vegetable oil or shorteningfor frying (at least 4 cups)
Dice the chicken breasts into small bite-size pieces (¾ inch x ¾ inch).
In a bowl, stir together the buttermilk and hot sauce.
Whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder in a shallow bowl.
Place the panko breadcrumbs in a third shallow bowl.
Heat the 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.
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.
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.
For perfectly fried chicken pieces, maintain a decent depth of oil and the proper oil temperature of 350°F for best results.
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.