Spicy Labneh Fried Chicken Sandwich

published Apr 22, 2023
Spicy Labneh Fried Chicken Sandwich Recipe

These juicy chicken sandwiches are stuffed with tangy labneh-fried chicken thighs, peppery arugula, ripe avocado, sweet mango, and dill pickles.

Serves6

Makes6 sandwiches

Prep30 minutes

Cook25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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stack of labneh fried chicken sandwiches
Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Nicole Rufus

I spend almost all year anticipating the arrival of December because that means it’s time to head to Nigeria and spend some much-needed quality time with my family. While I absolutely cherish the experience of having my very own apartment in Brooklyn, nothing compares to preparing meals for my loved ones and sitting around the table together.

This past December in Lagos, Nigeria’s busiest, most bustling city and where my mom and stepdad reside, I decided that I would make fried chicken sandwiches for a group of family and friends one Saturday afternoon. As I wandered through the dairy aisle of the grocery store, it dawned on me that it didn’t seem likely that they would carry buttermilk — typically what I reach for when I’m making fried chicken — which isn’t a very common ingredient in Nigeria. As I glanced around at what they did have in stock, a variety of different labneh options caught my eye.

I had never thought of using labneh, a thick and tangy “yogurt cheese,” for frying chicken (although my friend Shadin informed me that her mom and aunties from Sudan often use labneh to marinate their meat), but I figured that it would be a wonderful substitute to rival the tanginess of buttermilk. That, my friends, is the story of how these spicy fried chicken sandwiches were born.

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Nicole Rufus

As I mentioned in my tropical quinoa salad recipe, I absolutely love the combination of mango and avocado. So I decided to use the dynamic duo in these sandwiches as a way to provide a cooling contrast to the spicy chicken thighs. I went with peppery arugula as the greens because I didn’t want something watery like romaine for these sandwiches, and then, of course, some dill pickle slices — no fried chicken sandwich is complete without dill pickles! 

No one likes a dry chicken sandwich, so I used chipotle mayo, which provides creaminess while playing off of the heat from the chicken (you can easily make your own by combining some mayo with a bit of hot sauce). I also added mango chutney for its tanginess and the notes of warm spices that come through. Plus, it helps add moisture to the sandwich without making the sandwich buns soggy, which always leads to chicken sandwiches falling apart mid-bite.   

Remember when Popeyes couldn’t keep their chicken sandwiches in stock because they were just that good? Well, I think these sandwiches give them a run for their money.

What Is Labneh?

Labneh is a popular Middle Eastern yogurt that has been strained until it has a consistency close to that of cream cheese. You’ll often find it seasoned and drizzled with a bit of oil, then used as a dip or spread. It is tangy, creamy perfection, and I found that it held onto the flour coating on the chicken much better than buttermilk. Labneh fried chicken forever!

Spicy Labneh Fried Chicken Sandwich Recipe

These juicy chicken sandwiches are stuffed with tangy labneh-fried chicken thighs, peppery arugula, ripe avocado, sweet mango, and dill pickles.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Makes 6 sandwiches

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 cup

    labneh

  • 1/4 cup

    hot sauce, such as Cholula

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 2 teaspoons

    garlic powder, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 6

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total)

  • 1 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper

  • 4 cups

    vegetable oil, such as canola

For the sandwiches:

  • 1

    large ripe mango

  • 1

    large ripe avocado

  • 6

    brioche buns

  • 6 tablespoons

    chipotle mayonnaise

  • 6 tablespoons

    mango chutney

  • 1 1/2 cups

    loosely packed baby arugula (about 1 1/2 ounces)

  • 18 to 24

    dill bread-and-butter pickle chips

Instructions

Make the chicken:

  1. Place 1 cup labneh, 1/4 cup hot sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of the garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs and toss until evenly coated. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

  2. Place 1 cup all-purpose flour, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, remaining 1 teaspoon garlic powder, remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl or pie plate and whisk to combine.

  3. Bread the chicken one piece at a time: Remove from the labneh mixture and dredge it in the flour mixture, pressing to make it stick and get into all the nooks and crevices. Place on a rimmed baking sheet or large plate in a single layer.

  4. Heat 4 cups vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or large cast-iron skillet (the oil should come 1 inch up the sides) over medium-high heat until 350°F. Meanwhile, peel, pit, and very thinly slice 1 large ripe mango and 1 large avocado for the sandwiches. Fit a wire rack on a baking sheet. Heat the oven to 200ºF.

  5. Fry the chicken 2 to 3 pieces at a time: Place in the hot oil and fry until the chicken is golden-brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers at least 165°F, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to the rack and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining chicken.

Assemble the sandwiches:

  1. When ready to assemble, remove the chicken from the oven and heat the oven to broil. Split 6 brioche buns in half and place cut-side up in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes.

  2. Spread 1 tablespoon chipotle mayo on the cut side of each bottom bun; top each with 1 fried chicken thigh. Evenly divide 1 1/2 cups baby arugula over the chicken. Top each sandwich with 4 or 5 mango slices, then evenly divide the avocado over the mango. Top each sandwich with 3 to 4 pickle chips. Spread 1 tablespoon mango chutney on the cut side of each top bun and place chutney-side down on top of the pickles to close the sandwiches.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate leftover fried chicken in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 400°F oven until crisp and warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.