Baked popcorn chicken is extra simple to prepare and healthier than deep-fried alternatives. Marinating chicken in a spiced buttermilk mixture is the secret to ultra tender, flavorful popcorn chicken. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, don’t worry, there’s a substitute in the recipe below! Jump to the Easy Baked Popcorn Chicken Recipe or read on to see our tips for making it.
The first time we made popcorn chicken, it absolutely lived up to its name. We pretty much inhaled the crispy on the outside, tender on the inside bites of chicken. Let me show you how to make them.
Making popcorn chicken
In our photos, we’ve used chicken breast, but chicken thighs are an excellent alternative. In fact, chicken thighs will produce a slightly more tender, juicy result.
As I mentioned above, it’s the marinating that really makes the flavor of the chicken pop. Here’s what we use:
- Buttermilk is tangy and acidic, which helps to tenderize the chicken. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own by mixing milk (dairy or non-dairy) with lemon juice or vinegar (the exact measurements are in the recipe below).
- Salt and pepper is crucial, don’t skimp on the seasoning here.
- Dried thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder add extra flavor.
We marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes. You can marinate the chicken in the fridge overnight, but not much longer since it will start to change the texture of the chicken.
For the breading, you have a few options:
- Corn flakes add a light and crispy exterior, just crush them by hand.
- Potato chips are amazing when used as breading for chicken — here’s our easy chicken nuggets recipe that proves that to be true. Potato chips are an excellent option for gluten-free popcorn chicken (just check the packaging first).
- Breadcrumbs are perfect for popcorn chicken. I like panko breadcrumbs, but regular breadcrumbs work, too.
The chicken bakes for about 20 minutes. You can either bake them on a baking sheet or if you have one, try setting an oven-safe cooling rack into the baking sheet. This will lift the chicken up off of the baking sheet and allow more air to circulate around the chicken. We use this method when baking bacon.
More easy chicken recipes
- Crispy Baked Buffalo Wings
- Your New Favorite Chicken Salad
- Ridiculously Easy Homemade Chicken Nuggets
- Spiced and Fried Chicken
Easy Baked Popcorn Chicken
Baked popcorn chicken is extra simple to prepare and much healthier than deep-fried alternatives. Use chicken breast or chicken thighs for this. Substitutes for the buttermilk and breading are in the notes section below.
You Will Need
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, optional
4 cups corn flakes or potato chips
Non-stick cooking spray or olive oil
1Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. If you have one that fits, set an oven-safe cooling rack inside the baking sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray (this helps the chicken become more crispy).
2In a large bowl, combine the chicken, buttermilk, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. Or cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. Drain very well.
3To make the breading, add the corn flakes (or potato chips) to a large resealable bag, close it, and then beat the bag until the corn flakes are finely crushed. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and then shake until well mixed.
4Working in batches, place the chicken into the seasoned breading, tossing and pressing as necessary to coat. Place the breaded chicken onto the prepared baking sheet and spray with nonstick cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil.
5Place into the oven and bake, turning the chicken halfway through, until crisp, golden brown, and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- To substitute breadcrumbs, use about 2 cups.
- To substitute buttermilk, combine 2 cups of milk (dairy or non-dairy milk) with 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar.
- Nutrition Facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.