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Healthy Spicy Popcorn Chicken

Chicken nuggets are great, but popcorn chicken is far superior when it comes to fulfilling your bite-size chicken needs. If you’re unaware of these needs just think about a salad. You can put chicken tenders on a salad, but you can’t use nuggets. I’m from Arkansas where rivers flow with ranch dressing and we don’t even put nuggets on salads.

There’s popcorn chicken, there’s the chicken tender, and then there’s chicken nuggets somewhere in no man’s land right in the middle.

Okay, now that you know my feelings on the superiority of popcorn chicken, allow me to introduce a fire (pronounced fi-yah) recipe for spicy popcorn chicken. Each serving has 105 calories, 15 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbs, and virtually zero fat. You’ll need three ingredients and a handful of spices, an oven or an air fryer, and about 25-30 minutes.

healthy spicy popcorn chicken recipe air fryer

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Spicy Popcorn Chicken Ingredients

Other than the spices, this spicy popcorn chicken calls for three ingredients:

  1. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Tenderloins 
  2. Honey
  3. Corn Flakes cereal

Easy enough, right?

spicy popcorn chicken recipe

And you might as well stock up on chicken tenderloins and make my naked chicken tenders while you’re at it.

Can I use chicken breast?

Totally. You could easily dice up some chicken breast like in my sweet chili air fried chicken and brussels sprouts or Ninja Foodi Greek chicken and veggies recipes.

Spicy Popcorn Chicken Seasoning

For the spices, I’ll first say that you could always use a premixed chicken seasoning to cut down on steps and ingredients. This would be a great way to reduce the spice without sacrificing flavor as well. If you’re rockin’ the recipe as-is, here’s everything you’ll need:

  • Black Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Ground Mustard
  • Salt

If you make my recipes often, there’s a good chance you have everything on the list except maybe the ground mustard. And if that’s the case, you can roll without it or try substituting something like turmeric.

how to make popcorn chicken

Making Crispy Popcorn Chicken

The secret sauce to this spicy popcorn chicken recipe is the combo of honey and crushed Corn Flakes. The honey binds the chicken, spices, and crushed cereal and even lends a hint of sweet flavor. It also removes the need for any egg washes or messier set ups.

As you can see in the image below, this recipe can be as simple as adding the chicken to a large bowl and tossing with all the other ingredients. 

making spicy popcorn chicken

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken vs Oven Baked Popcorn Chicken

This spicy popcorn chicken works fine in both, but the air fryer is really the star for any type of fried style recipe.

If you’re unfamiliar with air frying, it’s an amazing cooking method that cooks food with circulated hot air instead of oil. It leaves foods extra crispy and without any of the added calories from frying in oil. Hashtag magic.

I’ve provided cook times for both the oven and air fryer, and I used a 5.8L Air Fryer. I mention in the notes that you may need to cook your popcorn chicken in multiple batches if your air fryer is too small. And with any equipment difference, cook times may vary.

healthy air fryer popcorn chicken on a serving dish

Using the oven? Use a wire rack on top of a baking sheet like you see above so the chicken can get crispy on all sides. If you don’t have an oven safe rack, you can flip the nuggets halfway through cooking.

Okay, you should be ready to get it poppin’ in here. When you try this spicy popcorn chicken, I wanna see it. Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram @mason_woodruff.

P.S. One of my favorite ways to serve this chicken is in a copycat KFC Famous bowl. You could also throw some on top of a waffle like in my 4-ingredient chicken and protein waffles.

healthy spicy popcorn chicken recipe air fryer

Spicy Popcorn Chicken

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

A lower carb, lower calorie recipe for spicy popcorn chicken in the air fryer or oven. 


  • 1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast or Tenderloins
  • 1 Tbsp (21g) Honey
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Ground Mustard
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 C (56g) Corn Flakes Cereal, crushed


  1. Preheat an oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with a wire rack if possible. Or if you're using an air fryer, spray the basket with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Mix the spices in a small bowl. You'll combine the chicken, spices, and honey in later steps.
  3. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. (I calculated the nutrition facts on a batch of 48 pieces.) 
  4. Add the Corn Flakes cereal to a resealable bag or deep bowl to crush the cereal. You want some flakes remaining so avoid blending or crushing too finely. 
  5. For optimal flavor, place the chicken in a resealable container with the honey and spices to marinate for 20-30 minutes. To skip marinating, place the chicken pieces in a large bowl before coating them with the honey and spice mixture. Add the crushed Corn Flakes and stir until each piece is evenly coated.
  6. Transfer the chicken pieces to the baking sheet or air fryer. Bake for 13-15 minutes or air fry at 400 for 10-14 minutes start on the lower end if you're using a different air fryer). Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook in two batches or slightly layer the chicken and shake halfway through frying. If you're baking directly on a baking sheet, flip halfway through baking for crispier chicken. (If you cook smaller batches, reduce the cook time to 8-10 minutes and increase as needed to fully cook the chicken.)


  • Each serving has 2 Smart Points.
  • One serving is 8 pieces (may vary based on how many pieces of chicken you cut). Multiply the macros by 6 to find the recipe's total nutrition facts.
  • If you'd like to reduce the spice, cut the black pepper and paprika in half. 
  • To easily turn this popcorn chicken into a meal, check out my copycat KFC bowls recipe.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Servings (48 pieces) Serving Size: 8 pieces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 105Total Fat: 0.3gCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 15g

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More Air Fryer Recipes You Might Like

This low carb spicy popcorn chicken recipe can be cooked in the air fryer or oven and has 15 grams of protein and only 105 calories per serving.


Tuesday 24th of August 2021

Last week, I arrived home from the grocery store toting a new low calorie condiment find that I was super proud of. My husband saw it (G Hughes Cluckin Sauce) and said, “You know what will pair well with this? thise Mason Chicken Crunchy things!” “Mason” is a household name here!

My husband was talking about THIS recipe folks so, of course I made them (again) and the pairing with the new sauce did NOT disappoint. The wonderful thing about this is that because this recipe (like many others here) only calls for a handful of easy to find ingredients, I already had what I needed on hand in the kitchen to make them. And, the best part of all, this recipe was quick from start to finish so I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen on a busy day!

Go make them, your family and friends will ask you to make them again, that’s all the “reviews” you need ♥️


Wednesday 7th of October 2020

We have made these a few times. The first couple of times we made the recipe as is. The last time we added crushed red pepper flakes to the seasoning mix to offset some of the sweetness taste. We loved it both ways! Delicious, simple recipe that will be a part of our regular dinner rotations.

Brittany Cox

Thursday 16th of April 2020

Tried these the other day and they were soooo bomb! I did use about a teaspoon more of honey because my corn flakes weren’t sticking all that well. I also marinated mine as recommended and they were sooo flavorful! I opted for the Frosted Flakes instead of regular corn flakes because well., I just wanted more sweetness to it lol.

Emily S

Wednesday 15th of April 2020

I made these and loved them so much that I ate them all in one sitting. My suggestion would be to plate your serving and then create some space between yourself and the leftovers, LOL. Great recipe!


Wednesday 29th of January 2020

These are great! Simple flavor, and the corn flake crunch is awesome.

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