Popcorn Chicken is one of those comfort foods that never gets old. While these crispy, juicy morsels are 100% kid-friendly, the adults in your life will enjoy them just as much.

If you love the taste of our Crispy Chicken Sandwiches or Baked Chicken Nuggets, this Popcorn Chicken recipe is going to become a regular part of your dinner rotation.

a plate with popcorn chicken and veggies

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What is Popcorn Chicken?

It’s likely that you first fell in love with popcorn chicken at KFC. If you’ve never tried it before, it features tender chunks of chicken breast that have been breaded and deep-fried to golden brown perfection. Unlike traditional fried chicken or Chicken Tenders, it comes in bite-sized pieces (hence the “popcorn” reference in the name).

It can be served as a snack or appetizer with your favorite dipping sauce, over salad, or with your favorite side for a complete meal. 

Ingredients for Popcorn Chicken

  • Chicken Breast – Use fresh or thawed chicken, cut it into even, bite-sized pieces
  • Flour – all-purpose flour works best for this recipe
  • Salt – fine sea salt or table salt will do
  • Garlic powder – adds extra flavor to the breading
  • Buttermilk – makes the chicken juicy and the breading nice and crispy
  • Panko Crumbs – add a nice, crunchy texture to the chicken 
  • Oil – use any high heat cooking oil such as canola oil, vegetable oil, or light olive oil
ingredients for popcorn chicken

How to Make Popcorn Chicken

  1. Slice chicken breast – cut into even, bite-sized pieces. 
  2. Make the flour mixture – Whisk the flour, salt, and garlic powder together in a medium bowl. 
  3. Measure buttermilk & panko – Pour buttermilk into a separate bowl and the panko bread crumbs onto a plate. 
  4. Dredge the chicken – Dip the chicken bites into the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk then panko.
  5. Fry the chicken – Preheat about 1-inch of oil in a deep frying pan to 350˚F and pop the coated chicken pieces inside. Fry in small batches until golden brown.
  6. Allow the chicken to rest – Remove the popcorn chicken from oil with a slotted spoon and let it rest on a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up the excess grease or a wire rack with paper towels underneath. Serve with your favorite sauce! 
a step by step image of how to make popcorn chicken

Tips for the Tastiest Popcorn Chicken

  • Cut the chicken into even-sized pieces – To ensure even cooking, slice the chicken into similar-sized pieces. 
  • Avoid overcooking the chicken – Once the chicken turns golden brown, remove it immediately from the oil. The longer it cooks, the drier it will get. Chicken breast should reach 165˚F on an instant read thermometer when done.
  • Check the oil with a thermometer – To make sure your oil has reached 350°F before adding the chicken. 
  • Season the batter – If you’re feeling adventurous, add in a couple teaspoons of different spices into the flour mixture. Cayenne pepper, freshly cracked black pepper, and paprika are all great flavorings.
  • Add baking powder for extra crispy popcorn chicken – If you like your chicken extra crispy, add in a couple of tablespoons of baking powder to the flour mixture. 
Crispy popcorn chicken bites on plate

How to Serve

Platter of popcorn chicken served with ketchup

Common Questions

Is popcorn chicken just chicken nuggets?

They are very similar. Popcorn chicken is smaller-sized and made with whole pieces of chicken breast meat, while chicken nuggets use ground chicken and can be made with both chicken breasts and thighs.

What’s the best way to reheat popcorn chicken?

The best way to reheat leftover popcorn chicken in the oven or air fryer at 350°F until crispy and warmed through.

Can you freeze popcorn chicken? 

To freeze popcorn chicken, assemble the raw, breaded chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze uncovered for 1 hour or until frozen, then transfer to freezer-safe zip bags and store up to 3 months. Bake frozen nuggets at 400˚F for 15-18 minutes or just until cooked through with an internal temperature of 165˚F.

Can you make gluten-free popcorn chicken? 

Yes – substitute in your favorite gluten-free flour and gluten-free breadcrumbs and prepare as directed.

More Tasty Chicken Recipes

We love chicken recipes like this Popcorn Chicken because they are inexpensive, easy to make, and well-loved by everyone. P.S. If you love chicken, check out our 40+ Best Chicken Breast Recipes.

Natasha's Kitchen Cookbook

Easy Popcorn Chicken Recipe

4.96 from 66 votes
Author: Natalya Drozhzhin
Popcorn Chicken served on a platter with ketchup
Popcorn chicken is crispy on the outside and juicy inside. Satisfying and the ultimate comfort food. Great as an appetizer or salad topping.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients 

Servings: 8 servings as an appetizer

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and garlic powder.
  • Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl and the panko crumbs onto a plate.
  • Dredge a piece of chicken into the flour mixture until evenly coated then dip in buttermilk, letting excess drip off. Lastly, roll in panko bread crumbs until evenly coated. Transfer to a platter.
  • Preheat 1-inch of oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Adjust the heat to keep the oil at 350˚F. Fry the popcorn chicken in small batches, leaving space between each piece and flipping as needed. Fry until golden brown and 165˚F at the deepest part of the chicken on a thermometer.
  • Remove the popcorn chicken from the oil and let it rest on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce!

