Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken are bite-sized and perfectly crispy making them the perfect dinner entree or party appetizer. Best of all, this copycat recipe isn’t deep-fried, which means less oil than their fast food counterparts.
breaded chicken bites on white plate on top wooden server; small white bowl ketchup on plate; white condiment bowl and glass measuring cup to back right, and white cloth with black stripe to back left; bottom of air fryer in top corner

Why do you bread the chicken rather than batter it?

Breading the chicken bites is much easier than using a batter for the air fryer. Most air fryers have wire baskets that make it harder to keep the batter sticking to the chicken while it’s cooking.

The breading that is stuck to the chicken using buttermilk is much easier and less messy to use while still giving you a perfectly crispy bite. (If you don’t have an air fryer yet, we really love this one.)

How do you bread them for the perfect crispy finish?

The breading consists of three layers. The first layer helps flavor the chicken and also gives the buttermilk something to stick to. It’s a mixture of cornstarch, powdered sugar, paprika, pepper, and garlic powder. This is also where you can flavor the mixture with different seasonings if you’d like.

Next, you’ll dip the seasoned pieces into buttermilk. The reason you want to use buttermilk is because it tenderizes the meat while still keeping it juicy. Plus, it has a tangy bite that adds to the flavor of the breading.

Finally, you’ll use panko breadcrumbs as the third and final layer. This is what really gives you the crunch you’re looking for with popcorn chicken.

You could use breadcrumbs if you like but panko has a slightly larger crumb and stays crunchier than regular breadcrumbs, which are generally much finer.  You can substitute with crushed cornflakes if you need to.

Can you skip making these homemade and just air fry frozen popcorn chicken?

If you’re in the mood for popcorn chicken but don’t feel like making them from scratch today, frozen popcorn chicken is great in the air fryer too. You’ll just want to add a few minutes to the overall cook time.

It will take about 12 minutes at 400°F to cook through completely. Flipping them halfway through is also a good way to ensure that both sides are nice and crispy.

You can also skip cutting the chicken into small bites and make our Air Fryer Chicken Tenders if you’re in the mood for homemade crispy crunchy chicken but not all the prep work.

How many servings does this recipe make?

This recipe will make about 4 servings. However, depending on the size of your air fryer, you will likely need to make them in a few batches. Most smaller air fryers will generally fit enough for 2 people at a time.

Can you bake them in the oven?

If you’re looking to feed a lot more people at once, you may want to use an oven instead. They should bake through at around 450°F in 10-15 minutes or until cooked through and brown and crunchy.

Print

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

breaded chicken bites on white plate on top wooden server; small white bowl ketchup on plate; white condiment bowl and glass measuring cup to back right, and white cloth with black stripe to back left; bottom of air fryer in top corner

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken are bite-sized and perfectly crispy making them the perfect dinner entree or party appetizer. Best of all, this copycat recipe isn’t deep-fried, which means less oil than their fast food counterparts.

  • Author: Sam Ellis
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat air fryer to 400°F.
  2. Place the chicken on a plate and season with salt. Set aside.
  3. Mix together cornstarch, powdered sugar, paprika, garlic powder, and pepper into a shallow plate or bowl. Pour both buttermilk and breadcrumbs into individual shallow bowls.
  4. Dredge chicken pieces into the cornstarch mixture and pat off any extra.
  5. Dip into the buttermilk ensuring to cover the entire piece, then the breadcrumbs. Repeat until all chicken pieces have been coated.
  6. Spray air fryer basket with cooking spray. Place chicken pieces into the basket ensuring you leave room for air to circulate around each piece.
  7. Cook for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Repeat with the rest of the chicken pieces.

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken
Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

Sam Ellis

Sam blogs at The Culinary Compass where she loves to try new recipes and ingredients from around the world. She thinks trying new dishes and spices is the easiest way to travel! She loves coffee so much that she often goes to bed excited for a fresh cup in the morning.