Summer Recipe: Michael Schlow’s Fried-Chicken Tacos

Try this mashup of two comfort-food favorites for Cinco de Mayo.

Fried chicken and tacos, finally joined as one by chef Michael Schlow. Photograph courtesy of Tico.

We wouldn’t recommend attempting the all-pork taco at home, but a fried-chicken taco? We can handle that. Boston-based chef/restaurateur Michael Schlow of the upcoming Tico on 14th Street shares his recipe prior to the Latin-influenced American eatery’s June opening.

“The inspiration came from a late-night craving,” says Schlow. “I came home hungry from work and saw tortillas and leftover pieces of fried chicken in the rather barren fridge. I also had a bulb of fennel, a red onion, a jalapeño, and some buttermilk. Ten minutes later: fried chicken tacos with fennel, red onion, and jalapeño slaw and spicy buttermilk dressing!”

As you can imagine, these crispy bird tacos taste even better made fresh. The various components take a little work but can be done ahead for a party, minus the actual frying. Don’t feel like cooking? Schlow joins other guest chefs at Graffiato’s May industry night on Monday, May 5, and will serve the fried-chicken tacos alongside shrimp ceviche for a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Fried Chicken Tacos With Fennel Slaw and Spicy Buttermilk

Makes 4 tacos

For the chicken:


½ pound (approximately) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup buttermilk
1 pinch cayenne 
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper 
1 cup flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup finely ground panko bread crumbs
Special equipment: A heavy pot, canola oil, and a thermometer for frying


Cut the chicken into thin strips.

Combine buttermilk, cayenne, salt, pepper in a bowl, place chicken in the mixture, and soak for 2 to 12 hours, depending on how much time you have. The longer it soaks, the more tender and flavorful it will be. 

When you’re ready to fry, set a heavy pot on the stove and heat oil until a thermometer registers 375 degrees. 

Combine flour, cornstarch, and panko in another bowl. 

Remove chicken from buttermilk and place in flour mix; coat evenly. 

Place chicken strips in fryer and cook until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes.

For the fennel slaw:


½ head of fresh fennel, thinly sliced
½ red or green jalapeño, thinly sliced
¼ red onion, thinly sliced 
¼ cup thinly sliced carrot
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and marinate for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator. 

For the buttermilk dressing:


½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup sour cream
Large pinch of cayenne or dried chile de arbol powder


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.

To assemble the tacos:

4 six-inch corn tortillas 
Fried chicken
Fennel slaw
Cilantro and lime wedges to garnish

Char tortillas lightly on an open grill or griddle over high heat.

Cut the crispy fried chicken into small pieces and divide evenly on the tortillas.

Top with the fennel slaw, and spoon the buttermilk dressing on top.

Garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges (optional).

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.