popcorn chicken

Popcorn Chicken Recipe

Updated: July 29, 2023, By Swasthi, Comments, Jump to Recipe

Our go-to Popcorn Chicken recipe with fried, air fryer and oven baked options! Everyone love’s Popcorn Chicken and there’s something nostalgic about these crispy, juicy and flavorsome tiny morsels. These Popcorn Chicken are tender inside and crisp outside, with bursting flavors and oh so good! Serve them as an appetizer with your favorite dip or use them to make your KFC Bowls or Rice Buckets. No matter how you serve, they are fantastic and taste super delicious.

popcorn chicken served in a white plate



In this post I share how to make the crispiest, juiciest and delicious popcorn chicken at home. Bonus! I also have a creamy sweet chilli sauce to serve as a dip and you can whip up this in less than 5 mins.

This recipe uses some spices for all those burst of flavors and you may skip some of them or reduce the quantities to make the popcorn chicken kids-friendly.

What is Popcorn Chicken?

Popcorn Chicken are bite-sized tender and crisp chunks of chicken that have been seasoned, breaded and deep fried to perfection, until golden. Since the breaded tiny chunks resemble popcorn, they are named as popcorn chicken.

The popular fast food giant KFC introduced popcorn chicken to the world and the delicious food has gained immense popularity since then.

Today you will find these everywhere on the menus, right from the budget fast food chains to the upscale restaurants and has been a favorite with a larger population. So you are likely to find numerous versions of the popcorn chicken all over the world.

Some are breaded and some are not but simply coated with flour, which creates a popcorn like structure with a crust. Each are seasoned differently for a unique flavor. Even in KFC, popcorn chicken is not the same in every country. These are made to match the local taste buds.

Ingredients & Substitutes

Chicken: Fresh or thawed from frozen chicken breasts are good to use here. You may use tofu, paneer or parboiled potatoes as a substitute.

Seasoning: I love using garlic powder, onion powder, red chilli powder / paprika, crushed black pepper and all-spice or garam masala for seasoning the chicken. You can simply skip all of these but you will be left with bland popcorn chicken. To make it kids-friendly, you may skip the red chilli powder and all-spice or garam masala.

Bread crumbs or panko crumbs: Panko crumbs give the best crisp results but you may use bread crumbs too. I do not add any seasoning to my bread crumbs since I season the chicken. I prefer to avoid adding the seasoning ingredients to the bread crumbs to keep the oil clear till the end of frying. This is very essential if you are frying a large batch of chicken or want to reuse the fried oil.

Flour: I use corn starch (white corn flour) as it gives super crispy chicken. You may substitute that with all-purpose flour but the results vary.

Buttermilk or yogurt: I prefer to use a small amount of yogurt while seasoning the chicken. This helps to tenderize the chicken and prevents the chicken from drying out after frying or baking. However you may skip this for a dairy-free option.

Eggs or Buttermilk: Eggs or buttermilk is used to provide some moisture to the chicken so it helps in binding the bread crumbs well. Also both these ingredients lock the chicken juices while frying and won’t let the chicken dry out.

I have been making this recipe with both and sometimes with a combination of both to make it low fat. The results are almost the same with all these changes. Avoid using very sour buttermilk as it can easily make your popcorn chicken taste tangy.

popcorn chicken

For more Chicken recipes check
Chicken nuggets
Chicken burger
KFC style fried chicken
Chilli chicken
Szechuan chicken
Chicken Patties

How to Make Popcorn Chicken (Stepwise Photos)

1. Chop 1 lb (450 to 500 grams) chicken to bite sized pieces and add them to a mixing bowl.

2. Add all the seasonings:

  • ½ to 1½ teaspoon paprika (or cayenne pepper or red chili powder, adjust to taste)
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon Salt (adjust to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper (pepper powder)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder (or 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste)
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice or 2 tsp garam masala

3. Mix well and pour 2 tablespoons yogurt (optional).

4. Mix and cover. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins to 8 hours.

5. Pour 2 egg whites or half cup yogurt (not Greek yogurt) or buttermilk. Make sure your buttermilk is not sour. Mix well.

