This Sticky Orange Chicken Popcorn Chicken recipe is a deliciously healthier 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! Just know that your taste buds will thank you for this bold citrus flavor. Super easy to make and whipped together in under 50 minutes. Gluten-Free + Vegan options.
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Growing up, chicken nuggets and bite-sized chicken were one of my favorite things to eat. 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, 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 Sticky Orange Chicken 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 recipe next! This popcorn chicken recipe offers a bold orange flavor which adds such a great eating experience for everyone. And if you're looking for a vegan or meatless option, my Baked Sticky Orange Cauliflower + Quinoa is something to try! Of course, you'll enjoy these Crispy Buffalo Chicken Tenders and Spicy Gochujang Chicken Tenders.
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 rack, parchment paper, a skillet, and of course the handful of ingredients. Plus, there's a gluten-free option for those who are gluten sensitive because we still have to enjoy this goodness. Haha.
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 sticky, sweet orange sauce and serve them up with your favorite side or by themselves with your favorite condiment.
Here's what you need to prepare these crispy little orange popcorn chicken bites today:
To make sure your popcorn chicken get as crispy as possible, follow these simple tips that are tried + true:
When it comes to making these crispy orange 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 orange sauce. This is an easy recipe for a sticky, gooey orange sauce and can be adjusted to be more spicy or less. Just a quick sauté of garlic and ginger along with the the remaining ingredients and orange peels for extra flavor 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! Garnish with sesame seeds, if desired. Enjoy!
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".
To serve these little chicken bites, I recommend enjoying them fresh out of the oven. You can serve them as an appetizer with forks and napkins with your favorite condiment. They’re delicious with a side of ranch dressing. You can also enjoy your own homemade dressing/sauce like this Lemon garlic dressing or simple garlic dressing----that's such a delicious touch!
Or turn these popcorn chicken bites into a savory and saucy salad topper! You can also incorporate them unto pasta, on 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:
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.
If you want to plan ahead, you can assemble the orange sauce and crushed cornflake-breadcrumb mixture up to two days ahead of time. Keep the orange 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 orange sauce to room temperature and heat over the stovetop and add a bit more orange juice to create that "stickiness" if needed.
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.
Nope. It’s easy to substitute brown sugar. For instance, try pure maple syrup. Although brown sugar caramelizes nicely, adding maple syrup will help with the stickiness.
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.
It's important to thicken your orange sauce so it gets nice and sticky. Personally, I love using arrowroot starch. However, if you don't have this on hand, using other subs like all-purpose flour, regular cornstarch, or tapioca flour work just fine. Just be sure to always stir your thickener with warm water until it becomes a 'milky' liquid before adding it to the sauce.
Absolutely! If you're looking for an extreme burst of orange flavor, feel free to add orange peels into the sauce while it simmers. The fragrance and flavor of the orange peels will add more flavor. Just remove them before tossing in your bites if you don't want them to stay in.
Basically, the difference is in the flavors! Orange chicken is crispy fried with a fruity, sweet, and tangy sauce that's caramelized into a sticky glaze. General Tso is stir-fried in a sweet, sour, and spicy umami sauce.
Not at all! Generally, orange chicken usually has a lighter-colored sweet, fruity, savory glaze that isn't as spicy as other sauces. This orange chicken recipe uses just a pinch of red pepper flakes, however, you can always create a stronger spicy flavor, if desired.
Overall, the orange sauce has an intense sweet and fruity orange flavor, with just a pinch of heat.
You can eat the peel, although it might have a more bitter taste. When adding it to the sauce, feel free to start with half of the orange when peeling and adjust to taste as you like. However, eating the peel won't harm you at all.
Store leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in oven when ready to serve.
Now that you're on a chicken kick with this popcorn chicken recipe, give these recipes that your entire family will love a try next:
If you tried this Sticky Orange Chicken 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.