Chicken/ Finger Food/ Quesadilla side dishes

Homemade Popcorn Chicken

February 24, 2018 (Last Updated: August 31, 2020) by Chris Collins

Homemade Popcorn Chicken couldn’t be easier to make! The key is marinating in buttermilk for that crispy, flaky finish. But warning, these are incredibly moreish!!

Ever wish you could get KFC style popcorn chicken in the comfort of your own home? Yeah, me too. It’s literally my guiltiest pleasure in life and I’m assuming that because you’ve made it here, it could well be yours too. So, here’s the plan. I show you how to make popcorn chicken in the the most mind-blowingly delicious way and we can fall into a food coma and regret not going to the gym together. Sound good? Okay cool. Let’s go…

popcorn chicken falling out of pot on slate with bbq dip blurred in background

Buttermilk Popcorn Chicken

The best popcorn chicken has to be crispy on the outside and soft and juicy in the centre. No brainer right? We’ll get onto the batter in a second but firstly, the absolute key to tender fried chicken is buttermilk. And not just buttermilk, but marinating in buttermilk.

Why marinate popcorn chicken?

By marinating in buttermilk you tenderize the chicken. Once you’ve marinated the chicken in buttermilk it becomes nice and soft, and when you then coat it in the batter it becomes flaky. The flakier the popcorn chicken, the crisper it is. Win win!

How long to marinate popcorn chicken?

If I know I’m making a batch of popcorn chicken I’ll marinate it overnight. Absolute minimum should be an hour. But because the chunks are quite small you want them to flake, not turn to mush. So just to be on the safe side I tend not to marinate for longer than 12ish hours (it’s not going to hurt if it’s longer, but you’ll see what I mean texture-wise).

Do I have to marinate the popcorn chicken in buttermilk?

Short answer – no. But I do HIGHLY recommend it. But you do have to at least coat it to allow the flour the stick.

What can I substitute buttermilk for?

If you don’t have buttermilk on hand you can either make it will milk and some form of acidity (lemon juice, white wine vinegar etc), or you can milk unsweetend yogurt with milk. More on that in the recipe card!

3 step by step photos of how to marinate popcorn chicken in buttermilk

How to make Popcorn Chicken

Alrighty, nice tender chicken breast at the ready, let’s talk crispy batter. Alongside a simple spice mix and a cup of flour, you’ll want to add a secret ingredient:

Baking Powder

I always add a tsp of baking powder in with my fried chicken just to give it that extra crisp. The baking powder reacts with the oil and produces tiny air bubbles, which results in a light and airy batter. Make sure you’re not using baking soda or bi-carb soda!

Few at a time!

Although tedious, I highly recommend recommend dredging the chicken pieces one by one. You really want to coat the chicken as well as you can to create those nice flaky pieces. These parts of what make the chicken extra crispy. Although tempting, do not mix large amounts of the chicken in with the flour. It will make the batter of pasty. No more than 3-4 at a time.

Deep Fried Popcorn Chicken

When it comes to frying the chicken, there’s two things worth keeping in mind:

  1. Oil Temp – Important to make sure your oil is at the right temp before adding the chicken. Too high and the outside will cook before the inside has, too low and the batter will become soggy and break off the chicken. You’re looking for the oil to be around 356F/180C. I recommend using a kitchen thermometer!
  2. Batches – You want to fry the chicken in batches to not only ensure they don’t stick together, but also to ensure the oil temp doesn’t drop too much!

How long to fry popcorn chicken?

It’s dependent on the size of your chicken, but you’re looking for anywhere between 3-5mins. Won’t take long, and the pieces do continue cooking once removed from the oil.

6 step by step photos showing how to make popcorn chicken

Spicy popcorn chicken

Even if you don’t like spice, keep the cayenne pepper in, just reduce the quantity. Cayenne pepper, alongside the smoked paprika, not only injects some gorgeous colour into those popcorn chicken pieces, but it also adds heaps of flavour.

