Served hot or cold, Oven Fried Cornmeal Crusted Picnic Chicken is a deliciously hearty addition to any potluck or camping trip. Juicy on the inside with a flavorful, crispy crunch on the outside, guests will hardly believe the recipe is Gluten Free, Dairy Free, and FODMAP friendly.
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Oven Fried Cornmeal Crusted Picnic Chicken
As the person who usually thinks to bring a main dish to a camping or potluck situation full of salads and sides, I’m always looking for protein-packed recipes that are satisfying, can feed a crowd, and travel well. Making something that doesn’t need to be re-heated is also essential to a successful contribution. Sandwiches (like this giant Italian Muffuletta) are my usual go-to, but they aren’t always the best choice for diverse dietary preferences. I needed something gluten-free and FODMAP friendly – that’s where Cornmeal Crusted Picnic Chicken comes in.
After serving a recipe for cornmeal crusted picnic chicken from Kristin Donnelly’s cookbook, Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share, to rave reviews from a diverse crowd, I knew it would become a potluck staple. But with a growing number of friends with food sensitivities, it was clear the recipe wasn’t for everyone. After a handful of tries, I think I finally found the combination of ingredients to make a crunchy, cornmeal coating that mimics that delicious, original recipe while keeping this version of Oven Fried Cornmeal Crusted Picnic Chicken gluten-free, dairy-free, and suitable for a low FODMAP diet.
Making the Dish FODMAP Friendly
In truth, calling this dish gluten-free, dairy-free, AND FODMAP friendly is redundant. While slowly gaining popularity, most Americans aren’t familiar with the Low FODMAP Diet. Primarily an elimination diet, it was developed as a means to help manage IBS symptoms and identify the triggers that cause them. While many people may find that they don’t need to avoid dairy or gluten and instead just function on a modified Low FODMAP Diet (like me!), for a dish to truly be compliant all potential triggers should be taken into account. Therefore, this Low FODMAP recipe uses appropriate substitutions for traditionally gluten and dairy ingredients, although you can feel free to use their more traditional counterparts in your own kitchen if you prefer.
Low FODMAP Features:
No Onion or Garlic: While any two individuals following the Low FODMAP diet may have severely different triggers and foods they should avoid, the vast majority of people who benefit from the diet have some level of difficulty digesting onion and garlic. I’m definitely one of those people, which is why you won’t see either common ingredient in any of recipes up to this point.
Dairy-Free Buttermilk Substitution: To be honest, I almost never have buttermilk in my kitchen. Unless I know I’ll need a whole carton for a particular recipe, keeping some around for a bit here and there has never made much sense to me. I’ve gotten used to substituting a mix of cream and lemon juice when a need a spoonful. Finding a dairy-free alternative for buttermilk was just as easy. Due to its light flavor, I just used the same vanilla sweetened soy milk I keep in the house for protein shakes and added a tablespoon lemon juice. Whisk it up, let it curdle for a minute or too, and I swear it works just as well as the real thing.
Gluten-Free Cornmeal Crust: I think one of the hardest things to successfully make gluten-free is a nice crispy or breaded crust on a piece of meat. It took me a few experiments (and a few chicken dinners coated in some soggy and rock-hard crusts), but I think I found the answer – a combination of all-purpose gluten-free flour, very coarse gluten-free cornmeal, and a dash of cornstarch. The coarse cornmeal gives the flavor, and the combination of flour and cornstarch keep things together. Too much cornstarch, and the crust is too hard. Too little, and the crust barely holds to the chicken. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s totally worth it.
Oh, and I realized double-coating the chicken with a second dip in both the buttermilk substitute and the cornmeal mixture just makes everything even better. Trust me – don’t skip the double dip!
Packing the Perfect Picnic
When prepping for a picnic in an outdoor space – be it a park or the beach – a well packed cooler is essential. Perishable food and drinks need to stay cold until you reach your destination. For this reason, I usually pack two coolers – one for drinks, and one for food.
Every time you open your cooler, a little of the chill will be lost. Water, soda, even most juices can withstand this, especially if you pack the cooler with ice packs on the bottom, and then pile up loose ice over top. Cold Cornmeal Crusted Picnic Chicken, cheeses, sandwiches – these need to stay as cold as possible until eaten. Pack them in a separate cooler with layers of ice packs, and you’re in good shape. Make sure to pack the cooler densely – the less air space, the colder things will be.
Looking to make a complete picnic? Here are a few more delicious sides and accompaniments (from me and my internet colleagues) to pack for an absolutely lovely springtime picnic:
- Sweet: Mini Rum Plum Cherry Pies, Blackberry Lime Cupcakes, & Milk Chocolate S’more Cookies
- Savory: Feta & Sun Dried Tomato Swirls, Italian Pasta Salad, & Mini Mushroom, Pea, & Gruyere Pies
- Potent Potables: Large Batch Whiskey Sours & Southern Iced Sweet Tea
Still need more ideas? Check out this amazing list of 25 Travel-Ready Recipes for the Perfect Springtime Picnic!
Oven Fried Cornmeal Crusted Picnic Chicken (Gluten Free & Low FODMAP)
- 10-12 bone-in chicken pieces, drumsticks and thighs (about 4 pounds)
- ½ cup salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 3 Bay leaves
- 3-5 cups ice water
- 1 cup soy milk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup gluten-free coarse cornmeal
- ½ cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground rosemary
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
Make the Brine:
- In a medium pot, combine the salt, sugar, and half cup water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the salt and sugar dissolve. Transfer to a large, heat-safe bowl big enough to fit all the chicken.
- Add the whole coriander, whole peppercorns, and bay leaves to the bowl, and top with ice water (make sure there is still enough room to also fit the chicken pieces). Stir until the brine is cold. Add the chicken pieces, cover, and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.
Prepare the Ingredients:
- Remove the chicken from the brine and let the pieces stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degree F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with heavy duty foil and setting an oven-safe cooling rack into it. Thoroughly coat the rack with non-stick cooking spray.
- Set up a dredging station with three shallow bowls. From left to right, fill the first with the chicken. In the second, whisk together the soy milk and the lemon juice, letting it curdle for a few minutes. In the third bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients for the cornmeal crust.
- Double-Dredge the Chicken:
- One at a time, dip each piece of chicken in the soy milk mixture and then into the cornmeal mixture, being sure to thoroughly coat the chicken. Shake off the excess, and repeat, re-dipping the coated chicken in the soy milk mixture again, and then dredging it in the cornmeal mixture a second time. This will make a double-crust that will stay better adhered to the chicken pieces. Place each finished piece of chicken onto the rack set in the baking sheet, giving them a little room between.
Bake the Chicken:
- Bake the chicken for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan half way through. Flip each piece, and bake an additional 5-10 minutes more until the cornmeal crust is browned and the internal temperature reads 165 degrees F. Remove the tray from the oven, and transfer the chicken to a clean rack to cool. Serve hot after a few minutes of resting, or – to make it into traveling picnic chicken – allow the chicken to cool to room temperature (for about 30 minutes) and transfer to the fridge in a single layer to chill. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold.