Think you can’t get crispy chicken from your oven? Think again! Toasting panko before breading the chicken gives us perfectly crispy baked popcorn chicken perfect for dipping in homemade honey mustard sauce!
If there’s one food I can’t enough of lately it’s crispy chicken in any form. Tenders, cutlets, and of course this baked popcorn chicken. Who doesn’t love little crispy pieces of chicken perfect for dunking in homemade honey mustard sauce?
Think popcorn chicken is just for kids? Nope. It’s perfectly acceptable for adults to enjoy a big plate of crispy baked popcorn chicken. Sure, you could make tenders, but there’s just something about bite-sized popcorn chicken that is more fun.
Crispy Baked Popcorn Chicken
You may be thinking popcorn chicken doesn’t really deserve a recipe – it’s just breaded and baked chicken, right? Wrong. I stumbled upon a genius method for getting crispy chicken straight from the oven and I’m now completely obsessed.
We start with plain panko that we toast before breading the chicken. This does two things – the coating gets a head start in getting crispy and we get a great golden color. When you’re baking such small pieces of chicken it would be really hard to get a crispy golden exterior without overcooking the chicken.
If you’re thinking toasting the panko is an annoying extra step, I get it. However, you can let it toast while your oven preheats on the same baking sheet that you’re going to use to bake the chicken. So, start by preheating your oven with the panko in there and while that’s all happening you can get the chicken and wet mixture ready!
Speaking of the wet mixture…
Another big difference with this method from your typical breaded chicken is that we aren’t doing the whole flour and egg dip before going into the panko. Instead, we mix together mayonnaise, egg, flour, and a bit of hot sauce for extra flavor. This mixture really allows the coating to stick and it’s insanely easy to actually coat the chicken pieces.
Once you’ve got all of the chicken coated, lay it out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake! I use the convection feature on my oven to get things even crispier, but if you don’t have convection you can just use a higher temperature (all noted in the recipe).
Now, let’s talk about an equally important component to baked popcorn chicken: the dipping sauce. You can use whatever your favorite dipping sauce is, but I very highly recommend homemade honey mustard sauce. I’m kind of obsessed with honey mustard and this one is the perfect balance of honey and mustard and is perfectly creamy.
Plus, it’s super easy! Just combine everything into a bowl and whisk it together. That’s all there is to it!
Probably my favorite part of this recipe is that it’s freezer friendly! You can make a big batch, bake, and then freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once they are frozen solid you can transfer to a bag and you’ll always have crispy baked popcorn chicken ready to go!
I think we can all agree this recipe is a keeper.
This recipe was inspired by The Kitchn. I used their basic method, but experimented to find the right coating to chicken ratio, plus played around with the flavors.
- 1 ½ Cups Panko, gluten-free works, too!
- ¼ Cup Mayonnaise
- 2 Tablespoons Hot Sauce*
- 1 Egg
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 ½ lbs. Chicken Breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ¾ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 ½ Teaspoons Parsley
- ¼ Teaspoon Cayenne, optional
- ¼ Cup Mayonnaise
- ¼ Cup Honey
- 3 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- 2 Tablespoons Whole Grain Mustard
- 1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425º convection (450º without convection).
Spread the panko on a baking sheet and place it in the oven to toast while the oven preheats. You want the panko lightly golden, so keep an eye on it! Let it cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, hot sauce, egg, and flour. Season the mixture liberally with salt and pepper.
In a shallow dish, toss the panko with salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley, and cayenne.
Toss the chicken into the wet mixture (I just add it all in!) and toss well to coat. Transfer a few pieces at a time to the panko and toss until evenly coated. Lay the chicken out in a single layer on a baking sheet (use the same one you toasted the panko on!) and repeat until all the chicken is coated.
Drizzle the chicken lightly with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes. Flip the chicken pieces and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Let the chicken rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before serving.
Combine the mayonnaise, honey, mustards, and vinegar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the honey mustard alongside the popcorn chicken and enjoy!
*The hot sauce doesn’t add heat, just a nice flavor punch. You can omit if you wish.
*This recipe is freezer-friendly! Simply bake the chicken and let it cool before freezing in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen solid, transfer the chicken to a bag. Bake the frozen chicken at 425º for about 15 minutes or until heated through.