Notes

*Nutrition calculation is only an estimate as it is difficult to quantify oil quantity from frying. 

Nutrition Per Serving

347kcal Calories13g Carbs39g Protein14g Fat3g Saturated Fat2g Polyunsaturated Fat8g Monounsaturated Fat0.02g Trans Fat112mg Cholesterol748mg Sodium702mg Potassium1g Fiber2g Sugar101IU Vitamin A2mg Vitamin C65mg Calcium1mg Iron
Nutrition Facts
Easy Popcorn Chicken Recipe
Amount per Serving
Calories
347
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
14
g
22
%
Saturated Fat
 
3
g
19
%
Trans Fat
 
0.02
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
2
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
8
g
Cholesterol
 
112
mg
37
%
Sodium
 
748
mg
33
%
Potassium
 
702
mg
20
%
Carbohydrates
 
13
g
4
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
2
g
2
%
Protein
 
39
g
78
%
Vitamin A
 
101
IU
2
%
Vitamin C
 
2
mg
2
%
Calcium
 
65
mg
7
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: popcorn chicken recipe
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $$
Calories: 347

Natalya Drozhzhin

Natalya is a food blogger who founded Momsdish.com to make cooking easier. Growing up on a farm in Ukraine, Natalya was inspired by the amazing dishes that were prepared using simple ingredients. Natalya is most notably known for making cooking approachable for any person.

Read more posts by Natalya

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating




Comments

  • Varash
    March 16, 2023

    As always, thank you for your wonderful recipes. I wanted to try this one for my toddler. One question about oven, to clarify:
    For non-frozen would you recommend 350 and for frozen 400? The time for becoming crispy is the same ? (15-18 min?)

    Thanks again!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      March 16, 2023

      Hi Varash! You’re very welcome. The best way to reheat non-frozen popcorn chicken is in the oven or air fryer at 350°F. I don’t recall the exact time it took, but reheat it until it’s crispy and warmed through. For frozen nuggets, it takes about 15-18 minutes at 400˚F or just until cooked through with an internal temperature of 165˚F. I hope that helps.

      Reply

      • Varash
        March 17, 2023

        Thank you for your reply. I made it into two versions: one in pan frying and one in oven!. The one w frying was awesome and happy to be able to do that at home and not have to go to restaurant for that ! 🙂 .
        The one in oven did not come good. Chicken cooked but the crisp became weird! Maybe I misunderstood: Is oven option only for reheating and not for making it from the beginning?

        Reply

        • NatashasKitchen.com
          March 17, 2023

          You’re welcome, Varash! Yes, these won’t have the same results if baked. The oven is what we use to reheat them after they have been fried. 🙂

          Reply

  • Anne Cadle
    March 9, 2023

    These are fantastic! They turned out exactly like your photo. My family could not get enough. I can’t believe that I didn’t know about adding baking power for added crispness. It really works.

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      March 9, 2023

      That is the best when the family loves what we moms make. That’s so great!

      Reply

  • Jen
    February 24, 2023

    I haven’t seen a response about a full substitution for buttermilk. We are lactose intolerant. Do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      February 24, 2023

      Hi Jen. I have not tested any dairy-free alternatives to advise.
      But I have successfully made my own buttermilk using whole-fat lactose-free milk. The ratio is 1 cup milk to 1 tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice. Stir and let sit until curdled and then it’s ready to use. I hope that helps.

      Reply

  • Elle
    February 22, 2023

    Natasha, Thank you for being a reliable source of go to recipes. I currently have a 11 y.o. daughter who’s interested in cooking and baking. For her birthday she requested a recipe book. I made a recipe book for her and over 90% of the recipes are from you. Thank you!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      February 22, 2023

      That’s amazing and so sweet! Thank you for sharing that with me.

      Reply

  • Pat Salvatore
    January 25, 2023

    Great recipe. I made some with panko and some with corn flakes. Both tasted delicious. Did use baking powder for the extra crisps. Thank you.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      January 25, 2023

      That’s great to hear, Pat! Thank you for sharing.

      Reply

  • Meika
    November 27, 2022

    These were terrific. Just as promised, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Thank you!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      November 27, 2022

      You’re so welcome! We’re glad you liked it!

