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Air fryer popcorn chicken is a lighter and healthier way to enjoy bite-size, crispy, flavorful chicken that is homemade thanks to the air fryer. This popcorn chicken recipe is gluten-free, kid-friendly, crunchy, and so irresistible! Plus it only takes 15 minutes!
Who doesn’t love crispy, crunchy popcorn chicken? My kids go crazy for it and it is always sure to be a hit with even the adults. Sometimes I do take the shortcut and buy the frozen, premade store-bought versions but now, thanks to the air fryer you can make them from scratch in literally minutes.
What is popcorn chicken?
Popcorn chicken is bite-size pieces of crispy breaded, cooked chicken that you can eat like popcorn. It is usually deep fried in oil but in this recipe we are making it from scratch, using only a little bit of oil and cooking it in the air fryer. It is not only crazy delicious but also packed with protein (about 30 grams per serving)!
This easy air fryer recipe is just another way to enjoy juicy cooked chicken breast. Some of my other favorite air fryer chicken recipes are this air fryer breaded chicken breast, air fryer chicken nuggets, and these amazing air fryer chicken tenders.
Why you’ll love this air fryer popcorn chicken recipe
- It is a healthier way to enjoy popcorn chicken
- Low carb!
- Easy to make in under 20 minutes!
- Crunchy, crispy bites of chicken that everyone will go crazy for!
Ingredients you will need
- Chicken breast – boneless skinless chicken breast works best in this recipe.
- Gluten-free panko – I used a seasoned version for even more flavor but plain works fine too.
- Almond flour – blanched almond flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour will work
- Grated parmesan cheese – make sure to use finely grated parmesan cheese. You also can use minced cashews for a dairy-free version.
- Cajun seasoning – this adds so much flavor and it’s so good, use store-bought or make your own.
- Buttermilk – you can use store-bought or make your own, see recipe notes below for how to make your own.
- Olive oil – extra virgin olive oil. You only need a little bit to get the popcorn chicken nice and crispy.
- Salt and pepper – to enhance all of the amazing flavors.
How to make popcorn chicken in the air fryer
- Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F.
- Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces – about 1-inch pieces.
- Dredge each piece of chicken in the buttermilk then in the breading, pressing it into the chicken. Then place the coated popcorn chicken onto a lined baking sheet or plate.
- Spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray and place the chicken into the basket in a single layer. Spray the chicken with more cooking spray and cook it for 7-9 minutes. Once it is done, remove the basket from the air fryer and let the chicken sit in the basket for 2-3 minutes to crisp up. You can do this in batches if you are using a smaller air fryer. Per the recipe card below.
- Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce or ketchup.
- Cut the chicken into smaller pieces than chicken nuggets. You want them to be bite-size one-inch pieces.
- Don’t skip adding olive oil to the breading. This is what gives this air fryer popcorn chicken that crispy, crunchy outer layer.
- Space the chicken apart in the air fryer so that none of the pieces of chicken are touching. This will ensure it gets crispy on all sides.
- Check the chicken as it cooks and adjusts the time and temperature as needed.
- Let the chicken rest in the air fryer for a few minutes after it has cooked so that it gets even more crispy. The chicken may not appear super crispy right away but it definitely gets crispier as it cools down.
- To make your own buttermilk: Combine 1 cup of any type of milk in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Let that sit for a few minutes until it thickens.
How long does it take to cook popcorn chicken in the air fryer?
Since popcorn chicken is bite-size, it cooks fairly quickly in the air fryer.
The time and temperature for cooking chicken in the air fryer will vary based on your air fryer and what size you cut your chicken. I cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and I used 2 different air fryers to test this recipe.
First, the Cosori air fryer took about 9 minutes at 400 degrees F to get the chicken just right. The other air fryer I used was the Instant Vortex air fryer and it took about 7 minutes at 390 degrees F to cook the popcorn chicken. Both worked great!
The best way to serve this chicken is with your favorite dipping sauce or ketchup. Our favorite dipping sauce is similar to Chick-Fil-A sauce which is made by combining some mayo with mustard, BBQ sauce, honey, and some salt and pepper. It’s so good!
You could also serve it with some air fryer fries, sweet potato chips, or even on top of a kale salad. So many options!
Boneless skinless chicken breast is what I used in this recipe. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs would also work.
No, you do not need to use almond flour. You can use all-purpose flour in place of almond flour. Just make sure to use gluten-free if you need to keep this recipe gluten-free.
You can easily reheat the popcorn chicken right in the air fryer at 360 degrees F for 3-4 minutes.
After you have cooked this chicken you can store it after it has cooled in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
I do not recommend freezing this chicken since it will get soggy and will not become crispy when you reheat it.
More Healthy Chicken Recipes
- Air Fryer Whole Chicken
- Baked Chicken Cutlets
- Air Fryer Chicken Fajitas
- Instant Pot Shredded Buffalo Chicken
- Air Fryer BBQ Chicken
Other Delicious Air Fryer Recipes
- Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp
- Air Fryer Salmon
- Zucchini Patties With Sweet Potato
- Air Fryer Ham
- Air Fryer Chicken Sausage and Veggies
Did you try this air fryer popcorn chicken recipe? If you did then please leave a rating and comment below. I would love to hear from you!Print
Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken – 15 Minutes
- Total Time: 19 minutes
- Yield: 30 pieces of popcorn chicken 1x
- Diet: Gluten Free
- 2 lbs chicken breast – cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup gluten free panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup almond flour or gluten free all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
- 1.5 tablespoons cajun seasoning
- 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
- Prepare the chicken – dry the chicken breasts with a clean paper towel and cut it into 1-inch pieces.
- Add the buttermilk to a shallow bowl and season it with some salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a separate shallow bowl, combine the panko with the almond flour, parmesan cheese, cajun seasoning, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil into the bowl with the breading mixture and use your hands to mix it in with the breading pressing it together so that all of the breading gets coated in the olive oil. This will help get the popcorn chicken crispy when it cooks.
- Set out a baking sheet and line it with some parchment paper or you can use a large clean plate. Then dip each piece of chicken in the buttermilk and then in the breading, pressing the breading into each piece of chicken as you dredge it. Then place each coated piece of chicken onto the baking sheet or plate. Continue until you have coated all of the chicken.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F and spray the air fryer basket with olive oil spray. Working in batches, place several of the popcorn chicken into the air fryer basket in an even layer making sure none of them are touching. Close and cook for 7-9 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through the cooking time. Remove the basket from the air fryer and let the chicken sit in the basket for a few minutes. This will help it crisp up even more. Then remove the chicken from the air fryer basket and set it on a platter or plate. Continue until you have cooked all of the chicken. Note: I was able to do this in 2 batches. Chicken is fully cooked and safe to eat once it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Serve warm with ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce.
- Make sure you cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. I cut them into about 1-inch pieces, maybe a little smaller.
- You can use gluten free all purpose flour in place of the almond flour if you need to keep this recipe nut-free.
- To make your own buttermilk: combine 1 cup of your preferred milk in a bowl with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Let that sit on the counter for 5-7 minutes until it thickens like buttermilk.
- You can store this popcorn chicken after it has been cooked and cooled in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It can be easily reheated right in the air fryer at 360 degrees F for 2-3 minutes.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 9 minutes
- Category: Healthy Dinner Ideas
- Method: Air Fryer
- Cuisine: American
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