Popcorn Chicken made with a secret ingredient for super light and crisp texture. Served with honey mustard or your choice of dipping sauce, they’re absolutely addicting!
I first posted this recipe in August 2015 but last weekend, I went to a potluck and one of my girlfriends brought with her a bucketful of popcorn chicken. Everyone at the party was
fighting over beelining for these chicken nuggets, they were gone within 5 minutes of her setting them on the table. Moist and flavorful on the inside and light and crisp on the outside, they were absolutely addicting!
I wouldn’t have been much of a food blogger if I didn’t chase her down the whole evening for the recipe, right? Of course, I did! I love discovering new ways of making family favorites. When you think you have something good, someone comes along and does it better. My version was delicious but I have to concede, she totally blew mine out the water.
Her method and mine are actually very similar. We both marinate the chicken in buttermilk, we both use a combination of flour and cornstarch for the breading, and we both follow proper deep-frying techniques (350 F hot oil, not overcrowding the pan, etc etc). What makes her version extra light and crisp is that she adds baking powder to the flour mixture! Isn’t it amazing how you can turn a recipe around with just one ingredient?
Popcorn chicken is one of the easiest things you can prepare for a light lunch or after school (after work!) snack for the family. Tender and flavorful on the inside and golden and crisp on the outside, it’s a battle who gets the last piece!
Tips of How to Make Popcorn Chicken:
- Marinate the chicken in a mixture of buttermilk and hot sauce for at least 4 hours or overnight for best results. This keeps the meat moist and flavorful.
- Use a mixture of corn starch, flour and baking powder for a breading that’s light and crisp.
- Heat the oil to the optimal range of 350 F to 375 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, dip a wooden stick into the oil to check for temperature. The oil should bubble wildly around the stick. Use oil with high smoke points such as canola or peanut oil. Do not overcrowd the pan and fry in batches as needed. Make sure there is enough room for the chicken pieces to cook freely. Heat the oil back to 350 F before adding the next batch. Correct temperature allows the breading to adhere well and keeps the food from absorbing too much oil.
- Contrary to common practice, do not drain fried foods on paper towels as this will make them soggy. Instead, drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet or in a metal colander set over a bowl.
- I cut my chicken into about 1-inch pieces as I prefer a more meat than breading ratio. If you want more crunch, cut chicken into smaller pieces. Just make to cut the chicken into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.
I included a recipe for a simple honey mustard sauce you can easily whip up in a cinch. It’s my go-to dip for most things but you can certainly use Ranch, BBQ sauce, Srichacha mayo, plum sauce or any of your favorite dipping sauces. Or, skip them altogether. This popcorn chicken is so good, it doesn’t need a lot of help to be yummy. 🙂
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- canola or peanut oil
For Honey Mustard Sauce
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Trim chicken of any excess fat. Wash and drain well. Cut into 1-inch pieces.
- In a large bowl, combine buttermilk and hot sauce. Stir until blended. Add chicken, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain chicken.
- In a bowl, combine flour, corn starch, baking powder, Cajun seasoning, and salt. Whisk until well-dispersed.
- Add chicken pieces and with hands, toss until fully coated.
- In a thick-bottomed pan over medium heat, heat about 2-inches deep of oil. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until golden, crisp and cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove from pan and drain on a wire rack set. Do NOT overcrowd the pan, fry in batches as needed. Serve immediately with honey mustard sauce or dipping sauce of choice.
For the Honey Mustard Sauce
- In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, honey and lemon juice. Stir until smooth and well blended.