Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken

July 8, 2023
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea
There's just something amazing about bite-sized chicken like nuggets or these Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken, which are the perfect amount of heat meets savory. The perfect family appetizer or snack!

Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken

This Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken recipe is a deliciously healthier chicken nugget option for the entire family. Made with an extra crunchy outside from the cornflake-breadcrumb coating and a juicy, tender inside from the perfectly cooked chicken, this popcorn chicken is just the thing you need---fully drenched in a buttery, spicy + tangy buffalo sauce! Super easy to make and whipped together in under 50 minutes. Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, + Vegan options.

Chicken in a black skillet with a wooden spoon and blue napkin and herbs.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links via Amazon for products that I wholeheartedly love and receive commission from.

I'm literally a humongous fan of chicken nuggets and bite-sized chicken, ever since childhood and naturally, I think that almost every child loves them, especially since they are just the perfect bite-size and can easily be dipped in your favorite condiment sauce. And while you might assume that your chicken needs to be fried for the perfect crispiness, this recipe proves that even oven baked chicken creates the crunchiest outer layer once you get the coating right and that's what you get with this Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken!

When it comes to creating a crispy layer that doesn't require frying, I've found great success with combining cornflakes and breadcrumbs. You'll be surprised by how incredibly crunchy they become while still remaining nice and juicy on the inside. Don't believe me----try this Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders, Hot Honey Baked Chicken Breasts or Sticky Orange Chicken Popcorn Chicken recipe next! This popcorn chicken recipe offers a bold orange flavor which adds such a great eating experience for everyone. Plus, this Spicy Restaurant Style Salsa is a great side dish for tacos if you're thinking of turning these chicken bites tacos!

Overall, these chicken bites are super easy to make, seasoned in 2-layers for the best flavor, uses a handful of ingredients, baked to crispy perfection, and makes for the best appetizer, snack or meat addition to your main meal. Plus, there's a dairy-free, vegan, and gluten-free option for those who need it.

Jump to:

What is Popcorn Chicken?

Basically, popcorn chicken are bite-sized pieces unlike traditional chicken or chicken tenders. If you've had KFC popcorn chicken, then you know just how delicious these little breaded tender chunks of chicken breast are which come breaded and deep-fried to golden perfection!

The best part is that this chicken recipe comes together in under 50 minutes total and you'll only need a baking sheet with a wire rackparchment paper, a skillet, and of course the handful of ingredients.

Ingredients on a black table including cornflakes, eggs, flour, breadcrumbs, herbs + seasonings, and milk.

Why You Will LOVE these Chicken Bites!

  • Versatile snack, appetizer, or side option.
  • Boasts of a great dairy-free, vegan, + gluten-free option.
  • Tangy, spicy, sweet, and bold flavor combo.
  • The perfect crispiness on the outside + juiciness on the inside!
  • Such nostalgia with the classic buffalo sauce.
  • Addictively tasty + irresistible for the entire family----adults and kids-alike!

Do I Use Cornstarch or Flour for Crispy Chicken?

OK, so this is one of the hot debates as it relates to which one creates the crispier chicken or chicken bites. While cornstarch does add extra layer of crispiness for your chicken, using flour still works too!

But to best honest, the best kept secret is the combination of both cornstarch and flour (equal parts, so that's ¼ cup EACH for this recipe), which creates the crispiest results. Of course, if you're looking to make this fried chicken recipe gluten-free, then substitute the cornstarch or flour with arrowroot starch or a great all-purpose flour.

Seasoned chicken pieces in a large silver bowl.

How to Make Buffalo Chicken Popcorn Chicken

Making these crispy little bite-sized chicken is a simple matter of seasoning your chicken and breading them in a seasoned cornflake-breadcrumbs crust before baking them for crispness. Finish everything off with a buttery, spicy buffalo sauce and serve them up with your favorite side or by themselves with your favorite condiment. Wallah!

