13 Types Of Batters And Breadings For Frying Food

breaded chicken on wooden tray
breaded chicken on wooden tray - Mironov Vladimir/Shutterstock

Batters and breading offer two ways to protect chicken or any other food you intend to fry from searing hot oil. Batters are liquid mixtures typically involving the combination of all-purpose flour with a leavening agent and liquid ingredients like eggs or milk to create a runny consistency. You could also incorporate various types of spices and seasoning.

Breading, however, is a bit more complex and often consists of multiple layers. You may begin by dusting the food item with flour or cornmeal to help the subsequent layers stick better. Next up is a liquid layer, usually eggs or milk. Finally, the last layer of coarse breadcrumbs or other substitutes finishes the coating.

Despite their differences, fry batter and breading share the common goal of creating a flawless outer crust while preserving a moist center. While they provide a protective cover on the outside, the air bubbles within this coat allow effective heat transfer to cook the food uniformly within. Furthermore, a well-executed batter or breading brings its own unique flavor, often allowing you to customize it to create your own desired taste. For anyone eager to explore the various ways to coat food for frying, here are some fantastic types of batters and breading that you could try -- soon enough, you'll be cooking up restaurant-quality fried chicken at home!

Read more: 15 Tricks For Making The Most Crispy Chicken Thighs Ever

Traditional Flour Batter

Hands mixing batter
Hands mixing batter - Iprogressman/Getty Images

Traditional flour batter forms a lightweight coat for any fried food. It's simple to make, so it's perfect for days when you can't be bothered to go shopping for additional ingredients. Chances are high that everything you'll need to make the traditional flour batter is already sitting in your pantry at this very moment. The essential ingredients you need for this recipe include all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, water, and milk. Since it has such simple ingredients, traditional flour batter is the base for many other more complicated recipes. You have more room to explore and modify it to suit your own style.

Start by mixing the dry ingredients first before combining the liquids. Now, this is where things get tricky. Mixing the batter too long and too much will activate the gluten, making it sticky and soggy. The perfect traditional batter for deep frying doesn't have to be completely smooth; having a few lumps in there won't affect your results. Another tip for making the perfect traditional deep-frying batter is to use cold water for a light and airy finish.

If your traditional batter doesn't form the light, crispy coating after following these steps, check if you've used fresh baking powder. You can test your baking powder by pouring hot water over a small amount. It should respond immediately by forming air bubbles to show it's still good. If it doesn't respond as well, it's probably stale and you should get another one for better results.

Beer Batter

pouring beer into batter bowl
pouring beer into batter bowl - Maren Winter/Shutterstock

Adding beer to batter incorporates tiny bubbles in the mix, making it lighter than traditional batter for fried foods. This recipe calls for all-purpose flour, baking powder, eggs, seasonings, spices, and the star ingredient, beer.  For extra flavor, add garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, paprika, and other dry ingredients to the flour as well. Next, add the eggs and pour in a cold can of beer until you have the right consistency -- thin and a little runny, like you're making classic pancakes. The final step is to dip your fish, onion rings, shrimp, chicken, and vegetables and fry until golden.

You don't have to choose any specific beer brands, but it's better to pick one with a flavor you like. Beer often adds a nice malty note to the fried food, enhancing the taste profile. Keep in mind that dark beer has a richer flavor than light beer.

Now, you don't have to worry too much about alcohol in beer batter as most of it will be burnt off during frying. However, if you're strict about not taking any alcohol, you can simply just swap it out for non-alcoholic beer. Alternatively, you could use other carbonated drinks like club soda or seltzer for the same leavening effect.

Tempura Batter

fish dipped in tempura batter
fish dipped in tempura batter - Gangis_khan/Getty Images

While you can get a tempura premix from the store, ordinary all-purpose flour, cake flour, or a cornstarch mix will suffice to make this Japanese batter at home. Combine eggs with cold water in a 1:1 ratio and pour this mixture into flour. Blend everything till even but be careful not to stir too long. Try your best to keep all ingredients cold so that the batter sticks better to the food you want to fry.

Pro tip: It's best to make the tempura batter just before you're ready to cook. The longer it sits after mixing, the more the gluten activates, which will cause your fried food to lose its fine crunchy finish.

Although tempura batter is usually used for deep-frying vegetables like eggplants and green beans, it's still great for shrimp, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and chicken. Note that you shouldn't use tempura batter to coat vegetables that contain lots of water, like cucumbers or tomatoes, as it won't stick and could easily slip off.

Standard Breadcrumbs

coating meat in breadcrumbs
coating meat in breadcrumbs - Marian Weyo/Shutterstock

Standard breadcrumbs provide fried food with a beautiful golden color and a satisfying crunchy texture. Since making breadcrumbs is easy, they're a pantry staple for home cooks and professional chefs alike. Start by grabbing any stale loaf of bread lying around. Most people use white bread, but you can use anything, even specialty bread. You could also use fresh bread, but you might want to have it sit in the oven for a while to become dry.

