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Healthier Chicken Fried Steak

Chicken fried steak isn’t usually on the list of healthier foods you can eat, but it can be with some simple adjustments that don’t sacrifice flavor. Want to make it with classic ingredients? I have those for you too, and either way it’s a southern classic you’ll love.

a chicken fried steak with gravy on a plate

Pull up a chair to this southern table for a true classic. Perfectly crispy and flavorful breading, slathered in a dripping-seasoned southern gravy you can feel less guilty about loving.

How in the world is this chicken fried steak healthy?

You can enjoy just about any food you love as long as you use good ingredients. We don’t count fat or calories on this site–we count chemicals and inflammatory foods.

And when we can drive down the irritation of inflammation we discover a whole new world of health that goes far beyond calories.

Here’s how we do it:

  • Use non-inflammatory frying oils like pastured lard or refined coconut oil
  • Buy local beef if possible (grass or grain fed matters less)
  • Use a gluten free or grain free flour like cassava
  • Use raw or non homogenized dairy

When we take our food back to less refined ingredients you’ll soon discover how much better your body responds and you still get to eat deliciously!

This recipe comes from my new cookbook based entirely on the theory of eating the foods you love with better ingredients.

What cut of meat is chicken fried steak?

When selecting a cut of beef for chicken fried steak, look for cube steak.

Cube steak is a cut that has been run through the cuber to tenderize it. If you cannot find it, go with a round steak (eye round, top round, or bottom round) and tenderize it yourself or ask your butcher to do it for you.

Most grocery stores will be happy to run it through their “cuber”.

Why such an emphasis on tenderized cuts of beef? Trust me, you don’t want to be fighting through your chicken fried steak. You want something that cuts easily and is pleasant to chew through.

In addition, a steak that has been tenderized has a greater capacity to absorb flavor. 

Why is my chicken fried steak tough?

If you find yourself with a tough chicken fried steak, it is probably because you did not purchase a cut of meat that had been properly tenderized (see note above).

If you don’t have a butcher to help you (remember Walmart doesn’t have butchers) or if you are looking for a little challenge, I encourage you to tenderize your own steak.

Buy a round cut and use a meat mallet. Need a little extra instruction? Check out this great tutorial!

Is there chicken in chicken fried steak?

The name “chicken fried steak” is misleading. There is no chicken in chicken fried steak.

The name simply refers to the style of breading on the outside of the steak. It is very similar to the breading method used when making classic southern fried chicken. Curious? Check out my recipe for Buttermilk Fried Chicken.

How to get the breading to stick to chicken fried steak

Steak releases a lot of moisture in the cooking process, making it challenging for breading to stick to the meat.

There are a few tips and tricks that are useful in making sure the breading doesn’t just fall right off in the frying process.


Tips for crispy breading


  • Pat the steak dry. You want to remove as much moisture from the steak as you can before following the rest of the recipe. Use a paper towel to pat the steak as dry as you can. 
  • Instead of salting the meat, add plenty of salt and pepper to the breading to avoid pulling moisture from the steak while cooking.
  • After breading the steak, allow it to sit on the counter before frying. The breading will bond to the steak during this time. 5 to 7 minutes will do.  
  • Fry it hot enough. It is important to fry at a temperature around 370 degrees F. Lower temperatures will cause the steak to sweat and the breading to fall off. 
  • Use an electric skillet if you are new to frying. It can be challenging to know when your oil is hot enough for frying. An electric skillet can better regulate heat for you.

Flour alternatives for breading

When it comes to breading, flour is the main ingredient. You can use all purpose flour if gluten is friendly to you.

If you are looking for a gluten free alternative, I love cassava flour or a 1:1 gluten free all purpose flour.

In either case, make sure to season your flour liberally. Always salt and pepper, but feel free to add onion and/or garlic powder as well. 

Healthier oils for frying 

Fried food tends to have a stigma of being unhealthy. Honestly, though, it doesn’t have to be.

First, there’s no need to deep fry. I actually shallow fry these chicken fried steaks in about 1” of frying fat.

It is essential to use a quality frying fat if you are looking out for your health. I use lard from pastured pigs, but refined coconut oil is also a great option.

Steer clear of vegetable, canola, sunflower, safflower oils. They are inflammatory and won’t do your body any favors.

a plate of chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and green beans on a table

What side dishes to serve with chicken fried steak

This recipe pairs nicely with a variety of side dishes.

I suggest avoiding anything else fried as that might be overwhelming to your taste buds and digestive system.

Consider options like green beans, cooked greens such as collard greens, pinto beans, corn, mashed potatoes, or even cornbread with a slice of sweet onion.

Can chicken fried steak be made ahead?

So many of my recipes are make-ahead-friendly. This one, however, is not. As chicken fried steak sits, steam releases from the meat and softens the breading, leaving you with a soggy meal. Eat your chicken fried steak right away. You won’t regret it!

Gravy for chicken fried steak

Chicken fried steak loves gravy and vice versa. After frying, reserve the drippings in the pan.

Add a bit of flour and milk and bring everything to a simmer. It should thicken nicely.

Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste and voila! You are ready to serve. 

Get more healthy comfort food

Discover how delicious comfort food can be even when it’s anti inflammatory with my brand new book!

a chicken fried steak with gravy on a plate

Healthier Chicken Fried Steak (Gluten Free Option)

This classic is crispy, perfectly fried and celebrates a truly creamy southern gravy.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Rachel Ballard

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 pounds cubed round steaks about 4 medium steaks
  • 2 cups cassava flour gluten free 1:1, or all purpose flour works
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk raw or non homogenized preferred
  • 3 cups pastured lard or refined coconut oil for frying vegetable oil will substitute
  • 3 tablespoons pan drippings from chicken fried steak
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch 3 tablespoons all purpose flour or 1:1 gluten free flour will substitute
  • 2 cups milk raw or non homogenized preferred
  • salt and pepper to taste
Makes: 4 x 4inch rectangle

Instructions
 

  • Place the cassava flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne in a shallow bowl and mix.
  • Beat the eggs and milk in a second shallow bowl and beat well with a fork to combine.
  • Dredge the steaks one at a time in the flour, pressing well. Then dip in the egg mixture and back in the flour. Set the steaks aside to rest while you heat the lard.
  • In an 8-inch or larger cast iron or heavy skillet, heat the lard to 365 degrees over medium high heat.Add the steaks one or two at a time as your skillet has room and fry on the first side until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  • Flip and cook on the second side 4 minutes more or until the steaks are cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to drain. Keep warm in a oven set to 200 degrees, or let them sit on the counter while you make the gravy.

For the gravy

  • Add the cornstarch to the cold milk and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • In a medium skillet, heat the drippings over medium heat until hot; about a minute then add the milk mixture. See note below if using all purpose flour. Increase heat to medium high. Whisk constantly until the gravy simmers and thickens; about 4 or 5 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and serve over chicken fried steak.

Notes

Note 1: If using all purpose flour or 1:1 gluten free flour for gravy: In the same skillet you cooked the chicken fried steaks in, heat the drippings over medium heat and add the flour to the drippings. Use a whisk to cook the flour 1 minute. Add milk and proceed with the recipe as directed. 
Note 2: Serving suggestion is for a steak about the size of the palm of your hand; about 4×4 inches. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1steakCalories: 390kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 32gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 138mgSodium: 514mgPotassium: 589mgFiber: 1gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 314IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 217mgIron: 5mg
Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken fried steak

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