Can you bake popcorn chicken?

You can, and I’ve tried it, but in all honesty it’s just not as crispy and moist in the centre. However if you are watching the calories and wanting to cook in the oven, then I suggest using a flour/egg/breadcrumb combo to try and get the maximum crispiness. Dredge in flour, then egg and finish in breadcrumbs. Similar to how I make my Oven Baked Crispy Chicken Tenders!

What to serve with popcorn chicken?

You could make it a meal and serve with fries, wedges or even cheesy ranch potatoes. Popcorn chicken also goes great with a dip! Here’s some of my faves:

Popcorn Chicken in metal tub wrapped in tartan cloth with BBQ sauce in the background

Just look at the golden crispy goodness!

*wipes drool from face*

The smell, the colour, the TASTE! I should have really eaten before typing this post because i’m now craving a bucket of popcorn chicken all over again.

For another KFC inspired recipe check out my Crispy Chicken Burgers!

For more similar recipes check out these beauties too:

Deep Fried Finger Food Recipes

And there we have it folks! Super easy and insanely delicious homemade popcorn chicken! KFC, you’re sacked! Just kidding please take me back.. Let’s tuck into the full recipe shall we?!

hand dipping 1 piece of popcorn chicken into small pot of bbq sauce

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How To Make Popcorn Chicken (Full Recipe & Video)

Popcorn Chicken in metal tub wrapped in tartan cloth with BBQ sauce in the background

Homemade Popcorn Chicken

Homemade Popcorn Chicken couldn't be easier to make! The key is marinating in buttermilk for that crispy, flaky finish. But warning, these are incredibly moreish!!
4.93 from 13 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer / Finger Food
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
marinating time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings (click & slide): 6
Calories: 145kcal
Cost per serving: Β£2 / $2.50

Equipment:

  • Large Pot & Slotted Spoon (for deep frying)
  • Medium Sized Bowl (for dredging)
  • Small-Medium Sized Mixing Bowl (for marinating)
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • Kitchen Thermometer
  • Wire Rack & Paper Towels

Ingredients (check list):

  • 2x 7oz/200g Chicken Breasts
  • 3-4 cups / 750ml-1litre Oil, suitable for deep frying (vegetable, canola, sunflower)
  • 1 cup / 250ml Buttermilk
  • 1 packed cup / 200g Plain Flour (scoop & level method)
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1.5 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper (see notes)
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 3/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 3/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 3/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano

Instructions:

  • Slice your chicken breasts into small even sized bite size chunks.Β 
  • Combine in a bowl with your Buttermilk, 1 tsp of Salt and 1/2 tsp Black Pepper. Pop cling film over and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Preferably overnight. This will help tenderize the chicken pieces.
  • In a bowl, combine your Flour, Baking Powder, 2nd tsp of Salt, Smoked Paprika, Cayenne Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Oregano and 1/4 tsp Black Pepper.
  • Take a piece of Chicken and coat it the flour mixture. Really try and get as much flour in the cracks of the chicken. You want the chicken to be nice and flakey. This is important. Although it sounds tedious to do it one by one, by this is the best way to get the best coating on the chicken. No more than 3-4 at a time max.
  • Heat up 3-4 cups of oil, depending on depth of pan. You want the temp at around 180C/356F. Grab a tiny piece of leftover flour mixture and drop it in. If it sizzles and slowly rises to the top, you're good to go.
  • In batches, add the chicken and fry for around 3-5mins until golden brown. Place on wire rack over paper towels to drain away excess fat. To test if they're cooked, just take one piece out and slice it through the centre. It should be white and piping hot. If you're not confident with deep frying just test with one piece at the start.
  • Repeat with the rest of your batches, then serve with your favourite dip!

