This Popcorn Chicken Recipe is even better than the much-loved KFC original, especially since you can fry and serve this homemade popcorn chicken in less than 30 minutes from the comfort of your kitchen or even make a batch ahead of time and freeze it for later use!
This easy popcorn chicken recipe is the perfect crispy fried addition to any snack platter, whether you’re preparing to break out the BBQ, host a party, or enjoy game day with friends and family.
Everyone loves Popcorn Chicken so be sure to add this to your list of snack-worthy recipes to try! If you love popcorn chicken, try Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders, Southern Fried Chicken Recipe, or The Best Crispy Chicken Legs Recipe In The Air Fryer.
- Chicken – I’ve used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You could also use chicken thighs or chicken tenders to make this crispy chicken recipe.
- Cholula or Tabasco hot sauce
- All-purpose flour – Use gluten-free flour for a gluten-free version.
- Seasoning – Coarse sea salt, coarse black pepper, paprika, and onion powder. Garlic powder and white pepper could also be added.
- Panko bread crumbs – Crushed cornflakes can be used instead of breadcrumbs.
- Vegetable oil or shortening – For this deep-fried version.
For a complete list of ingredients and their measurements, please refer to the printable recipe card 📋 at the bottom of the post.
Enjoy this delicious popcorn chicken with your favorite dipping sauce, such as soy sauce or even ranch dressing.
Dutch oven with enough oil or a deep frying pan, small bowl, large bowl.
Substitutions and Variations
- Add chili powder or cayenne pepper to the flour mixture for an extra kick of heat.
- Make these KFC-style popcorn chicken pieces gluten-free by using gluten-free flour and gluten-free breadcrumbs.
- Turn this into an air fryer chicken recipe by cooking the chicken bites in the air fryer.
PREP: Assemble all the ingredients.
Step 1: Dice the chicken into uniform pieces.
Step 2: Mix the buttermilk with hot sauce in a bowl.
Step 3: Combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder in a shallow bowl.
Step 4: Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Dip the pieces of chicken into the flour mixture, then buttermilk, and finally into panko breadcrumbs.
TIP: The oil will take about 15 minutes to reach 350F. You can use a candy thermometer to check the temperature of the oil before adding the chicken to the pan.
Step 5: Drop a few pieces of chicken at a time into the oil in the Dutch oven. Cook until the chicken reaches 165F internally and is golden brown on the outside.
Step 6: Place the popcorn chicken on paper towels or brown bags to soak up excess oil.
SERVE: Serve your popcorn chicken with your favorite dipping sauce.
- You will get the best results if you maintain a good depth of oil through the frying process and a consistent temperature of the oil. Use a food thermometer to ensure that your oil is at the correct temperature throughout the cooking time.
- For an optimal crunch factor, make sure that you coat each chicken piece well on all sides in the flour, buttermilk, and Panko mixture prior to frying.
- Popcorn Chicken makes a great snack or appetizer that you can serve on a platter board with your favorite dips and other accompanying finger snacks for game day or other social gatherings.
- While the Panko bread crumbs will create a longer-lasting crunch compared to other alternatives, I still recommend that you eat them straight away for the best flavor and texture.
If you haven’t had popcorn chicken before then allow me to blow your mind and taste buds! It’s essentially bite-size pieces of chicken that have been coated in breadcrumbs and then fried to crispy perfection.
They are usually accompanied by a dipping sauce but can be enjoyed without too. The concept of Popcorn Chicken first originated as a KFC menu item and they have since exploded in popularity to such an extent that you can find them offered by most takeout franchises or even at certain grocery store outlets.
Now, you can make them easily from the comfort of your kitchen!
As with any fried food, it’s best to eat Popcorn Chicken straight after cooking for maximum crunch.
You can also store leftover Popcorn Chicken in an airtight container or Ziploc bag for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing fried Popcorn Chicken since the freezing and thawing process could affect the texture even if you refry afterwards.
If you want to make Popcorn Chicken ahead of time, I suggest that you prepare your popcorn chicken so that they are all breaded. Then place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and freeze them. You can then place your frozen breaded popcorn chicken in a Ziploc bag or airtight container to store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Once you are ready to enjoy some delicious fried popcorn chicken, simply fry them as directed above.
If you don’t have Panko bread crumbs to work with, you could use a few other options although I stand by Panko bread crumbs producing a really delicious crunch. Here are a few substitutes to consider if you’re in a pinch:
Homemade or regular store-bought bread crumbs
Crushed potato chips
Yes, you can! If you love using your Air Fryer as a healthier method of frying then by all means use it instead of the traditional frying method listed above.
Prepare the popcorn chicken as you would in this recipe and then place your chicken into the Air Fryer in an even single layer, spraying them lightly with some olive oil or cooking spray. Fry the chicken at 350℉ for 10 minutes, opening the Air Fryer after the first 5 minutes to shake the basket and spray another light coating of oil on the chicken pieces. Let them cook for the remaining 5 minutes and you’re done!
If you try this Popcorn Chicken Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you liked it in the 📝 comments below.
Popcorn Chicken Recipe
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces each)
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 dashes Cholula or Tabasco hot sauce
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¾ teaspoon onion powder
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- vegetable oil or shortening for frying at least 4 cups
- Dice chicken breasts into small bite-size pieces (¾”x ¾”).
- In a bowl, stir together buttermilk and hot sauce.
- Whisk together flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder in a shallow bowl.
- Place panko breadcrumbs in a third shallow bowl.
- Heat oil (at least 4” deep preferably 6” or more) in a Dutch oven. Heat oil to 350°F. The oil takes 15 minutes or so to heat to temperature. Use a candy or food thermometer to check the temperature. It must be the correct temperature before frying the chicken.
- Working with just a few pieces at a time, dip chicken pieces into the flour mixture, coating on all sides. Then dip chicken in buttermilk and finally into the panko breadcrumbs.
- Carefully drop just a few chicken pieces at a time into heated oil and fry until cooked through (the center should reach 165°F). The outside should be deep golden brown and crispy. Maintain an oil temperature of 350°F for best results. The chicken takes just 2-3 minutes to cook through.
- Place cooked chicken on paper towels or brown paper bags to soak up excess oil.
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