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January 13, 2023

by Alyssa

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

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This air fryer popcorn chicken is crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It’s bursting with corn flakes and spices, and takes less than 20 minutes to make! 

Overhead view of a serving tray filled with popcorn chicken that is garnished with parsley, with a bowl of dipping sauce on the tray, and a kitchen towel and bowl of ketchup next to it

Popcorn chicken is one of my favorite foods. Unfortunately, it’s usually neither healthy nor convenient to make. Most popcorn chicken recipes are deep fried, which is both unhealthy and can be messy. Plus, they usually are covered in gluten. 

That’s why I came up with this air fryer popcorn chicken. It has everything you want from popcorn chicken, including a satisfying crunch with every bite. There’s spice from paprika and chili powder, and nostalgic flavor from a corn flake crust. And since it’s made in the air fryer, it’s quite healthy. Baking spray is the only oil in the recipe!

The whole dish comes together in less than 20 minutes, and it’s both gluten-free and dairy-free. Serve it with some sweet potato tots and dip it in some vegan barbecue sauce, and you’ve got the perfect snack or meal. 

Overhead view of a bowl of uncooked chicken breast chunks, a bowl of corn flakes, a bowl of coconut flour, a bowl of paprika, a bowl of chili powder, a bowl of salt, a pitcher of dairy-free milk, and an egg

What You’ll Need

Here are all the ingredients you’ll need for air fryer popcorn chicken. The recipe card at the bottom of the page features the exact quantities for all the ingredients.

  • Chicken breast – You should use boneless, skinless chicken breast for this recipe.
  • Gluten-free corn flakes
  • Coconut flour
  • Paprika
  • Chili powder
  • Large egg
  • Dairy-free milk – I prefer using oat milk, but you can use any dairy-free milk, as long as it’s unsweetened and unseasoned. You can also use real milk or buttermilk if you prefer.

Where Can You Buy Gluten-Free Corn Flakes?

Despite being made out of corn, many brands of corn flakes aren’t actually gluten-free. Most of the large brands, including Kellogg’s, use malt powder to add extra flavor to their corn flakes. However, it’s still fairly easy to find gluten-free corn flakes. Head to your local health foods store and check out the cereal aisle. You’ll likely find multiple options for gluten-free corn flakes. 

How to Make Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

This moist chicken recipe tastes even better than takeout, but it’s easy and quick to make.

  • Prep. Preheat your air fryer to 400F. 
  • Make the crust. Place the gluten-free cornflakes in a ziplock bag, and mash until they’re a sandy texture. Pour the corn flakes onto a large plate or bowl.
A ziplock bag filled with crushed corn flakes, with a meat tenderizer on top of it, next to a kitchen towel
  • Make the flour mixture. Combine the coconut flour, paprika, chili powder, and some of the salt in a large plate or bowl, and mix together.
Side by side of a bowl with coconut flour, paprika, chili powder, and kosher salt, unmixed, next to a bowl with the ingredients mixed together, next to a kitchen towel
  • Make the wet mixture. Add the egg and dairy-free milk to a bowl with the rest of the salt. Whisk until everything is combined.  
Side by side of a bowl with dairy-free milk and an egg in it, unmixed, next to a bowl with the ingredients being whisked together
  • Assemble. Dip one of the pieces of chicken into the flour mixture until thoroughly coated. Then dip it into the wet mixture until covered. Finally, dip it into the cornflakes, pressing the cereal into the meat. Repeat the process with the rest of the chicken. 
Four images: the first is a bowl of ground up cornflakes, next to a bowl of eggs beat with milk, next to a bowl with season flour; the second is a bowl of chicken breast chunks in the bowl of flour; the third is the chicken chunks, covered in flour, in the egg and mixture, and the fourth is the chicken chunks, covered in the egg mixture, in the bowl of ground cornflakes, covered in them
  • Cook. Spray the chicken with cooking spray, and add to the air fryer basket. Cook until a thermometer shows the internal temperature of the chicken to be 165F. This should take about 8 minutes, and you should flip the chicken halfway through. 
Side by side image of uncooked popcorn chicken in an air fryer basket next to cooked popcorn chicken in an air fryer basket

Tips for Success 

Here are some tricks to make sure that this juicy and crispy popcorn chicken is perfect every time you make it.

