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Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

This recipe for homemade air fryer popcorn chicken is sure to be a hit with the whole family. Quick to prepare, even quicker to cook. Serve them with your family’s favorite dipping sauce and watch them disappear. 

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Crispy golden popcorn chicken on an plate with slaw.
Air fryer popcorn chicken.

How to make homemade popcorn chicken in an air fryer

My family loves it when I make this homemade version of popcorn chicken or chicken poppers, it is always a winner, with young and old.

While you can cook them in an oven, air frying is a great way to cook these chicken poppers. It always gets the outside deliciously crispy, yet they remain tender on the inside. It is much quicker than cooking in your oven, and a much healthier option than using your deep fryer!

Some of my other favorite recipes for air fried chicken are: air fryer lemon pepper chicken wings, air fryer chicken breast, and air fryer chicken tenders.

Scroll down for the free printable recipe card, or read on for all the details. 

Ingredient list and substitutions

  • Chicken. I like to use skinless chicken breast, but you can use breast or thighs. 
  • Breadcrumbs. This recipe calls for panko crumbs for the breading. I like to use these as they tend to come out crisper, and have a more satisfying crunch, but you can use whatever type of bread crumbs you like.  
  • Flour. I use corn flour for this recipe, as it helps to keep the chicken tender. You could substitute any other type of flour if you don’t have corn flour in the pantry. 
  • Seasoning. I have used a homemade mix for this recipe using ground cumin, sweet paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and salt. If you prefer you can substitute a store-bought chicken seasoning, or use any other spice mix flavor you like with chicken. You need around 2-3 teaspoons of seasoning in total. 
  • Egg. This helps to bind the crumb to the chicken poppers. If you don’t have egg to hand you could use mayonnaise instead. 

Variations

Low carb popcorn chicken/ keto popcorn chicken:

  • Substitute flax meal or ground hemp hearts for breadcrumbs 
  • Substitute low carb flour for corn flour (try coconut flour or almond flour)

Gluten free popcorn chicken:

  • Substitute flour and breadcrumbs for a gluten free alternative. 

KFC-style popcorn chicken:

  • Substitute butter milk for the egg. 
  • After mixing the chicken in buttermilk seasoning, refrigerate for at least half an hour. Then crumb and cook. 

Instructions

  • Step 1: Pat chicken breast dry. Dice chicken into bite sized pieces (approx. 1 inch pieces). 
  • Step 2: Mix flour and seasoning in a large bowl. Add egg and mix until combined. 
  • Step 3: Add chicken pieces to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Preheat air fryer. 
  • Step 4: Place breadcrumbs in another large bowl. Working in batches, transfer chicken to the breadcrumbs and turn to coat each piece thoroughly. Transfer each piece to a plate when thoroughly crumbed. 
  • Step 5: Place popcorn chicken in air fryer basket. Ensure it is not touching. You may need to cook the chicken in batches depending on the size of your air fryer. If your air fryer is prone to food sticking, you can spritz the basket with olive oil or place a small piece of cooking parchment in the basket before adding the chicken pieces.
  • Step 6: Air fry the popcorn chicken until it is golden brown and cooked through. This will take approximately 8-10 minutes. Carefully turn the popcorn chicken halfway through the cooking time if required for your air fryer. 

If you don’t have an air fryer you can also cook this recipe in a regular oven. Place chicken popcorn on a lined baking tray, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 430°F/220°C. 

Cubed chicken breast, panko breadcrumbs and spices with egg in a bowl.
Dice chicken breast into bite sized pieces. Mix Seasoning, flour and egg in a bowl.
Chicken pieces being coated in panko bread crumbs.
Working in batches, coat the chicken pieces in panko crumb.
Raw popcorn chicken in air fryer basket.
Place popcorn chicken in air fryer basket. try to ensure it is not touching.
Air fried popcorn chicken being tested with a meat thermometer - temp shows 170F.
Air fry popcorn chicken until golden brown and at least 165F/74C in the center of the thickest piece.

How long does it take to cook popcorn chicken in an air fryer?

The exact time it takes to cook popcorn chicken in an air fryer will depend on a few factors, including exactly how big the pieces of chicken are, and how powerful your air fryer is. 

Use the cooking times in this recipe as a guide, but always check that chicken is cooked through before consuming. 

The best way to tell if it is cooked correctly is to use a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature in this thickest part. It needs to be 165°F/74°C.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can cut the largest piece of chicken through the thickest part and check that it is cooked through (all white, no pink or translucent parts remaining).  

How to serve popcorn chicken

One of the things I love about popcorn chicken is how versatile it is. They make an easy chicken dinner for kids (mine call them “mini chicken nuggets”), but also make great finger foods, or even a tasty appetizer. 

Here are some of the ways I like to serve them: 

  • Pair with a side of slaw and fries for a tasty family dinner
  • With BBQ sauce 
  • In a bun with salad and ranch dressing
  • Pile them on slices of bread with slaw or salad and mayo for the most delicious crispy chicken sandwiches

Air Fryer Homemade Popcorn Chicken Recipe Card

Homemade chicken poppers on a plate.
Yield: 2 Servings

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken (Homemade)

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

How to make homemade popcorn chicken in an air fryer.

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken breast (approx. ½lb / 250g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs

Seasoning

  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Instructions

  1. Pat chicken breast dry. Dice chicken into bite sized pieces (approx. 1 inch/2 cm pieces).
  2. Mix flour and seasoning in a large bowl. Add egg and mix until combined.
  3. Add chicken pieces to the bowl, and toss to coat in the seasoned batter. Preheat air fryer [Note 1]
  4. Place breadcrumbs in a separate bowl. Transfer handfuls of chicken to the breadcrumbs and turn to coat each piece thoroughly in bread crumbs. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Place popcorn chicken in air fryer basket [Note 2]. Ensure it is not touching. You may need to cook the chicken in batches depending on the size of your air fryer.
  6. Air fry the popcorn chicken until it is golden brown and cooked through [Note 3]. This will take approximately 8-10 minutes. Carefully turn the popcorn chicken halfway through the cooking time if required for your air fryer.

Notes

  1. If you don't have an air fryer you can also cook this recipe in a regular oven. Place chicken popcorn on a lined baking tray, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 430°F/220°C.
  2. If your air fryer tends to stick to food, spritz the basket with olive oil before placing the popcorn chicken in it.
  3. Use a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature in the thickest part to ensure it has reached the safe temperature of 165°F/74°C.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 142Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 144mgSodium: 610mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 22g

Nutrition information is an estimate and provided for informational purposes only.

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