Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken is ready in only 30 minutes and makes the perfect main for family dinners or party appetizer! Pair with a variety of sauces for the perfect finish.
Easy chicken dinners are a favorite weekday meal for my family. These Air Fryer Chicken Bites are breaded, then air fried resulting in a crispy texture. The mild flavor can be paired with a variety of sauces for the perfect bite.
Popcorn chicken makes the perfect party appetizer perfect for both kids and adults. This recipe is ready in only 30 minutes and can even be frozen for a quick lunch. If you are in a real pinch for time, I have included instructions for heating store-bought popcorn chicken (like Tyson) in the Ninja Foodi Air Fryer as well.
Chicken: I prefer to use boneless skinless chicken breasts for this recipe, but chicken thighs can be swapped in as well. The cook and prep are the exact same for both, but the taste and texture will be slightly different.
Milk: Any milk will do, and you could even use some half and half or heavy cream if you have that on hand. I like to add a bit more flavor and add salt, pepper, and a bit of hot sauce to me milk and egg mixture as well.
Spices: I use a combination of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and Lawry's Seasoned Salt which I think give the popcorn chicken lots of flavor, but still neutral to go with a variety of sauces. If you want a spicier breading then I suggest you add in some cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes.
Why You'll Love It!
Family Favorite: This will be a hit with both kids and adults
Versatile: Works great as a main dish or appetizer
Quick and Easy: Ready in Under 30 Minutes
- Combine egg, milk, hot sauce (is using) in a small bowl and whisk to combine. I also add in a pinch of salt and pepper for added flavor but this is optional. Once whisked set aside.
- Combine the half the flour, panko, bread crumbs and all the dried spices in a large bowl and stir until everything is well distributed. In a small separate bowl add the remaining flour.
- Use a large knife and cutting board to chop the chicken breasts into about 1 inch cubes.
Breading the Chicken
- Take one chicken bite at a time and place it in the small bowl of flour and evenly coat.
- Take the same piece of chicken and then dredge it in the egg mixture letting the excess drip off.
- Next, take the chicken and then coat it in the breadcrumbs mix.
- Place the breaded chicken on a plate and repeat steps 1-3 until all the chicken is breaded.
Freezing Popcorn Chicken
I love making a big batch of chicken at one time, then freezing it for a quick lunch or dinner for my kids. To freeze homemade popcorn chicken, place cooled and cooked chicken in a large freezer bag and store for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, reheat in your air fryer or oven.
Air Frying Chicken
- In a preheated air fryer (I use my Ninja Foodi), mist the basket insert then place the popcorn chicken in. Be sure not to crowd the chicken (I usually need to cook mine in two batches). Mist the tops and sides of the chicken generously with olive oil, then close the lid.
- Air fry the chicken bites at 390 degrees for 14 minutes flipping and re-misting with oil halfway through. Once finished remove and serve with sauce of choice and cook the second batch if needed.
This air fryer chicken recipe has a neutral and crispy breading that can pair with a variety of sauces. Some classics include ranch dressing, ketchup, BBQ sauce, honey mustard, or Buffalo Sauce. For a more adventurous choice you could go with teriyaki sauce, chimichurri sauce, a cheese sauce, avocado ranch, or a chipotle mayo.
Be Sure to Mist: It is super important that you mist the breading of the chicken bites and the basket of the air fryer. Misting the chicken will help the breading get crispy and make sure there is no raw flour spots left. You will want to mist the chicken with olive oil before air frying and after you flip it.
Preheat the Air Fryer: Preheating your air fryer helps the chicken cook faster and helps the breading get nice and crispy. To preheat your air fryer use the preheat setting if yours has one, or run the air fryer empty for 5 minutes at the temperature you wish it to reach.
Flip Halfway: Just like everything you put in an air fryer, you will want to flip the chicken bites halfway through. When flipping be carful not to tear the breading with the tongs and be sure to mist the chicken with additional olive oil.
Helpful Kitchen Tools
An Olive Oil Mister works great for saturating the breading of the chicken. It is also safe to use with your air fryer unlike PAM.
I love my Ninja Foodi Air Fryer and use it for all of my air frying and pressure cooking needs. Mine is a 6.5 quart and I recommend this size for a family of 2-4 people.
Popcorn chicken is small pieces of chopped up chicken that are breaded then traditionally fried, but can be baked or air fried. The name refers to the look of the chicken once it is cooked, because it resembles little pieces of popcorn.
Yes, you will want to flip or toss chicken halfway though in any air fryer to help the chicken cook evenly. This also ensures that any breading on the chicken will get crispy on both sides.
Yes, raw meats of all varieties can be cooked raw in an air fryer. Additionally, both breaded or non breaded meats as well. You will want to be sure to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure the meat is cooked through.
If you are wanting to skip the homemade popcorn chicken and instead just heat store-bought precooked chicken then you can absolutely in you air fryer. Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken is ready in only 30 minutes and makes the perfect main for family dinner or party appetizer! Pair with a variety of sauces for the perfect finish.
Store leftover chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. For best results I recommend reheating in an air fryer or oven, so the popcorn chicken will crisp up.
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Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken
- Preheat your air fryer to 390 degrees F. *See notes about preheating tips.
- While preheating, add the milk, egg and hot sauce (optional) and a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine. You could also add a pinch of salt and pepper in for additional flavor. Set aside.
- In a sperate small bowl add half of the flour (¼ cup) and set aside.
- In a large bowl add the remaining flour, breadcrumbs, panko and all the dried spices and stir until well distributed. Set aside.
- Chop the chicken breasts into one inch cubes trying your best to make each piece the same size. Once the chicken is cubed begin breading.
- One at a time dip the chicken into the bowl of just flour and coat all sides. Next dredge the same chicken bite in the egg mixture and let the excess drip off. Next, take the chicken piece and coat in the breadcrumb mixture pressing down so the breading sticks well. Place the breaded chicken on a plate and repeat this process until all the popcorn chicken is breaded.
- When ready to air fry, mist the basket of your air fryer with olive oil then place the chicken in not letting any of them touch (I usually do two batches). GENEROUSLY mist the sides and tops of the popcorn chicken with olive oil then close the lid.
- Air fry at 390 degrees for 14 minutes flipping the chicken halfway and re-misting with olive oil. Once the chicken is cooked though and crispy, remove from air fryer with tongs and serve warm with sauce of choice. Cook additional batches if needed.
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