Ingredients for Buffalo Chicken Recipe

Here's what you need to prepare these crispy little buffalo popcorn chicken bites today:

  • Chicken breasts. Choose organic whenever possible. Simply cut the chicken breasts into medium-sized cubes or chunks. If you don’t have chicken breasts, you can always use chicken tenderloins which are pre-cut and just cut those into chunks. For a vegan option, check out my Buffalo Cauliflower Wings/Bites.
  • Herbs + seasonings. This adds great flavor to the chicken as a marinade and the coating. You'll need salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, red pepper flakes, and thyme.
  • Corn flakes. Crush your cornflakes by placing them in a zip-top bag and crushing them with something heavy until you have a fine texture, but not a powder. 
  • All-purpose flour. I use Bob's Red Mill organic flour. You can use gluten-free all-purpose flour to keep this recipe gluten-free. 
  • Arrowroot starch. Works in conjunction with the flour for the best coating for the chicken. This is also a GF-friendly starch, however, you can substitute with cornstarch, tapioca flour, or flour.
  • Breadcrumbs. You can buy store-bought breadcrumbs or panko. Or see the notes below the recipe to easily make your own Seasoned Toasted Panko Bread Crumbs). Use GF-friendly ones for that option. I love Edwards & Sons GF breadcrumbs.
  • Butter. I recommend unsalted. This adds flavor to the sauce. For a dairy-free + vegan option, sub with vegan butter.
  • Almond milk. Or another plant-based milk (unsweetened). You can also use whole milk or heavy cream instead.
  • Eggs. Acts as a great binder for the wet marinade when coating chicken. You can sub with honey dijon mustard or mayo or yogurt or omit completely if using heavy cream.
  • Honey. You can substitute the honey with maple syrup or organic brown sugar if that's what you have on hand. 
  • Buffalo sauce. If you have time, I recommend making your own buffalo sauce
Two white bowls with breadcrumbs and egg batter with a whisk.

Tips for the Crispiest Popcorn Chicken

To make sure your popcorn chicken get as crispy as possible, follow these simple tips that are tried + true:

  • Cut the chicken into more even-sized pieces to ensure that everything cooks through at the same time.
  • Make sure each popcorn chicken has plenty of space on the baking sheet. The airflow helps things crisp up better.
  • Make sure you’re using fresh, not soggy or stale, breadcrumbs AND cornflakes---this is so important!
  • Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and with a wire rack on top. This helps to make the bites crisp up nicely on both sides without the need for you to touch them or turn them over while they're baking.
  • Always season EVERY layer: both the chicken and breadcrumb coating should be seasoned for the tastiest results!
  • Add baking powder in with your flour for extra crispy popcorn chicken. It works wonders!

What is Buffalo Sauce Made Of?

In general, buffalo sauce is made of mixture of hot sauce, butter, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Making your own homemade buffalo sauce is simple and here's what you need:

  • Frank’s Hot sauce.
  • Butter.
  • White vinegar.
  • Worcestershire sauce.
  • Cayenne pepper.
  • Garlic.

How to Make Homemade Breadcrumbs

To make your own breadcrumbs, simply grind 1-2 cups of cubed bread into a food processor until finely chopped. Place crumbs onto a parchment lined baking sheet and spread out evenly.

Bake for 5-6 minutes in the oven set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. Once brown + crisp, remove from oven and let cool. Continue recipe steps and store remaining breadcrumbs in a tightly sealed container.

Chicken being dipped in egg batter along with flour and breadcrumbs.

Easy Steps to Making Popcorn Chicken:

When it comes to making these crispy buffalo popcorn chicken, the process is fairly simple and easy! You'll need to:

Part 1: Make the batter. This is done by combining the milk and eggs in a bowl and whisking them together until combined and smooth.

Part 2: Make the coating. Simply combine the breadcrumbs and crushed cornflakes together in a bowl along with the seasonings (salt, black pepper, smoked paprika. parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, and thyme).