6. Add 4 tablespoons corn starch in 2 batches, mixing after each addition. (2 tablespoons each time). We do this to avoid the starch clumping up.

7. At this stage the batter has to be thick and moist enough to coat the chicken well. We don’t want dry chicken at this stage.

8. Arrange panko crumbs and chicken, side by side to work.

9. Pick up each piece of chicken and dredge in the panko crumbs. Press down the crumbs with your fingers. This step makes a huge difference.

10. Place them on a tray.

Short-Cut method

11. I also have a short-cut method which I have been following since very long. This one works well for me. However some people did not find success with this. So try out only with half a kg (1 pound or so). If you have more chicken, do this in batches.

For this you will simply pour the panko crumbs in 2 batches, over the batter coated chicken. First add half the crumbs and gently mix to coat the chicken well with the crumbs. Add the other half and mix lightly. Immediately be fast and press down each piece of chicken with the crumbs and place them in a plate or tray. If you are not quick enough the crumbs soak up all the batter and begin to fall off the chicken.

To Bake or Air Fry these please refer the recipe card below.

12. On a medium flame, heat oil in a deep pan for frying. Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a bread crumb. It should sizzle and come up without browning or burning. If it sinks, it means the oil is not hot enough. Gently drop the breaded popcorn chicken into the hot oil. Do not disturb them for 2 mins as this will cause the bread crumbs to fall off.

13. After 2 mins, stir them gently and fry until golden and super crisp. Remove them from oil.

14. Transfer to a cooling rack or a steel colander.

15. After each batch of frying, turn down the heat. Using a mesh skimmer, remove any bread crumbs that have fallen off to the oil. Bring back the temperature to medium hot and fry the next batch.

Popcorn chicken is ready. Serve hot with your favorite ketchup or creamy sweet chilli sauce. You can also sprinkle your favorite seasoning on top.

To make the creamy sweet chilli sauce, whisk together half cup softened cream cheese or Greek yogurt or mayonnaise with 4 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce, until smooth and creamy. Taste test and add more sauce as required.

popcorn chicken

Pro Tips

  • Prepare chicken: Make sure you chop the chicken to almost the same size so they cook evenly and uniformly.
  • Buttermilk: If you do not have buttermilk, you may make your own with half cup milk and half tbsp. vinegar. Make sure your buttermilk is not too sour.
  • Brine: For extra soft and tender chicken, you may brine the chicken for a minimum of 4 to 8 hours in the refrigerator. To make the brine, whisk together ½ cup yogurt with 1 to 1 ¼ cup water. Soak your chicken in this. Later drain and use.
  • To make the recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free flour and bread crumbs.
  • To make this dairy free, simply skip the yogurt from the marinade and use egg for binding.
popcorn chicken recipe

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

popcorn chicken

Popcorn Chicken Recipe

4.98 from 287 votes
Crunchy, juicy, flavorful and delicious popcorn chicken that tastes better than the KFC. Simple, quick and easy recipe. You can tweak the seasonings to your taste,
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For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Servings4
AuthorSwasthi

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

  • 1 lb (450 to 500 grams) chicken breast (boneless)
  • ¼ cup cornstarch or all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk or yogurt (optional, skip to make dairy-free)
  • 2 egg whites (or ½ cup buttermilk or yogurt)
  • 2 cups panko crumbs (or bread crumbs)
  • Oil for deep frying

Seasoning (or 1½ tablespoon cajun spice mix)

  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon Salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
  • teaspoons garlic powder (or 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper (pepper powder)
  • ½ to 1½ teaspoon paprika (or cayenne pepper or red chilli powder)
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice or 2 tsp garam masala

