Chicken feet. The more adventurous chicken wing. A starchild of dim sum. And something so sadly overlooked in many Americans’ week-to-week cooking.
I know they look strange, but it’s time to embrace another delicious part of an animal you already love.
Today, we’re going to talk a bit about how chicken feet are generally used, and then we’ll get into specific ways to cook them and leave you with some of our all-time favorite chicken feet recipes.
Culinary facts about chicken feet
Chicken feet are adored all the way from China, to Ukraine, to Mexico, to the southern U.S.
In Hong Kong, they are usually deep-fried and steamed before being simmered in a juicy sauce made with fermented black beans. In the southern U.S., they are often cooked right in a pot before braising.
You’ll also see salt-baked chicken feet sold ready-to-eat as a snack and even marinated chicken feet that are simmered in a sort of soy sauce pickle, complete with star anise, garlic, and other spices.
With an animal so commonplace, it’s not a surprise that there are limitless ways to cook chicken feet, although many have gravitated toward combination cooking methods that soften the stubborn feet.
What do chicken feet taste like?
Like chicken, duh! Texture-wise they are like a tough piece of chicken skin. They can get a bit stringy too, but to be honest, chicken feet are kind of like a wing without a lot of meat.
In other words, the feet are just an excuse to enjoy whatever sauce, frying, and seasoning you came up with.
And that’s not a bad thing.
3 common ways to cook chicken feet
Here are the most popular ways to cook and use chicken feet, followed by step-by-step instructions for each.
Method 1: Deep fry then braise
This is how a lot of Chinese chefs make chicken feet:
- Rinse chicken feet and scrub off any hard knobs.
- Fill a pot with water, maltose or honey.
- Place the chicken in the pot.
- Bring to a boil and then drain.
- Air or pat dry.
- Chop nails off with a sharp knife.
- Bring any high smoking point oil to 350 degrees F.
- Fry in batches for 3 minutes or golden brown.
- Remove and place in an ice bath for 1 hour until skin puffs.
- Heat up a skillet or wok and stir fry along with any aromatics, veggies, and seasonings you’d like.
- Pour in water to cover
- Add lid and boil.
- Then reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes.
- Crank up for the last 5 minutes.
- Turn off heat and soak chicken feet in sauce for 2 hours for deeper flavor.
- Bring back up to temperature with a steamer.
Method 2: Braise only
This is similar to the first method, but you skip the frying to keep it healthier. You won’t get puffy feet this way, though.
- Rinse chicken feet.
- Snip nails with kitchen scissors.
- Get rid of any yellow and/or rough spots.
- Cover chicken feet with cold water and boil for 10 minutes.
- Get a skillet going to medium-high and add in your choice of oil, fresh garlic, and fresh ginger until fragrant.
- Add chicken feet to the aromatics along with whatever sauce you’d like.
- Pour in water or beer to cover.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer until sauce is thickened and feet are cooked through.
Method 3: Boil then simmer
You can add veggies to make a soup or just boil and simmer the feet to make broth. Either way, it is a collagen-rich, delicious result.
- Rinse and clean chicken paws with cold water.
- Get rid of yellow spots and clip nails with scissors or a knife.
- Place feet in a slow cooker or pot and cover with water and a splash of apple cider vinegar.
- Cook on low in a crockpot or a low simmer in a pot for 6-8 hours, skimming off any foam and impurities as needed.
- Add desired vegetables and seasoning 1-2 hours before serving.
Best practices for cooking chicken feet
Here are some pro tips on cooking chicken feet! Use these to up your game.
- Use big fat American chicken feet. You want the fattest, meatiest chicken feet you can find. There’s not a lot to go around on the feet, so every bit counts.
- Use scallion oil for an extra Chinese twist. Make your own by bringing scallions and white onions up to a simmer in peanut oil [*].
- Flash boil for easy peeling. Flash boil the feet for 30 seconds to make removing the nails and peeling any tough skin easier. You can do this a day in advance to speed things up.
- Always trim the nails. Use a sharp knife or scissors to make this easy.
- Use maltose or honey in the soaking water. If soaking the feet beforehand, using maltose or honey adds a brown color to the feet.
- Add rice vinegar to the soaking water. While chicken feet don’t have a lot of meat, they can still taste a bit gamey. Soaking in acidic water helps get rid of that.
- Use fresh ginger and garlic. Nothing replaces fresh aromatics!
- Use cold water on the initial boil. Some people say this helps the feet not be as smelly!
- Add water to the braising liquid as needed. You don’t want them to burn, so don’t be afraid to add some extra water, stock, or beer during the braising process.
