Southern Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy

updated Feb 5, 2024

Thanks to a few staple ingredients and a quick pan fry, chicken fried steak is surprisingly easy to make at home.


Prep20 minutes

Cook25 minutes to 30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Chicken fried steak is a Southern diner tradition. You’ll find it on the menu at nearly every mom-and-pop spot and at larger chains as well. It’s the first thing my husband orders whenever we return home to Georgia. But, thanks to this pantry-friendly, one-pan recipe, you don’t have to leave the house (or travel to the South) to enjoy this essential Southern meal.

Here’s the easiest way to make chicken fried steak at home.

What Is Chicken Fried Steak?

For the uninitiated, chicken fried steak isn’t chicken at all — it’s a piece of steak fried like one. A tender cube steak is battered and fried, giving it a delicate, fried chicken-like coating. It’s thought that the technique came about as a way to dress up inexpensive cube steak into a more flavorful dinner.

And it’s never served alone: A simple white gravy adorns every great chicken fried steak. The gravy not only ensures that even the leanest cube steak tastes incredible, it’s also a smart way to use up the oil and flour used for frying the steaks.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

What’s the Difference Between Chicken Fried Steak and Country Fried Steak?

Chicken fried steak and country fried steak are often considered one and the same, but Southerners (Texans in particular) would like you to know that they are two distinct dishes. While both are coated and fried cube steaks, here are a few key differences:

  • Chicken fried steak: Chicken fried steak is always served crispy with a white, peppery gravy.
  • Country fried steak: Country fried steak is served smothered in its rich, brown gravy to actually soften the crispy coating.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Key Ingredients in Chicken Fried Steak

  • Cube steaks: Cube steak is steak that has been tenderized from a tougher cut of meat, usually top round or top sirloin. You can buy pre-tenderized cube steaks from the butcher, or you can tenderize them at home with a meat mallet. To tenderize steaks, place a filet between two pieces of plastic and pound with a meat mallet using both the flat and textured sides.
  • Buttermilk: Dip the steaks in a mixture of buttermilk and egg before dredging them in the flour mixture. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own buttermilk with just two ingredients.
  • All-purpose flour: You’ll need 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, along with cornstarch and seasonings, for the dredging.
  • Whole milk: Whole milk is best for its rich and creamy flavor for the gravy (but you can use reduced-fat milk if that’s what you have at home).
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy, a Few Tips

  • Pat the steaks dry and season them before coating. Cube steaks are pounded and tenderized using a meat “cubing machine,” which means you’ll find them wrapped in plastic at the grocery store. Make sure to pat them dry with paper towels (or a clean kitchen towel) and season them well with salt while you prep the ingredients for coating.
  • Cook just two steaks at a time to avoid steaming the steaks. Pan frying your steaks in a large skillet, rather than deep frying them, minimize the mess and lets you use a smaller amount of oil. Just be sure to fry your steaks two at a time to avoid overcrowding the pan, which will cause the steaks to steam.
  • Use the leftover flour and oil to make the gravy. This is a trick Kitchn contributor Patty Catalano turned me onto. Instead of using “fresh” flour for thickening the gravy, use a bit of the seasoned flour from coating the steaks. The flour gets cooked in a bit of the cooking oil, so it is perfectly safe (and a smart way to avoid waste!)
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

What to Serve with Chicken Fried Steak

Chicken fried steak is best eaten the day it’s made. You can keep the first batch in a warm oven for up to 30 minutes while you cook the second batch. When serving, be sure to cover each steak with a generous portion of gravy, and serve it with buttermilk mashed potatoes, green beans, buttermilk biscuits, fried corn, or baked mac and cheese, just like Southern diners do.

Southern Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy Recipe

Thanks to a few staple ingredients and a quick pan fry, chicken fried steak is surprisingly easy to make at home.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 30 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


For the chicken fried steak:

  • 4

    beef cube steaks (about 4 ounces each)

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1/2 cup

    low-fat buttermilk

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 cup

    vegetable oil, for frying

For the gravy:

  • 2 cups

    whole milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper


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  1. Fit a wire rack inside a baking sheet. Pat 4 cube steaks dry with paper towels. Season the steaks on both sides with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Place the steaks on the rack.

  2. Place the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika in a large shallow bowl or pie dish, and whisk to combine. Place 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1 large egg in a second shallow bowl or pie plate and whisk until smooth.

  3. Working with one steak at a time, dip into the buttermilk mixture to coat, then press into the flour mixture until thoroughly coated. Return the steaks to the rack and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, reserve 1/4 cup of the flour mixture for the gravy. Heat the oven and prepare for frying.

  4. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to warm or 225°F. Fit a wire rack onto a baking sheet.

  5. Heat 1 cup vegetable oil in a large regular or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until about 350ºF, about 8 minutes. You can test the oil by dropping a pinch of the breading into the oil — it should sizzle and brown quickly.

  6. Using tongs, carefully add 2 of the steaks to the oil and fry until golden-brown on the bottom with no remaining flour or batter lumps, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the steaks and fry until the second is browned, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer the steaks to the clean wire rack and place in the oven. Fry the remaining steaks.

  7. Carefully pour the frying oil into a heatproof bowl (do not discard). Don't scrape or clean the skillet. Return 1/4 cup of the oil to the skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in the reserved 1/4 cup flour mixture and cook, whisking continuously, until golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups whole milk and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 6 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

  8. Serve the steaks with a generous ladling of the gravy.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Chicken fried steak is best eaten the day it is made. Store steaks and gravy seperately to keep the coating as crisp as possible.