Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

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This easy Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken recipe is kid-friendly, lighter and healthier than your typical fast-food version and a fun way to prepare chicken breast!

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken
Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

Popcorn chicken is a fun, snackable way to get your protein fix (30 grams per serving!). Originally developed in Taiwan in the 70s and then introduced in the US at Kentucky Fried Chicken in the 90s, popcorn chicken is small bites of crunchy chicken you can eat like popcorn. It’s traditionally deep fried and delicious but obviously, not the healthiest option on the menu. Making this from scratch is easy and another healthy way to enjoy air fryer chicken breast. More of my favorite air fryer recipes are these air fryer chicken nuggets, air fryer chicken tenders, and air fryer chicken sandwiches.

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

Healthy Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

I loved the idea of making popcorn chicken healthier with much less oil and processed ingredients in the air fryer. After testing several batches, I found the breading wouldn’t brown in the short time that it took the chicken to cook (five minutes), so I had to get creative.

The solution: Toasting the panko crumbs in a little oil before breading the chicken. It adds about five minutes to your prep time but eliminates the often- messy task of spritzing oil on each piece before air frying. The result is juicy little bites of guiltless, crispy chicken.

What is popcorn chicken made of?

You’ll need to set up a dredging station with the popcorn chicken ingredients:

  • Flour: Put all-purpose flour and salt on a large plate.
  • Egg: Whisk one egg with a teaspoon of water in a bowl.
  • Seasoned Panko: Toast the panko in olive oil and then mix it with garlic powder, onion, powder, oregano, cayenne (if using), and black pepper on a large plate.
  • Chicken: Cut a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite-size pieces – about the size of a dice – and season with salt and pepper.

How long do you put popcorn chicken in the air fryer?

Since popcorn chicken is so little, it cooks fast.

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.
  2. Spray the basket with olive oil and place about 30 pieces in the basket, leaving space between each.
  3. Cook the chicken for five minutes, shaking the basket halfway through.

How to Freeze Popcorn Chicken

This popcorn chicken is easy to freeze and perfect to pull out when you need a quick snack, appetizer, or lunch.

For best results, freeze Popcorn Chicken UNCOOKED.

  1. Place chicken pieces in an even layer (not stacked top of each other) in a freezer safe container lined with parchment, adding a new piece of parchment to each layer.
  2. When ready to cook, heat the air fryer to 400 degrees F. Spray the basket with oil then add 30 pieces, in an even layer.  Cook for 8 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through cook time.

To freeze and reheat after cooked:

  1. Let the chicken cool completely after it’s cooked, and then flash freeze on a baking tray.
  2. Once frozen, transfer the chicken to a freezer-safe bag or container and store for up to 3 months.
  3. To reheat, heat the air fryer to 350 degrees F. Spray the basket with oil and cook 5-6 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through cook time.

Popcorn ChickenAir Fryer Chicken Bites

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Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

5
283 Cals 30 Protein 21 Carbs 8 Fats
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Yield: 4 servings
COURSE: Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch, School Lunch
CUISINE: American
This easy Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken recipe is kid-friendly, lighter and healthier than your typical fast-food version!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup panko breadcrumbs*
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil spray
  • Ketchup, Low Fat Ranch Dressing, BBQ Sauce, Honey Mustard, Marinara, Optional, for dipping

Equipment

Instructions

  • Add oil to a medium skillet over medium low heat. Add the panko and ½ teaspoon salt.
  • Toast panko for about 4 minutes or until just golden, stirring every 30 seconds to evenly brown.  Transfer crumbs to a plate.
  • Cut chicken into ¾-inch cubes (about the size of a small dice), season with ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper, to taste, then set up your dredging station. You should have about 60 cubes.

To set up dredging station:

  • Place flour and ¼ teaspoon salt on a large plate.
    dredging station
  • Place egg in a bowl, add 1 teaspoon water and beat until uniform.
  • Add the garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and cayenne (if using) and black pepper, to taste, to the toasted panko and place the plate on the other side of the egg bowl.
  • Working with about 15 pieces at a time, dredge in flour, lightly coating all sides.
  • Then, egg, allowing excess to drip off (I like to use tongs and wipe the excess off on the side of the bowl).  Next add the pieces to the panko mixture and coat all sides evenly, pressing crumbs to make sure they adhere evenly. Repeat with remaining pieces.
  • Preheat air fryer to 400 degrees F. Spray the basket with olive oil.
  • Add about 30 pieces to the air fryer basket, making sure to leave space between each piece so they get crispy. Spray the top with oil.
  • Cook for 5 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through cook time.  Serve immediately.

Video

Notes

*1/4 cup breadcrumbs get thrown out
For best results, freeze Popcorn Chicken UNCOOKED.
1. Place chicken pieces in an even layer (not stacked top of each other) in a freezer safe container lined with parchment, adding a new piece of parchment to each layer.
2. When ready to cook, heat the air fryer to 400 degrees F. Spray the basket with oil then add 30 pieces, in an even layer.  Cook for 8 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through cook time.

Nutrition

Serving: 15 pieces, Calories: 283kcal, Carbohydrates: 21g, Protein: 30g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1.5g, Cholesterol: 129mg, Sodium: 385mg, Fiber: 1.5g, Sugar: 2g
Keywords: Air Fryer Chicken, air fryer chicken breast, airfryer popcorn chicken, popcorn chicken

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41 comments

  1. Think this would work with corn flake breadcrumbs in lieu of panko?

  2. What dipping sauce is pictured in the recipe? My husband said it looks delicious 

  3. My toaster oven has an air fryer setting along with an air fryer basket.  It’s about 9×13.  How long should I fry these in the toaster oven?  Thanks so much.  These look wonderful.

  4. Hi..I can’t do egg.  What would you use instead?

    Thank you!

  5. This is so good.  My husband loved it.  I only had thighs in the freezer but they worked out great.  Toasting the panko crumbs is a stroke of genius.  Made for beautiful popcorn chicken!  Thank you.

  6. Since an air fryer is essentially a convection oven, do you think I could just use my convection oven?

  7. Made this just as directed and came out perfectly. Loved it, so much better than take out.

  8. Made this last night! Wow! I think it is going to be a new family favorite. Wouldn’t change a thing! So excited that these can be frozen too! Thank you Gina!!! 🙂

  9. Dredging was kind of tedious, but they are delicious. I needed a bit more egg and flour. I baked them in the oven at 400deg for 15min for anyone else without the air fryer. They turned out very crispy. I lightly sprayed them with oil before popping them in the oven.