- If your sauce is too thin, add corn starch. Just a little bit goes a long way. The earlier you can add it, the better.
- MSG for flavor. Some people use just a pinch for added flavor. There are supporters of its use who make the case it’s gotten a bad rap. The jury is still out on health impact.
- Deep fry the chicken feet to make them puffy. You won’t get that classic puff without the frying. It’s either light puff and healthy or full puff and not healthy, so choose wisely.
- Use chicken feet for stock. Chicken feet have a lot of collagen, making them delicious for stock — just like beef or pork bones. So if you have some and don’t like the looks of chicken feet, just steal all their delicious nutrients for your stock and remove them afterward.
Typical spices and sauces for chicken feet
Since the sauce and seasoning possibilities are endless for chicken feet, there is no master list of seasonings or sauces to use, but a few of the most popular ones include:
- Fresh ginger
- Regular or dark soy sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Fish sauce
- White, Chinese yellow rock, or brown sugar
- Star anise
And any other sauce you’d like. Just sub in your favorite wing sauce for a safe bet!
Are chicken feet healthy?
It depends on how you cook them, really. Deep-fried with a sugar Chinese sauce? Not so much. Braised in a chicken broth with fresh veggies? Pretty healthy.
But in general, chickens are high in collagen and low in fat. You’re essentially eating bones, skins, and tendons. This gives you some good proteins and calcium as well — a lot of calcium actually, almost 10% of your DV per 100g serving.
For more context, a plain serving of 2 chicken feet (70 grams) provides [*]:
- Calories: 150
- Protein: 14 grams
- Fat: 10 grams
- Carbs: 0.14 grams
- Calcium: 5% Daily Value (DV)
- Phosphorous: 5% DV
- Vitamin A: 2% DV
- Folate (vitamin B9): 15% DV
But again, this is without the sauce and frying, which is how most people eat chicken feet. So just know that your carbs and calories will be significantly higher than this if they are fried.
Where to buy chicken feet
A few places:
- Get free-range chicken feet delivered to your door via U.S. Wellness Meats (most convenient).
- Swing by a local Asian grocery store, particularly ones with a big Chinese section.
- Ask your supermarket butcher.
- Special order from a local butcher.
We advise buying chicken feet free-range or pasture-raised, though. These chicken feet are richer in nutrients, aren’t carrying the antibiotics and gunk that industrial farms feed them, and just taste better.
Our 7 favorite chicken feet recipes
Here are a few of our favorite recipes to get your chicken feet cooking off the ground.
This recipe from Travel Thirsty is pretty involved and is more of a set of guidelines than specific instructions, but it’s a great look at how Thai people approach chicken feet.
There are a lot of steps to making good Dim Sum chicken feet, but if you have the resolve the results are amazing. Plus you’ll learn a lot along the way. This is for what I like to call a “slow-food day” — where you just hang out and cook in the kitchen all day!
This is how a lot of people in the U.S. Wellness Meats community use our chicken feet. Chicken Feet make a dangerously delicious and nutritious bone broth. Pick up a few feet here, and then cover and cook for a few hours.
Jeannette from Wok and Kin says “don’t knock it till you try it”, and we agree. This is a very easy recipe that relies on the quality of the ingredients and does some really cool things with the stock, like adding red dates for some natural sweetness.
For a more complex soup, this Cantonese Chicken Feet Soup from the Woks of Life has seaweed, Shaoxing wine, ginger, and peanuts. This is an adventurous but delicious soup if you have the heart!
Chances are if you’re a chicken feet eater, you’re also down with some spice. This chicken feet recipe from Panlasang Pinoy takes chicken feet and fries them up with some chili or red pepper to bump up the heat.
This boil then stir-fry recipe from Yummy is not as hardcore as some of the other recipes here, but that makes it a good one to start with. Make sure you get the right kind of black beans.
The bottom line on cooking chicken feet
Chicken feet can be a bit of an eyesore, but the taste and texture make everything worth it. It’s the eastern appetizer equivalent of American chicken wings — that alone should convince you it’s worth trying.
We hope the tips we’ve given you in the blog have inspired you. Now go get cooking!
The best chicken feet recipes start with healthy chickens
We take pride in being extremely careful with the farmers we work with. Every chicken we sell is free range, raised on pastures in conditions that mimic their natural environment.
Plus, we only work with farmers who prioritize sustainability and use innovative farming techniques that are keeping us and our world healthy.
Get the best and healthiest chicken feet for your recipe delivered to your door.
Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.