is no way to explain it to people who didn’t enjoy it all those years!
Sabrina, i was born and raised in lincoln hieghts and every monday my mom took me to pioneer chicken on daly st. I ate pioneer at least once until 6 months ago when I move to Phoenix Arizona and of course there is none here. My daughter is going to so. Cal for christmas and promised to bring me 20pc of Pioneer. Anyways how close did you get to the awesome taste of pioneer. Most people commenting here say your chicken is awesome, but i dont think many of them have actually tasted Pioneer. Thanks Joe
SUPER close. Almost perfect. Enough that even though I hadn’t had the original in years just smelling it fry I knew it was SPOT ON. When I tasted it, I called my mom and said “I JUST MADE PIONEER CHICKEN!” I say that having a huge emotional attachment to Pioneer Chicken from being a kid.
I have made this twice and I have had Pioneer Chicken before. It tastes just like I remember it, so good!
That is so awesome!! I’m so glad it brought back the memory of Pioneer Chicken for you too!
What’s the best way to heat up the leftovers?
Low oven! I tried heating them up in a 350-375 oven and the crust browned too much. So I would say maybe try at 300 degrees. Also don’t use the toasted oven, the space is too small and the tops will burn.
Fried Chicken is my weakness. I’ve never heard of Pioneer chicken. Id definitely try it because this looks yummy!
It was so popular in Ca/Hi back in the 80s! It makes me sad it went away!
I made this yesterday, it was just like I remembered! So good, I will definitely be making this again!
YAY! Reading this made my day!! I am so glad it gave you that awesome nostalgic experience! Thank you so much for letting me know!
You always have such delicious food options here. YUMMY on the chicken … I must make this. As usual with all the food you share …
Aww, thanks Brandy! That is so sweet!
I am a huge fan of fried chicken and make it pretty often. This recipe looks better than mine!
I love fried chicken but I am usually too lazy to fry food. This recipe is worth the effort, haha.
YUM, I love fried chicken. I had never heard of the pioneer version before now. I am definitely going to put on on my to make list.
It was a cult phenomenon back in the day! SO GOOD!
I grew up in the 60s and 70s eating Pioneer ckn after Sunday church on Vermont & Vernon Avenue in Los Angeles, CA. The best before they closed. After that, I started eating Golden Bird. The Ekco Park location had the best tasting original recipe ckn before it closed. At the Bell Gardens location, they use the original recipe on their fish, not on the ckn. Hispanics use their own recipe, and I dare anyone to challenge me. I go only for the fish, thick pieces. Yes, fond memories of pioneer ckn and video games (Star Wars, Galaga, Mouse Trap, Centipede, Millipede, Dungeons and Dragons). I’ll try this recipe and tell you how it comes out.
I love that you totally get me!! Can’t wait to hear back from you on what you think after trying it!
I officially need a fryer now. My kids are crazy about fried chicken, and it just feels like their childhood should have memories of making it with me.
Oh I so agree! Ours are too young to know or care about it, but I hope we have fun memories of things like that too!
The right fried chicken is an art. This looks so incredible, and I know would make me feel nostalgic for my own childhood.
This looks great! I’m cooking chicken tonight! I’ll try this!
Hope you love it Amy!
Fried chicken can be hard to nail down … but yours looks absolutely perfect.
It looks like you were able to copy the recipe pretty well because that chicken is so delicious looking! I haven’t heard of that Mario game but it really does sound fun.
Just the fact that it was old school Mario made me feel like a little kid again! I swear I am so nostalgic recently!
This recipe looks amazing! I will have to Pin it and make it this week!
Thanks for the pin Tracey!
Oh yummy! Love Fried Chicken, especially with cole slaw and of course some corn bread to go with it.
Oh heck yes!! I love chicken and cornbread together!
I am not the biggest fried chicken person, but when a craving strikes, I want nothing but the best. Yours looks amazing and the color can not be beat! PS – I love Saved By The Bell and still enjoy watching my kids play Mario and other Nintendo themed games.
