This easy Popcorn Chicken is crispy on the outside with juicy, tender chicken inside. It’s 100% kid-approved and makes a quick and easy lunch or dinner. Or, serve as a party appetizer with a few dipping sauces. The choice is yours!
Easy Chicken Bites Recipe
These popcorn chicken bites are absolutely addicting! The breading is super flavorful with just a tiny bit of heat, like the popular menu item at KFC, and super crispy as well.
Instead of just dipping the chicken in an egg wash and breadcrumbs, they’re soaked in buttermilk for an hour which makes them extra juicy and tender. Then they’re coated in panko crumbs and seasonings. I added just a bit of baking powder to the breading mixture, which is one of my secrets to getting a super crunchy outside.
The cooking time on these is just 5 minutes per batch, so you can easily have them ready to go in an hour.
These are perfect for the kiddos for an easy lunch or dinner but I’ll admit to loving them just as much as the kids do! Add some fries to turn them into a meal or serve them with your favorite dipping sauces as an appetizer.
What Is Popcorn Chicken?
Popcorn chicken is simply chunks of chicken breast that are coated in seasoned breading and fried to perfection. Popcorn chicken was originally introduced by KFC and the pieces were quite small and bite-sized, like pieces of popcorn – hence the name.
The pieces we’re making today (and that you’d find most anywhere else) are not quite as tiny as popcorn but still bite-sized. Unlike chicken nuggets, they’re not flattened and they’re made with chicken breasts.
Kids love these chicken bites because they’re perfectly kid-sized but they make a great appetizer for adults too!
What You’ll Need
You’ll need just a handful of ingredients and a few spices for this easy recipe. Scroll down to the recipe box for measurements.
- Chicken – For this recipe, you’ll want to start with boneless, skinless chicken breast.
- Buttermilk – The buttermilk helps to tenderize the chicken and also gives the seasoning something to stick to.
- Hot sauce – This chicken isn’t spicy but the hot sauce creates a flavorful base. You can omit it if preferred.
- Panko breadcrumbs – Panko crumbs help create a super crispy outside on this chicken, more so than regular breadcrumbs.
- Spices – The breading mixture is seasoned with cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and oregano.
- Baking powder – Makes the breading extra crunchy.
- Vegetable oil – Or your preferred neutral cooking oil for frying.
How to Make Popcorn Chicken
These tender, juicy pieces of chicken require just a few minutes of prep and 5 minutes of frying time. Perfect for lunch or dinner anytime.
- Marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks then add to a bowl with the buttermilk and hot sauce. Stir to ensure the chicken bites are all evenly covered. Cover with plastic and marinate for 1 hour.
- Prepare the breading mixture. Combine the breadcrumbs, flour, and seasonings on a plate.
- Coat the chicken. Coat the chicken bites one by one in the breadcrumb mixture. Press gently to ensure the chicken is coated on each side.
- Fry. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Fry the chicken in batches until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
- Enjoy. Serve hot with ketchup, ranch, or your favorite dip.
Can I Make This In The Oven?
Yes, you can easily make baked popcorn chicken if you’d prefer. Follow all the instructions as normal but place the coated chicken bites on a greased baking tray. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes at 400F. They won’t be as crispy as the fried version but it’ll be close!
Tips & Variations
Here are a few tips and variations for this easy popcorn chicken recipe.
- Cut the chicken into equal pieces. Try to make sure all pieces of your chicken are approximately the same size so that they all cook evenly.
- Reduce heat if needed. If the breading is getting too dark or cooking before the inside of the chicken is ready, decrease the heat for a bit then increase it again as needed.
- Adjust the seasonings. Feel free to play around with the seasonings in the chicken. You can easily omit the cayenne pepper if you don’t want the chicken to have any heat at all or add other spices like paprika for even more flavor.
- Don’t overcook the chicken. These bite-sized pieces of chicken cook quickly, in just 5 minutes or so. As soon as the outside looks crunchy, they should be done. If you overcook them, the inside will dry out.
What to Serve With Popcorn Chicken
There are virtually endless ways to serve popcorn chicken. As an appetizer, you can serve them just with dipping sauce (and toothpicks). Or as the main course, add some fries (or zucchini or avocado fries) for a quick meal that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters.
If you want to turn this into a more “adult” meal, consider serving them with salad, mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower, or your other favorite side.
But, let’s be real – the sauce is the most important part of popcorn chicken! These go with pretty much any sauce, from classics like ketchup, ranch, and BBQ sauce to make creative sauces like Chick-Fil-A sauce and Alabama White Sauce.
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
Popcorn chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Reheat them in the microwave or pop them in the air fryer for a few minutes.
Can You Freeze Fried Chicken Bites?
Yes! I love to make extra popcorn chicken and freeze the leftovers for an easy lunch throughout the week. (This is especially ideal if you have kids! Way better than buying chicken nuggets at the store all the time.)
Allow the chicken to cool completely then place it in a freezer ziploc bag for up to a month. You can bake them in the oven, drop them back in the fryer, or warm them up in the microwave from frozen.
More Easy Chicken Recipes:
- Honey Mustard Chicken and Potatoes
- Classic Chicken Parmesan
- Pickle Chicken Thighs
- Melt In Your Mouth Chicken
- 1 ½ lb chicken breast boneless, skinless
- ¾ cup buttermilk 6.22 fl.oz | 177 ml
- 2 tablespoons hot sauce
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs 2 oz | 59 g
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- ¾ tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon oregano
You will need
- Vegetable oil to fry
- Cut chicken breast in bite-sized chunks. Add in a medium bowl with buttermilk and hot sauce. Stir and make sure all chunks are covered. Cover with plastic and marinade for 1 hour
- In a plate, mix panko bread crumbs, flour, cayenne pepper, garlic, baking powder, salt and pepper.
- Remove chicken bites one by one and coat with the panko breadcrumb mixture. Press gently to make sure the chicken is coated on each side.
- Heat a deep pan with vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Work in batches. When the oil is very hot, fry the chicken until golden brown and cook through. It will take about 5 minutes to cook completely through. Remove and place on a large plate with kitchen paper to absorb the excess of oil. * Adjust the heat while frying. If too hot, decrease it a bit then increase it again
- Serve hot with your favorite dip.