Air fried popcorn chicken gives you all the great fried popcorn chicken you love without all the fat and grease. This air fryer popcorn chicken is crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. It's perfect for game day, backyard bashes, or just a special weeknight dinner treat.
I eat a lot of chicken. Like...a lot. But that's just because it's so versatile to make and cook with. I also love that chicken is moist and tender and really pairs up perfectly with a lot of spices as well.
This is why I'm always looking for new ways and ideas to cook chicken. I've tried different breast and thigh recipes, chicken dips, tenderloin recipes, and more. Recently, I discovered something I really, really love—popcorn chicken.
What I've found is that not only is popcorn chicken fun to eat, but it's a lot of fun to cook with, too!
This simple air fryer popcorn chicken recipe does the PERFECT job of crisping the outside while leaving the inside tender and juicy. These are about a MILLION times better than anything you'll get at the store or in the drive-thru.
You can make these a bit bigger in size as well, almost like a chicken tender, if you want. But bite-sized chicken bites are some of my favorite snacks.
These delicious, crispy chicken bites are so good, and they're perfect for almost anything. They'd be the perfect addition to any potluck, family get-together, a gameday eat, or just a tasty weeknight dinner. I've been doing that last one a lot lately. Mmmm. So good.
The Short History of Popcorn Chicken
Fried popcorn chicken is a very, very new food creation. In fact, it's only about 30 years old. Popcorn chicken is synonymous with frying because that's exactly what it was—fried.
These delicious little fried bites of chicken were created in 1992 by a Kentucky Fried Chicken "food technologist" named Gene Gagliardi. It was test-marketed in March of 1992 and then launched nationwide in the USA in September of that same year. Over the years, their popcorn chicken was discontinued and then reintroduced in different iterations several times.
I'm not sure why it never became a staple. After all, everyone seems to love popcorn chicken! Whatever the reason, you may not always be able to find it at KFC, but thanks to this air fryer popcorn chicken recipe, you can make it at home whenever you want!
Air Fried Popcorn Chicken Recipe
This air fryer popcorn chicken has everything we love about the classic oil-fried version. It's crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, and a ton of fun to eat. Because it's made in the air fryer, you get the added bonuses of less grease, which is good for you, and less grease on your surfaces, which is good for your kitchen.
It's a fantastic recipe that is just as good as the original and so much faster and healthier. What's not to love?
Air Fried Popcorn Chicken Ingredients
You don't need a ton of ingredients to make this simple chicken meal. Aside from buying the chicken tenderloins for this recipe, you most likely have every ingredient you need to make this delicious air fryer popcorn shrimp in your kitchen right now.
Just gather up the listed ingredients below to get started.
- 1 lb chicken tenderloins
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ cup marinara sauce, for dipping or another wonderful dip
- Fresh parsley, garnish
With all of these spices, you know that the flavor and taste is going to be good!
Making the Air Fried Popcorn Chicken
The recipe for these delicious chicken bites is as easy as the ingredient list. You'll find all the info in the recipe card later on, but the highlights are simple. You'll mostly be dredging, dipping, placing, and air frying. That's it. It's a super simple recipe that anyone can make.
Condiments for Air Fried Popcorn Chicken
This really just depends on who you ask. Fried chicken generally pairs well with just about any kind of condiment or dipping sauce you can think of. That's why there are so many available at restaurants.
But if you're asking me, I have a list! I love to dip chicken into different condiments and sauces because it's yet again another super simple way to change up the flavor of the chicken recipe. From tangy to sweet to cool or rich, condiments and dipping sauces just add an extra layer of amazingness to any fried chicken recipe, in my opinion.
Some simple dipping options for chicken include:
- Marinara Sauce
- Sour cream
- Nacho cheese
- BBQ sauce
- Hot sauce
And my list could go on and on! If you have a question about whether or not chicken should be dipped into something, give it a taste test and try! The answer is most likely a resounding yes.
General Air Fryer Chicken Info
The magic of this recipe comes from the air fryer, so it's important to understand how cooking food works in this amazing kitchen gadget.
Do you add oil to an air fryer?
There are some recipes that will have you add in oil to cook in your air fryer but it will be a very small amount. This recipe, however, does not have any oil added at all.
You will be spraying the basket with a spray, but that's it. Talk about a heart-healthy way to get some fried goodness in your life.
Do I have to flip food in the air fryer?
This is actually a misconception by a lot of people. Even though the air fryer does a great job at circulating the hot air and cooking the food, you still want to flip the food items to make certain that they're cooked all the way and cooked the same.