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) Spice -Β 1 tsp of Cayenne Pepper gives a nice gentle kick of spice. If you're not good with spice at all, consider lowering to 1/2 or 1/4 tsp. Just don't leave it out, it offers beautiful flavour!
b) Batches - it's important to fry the chicken in batches for two reasons. The first is so it's not overcrowded, which can increase the chances of your chicken sticking together. The second is that if there's a large amount of chicken plonked in the pan at once, it lowers the temperature of the oil. Because the chicken pieces are small, they don't take long to cook, meaning you don't want them sat in oil for longer than they have to be. If they soak up too much oil over a long period of time they won't be crispy. I find that two batches is usually fine, but no more than 3 for this recipe. You don't want the first batch to be cold.
c) Buttermilk - Buttermilk is important as its slight acidity will help tenderize and soften the chicken breast. It also has the perfect consistency to dredge through the flour. To substitute you can either mix 3/4 cup plain unsweetened yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup of milk (to thin it out). Or, mix 1 cup milk with 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice, let it sit for 10mins then stir in the chicken.

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Homemade Popcorn Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 145 Calories from Fat 51
% Daily Value*
Fat 5.68g9%
Saturated Fat 0.688g3%
Trans Fat 0.023g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.572g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.106g
Cholesterol 30mg10%
Sodium 836mg35%
Potassium 179mg5%
Carbohydrates 9.66g3%
Fiber 0.7g3%
Sugar 0.8g1%
Protein 13.37g27%
Vitamin A 950IU19%
Vitamin C 0.8mg1%
Calcium 30mg3%
Iron 1.1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
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If you plan on making this Popcorn Chicken Recipe be sure to Pin it for later!Β Already made it? Let me know how you got on in the comments and pick up your free ecookbook on the way!

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37 Comments

  • Reply
    Kate
    October 1, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    These are a favorite in my house. Just wondering would it be possible to bake them?

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      October 2, 2020 at 10:41 am

      Thanks Kate! Glad the recipe is enjoyed!! I have actually tried baking these before and you just don’t get the same kind of texture as you do with frying unfortunately. Bit of a hassle, but hopefully worth it! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Troy
    April 18, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    5 stars
    What a great recipe! it was easy to follow and tastes better than KFC πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      April 18, 2020 at 5:31 pm

      Thanks, Troy! Glad it went down well! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Julie
    April 11, 2020 at 12:46 am

    5 stars
    What a hit this recipe was with everyone
    Definitely another one to add yo my favs

  • Reply
    Teresa
    November 1, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    I’m marinading these right now! Can’t wait to try them looks & sounds delicious. I will let you guys know how they turn out

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      November 2, 2019 at 4:50 pm

      That’s awesome! Hope they went down well πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Annie W
    July 20, 2019 at 11:13 am

    5 stars
    Loved this recipe which I served with steamed rice, corn, fried omelette and spring onions . I made a very simple honey soy dipping sauce which I served with sesame seeds sprinkled over the chicken. Cooked the chicken in my wok and kept the batches warm in oven. Loved it thank you

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      July 20, 2019 at 12:46 pm

      Sounds like a great combo Annie! So glad you enjoyed the recipe πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    tessa
    May 16, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    5 stars
    Delicious and a lot easier than I thought, thanks to your step by step directions! I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand, so I used yogurt and sour cream instead – still delicious! I reduced the cayenne pepper a bit for the benefit of my four-year old, but I think I could have probably left it at full. We all loved it… definitely a dangerous recipe! πŸ˜‰

    • Reply
      Chris
      May 16, 2019 at 9:09 pm

      So glad you enjoyed the recipe, Tessa! Great to know it works well with yogurt/sour cream too. Thanks for popping back and leaving your feedback πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Kate
    March 9, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    5 stars
    Chris, this was wonderful! Never knew that those flavors would come out as they did in this beautiful dish! Follow the recipe word for word!!!

    • Reply
      Chris
      March 9, 2019 at 2:22 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it Kate!! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Wren
    October 1, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    4 stars
    Hi,
    just wondering if the 145 calories were meaning for the whole recipe or just one serving? Also this is a really amazing recipe πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Chris
      October 1, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      Hi Wren! Thanks so much! It’s per serving πŸ™‚

      • Reply
        Wren
        October 1, 2018 at 3:26 pm

        how much is one serving?

