Is KFC’s Secret Fried Chicken Recipe Out of the Bag?

The recipe has been heavily guarded for decades. Did this reporter just find it?


The thing about secrets is that people crave to know them. This is especially true of one of the most sought-after recipes of the modern era: the super-duper-secret blend of herbs and spices that go into KFC’s “finger lickin’ good” fried chicken.

The exact recipe, first developed in 1939 by Colonel Harland Sanders — yes, the Colonel — is said only to exist in a vault at KFC headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. The company has claimed that it goes so far as to buy spices from different vendors to protect the recipe as “intellectual property.” When one couple claimed to have stumbled upon the recipe earlier this year, KFC executives decided to sue them.

So you can imagine the corporate headache this week when Jay Jones, a journalist writing for the Chicago Tribune, who was on an assignment to visit the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum in Corbin, Kentucky, published a photo of a handwritten note, given to him by the Colonel’s nephew, Joe Ledington. On it was a list of exactly 11 herbs and spices, along with their measurements.

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According to Jones, Ledington initially confirmed that it was the original herb-and-spice blend, but has since retracted, citing uncertainty of the original recipe. KFC then responded to an email by the Tribune with typical vague finesse: “Lots of people through the years have claimed to discover or figure out the secret recipe, but no one’s ever been right.” After testing the recipe, the paper remains convinced it’s found the actual recipe. “All we know is the recipe we tested certainly tastes like KFC,” a Tribune reporter wrote. “And whatever it is, it’s finger lickin’ good.”

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