Crispy popcorn chicken cooked in the air fryer is a great snack or easy meal. Perfect for game day or a quick lunch with jalapeño ranch.
Table of Contents
- Skinless Chicken breasts. Boneless chicken thighs can also be used.
- Flour. I used all purpose flour.
- Panko bread crumbs.
- Smoked paprika.
- Garlic powder. You can use onion powder too, or as a substitute.
- Salt and black pepper. Other seasonings like cayenne pepper, dried herbs or chilli flakes can be used too.
For the jalapeño ranch:
- Sour cream. Greek yogurt can be substituted.
- Salt and pepper.
- Lime juice.
How to make popcorn chicken
- Bread the chicken: Slice the chicken into bite size chunks. Place the flour, eggs and panko crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Season the breadcrumbs with the spices. Coat the chicken in the flour, then in the beaten egg and finally in the breadcrumbs mixture. For a thicker coating, repeat the egg and breadcrumb steps.
- Cook the chicken: Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in the air fryer basket then drizzle or spray with a few teaspoons of olive oil.
- How long to air fry popcorn chicken: Cook the chicken at 200ºC/390ºF for 15 minutes, turning half way through.
- Make the jalapeño ranch: Finely chop the herbs and place in a bowl. Mix in a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, jalapeños, salt and pepper. Add in a squeeze of honey if you want a little extra sweetness. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Serve: Remove the popcorn chicken from the air fryer then serve with the ranch and lime wedges.
Can I make this ahead?
The popcorn chicken can be breaded and placed on a lined baking tray and placed in the freezer to allow the chicken to freeze solid for at least 6 hours. Transfer the chicken to a zip top bag and freeze for up to 3 months. To cook, air fry or deep fry from frozen until cooked through, crisp and golden. The cooked chicken nuggets can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days and reheated in the air fryer until hot and crisp.
Can I fry popcorn chicken?
Yes, you can deep fry or bake popcorn chicken.
- Frying instructions: To fry the chicken, heat vegetable or canola oil in a pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Fry the chicken in the hot oil in batches until golden brown and crisp, approximately 5-7 minutes. Drain and test a piece of chicken to see if it’s cooked through then remove the fried chicken with a slotted spoon. Allow to drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet or paper towel. Keep the chicken warm in a hot oven while you fry the remaining chicken.
- Baking instructions: Place the chicken on a baking sheet in a single layer then drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake the chicken at 220ºC/430ºF for 20 minutes, flipping half way through, until golden and crisp.
What to serve with popcorn chicken
I love serving crispy chicken with a dip or sauce. Ketchup or BBQ sauce are great for everyday snacking but this jalapeño ranch takes things up a notch. Fries or potato wedges are also a great side dish and if you want something a little healthier, a zesty salad is always a good idea.
Crispy chicken recipes
Air Fryer Recipes
I always use my Instant Pot Vortex Air Fryer when developing air fryer recipes. It is by far the most efficient air fryer I’ve used and the basket size is excellent for a family of 4. This post isn’t sponsored but I am partnered with Instant Pot South Africa.
- 500 g (1lb) chicken breasts
- 1 cup flour
- 2 eggs beaten
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp pepper
For the Jalapeño Ranch
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp Jalapeños chopped
- 2 tsp dill finely chopped
- 1 tsp parsley finely chopped
- 2 tsp chives finely chopped
- 1-2 tsp lime juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Slice the chicken into bite size chunks.
- Place the flour, eggs and panko breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Season the breadcrumbs with the spices.
- Coat the chicken in the flour, then in the beaten egg and finally in the breadcrumbs mixture. For a thicker coating, repeat the egg and breadcrumb steps.
- Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in the basket of an air fryer then drizzle or spray with olive oil.
- Cook the chicken at 200ºC/390ºF for 15 minutes, turning half way through.
- Finely chop the herbs and place in a bowl. Mix in the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, jalapeños, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Remove the popcorn chicken from the air fryer then serve with the ranch and lime wedges.