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!
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken
- 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.