Home Dinner Chicken Popcorn Chicken

Popcorn Chicken

There’s something so fun and nostalgic about this popcorn chicken. It reminds me of childhood trips to KFC or Popeye’s.

But let me tell you, this homemade version blows those out of the water! 

Pieces of juicy chicken breast are double-dipped in a buttermilk batter and coated with a perfectly seasoned panko crust. Every bite has an amazing crunch.

Homemade popcorn chicken served with ketchup
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And the dipping sauces are a must. Honey mustard and ranch are my favorites! 

This recipe is so easy to make, and it’s so much fun to eat! 

Why You’ll Love This Popcorn Chicken

Family Fun Cooking: This is the perfect recipe to get kids in on the fun. They’ll love making it.

Crispy Texture: The double frying method ensures an extra crispy and satisfying crunch.

Versatile: Perfect as a main dish, appetizer, or party snack, this popcorn chicken recipe is incredibly versatile. Serve it with a variety of dipping sauces to please a crowd.

Make-Ahead Friendly: Marinate the chicken in buttermilk and spices ahead of time for a quick and easy meal prep. This enhances the flavor and streamlines the cooking process for busy weeknights.

Crispy and delicious popcorn chicken, perfect for snacking

Ingredients

  • Chicken Breast: I like chicken breast best, but you can also use chicken thighs for more flavor.
  • Buttermilk: The secret to tenderizing the chicken and adding tangy flavor to every morsel.
  • Garlic: Fresh minced garlic infuses the chicken with savory aromatics.
  • All-Purpose Flour: It creates a light base coat for the crispy panko breading to cling to.
  • Cornstarch: The key to an extra crispy coating that stays crunchy.
  • Panko Breadcrumbs: Japanese-style breadcrumbs make the chicken super crisp and crunchy.
  • Seasonings: All you need is salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.
  • Vegetable Oil: For deep frying the chicken bites until perfectly golden brown and crisp.
Crispy popcorn chicken coated with breadcrumbs

How to Make Popcorn Chicken

This chicken is so easy, even beginners can do it! 

1. Marinate the chicken pieces. In a large bowl, combine the chicken pieces, buttermilk, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.

2. Prepare the coating mixtures. In one dish, mix the flour, cornstarch, remaining salt and pepper. In another, beat the eggs. In a third, mix the panko crumbs with paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne.

3. Bread the chicken. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk. Dredge in the flour mixture, then the egg, then the seasoned panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs to adhere.

4. Fry the chicken. Heat the oil to 350°F and fry the chicken in batches for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on a wire rack.

5. Double fry (optional). For extra crispiness, fry the chicken pieces a second time for 1-2 minutes until deeply golden.

6. Season and serve. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Serve immediately with dipping sauces like ranch, honey mustard, or sweet chili sauce.

Golden-brown popcorn chicken piled high in a white bowl

Tips for the Best Popcorn Chicken

These are some of my best tips for perfect popcorn chicken!

  • Cook it your way. For a healthier option, bake at 400°F for 20 minutes or air fry at 390°F for about 15 minutes, turning halfway through.
  • Watch the temperature. Heat the frying oil to 350°F and try to maintain the temperature for consistent browning and cooking.
  • Don’t overcrowd! Fry the popcorn chicken in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot, which can lower the oil temperature.
  • Ditch the excess oil. Transfer the fried chicken pieces to a wire rack set over paper towels. This will drain the excess oil while keeping the coating crisp.
  • Try fun variations. For a different crispy texture, swap the all-purpose flour for rice flour or potato starch. You can also add other spices like cumin, chili powder, or ranch seasoning to the breading.
  • Do some serious dipping! Serve the popcorn chicken with an array of tasty dipping sauces, such as honey mustard, ranch, sweet chili sauce, BBQ sauce, garlic aioli, or sweet and sour sauce.
Appetizing homemade popcorn chicken in a bowl served with ketchup

How to Store

Here’s how to keep the chicken nice and fresh.

To Store: Place the chicken in an air-tight container and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. Avoid leaving it at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

To Freeze: Arrange the chicken in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then, transfer to an air-tight freezer bag or container. Freeze for up to 2 months.

To Reheat: Preheat the oven to 400°F, arrange the chicken on a baking sheet, and bake for 10-15 minutes until crispy, flipping halfway through. Or, reheat in an air fryer at 375°F for 5-7 minutes, shaking occasionally.

Popcorn Chicken

Course: AppetizerCuisine: American
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

15

minutes
Calories

468

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kcal

This crispy popcorn chicken is totally irresistible! With a tasty buttermilk coating, it’s even better than what you get at the drive-thru!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, combine the chicken pieces, buttermilk, minced garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours. This allows the flavors to penetrate the chicken.
  • In a shallow dish, mix together the flour, cornstarch, remaining 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. In another shallow dish, beat the eggs. In a third dish, mix the panko crumbs with the paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne.
  • Remove the chicken from the buttermilk, allowing the excess to drip off. Dredge each piece first in the flour mixture, then dip in the egg and coat well with the seasoned panko crumbs. Press the crumbs onto the chicken to adhere. Place the breaded pieces on a plate.
  • Heat about 2 inches of oil in a heavy pot or deep fryer to 350°F. Fry the chicken in batches for about 3-4 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Do not overcrowd the pot. Drain the fried chicken on a wire rack set over paper towels.
  • For extra crispy popcorn chicken, fry the pieces a second time for 1-2 minutes until deeply golden. This double-frying method will make the coating extra crunchy.
  • Sprinkle the hot popcorn chicken with a little more salt if desired. Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauces like ranch, honey mustard, or sweet chili sauce. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Marinate the chicken to infuse flavor and juiciness.
  • Use a combination of flour and cornstarch for a light, crisp coating.
  • Double-coat the chicken in the egg and panko for a thicker, crunchier crust.
  • Season the panko crumbs well with spices for more flavor.

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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