Keeping the foodservice equipment marketplace up to date with the latest menu and concept trends.


The Skinny on Chicken Skins

While chicken skins may be an emerging trend in the U.S., they have long been a staple snack in other countries.

The Skinny on Chicken Skins

trend Phodega 6 12 21 Chicken SkinsAt the start of the year, The New York Times named chicken skins its snack of the year, and when looking at today’s trends, this should come as no surprise. The newspaper noted a variety of factors driving this menu item’s popularity, including Americans’ love of crunchy snacks, higher food costs (which prompted more operators to use whole animals) and the growing interest in ketogenic diets. 

Restaurants in other countries are ahead of the U.S. when it comes to incorporating chicken skins. In Japan, for example, operators charcoal-grill chicken skins, or “kawa,” and commonly serve them at bars. At least six KFC restaurants in Indonesia include chicken skins on their menus. In 2022, the chain added the snack back to its offerings in Singapore.

By The Numbers

According to Claire Conaghan, associate director, publications, for Chicago-based Datassential, “Chicken skins at restaurants have been on and off our radar for years. We do track them in our Consumer Preferences database, and they are an ‘on fire!’ item [meaning one of the trendiest, with rapid awareness growth].”

According to Datassential, 64% of people are currently aware of fried chicken skins; 34% have tried them; 6% have had them many times; and 60% who have tried them like or love them.

“In fact, 29% who have tried chicken skins love them, which is a fairly high rating — in the 63rd percentile compared to other foods/dishes, so loved more than 63% of items we track,” Conaghan explains. “Chicken skins also have some positive perceptions due to being a keto trend, with 23% of health-focused consumers who have tried them loving them.”

Concept Close-Up: A Specialty of the House

Chicago’s Phodega, which opened in November 2019, is an Asian-American noodle and snack shop that owner Nate Hoops describes as “more a restaurant than a grocery store.” The 24-seat eatery’s specialties include Vietnamese pho, Singapore fried chicken and rice, Viet dip sandwiches (similar to a French dip) and fried chicken skins.

“These are popular in the Philippines, China and Thailand, but it’s something we’ve always offered from the get-go,” Hoops says. Phodega seasons its skins with salt and pepper and serves them up as an appetizer with its signature hot sauce.

Hoops notes that chicken skin dishes continue to trend on social media. “We’re seeing restaurants using them for different things — someone recently wrapped shrimp in chicken skins and deep-fried them,” he describes. 

Phodega has experimented with different ingredients, elevating chicken skins by topping them with caviar and creme fraiche. 

“We’re trying out different things with wraps, such as including jalapeno poppers, using them in pho and also including them in a couple of sandwiches. We try to use chicken skins wherever we can,” Hoops says. “They go well paired with salty items and hot sauce.”

He describes chicken skins’ texture as close to a chicharron (fried pork belly or rinds). Phodega stores them no more than two days in a cooler. “We do a first fry and then a second fry that crisps them up even more to get the crunch we’re looking for,” Hoops says.

Hoops likes the skins’ versatility. “They add a big crunch to a dish, depending on how big they are cut,” he says. “This is the best part of fried chicken.”