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!

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

Your comments are helpful! If you’ve tried this popcorn chicken recipe or any other recipe on Skinnytaste, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts, variations, and feedback. And if you took a photo of what you cooked, share it with me on Instagram so I can reshare it on my stories.

More Fried Chicken Recipes You’ll Love:

Popcorn Chicken
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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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34 comments

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

  2. 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!!! 🙂

  3. 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.

  4. These were great! We dredged them in batches like you recommended and it went quickly. We did use ancho chili powder instead of cayenne and the spice level was good.a

  5. Delicious! Brilliant idea to toast the bread crumbs in olive oil first.

  6. May I make this and other recipes without an air fryer? I don’t have an air fryer. Might you give me directions? Thank you.

  7. Hi ! I made your chicken nuggets, this is a great recipe, BUT , had to add more eggs and water [3) , and the panko had to add 3 times, so was the flour. It is very good.
    About 60 pieces to.

    Thank you !

  8. Was looking for a kid-friendly recipe for chicken nuggets when I chanced upon your recipe and decided to make it.  As I don’t have an air fryer I baked the chicken in my oven. My chicken pieces were probably tinier than yours so I used up all the breading and had to add one quarter cup more seasoned panko.  It turned out great.  I love how crispy the panko makes the chicken.  The panko seasoning is great –  but next time I think I would add just a touch more of it, to amp up the flavour further. 

  9. Hey Gina,

    Can you send me the link for your air fryer, I want to buy one!

    Thank you, those popcorn chicken and all recipes are soooooo delicious!!!

  10. Can these be made in the oven? What adjustments need to be made?

  11. You know what is just a lot of work? Dredging 60 small pieces of chicken. I probably should have thought about that before I made this, but I thought the cute pieces would encourage my nieces to eat more. Every meal is a fight so I am trying more home cooking. I did leave out the cayenne because children, but it didn’t seem seasoned enough for my tastes. Still adore you, Gina, and your site is still my #1 stop for recipes!

  12. What is the fresh green herb in the photo? It is not listed in the recipe.

  13. What’s the delicious looking sauce on the side?

  14. Gina, can you make this Keto? Maybe almond flour to replace the Panko crumbs and add Parmesan cheese? 
     Thanks

  15. What air fryer do you use? I’m looking to get one. Thanks!

  16. Looks delicious. Do you feel air fryers are safe ? Reading so many conflicts on the Teflon safety …  I don’t want to give mine up but also don’t want harmful chemicals in my food as well.  Thoughts. ?

  17. The link to WW does not seem to be working – it works for previous recipes. It says items cannot be fetched at this time.

  18. Do you follow the same instructions when reheating from frozen (400°F for 5 minutes)?

  19. After you freeze how would you reheat?

  20. Hi Gina,

    This recipe looks amazing!

    Two things:
    1. My daughter was just diagnosed with celiac disease and one thing we miss is making homemade chicken nuggets. This looks to be a great substitute if we can find a good gluten free Panko/bread crumb brand. Do you have any recommendations? I am guessing I can substitute the flour with cup for cup GF flour. 

    2. We just got an air Fryer (it’s still in the box… trying to decide if we really will use it/love it 🤷‍♀️) and I noticed in your steps you said to preheat the fryer and in the same step spray with olive oil. Do you do this right after you set it to preheat. Or spray it once it’s comes up to temperature? This recipe might just seal the deal that we need the air fryer! 😆

  21. After freezing how would you reheat.

  22. Yum! What is the sauce pictured??

  23. Side note: WW Personal Points button is not working. Just opens the app, but does not pull up recipe!! 

    But this looks amazing!!! I’m definitely trying this soon! Thanks for sharing!!!