Food & Drink

Spicy Pickle Chicken Salad with Chicken Skin Crackers

A Southern classic with a spicy kick

Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

Whether you prefer white meat or dark, we can surely all agree that the skin is actually the best part of a chicken. Rendered golden crisp, it’s like the world’s most delicious cracker. Which is exactly what it becomes in this recipe, accompanying a spicy mayonnaise-swaddled chicken salad, with inspiration from McCrady’s restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, which has introduced many a happy diner to the pleasures of fried chicken skins via its chalkboard bar-snack menu.


  • For the Chicken Salad

    • 2 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts

    • 2 garlic cloves, sliced

    • 6 to 8 fresh basil leaves

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil

    • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

    • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely diced

    • ½ small shallot, finely diced

    • ½ cup spicy pickle chips (preferably Alabama-made Wickles), drained and diced

    • 3 tablespoons diced pimientos, drained

    • ⅓ cup roughly chopped toasted pecans

    • ½ cup mayonnaise

    • 2 tablespoons pickle juice

    • 4 dashes of hot sauce

    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

    • ½ teaspoon pepper

    • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

    • 4 romaine lettuce leaves for garnish

  • For the Crackers

    • Skins from the roasted chicken breasts

    • Cayenne pepper, to taste

    • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. For the Chicken Salad: Using your index finger, carefully lift a small piece of the chicken skin from each breast, running your finger between skin and meat to create a pocket without tearing the skin. Stuff each breast evenly with garlic slices and basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

  2. Carefully lift the skins from the cooled breasts, keeping the entire skin intact and trimming where necessary with a paring knife or kitchen shears. Scrape away the cooked basil leaves and garlic and discard. Set the skins aside.

  3. Remove the chicken meat from bone, dice it, and place in a large bowl. Add the celery, shallot, pickle chips, pimentos, and pecans.

  4. To make the dressing, whisk together the mayonnaise, pickle juice, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a separate bowl. Add to the chicken mixture and toss to thoroughly coat.

  5. For the Crackers: Place a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the skins to the skillet skin-side and cook for 30 to 45 minutes, flipping and pressing them occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the skins are thoroughly crisp. Remove from the pan and dust with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Drain on paper towels.

Recipe from The Southerner’s Cookbook