Are you looking for a fun and tasty way to add some variety to your dinner rotation?Check out this fantastic recipe for homemade popcorn chicken! This dish is easy to make and sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. This KFC copycat recipe is so amazing, you'll never want the take out version again! Plus, it's perfect for busy weeknights when you need something quick and tasty. So why not give it a try tonight?
This homemade popcorn chicken recipe is easy to make and so much better than anything you would get from a restaurant. The chicken is crispy and full of flavor. I hope you enjoy it!
Ahhhh… I love popcorn chicken… Otherwise known as little gold nuggets of pure love and joy! If you've ever wondered how to make these lovely little golden bites at home, I'm going to show you how!
Popcorn chicken has always been a tremendous favorite for kids and adults alike. They're like an irresistible leveled up version of chicken nuggets! They're great for lunch, a snack or to serve as an appetizer. 🙂 This recipe makes such delicious little bites of chicken that you'll swear they're take out – but nope – these are yours baby! All yours! <3
I hope you enjoy this recipe! ❤️ If you give it a try, please let me know how it turned out for you in the comments section at the bottom of the page or share a pic of your om noms on Instagram and tag @dishesanddustbunnies! ❤️
What is popcorn chicken?
Popcorn chicken is a dish made of bite-sized pieces of boneless, skinless chicken that have been coated in a breading and then fried. Popcorn chicken is often served as an appetizer or as part of a main meal.
This homemade popcorn chicken recipe is inspired by the popular fast food restaurant dish – like from KFC but wayyyy better! Itss easy to make and can be baked or fried. The key to making this dish successfully is to use small pieces of chicken so that they cook evenly and are nice and crispy.
Why is it called popcorn chicken?
Well, it looks like popcorn and it's made with chicken. But that's not all. This dish is also coated in a delicious, crunchy batter that will make your taste buds pop!
This homemade popcorn chicken recipe is so easy to make and it's much healthier than the store-bought versions. Plus, it's perfect for a quick weeknight meal or fun party snack!
What ingredients are used to make popcorn chicken?
Popcorn is made from bite sized cut pieces of boneless skinless chicken breast, buttermilk and dry ingredients such as all purpose flour, cornstarch, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and a little cayenne.
The secret to these crispy and tender little breaded chicken bites is buttermilk. Before frying, I soaked the chicken pieces in buttermilk for about 30 minutes (but you can also do it overnight to up the yumminess factor even more), then I coated them with a combination of flour and spices.
Using buttermilk tenderizes and moistens the chicken but it also gives the seasonings and flour something to cling onto while it's frying.
What can I use instead of buttermilk in this recipe?
If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can easily make your own! Simply combine 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes before using it in this recipe. The acid in the lemon juice or vinegar will curdle the milk and give it that signature buttermilk tang.
Another option is to use plain yogurt thinned out with a little water. I like to use whole milk yogurt for the richest flavor, but you can use low-fat or non-fat if that's what you have on hand. Just be sure to give it a good stir so that it's nice and smooth before adding it to the batter.
What is the difference between southern fried chicken and popcorn chicken?
Popcorn chicken and southern fried chicken are made in essentially the same way! The main difference is that popcorn chicken is usually made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, while southern fried chicken is traditionally made with bone-in, skin-on chicken parts. But both methods are delicious!
How to make the Best Popcorn Chicken from Scratch – Overview
You can find the full recipe details, including ingredient amounts and the full instructions, at the bottom of this post, but first, here's a quick overview of how to make delicious homemade popcorn chicken bites!
Soak the chicken in buttermilk mixture for at least 30 minutes in a mixing bowl. For the greatest results, I like to soak chicken overnight in the fridge (but it's not required). In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups flour, cornstarch, paprika, pepper, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Make sure everything is properly combined – I like to use a whisk for this.
Take the chicken, a piece at a time, and roll them in the flour mix. Make sure to squeeze each piece of chicken thoroughly to fully coat it in flour. Repeat this process with each piece of chicken until they're completely coated. While your oil is heating up, place the chicken back into the fridge to chill.
Make sure your deep fryer oil (or large pot of oil on the stove) is at 375°F before frying. Remove the chicken from the fridge. You'll see that a lot of flour from the flour mixture has been absorbed by the buttermilk, which is precisely what you want to happen. Before frying, dust each piece of chicken with some of the remaining flour for a final coating. Roll the chicken pieces between the palms of your hands to form them into their “popcorn” shape.
Drop around 10 – 15 small chicken chunks in the fryer to cook. Overcrowding them will result in uneven cooking and they're stick together, so be careful. Allow the popcorn chicken to fry for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown. If necessary, turn them with a slotted spoon or similar implement halfway through cooking.
When the popcorn chicken is ready, remove them from the oil with a mesh basket or strainer and lay them on a wire rack over a baking sheet to dry. This is critical for keeping the popcorn chicken crisp.
It is critical not to lay the popcorn chicken on paper towel, as this will make them greasy and cause them to lose their crispiness. While frying the other chicken, keep the completed pieces in the oven (at 200°F) on a wire rack.
Cook the chicken in batches, ensuring that each is thoroughly cooked and set on a rack to drain.
Serve immediately along with fries, onion rings or any of your other favorite foods!
What is the best way to cook chicken popcorn?
