Calabash Chicken & Chick-fil-A Sauce

A simple recipe for lightly breaded Calabash chicken strips fried crispy and light. Plus a recipe for Chick-fil-A Sauce!

“Calabash” refers to a method of frying something with just a light dusting of breader rather than a heavy batter. It originated in Calabash, NC as a way of preparing shrimp and other seafood (but mostly shrimp).

Some recipes use flour, some use cornmeal and some use a mixture of both but almost all of them will be heavy on black pepper and call for marinating the protein in milk or buttermilk.

We have a restaurant chain here in the Carolinas and Georgia called Fatz Café that has perfected the art of calabash fried chicken (seriously, it’s sooooo goooooood!) so I set out to recreate it this weekend.

Calabash Chicken! A simple recipe for lightly breaded Calabash chicken strips fried crispy and light.

I used whole boneless, skinless breasts and then cut them into thin strips to mimic the size of the shrimp that put “calabash style” frying on the map but feel free to use chicken breast tenderloins or, of course, shrimp!

My favorite dipping sauce for Calabash Chicken is honey mustard but my kids are addicted to Chick-fil-A Sauce so I decided to make some. I kept hearing it was just honey mustard and barbeque sauce so I thought I’d mix some together and see what the kids had to say about it.

They said it was a dead ringer! I added a pinch of paprika because I can see it in Chick-fil-A sauce but other than that, I literally just mixed 3 parts honey mustard and 1 part barbeque sauce. I used Sweet Baby Ray’s but any traditional tomato based sauce will work.

Chick-fil-A Sauce! A simple copycat recipe for homemade Chick-fil-A Sauce that tastes EXACTLY like the real thing!


Southern Fried Chicken Breasts with Gravy - Chicken marinated in buttermilk then seasoned to perfection and fried until golden brown with homemade pan gravy.

Nashville Hot Fish Fingers - A quick and easy recipe for fried fish fingers prepared the ‘Nashville Hot’ way, slathered in a spicy sauce then served with pickles and bread.

Hush Puppies - An authentic Southern recipe for Hush Puppies made with cornmeal, buttermilk, bacon drippings and onions.

Naked Chicken Tenders - Pan-fried chicken tenders with NO BREADING with twice the flavor and half the work of traditional fried chicken tenders.

Calabash Chicken! A simple recipe for lightly breaded Calabash chicken strips fried crispy and light.

Calabash Chicken & Chick-fil-A Sauce

Calabash Chicken & Chick-fil-A Sauce
Yield: 6 Servings
Author: Mandy Rivers | South Your Mouth
Prep time: 15 MinCook time: 15 Mininactive time: 8 HourTotal time: 8 H & 30 M
A simple recipe for lightly breaded Calabash chicken strips fried crispy and light. Plus a recipe for Chick-fil-A Sauce!


Calabash Chicken
  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • Oil for frying
Chick-fil-A Sauce
  • 3 parts honey mustard
  • 1 part barbeque sauce
  • Pinch of paprika


Calabash Chicken
  1. Cut breasts into strips about 3/4-inch wide and add to a medium bowl or large zip-top plastic bag.
  2. Combine milk, hot sauce, salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir until salt is dissolved. Add to chicken, stir, cover tightly or seal, refrigerate and marinate 8-12 hours.
  3. Combine flour with cornmeal salt, and remaining spices in a large paper bag or lidded container.
  4. Drain marinade from the chicken. Add 1/3 of the chicken to the breader mixture, fold bag or seal container tightly and shake vigorously to coat the chicken.
  5. Shake off any excess breader then lay breaded pieces out to rest for about 20 minutes or until the breader looks moistened from absorbing the marinade from the wet chicken.
  6. Heat 4 inches of oil in a large pot to 350 degrees then fry chicken in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan) until golden brown and crispy.
Chick-fil-A Sauce
  1. Mix ingredients together and serve with your favorite chicken strips or chicken nuggets.


  • Substitute buttermilk and omit hot sauce if desired. Buttermilk AND hot sauce will be too acidic to marinate the chicken this long.
  • The hot sauce does NOT make this spicy.
calabash, chicken strips, fatz cafe, fried chicken, breader, homemade, copycat, chick-fil-a, sauce, best, how to, easy, recipe
dinner, supper
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  1. Sounds just like my little Miles. He was sick when we got him and lived on poached chicken forever. Now, when you say the word chicken his little head whips around like you just announced the most important fact of his life. Cracks us up. He is family too. I nursed him through so much in his four years, he's my little hippy dude! One cool cat, oops, dog... life wouldn't be the same with out him. He's not no dog, he's a peoples.

    Lisa in Fort Worth

    1. So so so glad Hondo is better. (hugs) to Hondo!

      Love your recipes too! (hugs) to you!

  2. Chicken looks good and I'm glad Hondo rebounded back. I lost my 18 year old mixed dog last May. Not a typo, she was 18 and we loved her so much.

    She had a couple of bad bouts too, but we managed to get her thru it until the day I had to let her go.

    I've been looking at your site for a while. Love your recipes.


  3. So glad Hondo is feeling better! And the recipe sounds DELICIOUS! Can hardly wait to make it!

  4. This sounds awesome. I love fried chicken. Thanks for sharing.

    Linda @ Tumbleweed Contessa

  5. I love Calabash! I grew up not far from there and go back every chance I get for some good food. I'll try your chicken, it sounds wonderful!

  6. Hondo is a handsome boy ~glad he is on the mend. Looking fwd to trying this recipe.

  7. I love your recipes - they bring back such warm memories from growing up in Mississippi. I also enjoy reading your commentary.

    Thanks for sharing photos of Hondo - I have a yellow lab that sticks pretty close to anyone who is rustling around in the kitchen.

    - Margaret

  8. looks divine! and that is one fine dog. Question about cutting the strips. These chicken breasts now are so huge, would you cut across horizontally, then make vertical strips, 3/4" wide, as you say?
    You guess a deep fryer would ruin the whole concept?

    1. I'm glad you asked! I cut my strips normal until I got to the thicker part of the breast, at that point I sliced it in half (making two cutlets) and then continued cutting strips from there. I hope that makes sense! Deep frying would be perfect. I just used about 4 inches because I didn't want to use 27 gallons of oil :-)

    2. thank you. so you cut strips across the grain.
      haha! I'll try to round up the gallons of oil--I set the whole thing outside on the porch!

  9. Lovely dog, so glad he's better. My sweet old boy is 13, it's going to break my heart when he crosses the rainbow bridge. Going to try your chicken tonight, thanks!

  10. Hi- I love your sweet dog picture. I'm glad he's doing better! I made this chicken and it was awesome. My son loved it! I am from NY and we went to Myrtle Beach over spring break and saw a lot of "Calabash" restaurants, I had no idea what that meant. So thanks for education and thanks for a great recipe! Amy


Hi there! While I’m not able to respond to every comment, I try hard to answer any questions that haven’t been addressed in the post, recipe or in other comments.

I can tell you now 1) I have no idea if you can substitute Minute Rice or brown rice in my recipes because I’ve never used them and 2) If I know how to convert a recipe to a Crock Pot version, I will make a note about it (otherwise, I don’t know).

And though I may not respond to them all, I do read each and every comment and I LOVE to hear from you guys! Thanks, y’all! - Mandy