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Published On: Sun, Aug 28th, 2016

Is This the Top-Secret KFC Recipe?

KFC describes its closely guarded original fried chicken recipe as “one of the biggest trade secrets in the world.” The company says the original handwritten recipe is housed in a 770-pound safe encased in two feet of concrete and guarded by video cameras and motion detectors.

It is the Fort Knox of fried chicken.

Despite all that, the recipe for the spice blend used to prepare the chicken may have been accidentally revealed to a reporter for The Chicago Tribune by Joe Ledington, a nephew of the man who made the recipe famous. The newspaper printed the article, along with what might be the recipe, last week.

The reporter, Jay Jones, was sent to Corbin, Ky., to write a story for The Tribune’s travel section about the town where the colonel served his first fried chicken. While there, he arranged a meeting with Mr. Ledington, whose uncle, Col. Harland Sanders, founded Kentucky Fried Chicken and was its snowy-haired ambassador.

Mr. Ledington greeted the reporter with a family scrapbook that he said had belonged to Claudia Ledington, the second wife of Colonel Sanders, who died in 1996. Her last will and testament was stuffed in the back of the scrapbook, and its final pages contained a handwritten recipe for a blend of 11 spices, Mr. Jones said.

“That is the original 11 herbs and spices that were supposed to be so secretive,” Mr. Ledington told the reporter, later adding that as a boy his job in the family business was to mix the spice blend in a tub on the roof of the garage.

“The main ingredient is white pepper,” Mr. Ledington told the newspaper. “I call that the secret ingredient. Nobody knew what white pepper was. Nobody knew how to use it” in the 1950s, he said.

In a later phone interview, The Tribune said, Mr. Ledington walked back his claim, saying he had never shown the recipe to a reporter before and did not “know for sure” if it was as authentic as he first said. He did not respond to a phone message on Wednesday requesting an interview.

Kentucky Fried Chicken takes any threat to its secret recipe very seriously, and in the past has sued to keep it under wraps. In an email on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Yum Brands, the corporate parent of KFC, which is based in Louisville, Ky., said the recipe contained in Ms. Ledington’s will was incorrect.

“Many people have made these claims over the years, and no one has been accurate — this one isn’t either,” the company said in a statement.

So, how do you make Colonel Sanders’s secret spice blend? The world may never know. In the meantime, here is the recipe that the colonel’s nephew showed The Chicago Tribune:

11 spices — mix with 2 cups white flour

2/3 tablespoon salt

1/2 tablespoon thyme

1/2 tablespoon basil

1/3 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon celery salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon dried mustard

4 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons garlic salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

3 tablespoons white pepper