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Jack in the Box Popcorn Chicken (Copycat Recipe)

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If you have followed me for awhile, you know that I have a thing for remaking restaurant favorites and this Jack in the Box Popcorn Chicken is my latest little science experiment 🙂 If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my Jack in the Box Tiny Tacos. It has become a reader favorite!

What is a “Copycat Recipe”

Simply put, restaurants guard their recipes for good reason. What food bloggers like myself do is break down the recipe and eliminate any fillers or preservatives from the list. Then, I attempt to recreate the recipe as close to the original as possible while taking steps to make it easy for the home cook.

History of Jack in the Box

If you aren’t familiar, or don’t live in a state where this fast food chain is located, you are going to love this recipe. Jack in the Box first opened back in 1951 and currently has more than 2,200 locations across the United States. Back in 2020, they added this limited time menu item. Made from 100% white meat chicken and served with Jack’s Good Good Sauce, its popularity has convinced the chain to bring it back every year since.

Jack in the Box Popcorn Chicken Review

Of course, never having tried it, I had to give it a little taste test and review. The chicken is really tender and tasty. You can see flecks of pepper and other spices running through the crispy breading. That breading was something I really wanted to nail down and I have a little trick that worked like a charm!

The Good Good Sauce has a little bite to it that I wasn’t actually expecting. I then ultimately tested the sauce recipe three more times to get as close as possible because that tangy flavor is really unique and I wanted to get it right.

What is popcorn chicken?

Popcorn chicken are small, bite-sized pieces of chicken that have been breaded and fried. According to Wikipedia, the recipe was initially conceived by KFC in the late 1990’s and has since become widely available. In 2015, KFC rebranded them as “KFC Popcorn Nuggets”. In other countries, they may be better known as “Chicken Popcorn”.

What is Jack in the Box Popcorn Chicken made of?

According to the website, they are made from all white meat chicken so that is what we are using here today. I used two large chicken breasts and cut them into 1/2″ pieces. I found that this was the average size with some smaller, a few larger in the restaurant’s version.

How to make Jack in the Box Popcorn Chicken (but better)

To make this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

How to create the breading mixture

Whisk together the eggs in a medium bowl and add your small diced chicken breast. To that, season really well with salt. This is the only chance you’ll have to season that chicken.

You’ll need your flour mixture (plus a bit more if the clumps get too big as you go along) and your buttermilk.

CHEF’S TIP! Remember that trick I mentioned above for the batter? I wanted to replicate that same look of the breading on Jack’s chicken and I did that first by whisking together the dry ingredients. I then added buttermilk and using my hands, started working the buttermilk into the flour.

You could also use milk or even water in a pinch to create this same effect. Jack’s batter has buttermilk, so I stuck with that. As you can see, the result is that craggily mixture with lots of little bits. When you get to frying the second batch, you may need to add a bit more all purpose flour just to keep those bits small.

Take the chicken from the egg mixture and go right into that craggily flour mixture. Give each piece a really good squeeze to make sure it adheres well.

IMPORTANT! Make sure your oil is very hot. Typically deep fry is 375 degrees but because the chicken pieces are SO small, we really need the exterior to get golden quickly. Therefore, I used a thermometer and brought my vegetable oil to 400 degrees.

Once golden, remove the chicken from the oil using a spider or slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Continue until you have fried all of the popcorn chicken.

How to make Jack in the Box Good Good Sauce Recipe

I took all of the ingredients listed on the package of Jack’s Good Good Sauce, eliminated anything that looked like a filler or preservative and also anything you likely wouldn’t have at home, such as tamarind concentrate. Ingredients are listed in the order of quantities used and as you can see, it’s wayyyy down there at the bottom. We’ll use Worcestershire and a squeeze of lime to mimic that same tangy flavor.

As mentioned above, I tested this recipe not once, not twice but FOUR times to try and get it right. Somehow, it always came out too sweet and it has a bit of a kick to it. Because it contains raw egg yolks and cornstarch requires heat to thicken, I did cook it for a few minutes before placing into my Nutribullet to incorporate some air. Once at room temperature, I think I came really close to the original so let’s get started.

To make this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

I wanted to show you a comparison of my popcorn chicken right next to the one I got from Jack in the Box. I am pretty happy with those results and I think you will be too!

A dip in our copycat of Jack’s Good Good Sauce and a little bite to show you that tender white meat chicken inside. The secret really was to cook more quickly at that higher 400 degree temperature. The batter was crispy and craggily, just what I was going for. If you can see how tightly the breading adhered to the chicken, that was from the squeeze I told you to give the chicken while breading them 🙂

Did you make my Jack in the Box Popcorn Chicken Copycat Recipe? Leave a comment below and let me know what you thought. And if you enjoyed this recipe, be sure to check out some of my other copycat recipes such as:

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Jack in the Box Popcorn Chicken Copycat Recipe Side by Side comparison with the original and mine
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Jack in the Box Popcorn Chicken Copycat Recipe

Jack in the Box Popcorn Chicken Copycat Recipe
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories

Ingredients

FOR JACK'S POPCORN CHICKEN COPYCAT RECIPE

  • 2 Large Chicken Breasts cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 3/4 c All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 c Corn Starch
  • 1/2 c Buttermilk regular milk or even water would work in a pinch
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 large Eggs lightly beaten
  • Vegetable Oil for frying the popcorn chicken

FOR JACK'S GOOD GOOD SAUCE COPYCAT RECIPE

  • 1/4 c Vegetable Oil
  • 1/4 c Water
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 tbsp Buttermilk or regular milk
  • 1 tbsp Cornstarch used as a thickener instead of xanthen gum
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce + Lime Juice squeezed to substitute instead of tamarind concentrate – used to heighten the tangy flavor
  • 2 tsp Prepared Yellow Mustard
  • 2 tsp White Vinegar
  • 1 large Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 tsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Molasses
  • 1/8 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Celery Seed

Instructions

TO MAKE JACK'S POPCORN CHICKEN COPYCAT RECIPE

  • Cut two large chicken breasts in about 1/2" pieces. Place into a bowl and toss with the eggs and 1 tsp of the salt (*edited for accuracy).
  • Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, sugar, baking powder, the remaining tsp of salt, onion powder, pepper and cayenne pepper. To that, add 1/2 cup of buttermilk and work it with your fingers until a craggily flour is formed. You could also use water or regular milk for this process.
  • Working in batches, add half of the chicken to the flour mixture trying not to get too much excess egg mixture with it. Toss and really squeeze the chicken pieces to coat the pieces with the craggily flour mixture.
  • Bring vegetable oil to 400 degrees and gently place the chicken into the oil, tossing occasionally until golden. This should only take about 3-4 minutes if the oil is hot enough. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Repeat until all of the chicken has been fried.

TO MAKE JACK'S GOOD GOOD SAUCE COPYCAT RECIPE

  • Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring to a gentle boil for 2 minutes, then remove and allow to cool. Place into a blender, food processor or Nutribullet and blend until smooth and airy. Cool completely before serving.
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