Part 3: Make the buffalo sauce. This is an easy recipe for a tangy, spicy buffalo sauce and can be adjusted to be more spicy or less. Just a quick simmer of the melted butter, buffalo sauce, and honey and wallah!

Part 4: Add the baked crispy popcorn chicken to sauce. Toss your baked and crispy chicken bites into the sauce over the stovetop and you're all set! Enjoy!

How to Cook Popcorn Chicken in an Air Fryer

You'll follow all of the steps to coating the bite-sized popcorn chicken and place them in your air fryer for 20 minutes or so at 390 degrees and flipping them halfway through to ensure that they crisp perfectly on both sides. NOTE: Be sure to spray the basket of your air fryer to ensure that chicken don't stick at all.

Once done, you can either create the sauce and toss the popcorn chicken in the sauce OR create the sauce and brush them on the popcorn chicken while they're still in the basket of the air fryer and cook again for another 1-2 minutes so that the sauce "bakes on".

Chicken piece being rolled in breadcrumbs with bowls of flour and egg batter.

What to Serve with Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken

These buffalo popcorn chicken are full of flavor all on their own, but who doesn’t love to dunk and dip----right? So, feel free to serve your wings with any (or all) of these tasty condiments:

Or turn these popcorn chicken bites into a savory and saucy salad topper! You can also incorporate them unto pastaon tacos, top homemade pizza or make a grain bowl with chicken and beans or roasted veggies. 

Of course, as I’ve stated before, these popcorn chicken bites can be incorporated in the following foods as well:

  • Sandwiches
  • with Rice or noodles
  • with Fries or wedges
  • Atop mashed potatoes
  • and so much more.
Popcorn chicken baked and lined on a baking sheet with a wire rack.

Make-Ahead Option

If you want to plan ahead, you can assemble the buffalo sauce and crushed cornflake-breadcrumb mixture up to two days ahead of time. Keep the buffalo sauce in an airtight container in the fridge and the cornflake-breadcrumbs in an airtight container at room temperature. Then bread and bake the chicken bites just before serving. 

NOTE: You'll need to bring the buffalo sauce to room temperature and heat over the stovetop and add a bit more butter to create that "velvety-ness" if needed.

Common Q + A's for these Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken!

What is popcorn chicken made of?

Basically, popcorn chicken is bite-sized and made with whole pieces of chicken breast meat that has been cut into chunks or cubes, while chicken nuggets use ground chicken.

Do I have to use honey in the sauce?

Nope. It’s easy to substitute the honey. For instance, try pure maple syrup or brown sugar. Although brown sugar caramelizes nicely, adding maple syrup will help with the right amount of sweetness and velvety-ness when paired with the butter/sauce.

Can I make this popcorn chicken dairy-free or gluten-free?

Yes---that's an option! To ensure that these popcorn chicken are GF-friendly, ensure that you use GF breadcrumbs, flour, as well as GF-friendly starch like arrowroot. To make this recipe dairy-free, be sure to use plant-based milk for the "wet batter". Also, sub butter with vegan butter for cooking sauce and ensure that the buffalo sauce is vegan-friendly.

How to store + reheat this chicken?

Any leftovers can be kept in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or microwave when ready to serve.

How do you make buffalo sauce stick to chicken?

The most effective way to get the buffalo sauce to stick to your chicken bites is by baking the sauce on. Once your popcorn chicken is fully baked + crispy, simply make the sauce in the skillet, toss them in the sauce, and add them back to the baking sheet with the wire rack and broil them for 5 minutes or so, until the sauce sticks.

Should you put buffalo sauce on chicken before or after cooking?

Traditionally, most buffalo wings or chicken recipes are tossed in the sauce after they are baked and crispy. This helps them to soak up the sauce nicely without becoming soggy.

Why add butter to buffalo sauce?

Honestly, the butter gives a nice richness and smoothness to the buffalo sauce that you notice without it. It also cuts down the heat and adds additional flavor!

