Newsflash: I love a fried chicken biscuit.
Bojangles Cajun filet biscuit combo is likely my favorite fast-food meal available. I’m sure most folks reading my sandwich-focused blog think I eat at fast food restaurants quite often, but I only do it a couple of times a year. Also, since I currently do not live in an area near a Bojangles so I only get a chance to order a Cajun filet biscuit combo once every 2 or 3 years or so.
At times, I crave it. So, I put in the work and figured out how to make it myself at home.
I’ve briefly written about Bojangles before—right when I started this blog—and I’ve written about biscuits a few times, but I’ve never tried to recreate the exact Bojangles buttermilk biscuit and fried chicken with the attention to detail that I hope to give to it today.
I have heard from several folks online and in person that they’ve experienced a recent decline in Bojangles quality and consistency over the past few years and since I don’t live near one, I can’t really speak to that. But the important thing here is that we are making these items ourselves, so we have full control over the quality, flavor, and consistency of our chicken biscuits and fries.
Bojangles officially changed its name to Bojangles from Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits on August 3, 2020. Some marketing materials prior to 2020 will have the apostrophe and most current packaging and advertisements do not.
Stick around for the ride as I attempt to reverse engineer and recreate this whole combo, sweet tea, seasoned fries, and all.
What is a Cajun filet biscuit combo?
If you’ve never had it, the Cajun filet biscuit combo is a slightly spicy piece of fried breast meat inside of a buttery, buttermilk biscuit, with a side of seasoned fries and a drink of your choosing. I don’t drink iced tea very often, but Bojangles sweet tea is a crowd favorite.
The buttermilk biscuit is baked with self-rising flour and vegetable shortening. The biscuit tops are basted with salted butter or a butter-type alternative after they come out of the oven.
The chicken filet is 100% breast meat that has been cut into a thin cutlet, dredged in seasoned flour, and fried. Usually, the chicken is wide enough to extend outside of the biscuit giving you the opportunity to taste some biscuit-free bites of chicken. There is a little bit of cayenne in the seasoned flour, so there is some discernable heat in the chicken, but I don’t consider it to be particularly spicy.
The seasoned fries are plank-shaped, steak-ish style fries, but a bit smaller and less dense than your traditional steak fries. They are not stiff fries; they are softer than a typical steak fry that you will get at a diner or from a frozen bag of fries. The key to these fries is a double fry that softens and cooks the potato all the way through first before the second crisping fry.
The sweet ice tea is sweet. Very sweet. If you don’t like sweet tea, you will not enjoy this part of the meal. I’ve always thought that sweet tea in the south was a bit like Kool-Aid for adults. In North Carolina—the birthplace of Bojangles, where I lived for almost all my childhood—if you order iced tea you have to specify if you DO NOT want it pre-sweetened for you. Sweet tea is the default at Bojangles.
Let’s get started on this combo meal.
Buttermilk biscuit science
There are several videos out there showing stuffy, local news reporters stopping by a soon-to-open Bojangles franchise to learn how to make biscuits. Almost all the videos I have watched do not show specific ingredients, they just pick up the process during the folding, rolling, and cutting of the biscuit dough.
In the video below you can see that they appear to be using actual buttermilk. It’s not clear of the brand, but it is likely buttermilk from the green label color. This video is the only mention I’ve found online that mentions some of the dry ingredients that go into a batch of biscuits. There seems to be a “Biscuit Magic” proprietary secret blend packet that gets added to each batch which starts from a 5-pound bag of Southern Biscuit brand self-rising flour and 8 ounces of shortening. He specifically says two 4-pound chubs of shortening.
Biscuit investigation and conversions
So, I took calculations for 5-pounds of self-rising flour, converted that to grams (2267), and then divided that by 300 grams (the gram weight of the flour in my normal batch of biscuits). This gave me 7.55 which is the divisor that I then used to convert the amount of the other main ingredients I was aware of at that point. Here’s some basic math in a table you can look at or skip over.
|Ingredient||Bojangles batch amount||Gram amount||Divided by||Our amount|
|Self-rising flour||5 pounds||2267||7.55||300 grams|
|Shortening||8 ounces||226.79||7.55||31 grams|
|Buttermilk||1 quart||968.54||7.55||128 grams|
Ok, it looks like we’ve cracked the code and now we know exactly how to make Bojangles biscuits.
