Skip to content

9 Things You Didn't Know About KFC

From menu hacks to secret recipes, there's a lot to learn about the chicken chain.

You're probably familiar with the ever-present red and white KFC fried chicken basket and the wholesome face of lovable Colonel Sanders, but there are interesting tidbits and secrets you probably don't know about the 70-year-old chain. So many tales have been told about KFC and its famous fried chicken recipe that it's hard to separate fiction from fact.

While you may know the Colonel from all of the iconic TV ads over the years (everyone from Jim Gaffigan to Ray Liotta has sported the famous white suit), you may not know that he was a real person. Harland David Sanders actually spawned a fast-food empire with his chicken recipe.

Sanders began selling food to travelers from a gas station in Kentucky. As History points out, he became a hit with travelers selling his simple country fare of country ham, okra, biscuits, string beans, and similar items as an alternative to the typical diner food found along the highway. In 1939, he discovered that using pressure cookers could perfect his quick-frying chicken, which was coated in his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices.

Here are some more facts and secrets you never knew about KFC.

 I Tried KFC's New Snack Wraps and One Tweak Would Have Made Them Excellent

The iconic image is the subject of a hilarious meme

Courtesy of KFC

Nearly everyone can recognize the black-and-white image of the smiling Colonel with his snazzy tie. The setup for the meme, while always different, is usually a person who says that a friend or family member just told them that as a kid, they always thought that Colonel Sanders's bowtie was actually a tiny body. Now you won't be able to un-see it either.

KFC has a Crocs collaboration

kfc crocs
Courtesy of KFC

It's not uncommon for fast food chains to launch items or even an entire line of merch for loyal fans who want to represent the establishment they love and appreciate. In 2o2o, KFC teamed up with the famous shoe company, Crocs, to create a classic clog and a 4.5-inch platform bucket clog, Delish reports. The shoe has a fried chicken design printed on top, along with removable Jibbitz (designated Croc gems/decorations), which look exactly like drumsticks and are chicken-scented!

Customers in Japan celebrate Christmas Day with KFC

kfc christmas japan

While Americans plan to enjoy a large Christmas turkey or ham (or both), some chicken fans in Japan opt for a family-sized bucket of Kentucky fried chicken, Delish reports. "Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii," which roughly translates to "Kentucky for Christmas!" was the historic marketing slogan that spread across the country back in 1974. Now, thousands of families in Japan pre-order KFC buckets weeks in advance, due to popular demand, just to keep the tradition going strong.

Colonel Sanders took aim (with a gun!) at a business rival.

colonel sanders sign

An aggressive marketer, Sanders painted advertising signs on buildings for miles around his gas station slash restaurant, according to History. Matt Stewart, who ran another local gas station, started painting over his signs, and when Sanders found out, he rushed to stop him, accompanied by two Shell executives.

According to Josh Ozersky's book, Colonel Sanders and the American Dream, Stewart grabbed his gun and fatally shot Shell district manager Robert Gibson. Sanders returned fire and wounded Stewart in the shoulder. Stewart was sentenced to 18 years in prison for murder, but charges against Sanders were eventually dropped.

White pepper might be the secret to KFC's recipe.

ground white pepper

KFC's chicken recipe has always been a secret, until 2016, when a writer for the Chicago Tribune unearthed what is purported to be the actual recipe with all 11 herbs and spices—including the white pepper.

While we can't be 100% sure it's the real recipe, the use of white pepper is unusual, and the flavor profile described in the recipe does match the flavors of KFC's famous chicken.

 35+ Secret Recipes from Beloved Restaurant Chains

There's a hack for ordering the discontinued Double Down Sandwich.

KFC double down burger

KFC's famous bunless Double Down sandwich—in which bacon, sliced cheese, and the Colonel's Special Sauce sat between two fried chicken filets—is no longer on the menu.

But, word is, if you order the individual components, the staff will put the deep-fried madness together for you, minus the discontinued special sauce. Is this a good idea? Probably not, from a health perspective.

KFC doesn't want you to think about the chicken being fried.

KFC boxes

If you're of a certain age, you know KFC used to be called Kentucky Fried Chicken. Why the name change? Bloomberg reported in 1991 that the name change was part of a rebranding in an attempt to make the chain seem more healthy by removing "fried" from the name. However, Snopes claims the name change was due to a trademark issue with the state of Kentucky.

The founder of Wendy's actually came up with the famous chicken bucket.

KFC chicken bucket

Believe it or not, Dave Thomas, the man behind Wendy's, was an early KFC employee and franchise owner. Thomas came up with the idea for the iconic red and white striped chicken bucket, the streamlined menu, and the rotating chicken bucket signs.

KFC once offered a fried chicken prom corsage.

KFC fried chicken corsage

KFC loves stunt food. In 2014, the chain offered a prom-ready fried chicken corsage, according to the Los Angeles Times. For those who were brave enough to buy this for their date, a florist sent the corsage structure and some baby's breath, along with a $5 KFC gift card in order for the buyer to purchase fresh fried chicken to finish the arrangement. Yum?

A previous version of this article was originally published on November 24, 2021. It has been updated to include new information.

Tanya Edwards
Tanya Edwards is a seasoned food and health journalist, who has held roles at Yahoo Health as Managing Editor and at Food Network as Programming Director. Read more about Tanya