Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken is simple, delicious, and perfect for the whole family. With just a few ingredients, you’ll have crispy homemade chicken bites that make an easy dinner or crowd-pleasing appetizer!

For more easy Chicken Recipes, be sure to check out my Crockpot Salsa Chicken, Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole, and Crockpot Chicken Alfredo.

a basket of popcorn chicken pieces.

Popcorn chicken is one of my kids’ favorite meals. It’s crispy, flavorful, and easy to make, too. While I fully admit to loving the ease of a pre-made frozen convenience meal on busy nights, this homemade version tastes so much better than the bags of frozen popcorn chicken you find at the grocery store.

an air fryer basket full of air fryer popcorn chicken pieces.

And as long as you can allow a little extra time to marinate your chicken beforehand, it’s not hard to put together either.

Plus, when you cook your popcorn chicken in the air fryer, you get an amazingly crispy, golden crunch without all the extra oil and mess from traditional frying.

chicken nuggets in a pile next to a bowl of ketchup.

Ingredients for Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken (See measurements in the recipe card below!)

  • chicken breasts
  • buttermilk
  • all purpose flour
  • cornstarch
  • salt + pepper
  • eggs
  • panko breadcrumbs
ingredients in bowls on a counter top.

How to Make Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken – Step by Step

Step 1: Marinate the chicken

Combine the chicken pieces and buttermilk in a medium sized bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.

Step 2: Set up dredging station

After the marinating time is complete, set up a dredging station: begin by whisking the flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper together in a shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk the eggs with a tablespoon of water. Finally add the breadcrumbs to a third separate shallow bowl.

Step 3: Dredge the chicken

Dredge the chicken pieces first in the flour mixture, then into the egg mixture, then finally into the breadcrumbs, pressing until well coated.

step by step collage for making popcorn chicken in the air fryer.

Step 4: Place chicken on rack

Place the chicken onto a wire baking rack set over a large sheet pan. Let the chicken sit for 15 minutes so that the breading sticks well.

Step 5: Add chicken to air fryer

Spray the basket of your air fryer with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange half of the chicken pieces in the basket without over-crowding.

Step 6: Air fry

Cook in the air fryer at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes. Flip the pieces over and cook again for 4 more minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown.

Step 7: Serve

Remove the chicken from the air fryer, then repeat the process with the remaining chicken. Serve and enjoy!

an air fryer basket full of air fryer popcorn chicken pieces.

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken – Tips and Notes

  • Don’t crowd the basket. Make sure to leave room around your popcorn chicken so that the pieces can cook evenly and get crispy. You will need to cook your chicken in batches to ensure even cooking in the air fryer.
  • Preheat your air fryer. I like to preheat my air fryer for a few minutes before adding the food. This ensures that the proper temperature has been reached and that your air fryer popcorn chicken will cook up crispy and juicy. 
  • Don’t overcook your chicken. All air fryers (like conventional ovens) cook differently and some cook hotter than others. Begin checking your chicken a few minutes early to ensure that you don’t overcook or burn your dinner!
  • Storing and reheating: Any leftover chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat, you can place your prepared popcorn chicken in the air fryer for at 350 degrees for 3-4 minutes. You can also reheat for a couple of minutes in the microwave.
  • Freezing leftovers: You can freeze any leftover popcorn chicken in a freezer safe container (like a large ziplock bag) for up to 4 months. Cook your frozen popcorn chicken in the air fryer for 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, turning the chicken pieces halfway through the cooking time.
a metal spoon holding pieces of popcorn chicken.
a piece of chicken dunked in a dish of ketchup.

FAQs

How long to cook popcorn chicken in the air fryer?

Cook your popcorn chicken at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for five minutes in the air fryer, then flip and cook for 4 minutes more until crispy.

Why do you marinate chicken in buttermilk?

Since buttermilk is slightly acidic, it helps to tenderize the chicken and keep it from drying out when cooked. Marinating in the buttermilk helps to ensure your popcorn chicken turns out both crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside!

What if I don’t have any buttermilk?

Homemade buttermilk is really simple and quick to make if you don’t have any on hand. All you need is plain white vinegar and regular milk, preferably whole or 2%. Simply add 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup and add enough milk to reach the 1 cup line. Stir, then allow the mixture to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes before adding to your recipe. That makes 1 cup of buttermilk, which is how much you need for this recipe. 

How to cook frozen popcorn chicken in the air fryer?

Cook your leftover frozen popcorn chicken in the air fryer for 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, turning the chicken pieces halfway through the cooking time.

chicken nuggets in a pile next to a bowl of ketchup.
a piece of chicken dunked in a dish of ketchup.
a basket of popcorn chicken pieces.

More Air Fryer Recipes You Should Try!

If you try this recipe, please leave a comment and rating below. I love to hear from you and always appreciate your feedback!

a basket of popcorn chicken pieces.
5 from 6 ratings

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 18 mins
Marination time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 hr 33 mins
Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken is simple, delicious, and perfect for the whole family. With just a few ingredients, you'll have crispy homemade chicken bites that make an easy dinner or crowd-pleasing appetizer!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken breasts , cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Equipment

  • 1 Air Fryer

Instructions
 

  • Combine the chicken pieces and buttermilk in a medium sized bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.
  • After the marinating time is complete, set up a dredging station: begin by whisking the flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper together in a shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk the eggs with a tablespoon of water. Finally add the breadcrumbs to a third shallow bowl.
  • Dredge the chicken pieces first in the flour mixture, then into the egg mixture, then finally into the breadcrumbs, pressing until well coated.
  • Place the chicken onto a wire baking rack set over a large sheet pan. Let the chicken sit for 15 minutes so that the breading sticks well.
  • Spray the basket of your air fryer with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange half of the chicken pieces in the basket without over-crowding.
  • Cook in the air fryer at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes. Flip the pieces over and cook again for 4 more minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown.
  • Remove the chicken from the air fryer, then repeat the process with the remaining chicken. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • Don’t crowd the basket. Make sure to leave room around your popcorn chicken so that the pieces can cook evenly and get crispy. You will need to cook your chicken in batches to ensure even cooking in the air fryer.
  • Preheat your air fryer. I like to preheat my air fryer for a few minutes before adding the food. This ensures that the proper temperature has been reached and that your air fryer popcorn chicken will cook up crispy and juicy. 
  • Don’t overcook your chicken. All air fryers (like conventional ovens) cook differently and some cook hotter than others. Begin checking your chicken a few minutes early to ensure that you don’t overcook or burn your dinner!
  • Storing and reheating: Any leftover chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat, you can place your prepared popcorn chicken in the air fryer for at 350 degrees for 3-4 minutes. You can also reheat for a couple of minutes in the microwave.
  • Freezing leftovers: You can freeze any leftover popcorn chicken in a freezer safe container (like a large ziplock bag) for up to 4 months. Cook your frozen popcorn chicken in the air fryer for 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, turning the chicken pieces halfway through the cooking time.
Cuisine: American
Course: Appetizer, Main Dish
Calories: 492kcal, Carbohydrates: 63g, Protein: 36g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.02g, Cholesterol: 161mg, Sodium: 1029mg, Potassium: 630mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 255IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 149mg, Iron: 4mg
Did you make this recipe?Let me know! Mention @TheBelleoftheKitchen on Instagram or tag #BelleoftheKitchen.