  • Use a mallet or rolling pin. When crushing the gluten-free cornflakes, use the flat side of a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin. These tools will give you a thorough and consistent cornflake breading, without damaging the plastic bag. 
  • Keep one hand dry. Whenever you’re dredging foods to fry (or in this case, air fry), you want to use the dry hand method. To do this, designate one hand for the dry ingredients, and one hand for the wet ingredients. Add the chicken to the flour mixture with your dry hand, coat it, then place it in the wet mixture. Use your wet hand for making sure the chicken is covered, and for moving it to the cornflakes. Then use your dry hand for finishing the dredging. By keeping your hands separated, you keep liquid out of the dry ingredients, and you keep your hands from becoming covered in a sticky mixture of eggs and flour. 
  • Don’t crowd the chicken. When you place the pieces of chicken in the air fryer basket, make sure that none of them are touching. You want all of the surface area of the chicken exposed, so that the air fryer can give it a crispy exterior. If you can’t fit all of the pieces of chicken in the basket, cook in batches rather than crowding.  
Close up of a pile of popcorn chicken garnished with parsley, with a bite taken out of one piece, and a bowl of dipping sauce

How to Store & Reheat Popcorn Chicken 

You can store this juicy chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the oven, the toaster oven, or the air fryer. 

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

Absolutely! Store popcorn chicken in an airtight container or bag in the freezer for up to 3 days. You can reheat in the oven, toaster oven, or air fryer, without defrosting. I recommend storing frozen popcorn chicken in a ziplock bag with the air pressed out, to limit freezer burn. 

Close up of a hand pulling a piece of popcorn chicken out of a bowl of dipping sauce, with other pieces surrounding it

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

This air fryer popcorn chicken is crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. It's gluten-free, dairy-free, and takes less than 20 minutes to make.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Total Time 18 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 309kcal
Print Pin
A serving tray of popcorn chicken garnished with parsley, with a bowl of dipping sauce
5 from 3 votes

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.
  • Place the cornflakes in a zip-top plastic bag. Mash into a coarse, sandy texture. Transfer to a large plate.
  • On a separate plate, combine the coconut flour, paprika, chili powder, and ½ teaspoon salt.
  • Beat the egg and milk in a medium bowl with ½ teaspoon salt.
  • Working one at a time, dip each chicken piece first into the coconut flour, turning to coat on all sides, then into the egg mixture, and finally into the cornflakes, pressing to adhere the cereal to the chicken.
  • Spray the breaded chicken with nonstick spray. Arrange as many as will fit in the basket of the air fryer, leaving space between each piece.
  • Air fry for 8 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the chicken is cooked through and registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Notes

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat in the oven, toaster oven, or air fryer. 

Nutrition

Calories: 309kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 113mg | Sodium: 824mg | Potassium: 522mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 645IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 2mg

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About Alyssa

Hey there, I’m Alyssa Rimmer, a certified Holistic Nutritionist, yoga-lover, dog mom, and founder of Simply Quinoa. It’s nice to meet you! I created SQ as a way to provide solutions for women just like me, who were struggling to find helpful information about how to live a healthy and fulfilled life. My hope is that you will find inspiration here on SQ – in my story, in my recipes, in the hundreds of wellness articles, and in our amazing community. Welcome!

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  1. This is just a suggestion for Rebecca. I have used buttermilk to dip chicken in and then continue with the recipe. Works very well.

  2. Great idea to use corn flakes for coating the chicken! Sounds like a great gluten free recipe – will have to try !

  3. Thanks Alyssa, will give them a go & see how they turn out. I did see a suggestion on a vegan website to mix water & cornflour and dip in that prior to dipping in the crumb mix so may try both ways. x

    • Hi Rebecca – I’ve never tried crusting these with anything but the eggs, but I’m guessing you might be able to just skip it all together. You may not get the ingredients to stick as much, but it should still work. Let me know how it turns out or if you have any questions. I’ll be testing an egg free version for you this week 🙂

      xo Alyssa

  4. The BEST home-made chicken ‘nugget’ recipes from bloggers! | Natural New Age Mum says:

    […] Queen of Quinoa – Gluten-free Popcorn Fried Chicken […]

  5. […] Gluten Free Popcorn Chicken – I used Shrimp instead of Chicken. […]

  6. That is a very sweet tribute to your dad! Although my parents didn’t serve what I now consider “healthy food” when I was growing up, I did kind of resent the whole wheat bread when other kids had white bread. But, like you, it shaped me into who I am today. Yay for parents who actually care what their kids are eating!

    • Thank you, Jane! We are lucky to have had parents that made those decisions for us. It makes me realize how important it is and I will definitely raise my kids on the same healthy foods that I had when I was little.

  7. Wow, these nibbles look tasty. I used to make an oven-fried chicken with corn flakes, Parmesan cheese, and cayenne. I like the idea of using coconut instead.

    These bites and a quinoa salad would make a delightful picnic.

    • Thanks Tammi! Yes, they are delicious and the coconut adds an awesome flavor. We had a chili lime quinoa salad on the side – perfection 🙂

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