Homemade Popcorn Chicken

Popcorn chicken is the ultimate comfort food – crispy, juicy, and always a crowd-pleaser. Kids love it, and let’s be honest, so do the adults! Our easy, homemade version is a winner. Baked and Air Fryer instructions are included.

Dipping Homemade Popcorn Chicken into ketchup

Get ready to make popcorn chicken your new go-to for game day snacks, easy dinners, or anytime those cravings hit. Serve with classic Honey Mustard, BBQ Sauce, Ranch, or Homemade Ketchup.

The secret to extra tender, flavorful popcorn chicken is a spiced buttermilk marinade (and don’t worry, there’s a handy substitute if you don’t have any buttermilk!).

How to Make Popcorn Chicken

We use chicken breast in our photos, but chicken thighs are fantastic, too! They’ll be even juicier and more tender. The real flavor secret is in the marinade. Here’s what we use:

  • Buttermilk: Its tangy flavor tenderizes our chicken. No buttermilk? No problem! You can make your own with milk and lemon juice or vinegar (see the recipe for details).
  • Salt and Pepper: Don’t be shy. These are essential for good flavor!
  • Dried Thyme, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder: A simple, tasty seasoning.

Marinating Time: At least 30 minutes is key. You can go overnight, but not any longer.

A plate of Popcorn Chicken with crispy coating that was baked

Breading the Chicken

You have a few choices for what you use to bread the chicken. Here are three options:

  • Cornflakes: Light and super crispy – just crush them by hand. (We used cornflakes in our photos.)
  • Potato Chips: Surprisingly delicious! A great gluten-free choice (check the label). We use them for Homemade Chicken Nuggets.
  • Breadcrumbs: Classic and perfect. Panko breadcrumbs are extra crispy, but homemade breadcrumbs work, too.

Once you’ve chosen your breading, you’ll dip the marinated chicken into it, and then you are ready to bake or air fry.

Baked Popcorn Chicken

Baking takes about 20 minutes in a 400° F oven.

Breaded popcorn chicken ready to bake or air fry

For the crispest results, use a baking sheet with an oven-safe cooling rack on top. This lets hot air circulate all around the chicken—just like when we bake bacon!

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

Place chicken pieces in a single layer in your air fryer basket and spray them with cooking oil.

Air fry at 390°F for 4 minutes. Shake the basket, spray lightly again, then air fry for another 3 to 5 minutes (or until golden brown).

Make Ahead Tips

Let the popcorn chicken cool, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Reheat spread onto a baking sheet in a preheated 350°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

To freeze homemade popcorn chicken, allow it to cool, then spread it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper so that the chicken pieces are not touching each other. Freeze until hard (about 2 hours). Transfer to freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to 3 months.

Dipping popcorn chicken into ketchup

Homemade Popcorn Chicken

  • PREP
  • COOK

This homemade popcorn chicken is crispy, juicy, and healthier than take-out when baked (or air-fried). It’s a crowd-pleaser for the whole family, and you can use chicken breasts or thighs.

Need buttermilk or breading substitutes? Check the notes section. Baked and Air Fryer instructions are included!

6 servings

You Will Need

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 cups low-fat buttermilk

1 ½ 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

Cooking spray or olive oil


  • Marinate Chicken
  • 1In a large bowl, combine the chicken, buttermilk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

    2Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight in the refrigerator.

  • Bread the Chicken
  • 1Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

    2Place cornflakes (or potato chips) in a large resealable bag and crush them finely.

    3Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Shake the bag to mix.

    4Remove pieces of chicken from the marinade, shaking them lightly. Toss the chicken into the seasoned breading, pressing to coat well.

    5Arrange the breaded chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet, spraying them with cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil.

  • Baking Popcorn Chicken
  • 1Preheat your oven to 400°F.

    2For extra crispy chicken, place an oven-safe cooling rack onto the baking sheet and spray it with nonstick cooking spray.

    3Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through for even browning. The chicken is done when it’s crispy, golden brown, and cooked through.

  • Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken
  • 1Place the breaded chicken pieces in your air fryer basket in a single layer. Spray them lightly with cooking spray.

    2Air fry at 390°F for 4 minutes. Shake the basket, spray lightly again, then air fry for another 3 to 5 minutes (or until golden brown).

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.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1/6 of the recipe / Calories 220 / Total Fat 3.3g / Saturated Fat 1g / Cholesterol 72.2mg / Sodium 916.5mg / Carbohydrate 21.4g / Dietary Fiber 1g / Total Sugars 5.8g / Protein 25.7g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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1 comment… Leave a Review
  • Anu September 29, 2022, 10:24 am

    I am new to cooking . I am going to try the Easy Baked Popcorn Chicken today. Wish me good luck !


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