Recipes & Cooking  |  06/29/2023

Gamebird Gourmet // Nashville Hot Pheasant Sandwich


A fun, fiery twist on buttermilk fried chicken, and an easy way to free up freezer space

Recipe and photo by Lukas Leaf

This recipe is a fun twist on buttermilk fried chicken, and an easy way to free up freezer space. Nashville Hot Chicken is traditionally fiery hot, so it’s not for the faint of heart or stomach. But holy cow, is it good. Be sure to have the napkins ready because this sandwich is an all-over-the-face kind of meal, and you wouldn’t want it any other way. 

You don’t have to make the Alabama white sauce, nor do you have to follow the list of hot spices that I’ve used. Try milder spices if you wish. But make sure you have a hot pepper base for the oil and a nice mayo-based sauce to round things out. The double-dredge helps keep the breading intact, producing a perfectly crispy crust. 

The pickle brine with the buttermilk is a great and necessary addition; this step ensures that the pheasant comes out tender and juicy. But don’t leave the meat in the marinade for too long, as an overextended bath will change the texture of the pheasant, ruining the final product.


Servings: 4

  • Thighs and breasts from 2 pheasants
  • 4 Brioche buns
  • Butter
  • Canola oil for frying
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup pickle brine
  • Louisiana hot sauce
  • 2 large eggs (for after marination)
Flour Dredge
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, separated
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon each baking powder, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, kosher salt, cracked black pepper
Cabbage Slaw
  • 2 cups green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Nashville Hot Oil
  • 1 cup oil frying oil
  • 1 teaspoon each chili powder, ancho powder, chipotle powder, guajillo powder, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, kosher salt, cracked black pepper
Alabama White Sauce (optional)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons each apple cider vinegar, stone-ground or Dijon mustard, lemon juice, creamy horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon each garlic powder, cracked black pepper, onion powder and kosher salt
  1. Marinate the pheasant pieces. Mix the buttermilk, pickle brine and hot sauce. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the pheasant and marinate for 4-6 hours. While the pheasant is marinating, prepare the rest of the ingredients for the sandwich.
  2. Mix the Alabama white sauce in a plastic container and place it in the fridge. Slice the cabbage and red onion. Toss with salt, pepper, vinegar, and lemon juice. Place in the fridge.
  3. Prepare the flour dredges and spice mixture for the oil. Mix ½ cup of flour, cornstarch, baking powder and spices, and set aside. Add salt and pepper to the remaining ½ cup of flour for the first dredge. Mix the oil and spices and set aside. 
  4. Add 1-2 inches of oil to a deep-sided pan or Dutch oven. Or use a fryer. Begin bringing the oil up to 350º. While the oil is heating, remove the pheasant from the marinade and pat it completely dry with paper towels. Whisk two eggs into the marinade.
  5. Place the pheasant pieces in the plain flour and coat thoroughly. Coat the pieces in the buttermilk marinade. One at a time, remove the pheasant from the marinade and let any excess drip off. Add the pheasant to the spiced flour mixture and coat thoroughly, making sure to get flour in every crevice. Let the dredged pheasant sit for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Fry the pheasant in two batches until brown and crispy and the internal temperature reaches 165º. Take one cup of hot oil and mix in the spices. Toss the fried pheasant with the spiced oil. Let rest on a rack.
  7. Toast the bun with butter. Add sauce, pickles, thigh and breast, cabbage slaw, and finish with the top bun. Serve and enjoy.

This story originally appeared in the 2023 Spring Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Pheasants Forever member today!