      Reply

  • Daphne S.
    August 7, 2022

    Delicious! I only made some for myself, and I could hardly stop eating them. I would add a little black pepper to the coating, but that would be my only change. They reheat wonderfully in the oven, too!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      August 7, 2022

      Hi Daphne, thanks for your good comments and feedback, we appreciate it!

      Reply

  • Candace
    May 30, 2022

    I use your recipe to make homemade KFC bowls. They are wonderful. Needless to say, a lot of them never actually make it into the bowls! They get eaten as fast as I make them. Thank you so much for the recipe!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      May 30, 2022

      Haha, that’s great! Love those KFC bowls. Thank you for sharing, what a great way to use this recipe.

      Reply

  • Cece
    May 2, 2022

    Looking forward to making this!
    Does it have to be panko crumbs? Would any other type of “crumbs” work?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      May 2, 2022

      Hi Cece! Panko breadcrumbs work well for frying chicken because they crisp up so beautifully. Regular breadcrumbs can be used interchangeable in most recipes. It won’t be quite the same but I assume it would work just fine for this recipce.

      Reply

  • Wayne Hale
    April 8, 2022

    Can you make this in an air fryer? If so, how? Can you give me air fryer directions?

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 9, 2022

      Hi Wayne, I haven’t tested making this recipe in an air fryer, I usually use the air fryer to reheat this.

      Reply

  • Janice Bixel
    April 7, 2022

    I made these tonight everybody LOVED them!! Your chicken sandwiches are the bomb!! Love your recipes!! Your pizza sauce😋😋.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      April 7, 2022

      Thank you for sharing, Janice. So glad to hear that.

      Reply

  • Tatiana F.
    April 5, 2022

    This was fantastic! After some trial and error on my part I got the frying part down. This was super easy and I made enough for leftovers. This will make a great filling for a wrap.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      April 5, 2022

      That sounds like a good idea! Thanks for the good review, we’re glad that you liked this recipe!

      Reply

  • Melissa
    March 28, 2022

    Yum – my kids really love your recipe. It was easy to make and so tasty. I saved your recipe to make again soon.

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      March 28, 2022

      That is the best when kids love what we moms make. That’s so great!

      Reply

  • Karina
    March 23, 2022

    Can i substitue buttermilk with other kind of milk? like oat milk for instance? or it has to be buttermilk?

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      March 24, 2022

      You can try to make your own buttermilk at a ratio of 1 cup whole milk to 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice. Combine and let it sit 10 minutes to curdle then stir and use.

      Reply

  • Ray
    March 23, 2022

    Can I substitute buttermilk? Not readily available in my grocery store.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      March 23, 2022

      Hi Ray, you can also make your own buttermilk at a ratio of 1 cup whole milk to 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice. Combine and let it sit 10 minutes to curdle then stir and use.

      Reply

  • Svetlana Bannikova
    March 17, 2022

    The best popcorn chicken! My kids love it! Thank you so much!❤️It taste really good with chick fil a sauce! Highly recommend it!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      March 17, 2022

      Thank you for the awesome feedback!

      Reply

  • Fran Jackson
    March 17, 2022

    Could you do this recipe in an air fryer spraying the chicken with a bit of olive oil?

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      March 17, 2022

      Hi Fran, I haven’t tested making this recipe in an air fryer, I usually use the air fryer to reheat this.

      Reply

    • Dan
      March 19, 2022

      Fran, When I use our air fryer for chicken pieces, I cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the air fryer basket, then spray the parchment paper lightly with olive oil. Cooks perfectly and doesn’t stick .

      Reply

  • Jennifer
    March 15, 2022

    This popcorn chicken was SO good! We are obsessed! I genuinely think this is going to be a weekly meal!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      March 16, 2022

      Yay, that’s great news! I’m so happy that you loved it.

      Reply

      • Lisa England
        August 14, 2022

        Any suggestions on making these ahead of time and freezing them. I would like to have these in the freezer instead of store bought precooked frozen chicken.

        Reply

        • Natasha's Kitchen
          August 14, 2022

          Hi Lisa, please check this part in the recipe “Can you freeze popcorn chicken?” for the freezing tips.

          Reply

  • Rachelle Kirshenbaum
    March 15, 2022

    Can this recipe be done by baking rather than by deep frying, without compromising the taste? Thank you.

    Reply

    • Natasha
      March 16, 2022

      Hi Rachelle, I think that would work if you were to spray with cooking spray and then bake. Check out our instructions for baked chicken nuggets for an estimate on cook time and bake until the center reaches 165˚F.

      Reply

  • Betsy
    March 15, 2022

    So easy! I love how juicy and flavorful these turn out! I have to restrain myself from eating the whole batch, lol. My kids love them, too!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      March 16, 2022

      Great to hear that it was a bit hit, Betsy! Yes, my kids love this a lot too.

      Reply

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