There’s no way that 31 grams would be enough shortening/fat for 300 grams (2.5 cups) of self-rising flour. We need at least three times that amount of fat here. I’m guessing that the person in the video just made a mistake in how he spoke about the amount of shortening.
Then I dug a little deeper and found this Reddit comment that suggests it might actually be 2 pounds of vegetable shortening, which would quadruple the 8 ounces suggested in that video. This lines up a lot closer with the amount of fat that a biscuit should have. I ended up basing my copycat recipe somewhat on that calculation.
Shortening vs Butter
My normal buttermilk biscuit uses frozen butter. And I can say that after doing A BUNCH of tests with vegetable shortening biscuits for this blog post, I’m not sure why a home cook would choose vegetable shortening over butter. One huge factor in biscuit making is ensuring that your fat is as cold as possible. You can easily toss a stick of butter into the freezer overnight or just leave one in there for a long time to make sure it’s available when needed. But shortening isn’t even supposed to be refrigerated, so you need to work a bit harder for longer rest and cooling times to get your shortening to a super cold temperature.
The table above just shows that vegetable shortening and butter are somewhat interchangeable. Land ‘o Lakes has some good content about vegetable shortening vs butter in baking. Shortening has a higher melting point than butter which means vegetable shortening could (if used properly) provide more lift in the final baked goods.
The extra lift
There’s a moment in one of the videos above where the biscuit maker shows a small packet that is added to each batch of biscuits. According to him, this packet is called “biscuit magic.” There are no mentions of salt, and biscuits made with shortening do typically require a bit of salt and maybe sugar. This biscuit magic packet probably contains salt and sugar and there are even Reddit threads where ex-employees claim it does contain something like baking soda that adds more lift and rise to the biscuit. Even though self-rising flour already has baking soda in it, I added a little extra to the recipe but it’s optional.
Bojangles biscuit Troubleshooting
This is a screen capture from a YouTube video of a proprietary poster in a lot of Bojangles restaurants. This is the best image I was able to get, and I can’t really zoom in enough to read much of what it says, so I’m just going to comment on the Troubleshooting section with tips from me.
First off, it says we should have a 3.5-inch diameter biscuit. Second, we should have a biscuit that is at least 1.25 inches tall. That’s the part that is easy to read. The very bottom is in Spanish and is a duplicate of the top row of troubleshooting tips.
Smooth: Bojangles biscuits aren’t super smooth on top, so you don’t want to overwork and over-roll the dough. The more you fold the dough and roll it out, the smoother the top is liable to be.
Small Diameter: I’m not sure how you’d get a small diameter when you’re using a standard-sized biscuit cutter. Use a standard cutter and we can skip this one.
Sloped: if you push the biscuits together, they will help each other rise which will often make the biscuits taller on one side or the other. Bojangles do not put their biscuits on the pan where they are touching. This allows them to rise more evenly.
Spreading: if your fat is not cold enough, your biscuits will spread. You want the fat to stay solid for as long as possible in the oven. If you are using soft, room-temperature butter or shortening, when the biscuits go into the oven they will not rise properly and they will almost puddle up and spread out. Gotta keep that fat COLD!
Hard/Crusty: if your biscuits turn out hard or crusty there is probably one of two issues. First: you might have overcooked the biscuits. Biscuits need to be cooked hot and fast, most recipes I’ve seen on the internet are in an oven that is between 450- and 500-degrees F for about 12 to 15 minutes. The other thing that could cause a hard/crusty biscuit would be too much flour. Make sure you’re either weighing out your flour or using a spoon to slowly scoop flour into your measuring cup. If you scoop with the measuring cup, you will pack the flour into the cup which means you will probably be using too much flour. Spoon the flour into the scoop (or better yet, buy a scale).
Bojangles buttermilk biscuit recipe copycat
Here’s my copycat recipe for these biscuits. Your biggest challenge in this biscuit recipe will be making sure that the shortening stays super cold or almost freezing throughout the entire process.
Sweet iced tea
Ok, we’ve got to make some tea. I bought some Lipton bags for the first time in at least a decade, and we made some tea. I don’t hate tea, but it’s just not that interesting to me. My parents and especially my dad are really into it though.
