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Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

These easy Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken bites are so deliciously crispy. They use a baked breading method and are not deep-fried. No air fryer? You’ll also find stovetop methods in the post.

popcorn chicken on a white board with a basket and dipping sauce

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When you’re on the hunt for a quick dinner, appetizer, or snack, set your sights on this popcorn chicken in the air fryer. It’s fast, delicious, and so poppable and good! Even better, you can freeze these tasty bites for a quick ready-made meal.

If you’re a fan of dipping your chicken, check out healthy ranch dressing, Whole30 BBQ sauce, chipotle sauce, or sugar-free pizza sauce.

How to Freeze Homemade Popcorn Chicken

These tasty bites cook really well baked straight from the freezer, so double your batch, and freeze half. Tips like that are part of my Prep Once, Cook Twice meal prep solution. I like to cook some frozen popcorn chicken during the week to throw on top of Kale Chopped Salad for an easy workday lunch.

To freeze, finish breading the chicken (through step 8 in the printable recipe card below) and place the pieces on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Place in the freezer and freeze for 3 hours. Remove and break apart any pieces that might have stuck together, and place in freezer-safe storage (these are our favorites).

You can store them in the freezer for up to three months. To bake: spray with olive oil spray (I use our Misto) while still frozen, and bake according to the directions in the recipe card below. You’ll need to add 1-2 minutes of cook time. Turn them into this Air Fryer Orange Chicken and you’ll love your life forever.

Pro Tips/Recipe Notes

  • Add more or less hot sauce to the buttermilk mixture depending on your family’s preferences.
  • Try to cut the chicken to somewhat uniform sizes so that it will cook evenly.
  • You can make this recipe with less olive oil but your chicken will not be as crispy. Still delicious though!
  • If you don’t have buttermilk you can use any milk that you have on hand. Or stir in 1 tsp of white vinegar or lemon juice to your milk and let stand for 10 minutes. This makes a homemade version of buttermilk that works great.
  • If you need gluten-free options, try a gluten-free brand of cornflakes in lieu of panko and flour. They make a great crunchy breading alternative when pulsed in a food processor or blender!

air fryer popcorn chicken on a baking sheet with a bowl of dipping sauce

More Tasty Air Fryer Appetizers You’ll Love

air fryer popcorn chicken on a baking sheet with a bowl of dipping sauce
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time6 mins
Total Time31 mins
This popcorn chicken in the air fryer is so deliciously crispy.

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on a baking sheet.
  • Cut chicken into small pieces, about ½ inches.
  • In a bowl, sprinkle chicken with ¼ tsp kosher salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper, and ¼ cup of flour. Toss to coat.
  • In a separate bowl, mix buttermilk and hot sauce.
  • In another bowl, mix the rest of the flour, salt, pepper, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and panko.
  • Working with 5-6 pieces at a time, drop chicken into the buttermilk. If pieces are sticking together, separate them, making sure every side of the chicken is coated in the buttermilk mixture.
  • Shake off excess buttermilk and drop the pieces of chicken into the flour/panko mixture. Roll pieces in the dry mixture to make sure every side is coated.
  • Transfer chicken to the lined baking sheet, and repeat until all the chicken has been breaded.
  • Allow the chicken to sit at room temperature on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. This will help the breading adhere while in the air fryer, giving you the crispiest crust ever!
  • Preheat air fryer to 400F for 2 minutes.
  • While the air fryer is preheating, liberally spray the tops of the chicken with olive oil spray. Really get into all the nooks and crannies. Allow it to sit for 1 minute, and then flip the pieces over and spray the other sides.
  • Brush olive oil on the basket of the air fryer or line it with a piece of air fryer parchment.
  • Place pieces of chicken in the basket without allowing them to touch each other. You can pack the basket pretty full but will likely need to cook it over two batches.
  • Bake for 6 minutes at 390F, shaking at minute 4. Chicken is done with the internal temp is 165F.

Notes

Try to cut the chicken to somewhat uniform sizes so that it will cook evenly.
 
If you need gluten-free options, try a gluten-free brand of cornflakes in lieu of panko and flour. They make a great crunchy breading alternative when pulsed in a food processor or blender!
Stovetop Instructions:
Heat cooking oil (like avocado) over medium-high heat in a cast-iron skillet. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time, and cook until golden brown. Carefully flip the chicken to cook the other side. Chicken is ready when internal temp reaches 165F.
Nutrition Facts
Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken
Amount Per Serving (4 oz)
Calories 410 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Fat 14g22%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Cholesterol 78mg26%
Sodium 905mg39%
Potassium 555mg16%
Carbohydrates 38g13%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 30g60%
Vitamin A 172IU3%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 92mg9%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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2 comments on “Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken”

  1. Ok, so my intention was to make Sarah’s Orange Chicken. Ummm…that didn’t happen. Instead I made the base recipe of popcorn chicken, and well…my kiddos went nuts for the chicken. I mean, I’d even started doing the zesting of the oranges!! That was the next step! But well, it didn’t happen and I just said well, go for it kids. And sure enough they vacuumed almost all of it up, and I managed to save enough to heat up in the oven for leftovers for their school lunches the next day. And for reals, they actually ATE their entire lunches from home the next day. Definitely an A+ meal!5 stars

    • Danielle, I’m glad you were able to roll with the punches (and escape with fingers intact)! 🙂 So glad you enjoyed it and thanks for taking the time to leave a review.