Love the taste of popcorn chicken but want a lighter option? Our baked version delivers all the flavor without all the fat.
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Whether hosting a party, planning a movie night, or simply craving a delicious appetizer, these crispy panko chicken bites are the ideal choice. Each golden nugget of succulent chicken is coated in a flavorful blend of spices and baked to perfection.
Reasons to Love
- Healthier alternative to traditional fried chicken. By baking the chicken instead of frying it, you can significantly reduce the amount of oil and fat used in the cooking process.
- Easily customizable. Whether you prefer a spicy kick with cayenne pepper and paprika or a milder taste with garlic powder and herbs, there are endless possibilities for seasoning your baked popcorn chicken. You can also pair it with various dips and sauces.
The key to a delicious bowl of baked popcorn chicken is the ingredients used. You'll need a few essential items to achieve that crispy, golden exterior, and tender, juicy interior.
To make the recipe, you'll need the following on hand:
- boneless and skinless chicken thighs or breasts
- all-purpose flour
- garlic powder
- panko breadcrumbs
- dried chives
- ground black pepper
- cooking oil spray
Scroll down to the recipe card for quantities used.
Gather all the ingredients. Then, preheat the oven to 475ºF and spray cooking oil on a small baking sheet.
In a small bowl, mix together flour, garlic powder, oregano, paprika and salt.
Pour the buttermilk into another small bowl.
In a third small bowl, mix the panko breadcrumbs, chives and black pepper. Mix.
First, take a piece of chicken and dip it in the flour mixture, ensuring all sides are coated.
Next, dip the piece of chicken in the buttermilk.
Lastly, dredge the piece of chicken in the panko crumbs mixture.
Repeat until all pieces are coated.
Place the coated chicken pieces in the baking sheet and spray cooking oil over the chicken popcorn. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve the chicken popcorn warm with your favorite dipping sauce.
One of the best things about this easy popcorn chicken recipe is that you can customize it according to your taste preferences. Here are a few suggestions you can try:
- Marinate the chicken in buttermilk overnight. The acidity in buttermilk helps break down proteins in the chicken while imparting a tangy flavor.
- Add a spicy twist. Mix in some cayenne pepper or chili powder with the coating mixture.
- Experiment with different seasonings and herbs. For example, you can add Italian seasoning or fresh parsley to the breadcrumb mixture to enhance flavor.
- Make it gluten-free. Substitute regular flour with almond or chickpea flour for a gluten-free coating that adds nutty flavors to the dish.
- Double-dip to make them extra crunchy. If you prefer a double coating, dip the chicken pieces in buttermilk again, followed by panko crumbs.
- Deep fry. For a traditional style, you can deep fry them in hot oil.
If you want to air fry them in an air fryer basket, check out our chicken nuggets recipe for some guidance. The main benefits of air fryer popcorn chicken are a shorter cook time and a crispier coating.
Here's what you need to know to achieve the best results:
- Start with boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. These cuts are easier to work with and provide tender meat for your popcorn chicken.
- Cut the chicken into small, uniform pieces. This ensures even cooking and allows each bite-sized morsel to be perfectly crispy on the outside while remaining juicy on the inside.
- Pat dry the marinated chicken with paper towels before coating it in flour. Removing excess moisture from the surface of the chicken helps create a crispy crust when frying.
- Make a big batch and freeze some for later. You can freeze popcorn chicken before cooking and cook it from the freezer later.
One classic option is to serve your chicken with crispy sweet potato fries or potato wedges. Consider adding a side salad to complete your meal. You can even drizzle some homemade ranch dressing or balsamic vinaigrette over the salad for an extra layer of tanginess.
You can also add a dip. Pair your crispy chicken with a fiery buffalo sauce or a smoky chipotle mayo for those who enjoy spicy flavors. Or opt for classic ranch dressing or honey mustard sauce if you prefer something milder and creamy. Even barbecue or sweet chili sauce can bring unique flavors to these delectable bite-sized treats.
Allow the chicken to cool completely before storing. Place the leftovers in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag, ensuring there is minimal air inside.
It is recommended to refrigerate the chicken for up to 3 days or freeze it for longer-term storage. When reheating, use an oven or toaster oven instead of a microwave to help maintain the crispy texture.
Looking for more chicken dishes? Take a look at these other easy dinner recipes for one or two.
- Chicken legs in air fryer is an effortless meal idea.
- Honey butter fried chicken is the perfect balance of sweet and savory.
- BBQ boneless chicken thighs are grilled to perfection.
- Air fryer frozen wings make a quick and delicious meal or snack.
- Chicken chop suey has a delightful balance of flavors in every bite.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 4-6 thighs) cubed
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup buttermilk
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon dried chives
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Cooking oil spray
- Preheat the oven to 475ºF. Spray cooking oil in a baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, mix together flour, garlic powder, oregano, paprika and salt.
- In another small bowl, pour buttermilk.
- In a third small bowl, mix the panko breadcrumbs, chives and black pepper. Mix.
- Arrange the three bowls closeby. Take the chicken pieces and dip it first in the flour mixture, ensuring all sides are coated. Next, dip the chicken piece in the buttermilk.
- Lastly, dip the chicken pieces in the panko crumbs mixture. Repeat until all pieces are coated
- Place the coated chicken pieces in the baking sheet and spray cooking oil over the chicken popcorn.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve the chicken popcorn warm with your favorite dipping sauce.