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Popcorn Chicken

overhead shot of popcorn chicken piled in a bowl
Crunchy, fried bites of tender chicken make this popcorn chicken a fun and perfect food to serve at a party or for a lunchtime treat.
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Table of Contents
  1. POPCORN CHICKEN INGREDIENTS
  2. HOW TO MAKE THIS POPCORN CHICKEN RECIPE
  3. HOW TO SERVE
  4. STORAGE
  5. MORE RECIPES YOU'LL LOVE
  6. JUMP TO RECIPE

This popcorn chicken is sure to be a hit. Crunchy, airy, and delicate panko breading surrounds bite-size pieces of tender, juicy chicken breasts that are fried to golden brown perfection for a finger food that is even better than KFC.

Looking for other finger foods to satisfy your family? Try our breaded Turkey Tenders and our crunchy and salty oven-baked Potato Chip Chicken Tenders.

close up shot of popcorn chicken piled in a bowl

MORE CHICKEN RECIPES:
Chicken Casserole | Chicken Marsala


POPCORN CHICKEN INGREDIENTS

You will need:

popcorn chicken raw ingredients that are labeled

You will need:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 6 ounces each
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 dashes Cholula or Tabasco hot sauce
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • vegetable oil or shortening for frying, at least 4 cups

SUBSTITUTIONS AND ADDITIONS

Hot Sauce: If you aren’t a fan of hot sauce, or have kids that can detect even the smallest amount of spice in a dish, you can leave the hot sauce out of the buttermilk.

Bread crumbs: You can substitute regular bread crumbs for the panko bread crumbs, but the texture will not be quite as light and crunchy.

kitchen tools you actually need

HOW TO MAKE THIS POPCORN CHICKEN RECIPE

STEP ONE Dice the chicken breasts into small bite-size pieces of approximately ¾ inch each.

popcorn chicken process shot of chicken cut into pieces on a wooden board

STEP TWO: In a bowl, stir together the buttermilk and hot sauce.

PRO TIP: You can make your own buttermilk using whole or 2% milk and lemon juice or distilled vinegar. For every 1 cup of milk, stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.

popcorn chicken process shot of ingredients in a bowl

STEP THREE: In a second shallow bowl whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder.

STEP FOUR: Place the panko bread crumbs in a third bowl.

STEP FIVE: Heat the oil (at least 4 inches, but preferably 6 inches or more) in a Dutch oven to 350°F. The oil will take approximately 15 minutes to heat to temperature. Use a candy or food thermometer to check the temperature, as it must be high enough before frying the chicken.

STEP SIX:  Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken first into the flour, making sure all sides are coated. Next, dip the chicken in the buttermilk and then finally into the breadcrumbs.

PRO TIP: The panko bread crumbs add a really nice crunch to the popcorn chicken. Make sure to really turn each piece of chicken fully in the flour, then the buttermilk, then the panko so that they’re well coated before frying.

popcorn chicken process shot of chicken pieces being coated in bowls of flour, buttermilk, then bread crumbs

STEP SEVEN:  Carefully drop just a few of the chicken pieces at a time into the heated oil and fry until cooked through (the center should reach 165°F), about 2 to 3 minutes. The outside will be a deep golden brown and crispy. Maintain an oil temperature of 350°F for best results. 

PRO TIP: For perfectly fried chicken pieces, maintain a decent depth of oil and the proper oil temperature of 350°F for best results.

popcorn chicken process shot of chicken being fried in a pot

STEP EIGHT: Place cooked chicken on paper towels or brown paper bags to soak up the excess oil.

PRO TIP: When removing the chicken from the pot, use a slotted spoon to make sure you drain as much oil as possible before transferring it to the plate.

HOW TO SERVE

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce on the side. Try plum sauce, ketchup, our chicken finger dipping sauce or spicy mustard for a variety of flavorful dips. Add french fries and a Cucumber Salad or even our Classic Coleslaw or KFC Copycat Coleslaw and Elbow Macaroni Salad for a complete meal.

For a large group, serve on a sheet pan with lots of different dips for a fun group serving idea. 

Make it a fun dinner with several other yummy pub-style dishes. Try our Fried Pickles, Fried Corn on the Cob, and Pigs in a Blanket. Add a Simple Caesar Salad for some healthy greens, and you are all set.

STORAGE

IN THE FRIDGE: Allow leftovers to cool to room temperature and then store in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days. The fried coating is best right after cooking, and while the panko stays crunchy for a while compared to a typical breading, these are still best eaten right away.

IN THE FREEZER: You can freeze the popcorn chicken by wrapping the cooled pieces in aluminum foil and placing them into a freezer bag. Aim to put it in the freezer within 2 hours of cooking. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

REHEATING:  To reheat the popcorn chicken, if frozen, make sure the chicken is thawed completely. In the microwave, wrap the pieces in a paper towel to preserve the breading and heat in 30-second intervals. In the oven, place chicken on a baking pan lined with foil which will help preserve the crispiness. Cover the chicken with foil and warm at 350 for 10 minutes.

close up shot of popcorn chicken with sauce on a white plate

This crispy, homemade popcorn chicken recipe wraps juicy chicken in a spicy buttermilk and bread crumb coating for nuggets that are finger-licking good. Serve at a party or an at-home pub food night alongside your favorite dipping sauces.

MORE RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE

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overhead shot of popcorn chicken piled in a bowl

Popcorn Chicken

5 from 1 vote
Crunchy, fried bites of tender chicken make this popcorn chicken a fun and perfect food to serve at a party or for a lunchtime treat.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 4 chicken breasts boneless and skinless (6 ounces each)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 dashes Cholula hot sauce or Tabasco hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp onion powder
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • vegetable oil or shortening for frying, at least 4 cups

Instructions
 

  • Dice chicken breasts into small bite-size pieces (¾ inch x ¾ inch).
  • In a bowl, stir together buttermilk and hot sauce.
  • Whisk together flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder in a shallow bowl.
  • Place panko breadcrumbs in a third shallow bowl.
  • Heat oil (at least 4 inches deep, preferably 6 inches or more) in a Dutch oven. Heat oil to 350°F. The oil takes 15 minutes or so to heat to temperature. Use a candy or food thermometer to check the temperature. It must be the correct temperature before frying the chicken.
  • Working with just a few pieces at a time, dip chicken pieces into the flour mixture, coating on all sides. Then dip chicken in buttermilk and finally into the panko breadcrumbs.
  • Carefully drop just a few chicken pieces at a time into heated oil and fry until cooked through (the center should reach 165°F). The outside should be deep golden brown and crispy. Maintain an oil temperature of 350°F for best results. The chicken takes just 2 to 3 minutes to cook through.
  • Place cooked chicken on paper towels or brown paper bags to soak up excess oil.

Nutrition

Calories: 313kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 596mg | Potassium: 565mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 257IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 108mg | Iron: 2mg
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Proudly Prepared by the Spaceships Kitchen

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