Crispy Popcorn Chicken

published Aug 24, 2021
Popcorn Chicken Recipe

This tasty, crowd-pleasing popcorn chicken takes no time to make.


Prep20 minutes

Cook15 minutes

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popcorn chicken (small pieces of fried chicken) on a tray with a pickle cut in half and a ramekin of red sauce.
Credit: Renae Wilson

Sign me right on up for any iteration of fried chicken. It’s always a crowd-pleaser and can be taken into so many different directions — like popcorn chicken, for instance. The process for making popcorn chicken follows a standard three-part breading procedure for optimal crunch. To ensure perfect results, let the chicken stand at room temperature for a few minutes before frying. This prevents the outside from browning too quickly before the inside cooks. It’s also important to make sure your oil is hot enough. If your oil isn’t properly heated, you could end up with oily fried chicken

How to Season Popcorn Chicken

Although this recipe features traditional Southern fried chicken seasonings, the spice possibilities are endless! Try swapping out all the seasoning spices for 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning or 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning plus 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan. For a smorgasbord-style chicken adventure, offer an array of dipping sauces.   

Why Is It Called Popcorn Chicken?

Popcorn chicken gets its name from its bite-sized pieces that resemble kernels of popped corn. The chunks of chicken are small enough to pop a couple of bites in your mouth at once.  

Credit: Renae Wilson

Can You Bake Popcorn Chicken?

Looking for a more healthful version? This recipe can be baked instead of fried with just-as-delicious results.

  • Heat oven to 400°F and grease a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Follow recipe for breading chicken as written, but ignore the frying steps!
  • Place breaded chicken on prepared baking sheet and bake until golden, crispy, and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Popcorn Chicken Recipe

This tasty, crowd-pleasing popcorn chicken takes no time to make.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1 pound

    boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders

  • 3 tablespoons


  • 3/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup

    panko bread crumbs

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    dry mustard

  • 1/4 cup

    whole milk, buttermilk, or unsweetened dairy-free milk

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 tablespoon


  • 1 tablespoon

    hot sauce (optional)

  • Neutral cooking oil, for deep frying


  1. Cut 1 pound boneless chicken into 1-inch cubes and place in a medium bowl. Add 3 tablespoons cornstarch and toss until chicken is evenly coated.

  2. Place 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Place 1/4 cup milk, 1 large egg, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 tablespoon hot sauce if desired in a second medium bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Working in batches, dredge the chicken in the egg mixture and then in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess coating. Transfer to a large plate and let rest while you heat the oil.

  4. Heat 3 inches neutral oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat until 375°F. (Yu can test to see if the oil is ready without a thermometer by adding a tiny amount of flour to the hot oil. If it sizzles, it’s ready.) Meanwhile, line a large plate with paper towels.

  5. Working in batches, fry the chicken pieces until golden-brown and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the chicken to the plate and sprinkle with more kosher salt.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. To reheat, bake in a 375°F oven until warmed through, about 15 minutes.