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.
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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.
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!
More Tasty Air Fryer Recipes You’ll Love
Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken
- Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on a baking sheet.
- Cut chicken into small pieces, about ½ inches.1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
- In a bowl, sprinkle chicken with ¼ tsp kosher salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper, and ¼ cup of flour. Toss to coat.1 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- In a separate bowl, mix buttermilk and hot sauce.3/4 cup buttermilk, 1 tsp hot sauce
- In another bowl, mix the rest of the flour, salt, pepper, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and panko.1 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp smoked paprika, 1 cup 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.3 tbsp olive oil spray
- 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.