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.

36 thoughts on “Healthy Spicy Popcorn Chicken”

  • Made this last weekend and OMG, they were delish! Especially good with a little honey mustard. Mason, your recipes do not disappoint!

  • Purchased an air fryer recently and this was the first recipe that I made. These are so delicious and so easy to make.

  • I made these Sunday night-had to make in 2 batches and let’s be honest by the time the 2nd batch was finished the 1st batch was nearly gone. I had to refrain from eating all of them so as to not go over my protein macros for the day!! Used the remaining chickys in my sandwich Monday night. I ate it cold. It was STILL delicious. I’ll be making these weekly. ALSO–used Special K cereal instead and I’ll have to say, the sweetness w/ the heat was PHENOMENAL.

  • I made these last night in the air fryer and wow. The ingredient list is super short, I had everything (besides corn flakes) already. It was also so quick and easy. My fiancé’s exact words: “Add this to our menu”. So I think it’s a hit.

  • I am always skeptical about anything being “fried” in the oven because it’s never crunchy and I so patiently waiting on an air fryer that I had to use the oven .. anyways they came out AMAZING, they we crunchy and delicious, definitely becoming a staple for dinners .. can’t wait to try in an air fryer

  • Love this recipe! We baked them in the oven and even kept some as leftovers and they were still great the next day!

  • So I am obsessed with everything on Mason’s site in general however… I made this popcorn chicken the other night and hot damn it did not disappoint – I will be making this on repeat anytime I make chicken. 5 stars

  • I struggle with binge eating disorder so finding healthy ways to make my favorite foods is so important. This recipe is a God send! I LOVE popcorn chicken and to have it guilt free was amazing. Not to mention the taste was out of this world! Thank you Mason for the plethora of amazing recipes i cannot wait to try them all!!!!!!

  • Have made the spicy popcorn chicken twice in the last month. I count my macros and my 16 year old and 14 year old love them and they are picky! So it’s a win win! Love your recipes!

  • This was the first meal I tried by Mason, and it was AWESOME. Didn’t require any crazy ingredients and was very easy to prepare/cook. This instantly became one of my favorite dishes to make, and is filled with a bunch of great macros for your diet! Can’t thank you enough for this recipe Mason, you make healthy eating way easier!

  • I am new to eating meat. I have been a vegetarian for over 10 years, so I am very intimidated about using and cooking chicken. This was an easy recipe and really tasty! SPICY! LOL. My spice level is not up to yours, but still loved them. Just drank lots of water. Next time I will cut the spice in half, but will definitely make these again. Great lunch idea with steamed broccoli!

    • It’s all part of my trick to get people to drink more water in addition to more protein. 😉 Thanks for trying this one out and leaving some feedback!

  • This recipe is outstanding! Pretty simple to make, and using the air fryer method, chicken comes out juicy and crispy. Love it!

  • I just made these for dinner last night and they were fabulous! I used special K protein cereal instead of Corn Flakes. I also didn’t have honey so I used Walden Farms Pancake Syrup. I highly recommend this recipe!

  • If you have the itch for some fast-food popcorn chicken – save yo’ time and yo’ money because these are going to give you that same delicious goodness, with the crunch, and an added spice – without using all your macros for the day.

    One tip if you want it more on the crispy side: once your meals done cooking – switch the oven to ‘broil’ and watch carefully. The broil function will definitely crisp your pieces up a bit but as I said… watch them carefully so they don’t burn!

  • I made this using an air Fryer and the chicken comes out so homuocy! I used corn flake bread crumbs and wish I’d of used regular corn flakes instead, but I used what I had on hand and they were still very good!

  • This chicken recipe has made its way into our weekly meal rotation! That crispy outer layer is the bees knees and the air fryer makes it so easy to cook! Thanks for another great recipe!

  • These chicken nuggets are absolutely amazing! I love the corn flake crust even when done in the oven and I can’t wait to purchase an air fryer and get to experience them next level. One of my favorite meal prep foods alongside a serving of white rice!

  • I just scarfed this down 😂. Only I used boneless skinless chicken thighs and kept them whole for sandwiches. The flavor is so delicious! I had to do them in the oven bc I dont have an air fryer yet and they turned out fine. Again. The flavor is awesome. I was craving a crispy chicken sandwich so bad and this hit the spot without the guilt. Thanks!

  • Recipes like yours are making it easier for me to stick with Weight Watchers. Thank you! This Popcorn Chicken is is outstanding! I made them and served them on a green salad. Voila! Dinner! BTW, your chicken breakfast sausages are a life saver! One comment/question about this recipe: I was a little confused by the photos and step #6. You say to put the chicken in a bowl before adding the honey and spices, but show it in a baggie (marinating). Should step 6 say to put it in a bowl before adding the corn flakes? There’s no instruction for coating them with the corn flakes. It’s not brain surgery and I knew what to do, but I found myself rereading the steps a couple times to make sure there wasn’t a step or a tip I was missing. Thanks for these recipes and the WW points info–I’m very grateful!

    • Thanks so much, Jane! And that’s a great point. Reading through it now, it could definitely be more clear on marinating vs getting straight to it and when to add the crushed cereal. I’ll update the instructions. Thanks again.

  • This was one of the first recipes I made and used the chicken in the KFC bowls! I have never been more excited to find a great cookbook and my boyfriend loves all of the recipes too! Stay positively charged protoners!

  • If you want to reminisce about your childhood I suggest you add these to the classic KFC bowl the combo just can’t be beat!

    • I have a major popcorn chicken obsession and I was so happy to find a recipe that makes it more guilt free without tasting bland. Love anything I can make in the air fryer too! I have added some garlic sriracha seasoning in place of paprika is equally amazing! Reminds me of Chili’s chicken strips. I am soappreciative of all the free recipes you post because I get burnt out trying to keep the food exciting for my family of five!

  • These are so good! My kids will devour these, and they don’t eat anything! These have become a weekly staple in our house.

  • I have some trouble getting the corn flakes to stick sometimes, but they are so worth it! This is one of the few “healthy” recipes that is husband approved in my household. If we don’t eat them all in one sitting, they are very versatile. I like to throw extras on top of salad. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • The spicy popcorn chicken is AMAZING. I wish I could give it 10 stars. I have been making these for close to a year and my family and I just devour them. They are so simple to make and quick to cook so when my 3 tiny monsters are starving I can whip these up quickly. They pair really well with Mason’s airfryer potatoes/fries

  • This has got to be one of the most delicious chicken recipes I’ve ever made. It has just the right amount of spiciness and turns out so tender and juicy. I’ve used thin sliced chicken breast and made chaffle fried chicken sandwiches (jalapeno bacon chaffles at that…) and it was amazing! Love, love, love this recipe!!

    • Great recipe, but I needed to cut the sugar so I replaced the honey with egg whites to coat the chicken, allowing the cornflake breading to stick while adding protein to the recipe. Little but different flavors because theres no sweet, but it was still tasty!

  • This recipe does not disappoint! Better than KFC chicken poppers. I have never actually let the chicken marinade like the recipe calls for because I’m too impatient and they turn out great!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

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