The best way to cook popcorn chicken is in a deep fryer. This will ensure that the chicken pieces are cooked evenly and come out crispy. If you don't have a deep fryer, you can use a large skillet or Dutch oven filled with oil.
In my opinion, baking or other methods of cooking popcorn just don't produce the same results as the deep fried version. The chicken needs to be cooked quickly in hot oil so that the outside gets crispy while the inside stays juicy and tender.
You'll always get perfectly crispy chicken when you fry them. That said, if you'd still prefer to cook your popcorn chicken using a the oven or air fryer, below are my recommendations.
How to Bake Popcorn Chicken in the Oven:
How to make Baked Popcorn chicken: Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet. Spray the wire rack with cooking spray. Place the chicken pieces on the baking sheet, spray the tops with cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
How to make Popcorn Chicken in an Air Fryer:
How to make air fryer popcorn chicken: Preheat your air fryer to 400°F. Place the chicken pieces in the air fryer basket, spraying the tops with cooking spray. Air fry for 15 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may have to cook the popcorn chicken in batches.
If you'd like to try a different style of breading, you could substitute some of the flour for crushed potato chips, corn flakes or even panko bread crumbs.
What do I serve with popcorn chicken?
There are so many delicious things you can serve with popcorn chicken! I like to serve it with your favorite dipping sauce, such as honey mustard, plum sauce, buffalo sauce or BBQ sauce. You could also serve it with a salad or some roasted vegetables. Other options to serve with popcorn chicken include:
Popcorn chicken can be stored in the fridge for up to four days. Simply place the chicken in an airtight container or bag and store it in the fridge.
When you’re ready to eat the chicken, simply reheat it in a 350°F oven on a parchment lined baking sheet until warmed through, about 10-15 minutes.
Can I freeze Popcorn Chicken?
Sure! Just store the cooled, cooked chicken in a freezer-safe bag or container. I like to portion it out into individual servings so I can grab and go as needed. The chicken will stay fresh in the freezer for 2-3 months.
When you're ready to eat, let the chicken thaw in the fridge overnight. Then, reheat in a 350°F oven until warmed through, about 10-15 minutes.
You could also reheat the chicken in the microwave, but I find that it doesn't get as crispy that way. If you go the microwave route, heat for 1-2 minutes, then check and heat in additional 15 second increments as needed.
- 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ tbsp cornstarch
- ⅛ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- ½ cup all purpose flour, set aside
- Canola oil, for frying (use enough so the chicken pieces will be swimming!)
- Deep Fryer OR Large heavy bottom fry pan with high sides (at least 3 inches)
- Deep fry thermometer, attached to the side of your pan
- Deep fry slotted spoon or wire basket for turning/removing the chicken pieces
- Wire rack placed on top of a large baking sheet lined with paper towel
Prep the Chicken
- In a mixing bowl, soak the chicken pieces in the buttermilk for at least 30 minutes. For best results, I like to soak the chicken overnight in the fridge (but it's not absolutely necessary).
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of flour with cornstarch, paprika, pepper, salt, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Make sure everything is combined well – I like to use a whisk for this.
- Take the chicken, a couple pieces at a time and drop them into the flour mixture. Make sure that you give each piece a little squeeze to pack the flour mixture onto the chicken. Do this with each piece of chicken until they are coated.
- Place the chicken back into the fridge to chill while heating up your oil for frying.
Cook The Popcorn Chicken
- Before frying, make sure your deep fryer oil (or large pot of oil in the stove) has reached 375°F.
- Take the chicken out of the fridge. You'll notice that a lot of the flour mixture has been absorbed by the buttermilk on the chicken – this is exactly what you want to happen. Take each piece of chicken and dredge them in the reserved flour for a final coat before frying.
- Roll the chicken pieces between the palms of your hands to form them into their “popcorn” shape.
- Drop about 10 – 15 little chicken pieces in the fryer to cook. Try not to overcrowd them so they cook evenly and become nice and crisp.
- Allow the popcorn chicken to cook for about 7 minutes, or until golden. Use a slotted spoon or similar tool to turn them a few times during cooking, if necessary. The pieces will be golden when ready.
- Once the popcorn chicken has finished cooking remove them from the oil using a mesh basket or strainer and lay them onto the wire rack over a baking sheet to drain. This is important to maintain the crispness of the popcorn chicken.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT lay the popcorn chicken on paper towel as this will make them greasy and lose their crispness. While frying the remaining chicken, you can keep the finished pieces in the oven to warm (at 200°F) while on the wire rack.
- Continue frying batches of chicken until all have been cooked and set on the rack to drain.
Serve immediately along with fries, onion rings or any of your other favorite foods!
To prevent the onion rings from sticking to the bottom of the fry basket while cooking:
When frying, sometimes your fish will sink to the basket's bottom and adhere to it!
Tip #1: When dropping your onion rings into the deep fryer, hold it in the oil with your fingertips for a couple of seconds to fry them lightly, then allow them to fall in. This will allow the batter a chance to fry for a little before sinking down and becoming trapped on the basket's bottom.
Tip #2: Make sure the fry basket is fully immersed in oil before adding the onion rings to the oil. If you put a piece of freshly battered onion rings in the fry basket and then submerge it, they'll stick to it.
- Prep Time: 35 Minutes
- Cook Time: 20 Minutes
- Category: Appetizer, Food Kids will Love
- Method: Frying
- Cuisine: American/Canadian