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Is fried chicken full of sodium?

Fried chicken is a popular comfort food enjoyed by many. The crispy coating and juicy meat make it hard to resist. However, fried chicken has a reputation for being high in sodium. But is this reputation warranted? Let’s take a closer look at the sodium content of fried chicken.

How Much Sodium is in Fried Chicken?

The sodium content of fried chicken can vary greatly depending on how it is prepared. Here are some averages for sodium content in fried chicken from various restaurants:

Fried Chicken Serving Size Sodium (mg)
KFC Original Recipe Chicken, wing 1 wing (45g) 290
KFC Original Recipe Chicken, drumstick 1 drumstick (80g) 450
Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich 1 sandwich 1370
Popeyes Bone-In Fried Chicken, breast 1 breast (174g) 930
Church’s Chicken, Fried Chicken Leg 1 leg (130g) 770

As you can see, sodium content can range from 290mg per wing at KFC to over 1300mg for a fried chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A. A whole fried chicken meal with multiple pieces could easily contain 2000-3000mg or more of sodium.

Why is Sodium Added to Fried Chicken?

Sodium is added to fried chicken in several ways:


Many fried chicken recipes call for brining or soaking the raw chicken in a saltwater solution before cooking. This helps season the meat and makes it juicier and more flavorful. However, it also increases the sodium content significantly.

Seasoning Blend

Most fried chicken coatings contain sodium-rich seasonings like salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and black pepper. These flavorful spices all contain sodium, which adds up quickly.

Pickle Juice

Some recipes marinate the chicken in pickle juice, which is loaded with sodium, before dredging it in the seasoned flour coating. The acidic brine helps break down the chicken skin to make it extra crispy.

Flour Coating

While plain flour doesn’t have much sodium, many fried chicken recipes use seasoned salt or chicken seasoning blends in their flour coating, which can add 200-300mg sodium or more per serving.

Salt Added After Cooking

Some restaurants and recipes call for sprinkling extra salt on the fried chicken as soon as it comes out of the fryer. This adds an extra salty kick.

Reducing Sodium in Fried Chicken

If you’re concerned about sodium intake, there are some ways to make lower sodium fried chicken at home:

Don’t Brine

Skip soaking in saltwater brine and instead rely on spices and buttermilk to add moisture and flavor.

Use Low Sodium Seasonings

Opt for onion powder, paprika, black pepper, thyme, and other herbs rather than garlic salt and chicken seasoning blends. Go light on the salt.

Make Your Own Coating

Use plain flour or very lightly seasoned flour rather than store-bought fried chicken seasoning mixes which can be high in sodium.

Skip Pickling

Marinate in buttermilk or hot sauce instead of salty pickle juice.

Don’t Salt After Cooking

Avoid sprinkling on extra salt after the chicken comes out of the oil.

Healthiest Ways to Make Fried Chicken

Here are some tips for lightening up your fried chicken:

Use Lean Cuts of Chicken

Choose breast meat or tenderloins which are lower in fat than legs, thighs, or wings. Remove the skin before cooking.

Choose Healthy Frying Oils

Opt for olive, avocado or coconut oil rather than vegetable, soybean, or canola oil. Avoid trans fats.

Bake Instead of Frying

Baking uses less oil than deep frying. Dredge chicken in flour mixture then spray lightly with oil and bake until crisp and golden brown.

Air Fry Instead of Frying

Air fryers produce a deliciously crispy coating without all the oil of deep frying. Just a spritz of oil is needed.

Use Whole Grain Coating

Try a crunchy coating made with whole wheat flour, cornmeal, or panko breadcrumbs.

Skip the Skin

The chicken skin soaks up a lot of oil when fried. Removing it saves calories and fat.

Healthier Dipping Sauces

The condiment you dip your fried chicken in can also boost the sodium content. Here are some lower sodium dipping sauce options:

Honey Mustard

Mix Dijon mustard, honey, and a splash of vinegar. Deliciously tangy and sweet.

BBQ Sauce

Look for low sodium barbecue sauces or dilute regular BBQ sauce with vinegar or water.


Make your own ranch dressing with greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. Much lower in sodium than bottled dressings.

Buffalo Sauce

Combine hot sauce and yogurt rather than butter for a creamy, spicy buffalo sauce.

Pizza Sauce

Opt for low sodium marinara sauce mixed with garlic and italian herbs for dipping.

Health Risks of Eating Too Much Sodium

Why is it important to watch your sodium intake from fried chicken and other foods? Here are some of the health risks of consuming too much sodium:

High Blood Pressure

Too much sodium can cause elevated blood pressure in those who are sodium sensitive. This puts strain on your heart and blood vessels.

Heart Disease

Over time, high sodium intake and high blood pressure increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.

Kidney Disease

Large amounts of sodium can overwork the kidneys as they struggle to filter and excrete excess sodium.

Fluid Retention

Sodium causes the body to retain water, leading to fluid build up, bloating, and swelling especially in the legs and ankles.

Stomach Cancer

Some studies have linked high sodium diets to an increased risk of stomach cancer. However more research is still needed.

Daily Sodium Recommendations

So how much sodium should you aim to eat per day? Here are the current daily sodium recommendations:

General Population

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium to 1500mg a day. The USDA Dietary Guidelines set the limit at 2300mg per day.

High Risk Individuals

People at risk of high blood pressure or heart disease may need to restrict sodium intake to just 1500mg daily. This includes those over 51 years old, African Americans, and people with diabetes, chronic kidney disease or high blood pressure.

People with Heart Failure

For those with heart failure, sodium should be restricted to 2000mg or less per day depending on severity. Always consult your doctor.

Tips to Reduce Overall Sodium Intake

To stay within the recommended sodium limits, here are some helpful strategies:

Read Nutrition Labels

Check food labels and opt for low sodium versions of packaged foods whenever possible. Look for 140mg or less per serving.

Limit Processed Foods

Heavily processed foods like frozen dinners, chips, and cured meats are often loaded with added sodium. Stick to more fresh, homemade foods.

Skip the Salt Shaker

Avoid adding extra salt when cooking or at the table to control how much sodium you consume. Rely on herbs, spices, acid, and heat to add flavor.

Eat More Fresh Produce

Focus on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and other naturally low sodium whole foods. They are full of potassium which helps counterbalance sodium.

Rinse Canned Foods

Rinsing canned items like beans, tuna, vegetables and broths removes some excess sodium.


In conclusion, fried chicken does tend to be high in sodium, especially restaurant and fast food versions. A whole fried chicken meal could easily contain your entire daily recommended limit. Consuming too much sodium raises your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and other problems. Making fried chicken at home and using less salt in the cooking process can help lower sodium levels. When dining out, ask for nutrition data and look for grilled or roasted chicken options to control your sodium intake. Overall, enjoy fried chicken in moderation as part of a balanced, low sodium diet for optimal health.