But cooks rejoice! Even with the added step of flipping the food to make sure it comes out perfectly, it's still far, far less work than any other method of getting a crispy, fried coating of deliciousness onto your food.
Tips for Making Air Fried Garlic Parmesan Popcorn Chicken
This air fried popcorn chicken recipe is very straightforward. There aren't any bells and whistles to this one (other than the air fryer, of course). That being said, there are a few things to point out that will help you make the best crispy chicken bites possible with this one.
Setting up your dredging station
Since you're going to be making the outer crust for this chicken recipe, you're going to want to set up your dredging station in a way that works for you. Put your bowls in order of how you're going to use them. That way, once you use each one, you can then lay in the air fryer basket and move back through the line.
This will save you so much cleaning up time!
Don't forget to preheat your oven
This is key! The air fryer needs to preheat so that it's ready to crisp up the chicken right away!
Allow space between the pieces of popcorn chicken
Remember to not overcrowd the air fryer basket. (also make certain to spray it first with a nonstick cooking spray!) The chicken should be in a single layer so that it crisps up. Do not stack or overlap the chicken.
How to Tell When the Air Fried Popcorn Chicken is Done
If you're worried that the chicken isn't cooked all the way through, the easiest thing to do is to get a meat thermometer and check the internal temperature. For the chicken to be considered cooked and safe to eat, the meat thermometer should read 165 degrees. Anything less than that will need to be cooked longer.
I'm a big fan of meat thermometers because I don't like my meat overcooked. I want juicy, tender meat, not a dried up piece of leather, so I cook to the internal temperature, and that's that. Which is easy to do with a meat thermometer.
Serving Air Fried Popcorn Chicken
So what can you serve with this air fryer popcorn chicken recipe? The answer is simple, my foodie friends.
All the things! Since this recipe has a bit of an appetizer feel to it, you can easily pair this recipe with french fries, fried potatoes or even fried okra.
If you're wanting to have a healthier side dish option, pair these simple chicken recipes with salad, steamed veggies or a nice bowl of homemade soup.
As you can see, side dish options are just another great benefit of eating chicken! It pairs up with just about anything that you're craving or have on hand.
Storing Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken
You can store this chicken in the fridge in an airtight container for up to four days. After that, you'll have to throw out any leftovers. The breading on this popcorn chicken doesn't lend itself to freezing, so make sure you eat it all in that time period. I know, I know. It's tough, but you can do it.
Reheating the Leftovers
If you're lucky enough to have any of this chicken recipe leftover, there are a couple of ways that you can reheat it. The first is to put it back in your air fryer for a few moments of time. Just be careful and pay attention so that you don't burn it.
A microwave is also a fast option for reheating, too.
Just keep in mind that the chicken isn't going to be crispy if reheated in the microwave.
If you're wanting to reheat and have that same crispy outer crust, you're going to want to reheat in the air fryer or low and slow in the oven.
Try This Air Fried Popcorn Chicken for Yourself
Air fried popcorn chicken is one of the easiest and tastiest chicken treats you'll ever make. You can easily make this simple popcorn chicken recipe as an appetizer or a main dish. Whatever you decided to use these crispy little bites for, one thing is for certain, this is going to be the start of a very tasty friendship!
So gather your ingredients, fire up your air fryer,and get ready to enjoy the most delicious little fried bites of chicken heaven you've ever had. I'm certain you and your family will love them.
More Chicken Recipes to Try
- Air Fried Nashville Hot Chicken Strips
- Best Fried Chicken and Waffles Recipe
- KFC Mashed Potato Bowl Copycat Recipe (KFC Chicken Bowl)
- Air Fryer Fried Chicken Thighs
- Ramen Chicken Noodle Soup
Air Fried Garlic Parmesan Popcorn Chicken
- Get out and measure all of your ingredients.
Prepare the dredging station
- In one bowl, stir flour, parmesan, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and paprika.
- In the third bowl, combine dried parsley, panko, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
- In another bowl, place eggs.
- Add crushed garlic.
- Whisk until combined.
- In the third bowl, combine panko, and
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- and dried parsley,
- Stir until blended.
- Cut tenderloins into ½” chunks.
- Toss to coat in flour,
- then dredge in eggs.
- Allow excess egg to drip off.
- Finally, roll in the bowl with panko bread crumbs
- until evenly coated.
- Preheat air fryer to 400*
- Arrange popcorn chicken in the air fryer basket in a single layer. Lightly spray with canola oil. Cook for 4 minutes.
- Flip and spray lightly with oil again. Cook for an additional 4 minutes.
- Serve with marinara sauce as dip or another dip and garnish with fresh parsley. Enjoy every bite!