Optional for serving

  • 2 teaspoon seasoning like wasabi or sriracha powder


Instructions

Preparation

  • Cut chicken to tiny bite sized pieces. Make sure you cut them to uniform sizes as this helps to cook uniformly.
  • In a bowl, mix together seasoning and chicken well. Optionally add 2 tbsps buttermilk or yogurt and mix well. You can refrigerate this for 30 mins to 8 hours.
  • Pour the egg white or buttermilk and mix well. Sprinkle cornstarch in 2 batches and coat the chicken well. At this stage your chicken must have a thick and moist batter coated over it and should not be dry.
  • Add panko crumbs to a plate or bowl. Place the bowl of chicken and the plate of panko crumbs, side by side.
  • Pick up each piece of chicken & roll in the bread crumbs. Press down gently each piece with your fingers to coat the chicken with the crumbs. This gives results similar to double breading.
  • Place them in a wide tray. Repeat the same step until all the chicken bites are breaded.
  • Rest for 10 to 15 mins for the bread crumbs to stick well to the chicken. You can also refrigerate in a air tight container up to 48 hours for further use.

How to Make Popcorn Chicken

  • Pour oil to a deep pan and heat on a medium flame until hot enough.
  • Oil has to be medium hot and not smoking hot. Test by dropping a small piece of bread crumb into the oil, it should sizzle and come up to the surface without become brown or burnt. This means the oil is at the right temperature for frying. If the crumb sinks, it means the oil is still not hot enough.
  • 350 to 375 F is the right temperature if you are measuring.
  • Gently drop the breaded popcorn chicken to the hot oil one after the other. Do not stir or disturb them for about a minute or 2, as this is going to separate the bread crumbs from the chicken.
  • Do not crowd the pan with many chicken bites at one time as this will bring down the temperature of the oil. Fry popcorn chicken in batches.
  • Stir after 2 mins and fry evenly till golden and crisp on a medium flame. The internal temperature of the thickest piece of fried chicken should reach 165 F. If you don't have a food thermometer, simply cut down a popcorn chicken. It should not be pink inside any more.
  • Remove the popcorn chicken to a cooling rack placed over kitchen tissues or a tray. Or to a steel colander.
  • To fry the next batch of popcorn chicken, turn down the heat to low. Using a mesh skimmer, remove any bread crumbs that have fallen off to the oil. Bring the oil back to right temperature and fry them in batches.

Baked Popcorn Chicken

  • Place the tray in a 375 F or 190 C, preheated oven in the middle rack. Bake for 14 mins or until the chicken is cooked through, turning them half way.

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

  • Place the breaded chicken in the air fryer basket and air fry for 10 mins at 400 F or 200 C. Turn them after 5 mins. Adjust the cook time as required as this significantly changes with marinade timings and the size of your pieces.
  • The internal temperature should reach 165 F or 74 C. Once done, cut down a piece of chicken to see if it is done. The inside should no more be pink in color.

Seasoning

  • You can sprinkle your favorite seasoning over popcorn chicken before serving. Sriracha or wasabi go great on these.


Notes

If you like to brine the chicken then add half yogurt and your favorite seasoning to a bowl. Pour 1 to 1.5 cup water and whisk it well. Add the chicken bites and refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight. Drain the buttermilk and use them in the recipe.
Seasonings
To spice up your popcorn chicken, you can sprinkle any of the seasonings just before serving
  • Sriracha powder
  • Seaweed seasoning

Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.

For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.

Video

Watch Popcorn Chicken Video

NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
Popcorn Chicken Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 426 Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value*
Fat 19g29%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5g
Monounsaturated Fat 10g
Cholesterol 73mg24%
Sodium 824mg36%
Potassium 565mg16%
Carbohydrates 33g11%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 30g60%
Vitamin A 204IU4%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 108mg11%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @SwasthisRecipes or tag #swasthisrecipes!

© Swasthi’s Recipes

Popcorn Chicken recipe first published in September 2012. Updated and republished in June 2022.