Throw some bread slices in the food processor and pulse to make fine or coarse crumbs. If you don't have a food processor, you can just toss the bread in a plastic bag and crush it with a rolling pin. Now that you have the breadcrumbs, the next stage is drying. Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 18 minutes. Remember to toss the crumbs at intervals so they don't burn.

After preparing the breadcrumbs, it's smooth sailing from here on out. Just follow the traditional three-step process of dredging in flour, followed by eggs and, finally, a layer of breadcrumbs. Fry your breaded shrimp, chicken, or fish until crispy and enjoy.

Cornmeal Breading

bowl of cornmeal
bowl of cornmeal - izzzy71/Shutterstock

Perfecting your cornmeal breading is the secret to a delicious Southern fish fry every time. Although you can get a cornmeal mix from the store, making your own at home has a few advantages. For example, you don't have to worry about sneaky additives like flavor enhancers with a homemade mix.

Create your breading mix at home by combining cornmeal with dry ingredients like wheat flour, lemon pepper, paprika, salt, thyme, onion powder, and garlic powder. The crunchiness of your fried food depends on the texture of cornmeal you choose. Coarse-ground cornmeal gives a crispier coat than the finely ground alternative. You can store a jar of this dry mix in your pantry, ready to use whenever you crave fried fish.

When it's time to cook, simply scoop out some of the dry cornmeal mixture into a bowl. Then, blend eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce in a separate bowl. Depending on your tastes, you could switch out the buttermilk for beer. Dredge the fish slices in the wet mixture before coating them with the cornmeal mixture, ensuring they are fully covered before frying.

Panko Crumbs

panko crumbs in bowl
panko crumbs in bowl - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Panko crumbs are a variety of breadcrumbs used in various Asian dishes, especially Japanese tonkatsu and chicken katsu. The first noticeable difference between these and traditional breadcrumbs is the size. Regular breadcrumbs are cut into smaller pieces, while panko crumbs are usually coarse, which is why they're the best breadcrumb when it comes to achieving maximum crunch. Panko crumbs are also made from a special steamed crustless bread.

Since panko crumbs are light and airy, they don't soak up too much oil during frying. It also creates a crispier coat for fried foods than traditional breadcrumbs. If you can't find real panko crumbs in stores, you could try making them at home using regular white bread. Remove the crust of the white bread and make coarse crumbs using a shredding disk or food processor. Bake it in the oven at about 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about seven minutes or until dry, but don't let it turn brown or burn. Once it's cool, you can put this away in an air-tight jar for later use or use it to coat shrimp, chicken, pork chops, and vegetables for frying.

Cornflake Crust

crushing cornflakes with cup
crushing cornflakes with cup - Jakub Radl/Shutterstock

Crunchy cornflakes make an absolutely delicious breakfast cereal, but did you know that you could use them to coat fried foods? They're almost the same as traditional bread crumbs, but they provide a heartier crunch while keeping the food moist and soft on the inside. Begin by crushing some cornflakes in a food processor or beat a bag full of them with a rolling pin. The goal here isn't to make it into a fine powder but to create a flaky, coarse texture similar to panko crumbs.

For this recipe, you'll need three bowls: one for flour, the second for eggs, and the third for crushed cornflakes. Adding a little pepper and salt to the flour or cornflake breading will fire up the flavor of your final product. Toss the chicken breasts in flour, then dip them in the beaten eggs before finally transferring them to the bowl of cornflake crumbs. Once you've given the chicken breasts a generous coat, transfer them to a waiting pan of hot oil or bake them in an oven.

Sesame Seed Crust

fried chicken with sesame seeds
fried chicken with sesame seeds - Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Want to give your breadcrumb-coated fried chicken a delicious twist? Bring out the sesame seeds. These toasted sesame seeds add a distinct sweet yet nutty flavor to fried chicken, fish, and vegetables. You could start by dredging the chicken slices in flour before dipping them in eggs. For the third coat, you could just use plain sesame seeds. However, if you want to make it crunchier, mix sesame seeds and breadcrumbs for the final coat.

Another way to make sesame-crusted fried chicken is to combine eggs, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, salt, soy sauce, mustard, dill, and pepper to create the batter. Dip the chicken breasts in this batter before rolling them in a tray of sesame seeds, ensuring enough seeds stick to the entire surface. Fry for a few minutes, giving each side enough attention so as to achieve an even finish. But be careful not to burn the sesame seeds; otherwise, your fried chicken will taste bitter.

