If your house is anything like mine, chicken nuggets are a staple. With two toddlers it’s easy and nutritious. Popcorn chicken is a fun new way to present your chicken nuggets! Kids love crunch and they love to dip things.
Maybe my kids are odd, but they LOVE veggies, it’s almost hard to get them to eat protein! However, chicken nuggets and fish sticks are two that I can always count on without question. Although fast food stops are few and far between, I have to say I am guilty of having a kid who calls out “chocolate milk!” every time we pass by those golden arches. Eh, no one is perfect. So, when I can make them from scratch, I do. I love being able to control the ingredients and know exactly what my kids are eating.
Just a quick note before we get started. Although my kids are big fans (and they are yummy), sometimes I want an adult version of the meal, so take a look under the recipe for a quick and easy adult adjustment.
I have two toddlers, so I start with one chicken breast and that can feed them both for two meals. This recipe is very easily doubled though.
Chop up the chicken to the size you best think your kids would like. I find this (between the size of a quarter and a nickel) works for us and that is what the cook time is based on. If your kids prefer tenders or a classic nugget size, just adjust the cook time by 5 mins more. If you find they truly like them the size of popcorn, then reduce cook time by 5 mins.
I find this step to be absolutely necessary when working with boneless skinless chicken of this size. Soak bits in about a cup of buttermilk for a minimum of 30 mins and up to 8 hrs. This both tenderizes the chicken and gives it some juicy flavor.
Next, measure out about 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs.
And, half a cup of plain bread crumbs.
Place them in a bag with a pinch of kosher salt, some fresh cracked black pepper and a pinch of plain paprika just for color. (if your kids like spice, you could also either add in a dash of cayenne pepper or switch the paprika to Hungarian paprika)
Remove from buttermilk with a slotted spoon. The goal is to drain the buttermilk away from the milk, otherwise you’ll create a gloppy mess.
Add chicken into bag. (Now, if you have kids helping with this you may want to do this in divided amounts so everyone gets a turn)
Zip up bag. Kid’s love to help with this part! Shake it up!
This is what you should start to see.
Spread out on a parchment covered sheet pan. Separate the pieces as much as possible. This one chicken breast was enough to cover an entire sheet pan. So, if you are doing more than one, plan accordingly.
Place the bits in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 minutes. And here is the result. (If you like them to look a bit more browned, spray with a canned canola oil before placing in the oven. I don’t find that my kids care, so I don’t. They are certainly crispy enough without it. It’s just a matter of color.
Now onto the dipping sauce, we are making a Honey Mustard dipping sauce:
I start with about a half cup of dijon mustard.
Add in a quarter cup of honey
Add in a dollup of sour cream (1 heaping tablespoon)
Stir together and wala! Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce. These three ingredients can definitely be adjusted to accommodate your taste, so play with it until you find that it works for your palate. You could also add in a pinch of salt, although I did not.
Recipe for Popcorn Chicken:
(serves 2-4 kids or 1-2 adults)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped
1 c. Japanese Panko bread crumbs
1/2 c. plain bread crumbs
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
For the dip:
1/2 c. dijon mustard
1/4 c. honey
1 heaping Tbs. sour cream
Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
In a gallon size zipper bag, add in bread crumbs and seasoning. Combine. Add in chicken bits, shake. Place on a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake for 25 minutes.
Add all ingredients to a small bowl. Stir.
Here is the adult version I promised you!
To make this chicken: * Soak chicken in buttermilk (and a dash of hot sauce if desired) for at least one hour. * In the bread crumb mixture add in 1 tsp. Hungarian paprika for spice if desired. * Bake for one hour or until the chicken comes to 160°F with a meat thermometer.