Is it better to bake popcorn chicken in at 350 or 400?

You can totally bake your popcorn chicken at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, however, I find that cooking them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit will result in a crispy skin in a shorter time. I personally find the results better with the latter.

How to reheat popcorn chicken in an air fryer?

If you're looking to reheat your popcorn chicken bites in an air fryer, it's by far the easiest to do. 
Here's the steps:
Preheat your air fryer to 360 or 370 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lightly spray the basket of your air fryer and add the popcorn chicken to the basket in a single layer. No overcrowding!
Cook for about 5 minutes and then flip chicken bites to their opposite sides and cook for another 5 minutes.

Why does the breadcrumb coating fall of my popcorn chicken?

Believe it or not, this has happened to me plenty of times. Moisture is the worst enemy in "frying" or baking chicken. This is why dusting your chicken with flour as I've mentioned before should be enough to create a moisture barrier around the chicken bites; otherwise, the moisture created during the cooking process is going to create steam that will cause your breading to flake off.

Can I make vegan buffalo popcorn "chicken"?

Of course! I have a great Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower Wings/Bites recipe that works as a great substitute!

Chicken in a basket with a fork and dipping sauce and herbs.

More Delicious Buffalo-infused Recipes to Try Next!


If you tried this Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you.

Up close shot of chicken in a basket with dipping sauce and fresh herbs.
Up close shot of chicken in a basket with dipping sauce and fresh herbs.

Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken

July 8, 2023
5 from 1 vote
There's just something amazing about bite-sized chicken like nuggets or these Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken, which are the perfect amount of heat meets savory. The perfect family appetizer or snack!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serves: 24 bites



  • 2 lbs. organic chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tsps sea salt
  • 2 tsps black pepper
  • 2 tsps smoked paprika
  • 2 tsps onion powder
  • 2 tsps garlic powder
  • 2 tsps dried parsley
  • 2 tsps dried thyme
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup Almond milk, unsweetened  (You can use whole milk or your fave plant-based milk)
  • ¼ cup organic all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup arrowroot starch (You can also use cornstarch)
  • 2 cups organic cornflakes, crushed
  • 1 cup organic breadcrumbs (You can make your own Seasoned Toasted Panko Bread Crumbs)


  • 2 cups organic buffalo sauce
  • 2 Tbsps unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsps raw honey, organic (See Notes!)



  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line your baking sheet with parchment paper with a wire rack for the best results. NOTE: Doing this step is a MUST to prevent sticking.
  • In a bowl, add the chicken pieces along with 1 teaspoon of each: salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, thyme, stirring everything together until chicken are coated.


  • In a bowl, add the milk and beaten eggs whisking everything together until combined. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, add the breadcrumbs, crushed cornflakes, and 1 teaspoon of each: salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, thyme, and red pepper flakes, stirring everything together and set aside also. 
  • In a plate or bowl, add the flour and starch, stirring them together to combine.
  • Now, toss each piece of chicken into the flour followed by the "wet" batter (shaking off any excess) and then toss into the breadcrumbs mixture. Then lay each coated chicken side by side onto the prepared baking sheet (about an inch apart). Repeat until all chicken are coated.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and “crunchy” looking. NOTE: If not crispy enough, turn on broil and bake for another 5-10 minutes.


  • In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the butter and let it melt. Add in the buffalo sauce and honey, stirring until combined. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  • Once the chicken bites are crisp, remove from oven and toss them in the sauce until fully coated.
  • To serve, add popcorn chicken to a salad, tacos, atop pasta, as a topping on pizza, with quinoa or rice, or by themselves with dipping sauce.
  • Bon Appetit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Store leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in oven when ready to serve.
  • SWEETENER: Instead of honey, you can always use maple syrup or organic brown sugar as a sweetener.


Calories: 21kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 198mg | Potassium: 13mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.04g | Vitamin A: 116IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 0.2mg


Tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea

Xx, Shanika in script writing

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