        • Reply
          Chris
          October 3, 2018 at 11:26 am

          The calories are based on a serving size of 5 pieces of popcorn chicken per person (30 pieces in total shared by 6 people)

  • Reply
    Yousaff
    July 21, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    5 stars
    Yummmm!! Love popcorn chicken and you just made it look even easier to make. I’m saving your recipe to try soon.

    • Reply
      Chris
      July 22, 2018 at 10:56 am

      That’s awesome! Enjoy! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Shahista
    May 20, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    Thank you for the reply. I always get a little nervous making for a larger crowd. Can’t wait to make them for my son’s second birthday tomorrow!!

  • Reply
    Shahista
    May 20, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Can you please tell me how many chicken breast, buttermilk, and flour I will need to make for 20 people? Thank you. Each person will probaly have 5 bites. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Chris
      May 20, 2018 at 6:48 pm

      Hi Shahista!

      For the original recipe I used 2 chicken breasts (150g/5oz each), which makes around 30 pieces. Based on your guess that people will eat 5 pieces each, the recipe as it is would feed 6 people. In such case, I recommend you quadruple the recipe so it comfortable feeds 20 people (better to have some leftover than not enough right?).

      Therefore you would need:

      8 Chicken Breasts
      4 cups of flour (500g)
      & 2 cups buttermilk will be plenty (500ml)

      Remember to adjust the herbs and spices accordingly too (x4 each measurement).

      Give me a shout if you’ve got any more questions, if not then enjoy! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    March 24, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    If ever there is a chance of leftovers with this recipe, do you know if they freeze and reheat well?

    • Reply
      Chris
      March 25, 2018 at 11:57 am

      Hi Cynthia! Unfortunately I can’t answer this with certainty as I’ve never froze and reheated this particular recipe (there’s never leftovers!). I do try and avoid reheating things like this as the batter is never as crispy and the chicken won’t be as tender second time round. However, I am against food waste, so feel free to use your best judgement and safely freeze & reheat any leftovers as necessary. Let me know how you get on πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Darlene @ Dip Recipe Creations
    February 25, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    5 stars
    I love cooking with buttermilk! These look absolutely amazing and much easier than I would have guessed.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 25, 2018 at 9:25 pm

      Buttermilk makes the world go round!!

  • Reply
    Molly Kumar
    February 25, 2018 at 8:44 am

    5 stars
    Yummmm!! Love popcorn chicken and you just made it look even easier to make. I’m saving your recipe to try soon.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 25, 2018 at 10:05 am

      Awesome! Enjoy πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Valentina
    February 25, 2018 at 5:58 am

    5 stars
    You’ve officially made me hungry, and I’ve already had dinner and dessert! I am loving the spices you’ve mixed into the flour and the crispness looks perfect! Happy to have landed on your site — I looked around and the recipes look delicious and it has a very fun vibe. πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 25, 2018 at 10:05 am

      Thank you for your lovely words!! Hey, popcorn chicken could be a second dessert right!?

  • Reply
    Hannah
    February 25, 2018 at 2:43 am

    5 stars
    Way better than popcorn! πŸ˜€ I love it, it looks so crunchy and tasty!

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 25, 2018 at 10:04 am

      So much better than popcorn!!

  • Reply
    Sandi
    February 25, 2018 at 2:26 am

    5 stars
    These look so good. I love all of your step by step directions.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 25, 2018 at 10:04 am

      Thanks, Sandi! Glad they’re helpful πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Emily | OatandSesame
    February 24, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    5 stars
    Who can resist popcorn chicken! These are great tips for getting that perfect crispy, flaky coating. I can imagine that these are dangerous!!

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 25, 2018 at 10:03 am

      Oh so dangerous!!

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