Paul Heath guides us through the process of imitating the fried pickle appetizer served at Hooters restaurants. He has used a recipe shared by the Budget Savvy Diva, which has become the most popular copycat version of this dish on Pinterest.[divider]
Hi everybody! Paul Heath, self-styled culinary masochist here, and I’d like to start this off by saying what an honor it is to have been selected as a contributor for the 2015 edition of MUNCH! MADNESS! (echo) I was tasked with recreating the usually-mushy, sometimes crispy, zesty, breaded goodness that is the fried pickle, Hooters-style.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should confess that I wasn’t able to get out to my local Hooters to refresh my memory, BUT, as a man who’s eaten a lot of fried pickles in his time (Knuckle Salad’s editor in chief can back this claim up), I’m reasonably certain that I can recall them in my mind. Nonetheless, here’s a lovely photo of the Hooters version, for reference.
Not a complicated dish by any means – dill pickle chips, lightly breaded, then fried and served with a spicy Ranch-like sauce. Always a good choice! Unless you don’t like pickles…or fried…then you’re outta luck, pal. Also, what’s wrong with you?! I already had half of the ingredients hanging around, so I gathered up the rest and got to work!
I didn’t actually dump these guys into a cup to measure them out, but I figure there’s probably about 20 chips in a standard restaurant serving, so let’s go with that. The chips got a double patdown to make sure they were relatively dry before their impending buttermilk bath.
Again, I did my best to eyeball the amounts here for the flour and spices. Since we’re not doing any baking science, I was only really looking for enough to get the pickles sufficiently breaded. Salt, cayenne, and paprika were added according to the recipe, though my own tastes would normally lean in a more spicy direction. Buttermilk is buttermilk. There it is, being buttermilk.
Here’s where the recipe caused me to take a second look back at the reference photo. The author insists that it’s “well worth it” to dredge the pickles in the flour twice, but I was worried that this would give me too much breading – pickle chips don’t have a lot of surface area to begin with, and a bad ratio can make or break you! Despite my misgivings, I followed the directions and double-doused them in buttermilk and flour before the first test-batch of 4 went into a skillet of hot vegetable oil.
Not bad! They came out nicely browned, and the breading didn’t cake up as much as I thought it would. I let these guys hang out while I double-dunked the remaining pickles and got ‘em cooking.
Here’s the full batch, cooling and draining. About that color difference…I must have taken too long with the breading and allowed the oil to heat up between the test batch and these guys. They didn’t burn, and they’re still totally edible, just not as pretty as the first ones. For any potential pickle-friers out there, make sure you’ve got your chips battered so that they can all go in at once!
While the two-toned pickles drained off, I whipped up the spicy ranch dipping sauce. I wasn’t about to get out an eyedropper for Frank’s RedHot, so I just mixed the two lazy ingredients together to suit my own taste – heavy on the Red.
And here we have the finished product! Doesn’t look too bad once I mixed them around a bit, and the sauce is pretty much exactly what you’d expect. It’s obvious that the pickles don’t look much like the restaurant photo above, but at least they’re consistent – besides the coloring. I think I’d recommend a single dunk in the breading if you were looking for a more authentic, more lightly-breaded final product. Looks aside, let’s dive in and answer the most important question – how do they taste?
And they’re good! They don’t look quite the same, but this recipe definitely recreates the Hooters fried pickle experience taste-wise. I’d definitely cook these up again in the future, though I’d probably go a little heavier on the cayenne to give them a kick. I’m calling this Copycat a winner! Thanks for reading, and best of luck to all of you in your 2015 MUNCH! MADNESS! picks!
Paul’s Recipe Notes
OVERALL SIMILARITY – While the final product didn’t completely resemble the restaurant original, the experience of eating a fried pickle chip is definitely the same. Copycat is crispier and seems lighter tasting, though this is likely a product of being able to pay attention to the frying process and using “fresh” ingredients (as fresh as pickles and cheap flour and bottled ranch dressing can be).
CONVENIENCE – It’s never terribly convenient to heat up a giant pan full of oil, but the pickles cooked quickly and didn’t make too much of a mess in the kitchen.
COST – Cost for the copycat recipe is wayyy lower than buying a basket of pickles at Hooters. You’ve probably got all of the ingredients in your cabinet and fridge right now!
TASTE – They really do taste great; I wouldn’t think twice if these were served to me at a restaurant. Also like that I was able to prepare the pickles to my own liking (less bready, fried extra crispy), rather than relying on a greasy Hooters fry cook to make them as quickly as possible.
HEALTH/QUALITY – I’m not gonna go so far as to say that the copycat version makes the original look like a bag of slime, but being able to choose my own jar of pickles and make sure there are no bugs in the flour makes a huge difference, quality-wise.