Coconut Batter

bowl of shredded coconut
bowl of shredded coconut - Magone/Getty Images

One way to make coconut batter involves combining shredded coconut flakes with panko bread crumbs. Start by dredging your fish or shrimp in flour before dipping them in batter containing all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, cornstarch, and cold club soda. Coconut flour, which is excellent for baking gluten-free treats, works well as a substitute for all-purpose flour in this recipe. Afterward, cover it generously with a mix of shredded coconut and panko crumbs before frying.

If you don't have panko crumbs, you can use regular bread crumbs as a substitute, and they'll still turn out perfectly sweet and crispy. Alternatively, skip the breadcrumb step altogether and coat the fish or shrimp with plain shredded coconut flesh. It'll still be great, but it's less crunchy than adding breadcrumbs. Additionally, you can make coconut batter with coconut milk instead. Mix all-purpose flour, baking powder, eggs, and coconut milk until smooth. Dip each fish slice in this coconut batter and fry until golden brown for a delicious crispy treat.

Crushed Pretzel Coating

crushed pretzels in mortar
crushed pretzels in mortar - Merrimon Crawford/Shutterstock

If you have stale pretzels lying around your house, don't toss them out yet. Instead, you can use them as breading when making fried chicken or fish next. The pretzel coat gives a unique, slightly salty flavor and a delightful crispy coat—a total game-changer.

Prepare the pretzel coat by crushing it to coarse crumbs. If you have breadcrumbs at home, you can combine them with the pretzels. Plus, if you add some seasonings and spices like salt, cumin, and onion powder to the pretzels, each bite will be bursting with flavor. The next stage just involves following the three-step routine of dredging chicken strips in flour, eggs, and finally, the pretzel breadcrumbs mix.

Alternatively, you can use a two-bowl method: one for milk and the other for the pretzel crumbs with spices like paprika and salt. The milk helps the pretzel crumbs stick better to the surface of the chicken. Fry your fully breaded chicken strips until golden brown, drain the excess oil, and enjoy.

Chickpea Flour Batter

bowl of chickpea flour
bowl of chickpea flour - Arundhati Sathe/Getty Images

If you want an easy gluten-free batter for fried foods, you have to try chickpea flour batter. Chickpea flour, also called besan or gram flour, is commonly used in Indian cuisines like pakoras and bhajis. Making this batter is as easy as just substituting regular all-purpose flour for chickpea flour in any recipe.

Once you have your chickpea flour from the store, measure out a portion in a bowl. You can enhance the flavor of your batter by combining the flour with dry seasonings and spices like salt, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin, and black mustard seeds. Then, combine this mixture with water, blending in any lumps, and let it sit for about 15 minutes.

This batter is perfect for chicken thighs and fish but also makes crunchy vegetable fritters. Simply dip the chicken or vegetables in the batter, making sure that they carry a thick coat. Fry until crispy, ensuring that you don't overcrowd the pan, which can reduce the temperature of the oil.

Cracker Crust

crackers in plastic bag
crackers in plastic bag - Yoela/Getty Images

Making cracker-coated chicken or fish is one of the many innovative ways to use crackers in the kitchen. Don't knock this recipe until you've tried it, because it might just be one of the most crispy yet tender fried chicken you'll ever try. Furthermore, this type of crust is suitable for anyone with dairy or gluten food restrictions. If you have a batch of crackers sitting in your pantry for too long, it's time to put them to good use with a recipe sure to impress anyone.

The first step is hitting the crackers with a heavy object, but don't crush them into a smooth powder. You'll need coarse lumps for the iconic crunchy crust. Add salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and any other spices of your liking. You could also mix the crackers with panko or traditional breadcrumbs. Then, in a separate bowl, whisk some eggs.

Dip the chicken cutlets in the egg bowl and then into the cracker crumbs. Repeat the process until the chicken has a generous coat of breading. You can bake or fry it until golden brown. Another great alternative to crackers in this recipe is tortilla chips. Just crush the chips and follow the same process.

Buttermilk Batter

chicken wings marinating in buttermilk
chicken wings marinating in buttermilk - Jdwfoto/Getty Images

Buttermilk is slightly acidic, which helps to tenderize the chicken flesh so that it's softer and juicier. Therefore, this batter is excellent if you want that crunchy outside with a moist center. Plus, it adds a slightly tangy flavor to your final product. In this recipe, you'll allow the chicken thighs to sit in a flavorful buttermilk marinade for about 4 to 24 hours. This marinade contains a rich blend of buttermilk, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. A better-suited buttermilk soak for fried fish might contain Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic salt, pepper, and eggs. Once the timer beeps, it's time for the main part to begin.

After marinating, pick up the chicken or fish slices from the sauce and roll them in flour before frying. Adding a dash of garlic salt, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and black powder to the flour dredge will elevate the taste of the fried food even further. Once you see that golden brown color appear, you know your fried chicken or fish is ready to enjoy.

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