Healthy Spicy Popcorn Chicken

Healthy Spicy Popcorn Chicken

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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.

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.

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.

Spicy Popcorn Chicken Ingredients

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

  1. Chicken Tenderloins (or chicken breast)
  2. Honey
  3. Corn Flakes cereal

Easy enough, right?

spicy popcorn chicken recipe

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. I love my low carb Cheetos chicken nuggets recipe, but they certainly leave your hands a mess. This spicy popcorn chicken is much easier to work with.

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 my 5.8L XL Digital Air Fryer from Simple Living Products which they were kind enough to send me earlier this year. 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 spicy popcorn chicken recipe air fryer

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. #picsoritdidnthappen

healthy spicy popcorn chicken
5 from 10 votes

Spicy Popcorn Chicken

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

Course Main Course, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword popcorn chicken
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 8-piece servings
Calories 105 kcal
Author Mason Woodruff


  • 1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Tenderloins or chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp 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 or comparable cereal, not frosted


  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.

    spicy popcorn chicken seasoning
  3. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. (I calculated the nutrition facts on a batch of 48 pieces.) 

    spicy popcorn chicken recipe
  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 bag or container with the honey and spices to marinate for 20-30 minutes. 

    how to make popcorn chicken
  6. For the quickest route, place the chicken pieces in a large bowl before coating them with the honey and spice mixture. Stir/shake until each piece is evenly coated. 

    making spicy popcorn chicken
  7. 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.)

    healthy spicy popcorn chicken recipe air fryer

Recipe Notes

If you'd like to reduce the spice, cut the black pepper and paprika in half. 

Nutrition Facts
Spicy Popcorn Chicken
Amount Per Serving (8 pieces)
Calories 105 Calories from Fat 3
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0.3g 0%
Total Carbohydrates 12g 4%
Protein 15g 30%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

More Air Fryer Recipes You Might Like

I mentioned my southern roots above. If you’re a fellow southerner, you may be familiar with the greatness that is Wingstop Fries. Either way, you have to check out my recipe for healthier Wingstop fries.

wingstop fries recipe

And why not keep the potato train rolling with my air fryer potato chips? You’ll find recipes for BBQ, chipotle ranch, cheddar sour cream, spicy sweet chili, and more.

bbq air fried potato chips

8 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!

  • 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

  • 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!!!!!!

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