Popcorn Chicken Recipe

About Swasthi

I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me

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I have not made this yet. I have a question. Can I freeze them before or after they are cooked. I like to meal prep on stuff that can be used in many was and last minute meals?

5 stars
This popcorn chicken was delicious! I was pleasantly surprised. I did fry it but would like to try baking next time. I’m so glad I pinned your recipe. I made a chipotle mayo to dip it In.

5 stars
Really good fried

I made this thrice already and prefer using breadcrumbs over panko. Panko makes them too crispy. I also sub the eggs with buttermilk to make it egg-free. Otherwise the recipe is great for us. Works well.

5 stars
I am a big fan of your recipes. I have tried your butter chicken, tikka masala and makhani dal. Learning so much with every visit to your page. This popcorn chicken is our new favorite. I leave out the garam masala and paprika because my kids like them that way. They turn out delicious and the chicken is much tender. Thank you for sharing your recipes generously with the world.

5 stars
This recipe makes the best popcorn chicken. I ate almost half of it even before my family arrived. Finished with a sprinkle of paprika, onion and garlic powder. Tasted delicious! Thank you, I am saving this in my favourites.

5 stars
Tried this and they came out delicious. I used buttermilk and made a batch in the air fryer with roasted crumbs. They turned out perfect. Why not egg yolks? just wondering why you use only egg whites..

5 stars
Love garam masala in popcorn chicken. Unbeatable flavor!

5 stars
Used egg white and flour, no crumbs. Turned out delicious and crunchy

5 stars
Couldn’t believe these popcorn chicken were so crunchy even in the air fryer. I used your mint chutney to serve them.

5 stars
Delicious! I love the spice blend in this recipe. Works so well every single time. I also use it to season our nuggets.

5 stars
Can’t believe I made these. They were delicious and my grandchildren finished them in no time. Thank you. Saving this recipe to make it again

5 stars
Tried your chicken popcorn recipe. Soaking it in the brine took it to the next level. It was just perfect. Infact better than the KFC.

5 stars
I made two different types of these for a party and they were a huge hit. This was the best recipe I’ve found and I’ve made a ton of different ones.
Here are a few tips that made it even better:
– I added finely-crumbled Ritz crackers to the panko for extra crunch.
– for half of the huge batch, I rolled/pressed them in plain/all-purpose flour instead of the panko/Ritz mixture. They had a coating similar to KFC original recipe.
– liberally seasoning the dry mixture with chicken stock powder made it more flavoursome
– Mild curry powder worked fine if you don’t have garam masala (just use extra)
– fry for 3-4 minutes at 325F/165C if you like bigger chunks (half the size of a chicken nugget)
– buy a deep fryer! Works a whole lot better ?

Hi Swasti, can you add to the recipe an approx number of minutes for frying time?

5 stars
4 to 5 minutes

5 stars
I used a deep fryer (best birthday gift ever) and I cut them chunkier – ie. including the coating, half the size of a chicken nugget. 3-4 minutes at 325F/165C made them perfect. If you want the smaller ones, increase the heat to 350F/175C and stick to the three minutes.

5 stars
I love your recipes. This popcorn chicken is my kids’ favorite. I follow the recipe and this time I replaced half of the panko crumbs with flour. Turns out great either ways. Thank you

5 stars
Hi can you say the best brand in panko breadcrumbs

Hi if I search for substitute for allspice in Google it shows mix in ½ tsp cinnamon powder,¼ nutmeg powder and ¼ tsp cloves powder will this be a great substitute for allspice will both taste Same

5 stars
Hi swasthi is paprika powder is powder of dried red capsicum is it and can we serve popcorn chicken as side dish for pizza

5 stars
Hi swasthi instead of adding the chicken can I add some corn flour,maida make as a batter and add following spices dip the onion and coat with breadcrumbs and fry as onion rings can you say this recipe tastes delicious equally with the chicken popcorn you showed here can you say pls

5 stars
Hi can you say any delicious dip that goes well with chicken popcorn??