During my iced tea testing, I saw that Lipton’s Southern Sweet Tea recipe contained baking soda. After seeing that I felt I had to research what that ingredient was all about. There’s an article in Southern Living that describes what baking soda does in an iced tea recipe. If you don’t want to click, the answer is that baking soda helps in clarifying the final tea.
This is my dad’s sweet tea recipe. Note: it is not as sweet as what you will find at Bojangles. I would add another half cup of sugar to get to a close version of their sweet tea.
- 1/2-gallon water (8 cups)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda (this is not in my dad’s recipe)
- 2 family-size tea bags
The easiest way to make the tea is to put 4 cups of water into a pot, bring it to a boil and then add the sugar and baking soda and stir to combine. Turn off the heat under the pot and add the tea bags. Set a timer for 3 to 5 minutes and when that goes off add the tea to a pitcher and add the extra 4 cups of water. Put the pitcher into the fridge and you’ll have tea that has cooled off enough in an hour or so.
You could also skip the pot and just put the first 4 cups into the microwave to get it close to boiling temperature.
Cajun seasoned French fries
Cajun fry seasoning
I worked on replicating the Bojangles Cajun fry seasoning a few times over the last few weeks. You could just buy your seasoning from Amazon, but my recipe is pretty much the same thing.
The official ingredients mention yeast extracts, but not MSG. Yeast extract contains glutamate whereas MSG is a synthetic man-made product that is a processed form of glutamic acid. I think you can leave out the MSG in my recipe if it bothers you, but it really does make a difference in the flavor of the final blend.
There are a lot of copycat recipes out there for this seasoning and fries and a lot of them have no mention of celery seed. In my testing, I found that celery seed or more specifically celery salt is integral to the taste of Bojangles seasoning. So don’t leave it out or use a recipe that doesn’t contain any celery seed or salt.
This blend is fantastic on fries, but you can also liberally sprinkle it on pork chops or chicken that you plan to grill. It works great as the main ingredient in the seasoned flour that you use for frying as well.
Here’s my recipe for Cajun seasoning that gets pretty damn close to what Bojangles seasoning tastes like.
Not just for French fries, this seasoning mix is perfect for any type of potato. Add this seasoning to your fried chicken dredge or even sprinkle it on your next steak or pork chop before grilling if you're into flavor experiences. If you're trying to use this to recreate Bojangles Fry Seasoning, do not add the optional cayenne powder.Get Recipe
Almost steak fries
These aren’t really steak fries, but they are a slightly thicker cut than your typical fast-food fries. If you’ve ever had a Bojangles fry, they’re a little soft, but still crispy across the edges.
To make this possible, you have to cook the fries almost fully before the final fry process that crisps everything up.
Bojangles fries are a bit thinner than traditional steak fries, but they’re closer in size to steak fries than any other style of fry.
This requires a double fry. The good thing about this though, is that you can do the first fry hours or even a day or two prior to the final fry if the par-cooked fries are kept snug in the refrigerator. This drastically reduces the final cooking time of your fries and biscuit.
The first fry will not brown your fries, but it will cook them through so that they are soft in the middle. Then the second fry will crisp up the outside.
Bojangles fries aren’t super crispy, but they are soft in the middle and cooked all the way through.
Here’s my Bojangles fry copycat recipe, including the Cajun seasoning recipe that was also shared above.
Cajun fried chicken filet
Bojangles biscuits and sandwiches all use chicken breast meat. I prefer the thigh because it is easier to cook while still retaining juiciness, but you can pull that off with breast meat if you use a thermometer and cook it to temperature.
If you’re really trying to replicate a fast-food fried chicken sandwich experience, you must use breast meat. There’s something about the texture of fried breast meat in a sandwich that just isn’t the same if you use thighs instead. So, if you want to copycat Bojangles you definitely have to use pieces of breast meat.
My recipe is buttermilk brined and I’m not sure that this is how Bojangles is doing it, but it is a tried-and-true way of preparing fried chicken pieces. Bojangles claims to be marinading their chicken for 12 hours and I think they have cayenne and paprika in that marinade. You can see hints of red spice color under the crust of the chicken.
You do not double dredge these chicken pieces into seasoned flour, this recipe just uses one coating of flour to keep the crust light and crispy.
Cajun filet biscuit recipe
Below are some chicken biscuit sandwiches and fry photos that you can peruse, as well as the recipe to recreate these Cajun-seasoned chicken biscuit sandwiches at home.
