Take your Popcorn Chicken to crispy perfection! This recipe is easy, with the best tips on turning out crunchy on the outside and juicy chicken nuggets that will surely be a hit with the crowd!
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 addictive!!
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 of the water.
Her method and mine are actually very similar; both our recipes marinate the chicken in buttermilk and use a combination of flour and cornstarch for the coating. What makes her version so much better is the addition of baking powder to the flour mixture. This simple ingredient makes the breading light and airy for the perfect crisp everyone will love!
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 of who gets the last piece!
- Cut– I cut my chicken into about 1-inch pieces because I prefer more meat than breading. If you want more crunch, cut the chicken into smaller pieces. Just make sure to cut the chicken into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.
- Marinate– soak the chicken pieces in a mixture of buttermilk and hot sauce for at least 4 hours or overnight for the best results. This keeps the meat moist and flavorful.
- Coat– Use a mixture of cornstarch, flour, and baking powder for a light and crisp breading. You can season the flour mixture before coating the chicken or toss the chicken nuggets in the seasonings after frying.
- Deep Fry– use enough oil to allow enough room for the chicken pieces to cook freely and evenly, and choose an oil with a neutral taste and high smoke points, such as canola, avocado, safflower, or peanut oil. Heat the oil to the optimal range of 350 F to 375 F; maintaining the correct frying temperature allows the breading to adhere well and keeps the food from absorbing too much grease.
- Drain– do not drain fried foods on paper towels, as the escaping steam will make them soggy. Instead, drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet or in a metal colander set over a bowl.
Use a mesh skimmer to clean the oil between batches and remove any bread coating that has fallen into the oil to keep from darkening the chicken nuggets.
- These crispy chicken nuggets are delicious as an appetizer or main dish. Serve them with carrot and celery sticks for a tasty finger food combo or with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies for a hearty lunch.
- I included a simple honey mustard sauce recipe 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, cream gravy, or any of your favorite sauces.
- As with most fried foods, they’re best enjoyed freshly cooked as the breading tends to get soggy over time.
Storage and reheating instructions
- Refrigerator- allow the chicken to cool completely and transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. To reheat, arrange on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and warm in a 350 F oven to an internal temperature of 165 F.
- Freeze- arrange the chicken in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until frozen. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator completely, arrange on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and warm in a 350 F oven to an internal temperature of 165 F.
- Trim chicken of any excess fat. Rinse 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. Do NOT overcrowd the pan and fry in batches as needed.
- With a slotted spoon, remove from the pan and drain on a wire rack set.
- 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.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”