Marinated thigh meat, coated in panko and then baked until crispy, Sweet Chili Popcorn Chicken is then tossed in a homemade sauce which can be as mild or as hot as you prefer. It's sticky, sweet, spicy, moist, and tender!
2poundsboneless skinless chicken thighs, or chicken breasts
1/2teaspoonground black pepper
3cupspanko bread crumbs
For the Sauce:
1teaspoondried red chili flakes
Start by preparing the chicken. If using chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch chunks/pieces. If using chicken breasts, portion the pieces a little larger – about 3/4 – 1″ pieces. Add the prepared chicken to a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, minced garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, paprika, salt, and ground black pepper.
Pour the marinade over the chicken and toss well to coat. Cover chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Chicken can marinate for up to 12 hours.)
When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the chicken pieces into the panko bread crumbs until well coated. Place the coated chicken onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Melt the butter and use a spoon to drizzle it over the top of the prepared chicken. Bake for 25 minutes, turning at the halfway mark. Remove from oven and set aside.
Add the ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, dried red chili flakes, and four tablespoons of water to a large skillet. Whisk to combine. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat.
In the meantime, whisk the cornstarch and the remaining two tablespoons of water together until the cornstarch is dissolved. Once the ketchup mixture starts to bubble, pour the cornstarch and water mixture into the skillet and whisk into the sauce.
The sauce will thicken almost immediately. Once thick, add the popcorn chicken into the skillet. Use two rubber spatulas to toss the chicken and coat each piece with the sauce. Turn off the heat. Transfer chicken to a platter, garnish accordingly, and serve immediately.