Autumn Winter Year Round Recipes Meat

Slow cooked buttermilk chicken


Buttermilk chicken usually means fried chicken. This recipe applies buttermilk’s tenderising effect to create succulent chicken thighs in an unctuous sauce.  So how does it work?

Marinating meat in milk, buttermilk or yoghurt is practiced all over the world. The gentle acidity softens the fibres without drying out the flesh. Cooking the marinade caramelises the naturally occurring sugars and the heat splits it into curds-and-whey.  

The nuggets of curd absorb the flavours of the meat and also give the sauce texture.

The best example of this is the Italian Maiale di latte, or pork in milk.

I use the same method as the Italian recipe, but with buttermilk, rather than milk, so you get the best of both worlds – juicy meat and a great sauce. I salt the chicken and marinate it a day in advance to produce an insanely tender texture.

For a vegetarian version, try my recipe for potatoes cooked in milk here, or for the Italian pork recipe, click here.

Serves 4



  • 4 bone in chicken thighs
  • 750ml buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp olive oil for frying
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • small bunch of sage
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, in wide strips
  • 1 stick cinnamon


  • Put the chicken, buttermilk and 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt into a zip lock bag and leave overnight in the fridge.
  • The next day, remove the chicken from the marinade, keeping the marinade. Dab the chicken with kitchen towel to dry the outside.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3.
  • In a casserole, with a lid, heat the oil and brown the chicken pieces all over. Remove to a plate and using the same pan, brown the garlic cloves.
  • Return the chicken to the pan along with the sage, strips of lemon zest, cinnamon and buttermilk marinade. Season with salt and pepper, cover with the lid and bake for 1 ½ hours. The sauce will have split into creamy curds and the richly flavoured chicken juices.
  • Serve with steamed greens, tossed in oil.


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