Here’s my recipe for a copycat version of the Bojangles Cajun filet biscuit. If you want the fries too, that recipe is linked above.
The closest I could get to a Bojangles copycat Cajun filet biscuit recipe is right here. The overnight marinade is key to the flavor of this chicken biscuit.
- 300 grams self-rising flour (2.5 cups)
- 16 grams powdered sugar (2 tablespoons)
- 3 grams salt (1/2 teaspoon)
- 3 grams baking soda (1/2 teaspoon - optional)
- 96 grams vegetable shortening (1/2 cup)
- 224 grams buttermilk (1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons melted butter, for topping
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 large chicken breast, cut into two pieces (or two smaller ones)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
- peanut oil or another neutral frying oil (2 inches deep in your pot/pan)
- 2 fried chicken breast pieces (from above)
- 2 biscuits (from above)
Buttermilk biscuit: In a large bowl add self-rising flour, powdered sugar, salt, and baking soda. Mix these dry ingredients with a whisk or fork to thoroughly combine.
Using a dough cutter or your fingers, mash in the cold vegetable shortening until there are no bits of shortening larger than a pea.
Add this bowl to the freezer for 2 hours or the refrigerator overnight to ensure your shortening and flour are cold.
When you are 1 hour from bake time, preheat your oven to 450 F. You want the oven to be fully heated so keep it on for an hour.
When you are 15 minutes before baking time (45 minutes after preheating), add buttermilk to the bowl with the flour and shortening, and with a large spoon, stir the dough precisely 15 times. The dough will not come together, it will be shaggy. The dough should look a bit like cottage cheese.
Add this bowl back to the refrigerator to sit for 5 minutes. This time not only keeps everything cool but also allows for the buttermilk to hydrate the flour. This process is called the autolyse method. (Use this term to impress your friends).
Lightly flour your work surface and then dump your cottage cheese-looking dough on top.
Lightly dust the top of your dough with flour and pat it down with your hands a little. Fold the right side up and over and then the left up and over, like a brochure. Pat this all down a little and then fold the dough in half from the back side.
Lightly flour the dough and lightly flour your rolling pin. Roll the dough out to between 3/4 to a whole inch tall.
Using a round, floured biscuit cutter, cut out your biscuits. Cut straight down, DO NOT twist the cutter. In between each cut, you can dust the cutter with flour or dunk the cutter in your flour to coat it. This makes sure your cutter will not stick to the dough when cutting.
Place biscuits, an inch or so apart on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet and place that sheet on an upper rack of the oven.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits are browned.
Paint each biscuit with melted butter to ensure that the tops are flavorful.
Chicken marinade and frying: in a medium bowl add salt, pepper cayenne pepper, and paprika to buttermilk (add hot sauce if you want extra spice). and whisk to combine. Put two sandwich-sized pieces of chicken to a zip-top bag or bowl with a lid. Pour buttermilk marinade over the chicken and store in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
Make seasoned flour by combining flour with all the spices, salt, and pepper in a bowl or pan that is large enough for a piece of chicken to lay flat in the flour.
Remove one piece of chicken at a time from the marinade and dredge in the seasoned flour mixture until thoroughly coated on all sides. Place the fully coated chicken onto a piece of parchment or a sheet pan rack to rest.
Heat 2 inches of peanut oil in a skillet to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Fry each piece of chicken for 6 to 7 minutes or until it reaches 165 degrees internal temperature. You'll probably want to fry for 3 minutes on the first side and then flip it to make sure you're getting the level of browning that you want. Continue cooking on the other side.
After frying, place the finished chicken on a cooling rack over paper towels to drain some of the oil away.
Sandwich assembly: add one piece of fried chicken into a split biscuit and serve.
The pimento cheese version
This sandwich is the same as that last sandwich, but we added pimento cheese. Bojangles recently added pimento cheese to their menu, and you can add it to several menu options.
My Cajun filet biscuit with pimento cheese recipe is just a combination of my mom’s pimento cheese recipe and the Cajun filet biscuit recipe from above. Make that pimento cheese the day before for the best results. In my experience, it’s tastier that way and then there’s also less to do on the day that you’re frying chicken.
Go out and Cajun filet some biscuits!
Check back next week for a taco inside a sandwich that you can still walk around with. None of this makes sense, but hopefully, someone can afford to buy us some sense by this time next week.