Thanks Marcie! Oh if they love Mario they will probably love that game. My husband and I were watching the youtube promotional videos about it and just grinning.
I saw the title and I was like is it? Does she mean, Pioneer as in the place? I was too curious, I had to know and it is. I grew up eating Pioneer chicken. They all disappeared and I was left with KFC and ElPollo Loco (which I love both of those too.) This puts a smile on my face and makes me miss the 80’s…I’m headed back to SoCal and totally going to Naugles, which has one location in Fountain Valley. Remember them?
Heck yes!! BEST TACOS EVER! I did such a happy dance when the chicken came out of the fryer. When I saw the color I actually giggled. I’m such a nerd. 🙂
I’ve never even heard of Pioneer Chicken but this looks amazing! I usually end up pretty disappointed when I eat or cook something based on a nostalgic craving. Things never seem to taste as good as I remember them from when I was little. I’m glad this one turned out so well for you 🙂
Thanks Jen! Usually with recreations I find them to be super hit or miss too. Luckily this one was spot on and even though I know most people won’t have heard of this, I know somewhere out there is another person like me dying to find this recipe. So I had to include it, haha.
This is the best meal. I have not added corn starch to mine. Cool.
I remember Pioneer Chicken! And yes, I was a child of the 80’s and grew up in Southern California. I haven’t thought about it in forever…until reading your post! Great job, this looks delicious!
AWESOME! YAY! Now if you ever have a moment where you want to feel like a kid again you can make this and watch some old school 80s tv!
I’m not familiar with pioneer fried chicken but this looks really good. It’s awesome that you were able to work this out from video alone!
Thanks Liz! It was so much fun and when I took my first bite I cursed I was so excited, haha.
I have never made fried chicken before, but this recipe makes me want to give it a try! Nothing like fried chicken at summer bbqs!
I really have to love a recipe to go through the effort of deep frying, haha.
Oh my lanta! This looks amazing. I haven’t had fried chicken, or anything friend in YEARS (thanks to my gallbladder) but this? I think I need to make asap! It would so be worth an attack, lol!
Hahaha, I love that! Oh my lanta! I have to steal that and use it with my husband to see his reaction!
This looks and sounds yummy. I have never made fried chicken. I can’t wait to try this recipe.
That crispy, golden crust is BANANAS!! I just want to dig in right now. The cornstarch really helps. I use cornstach when making batter for fish tacos.
Thanks Brandon! I love dredging in cornstarch too, I almost never go with just plain flour.
Hi and thank you for such a delicious bite of nostalgia, I can’t wait to cook some up.
I worked at Pioneer Chicken Temple City Ca. It was 1975 I was just 16 my friend Russ asked his father to buy one and I was asked to work as asst mgr. Great memories.
What a great story! Love that you have such a connection to it <3
This chicken seriously looks incredible! You did an amazing job! I bet it tasted as amazing as it looks!
This chicken looks PERFECT! So crispy! Just the way I like it 🙂
Now THAT looks like fried chicken! I live in the south, and fried chicken is in our blood. I can’t wait to try this.
Yup, it is hands down the best!
I miss Pioneer Chicken!! I have a question about the instructions – Do you dredge in the corn starch first and then dip in batter, or do you dip in batter and then dredge in the corn starch?
Dredge in corn starch first and then dip in batter. I’m so sorry the recipe was unclear – I’m updating it now. I hope you love the dish!
I have a question. Am I patting the chicken dry or putting it in the corn starch wet? Thanks!
You’re coating it with cornstarch first and then dipping it into the wet batter.
Sabrina there is still a pioneer chicken in Bell Gardens and it taste just the same as it did growing up! If you live in CA still go give it a try. I’ll be making this recipe soon!
Oooh, I may need to make a road trip. Thanks!
DO U PAT DRY BEFORE COATING WITH CORNSTARCH? u did not answer allison dimler question properly
Yes, you can pat dry before coating with cornstarch. Enjoy!
Homemade fried chicken is the BEST! One of my all time favs.