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Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Popcorn chicken is a popular Taiwanese street food. This bite size treats is a must-try for anyone visiting Taiwan. Now you can make them at home with my easy recipe.

Taiwanese popcorn chicken is one of many must-try street foods for those visiting Taiwan. When I took a trip to Taiwan back in 2014, every night market I went to have at least 3-4 stalls selling these popular treats, each with a long line of hungry customers. If you have never tried popcorn chicken before and a trip to Taiwan is nowhere in your horizon, fear not, you can now recreate this delicious snack right in your own kitchen.

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Chicken thigh, marinade sauce, and breading mix

You need three ingredients to make delicious popcorn chicken. First, make sure to use chicken thigh meat and not chicken breast. Second, make sure to marinate the chicken for at least 15 minutes. Third, make sure the breading use tapioca starch. Though it is acceptable in most recipes to substitute tapioca starch with corn starch, or potato starch, it is best if you can stick to tapioca starch for this particular recipe. The tapioca starch is the biggest component of the breading mix, and if you use other starch, the end result will be different.

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Dry the chicken, then deep fry

Once the chicken are coated with breading mix, be sure to arrange them on a wire rack, and leave them be for 30 minutes. This is to ensure excess moisture has the time to evaporate, which not only yields a crispier fried chicken, italso reduces the amount of splattering when deep frying.

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Thai basil leaves

It is very common that popcorn chickens are served with crispy fried Thai basil leaves. I usually fry my basil leaves at the very end, after I fry all the chicken. Since fresh herbs generally has a high water content, they will splatter when fried. If you have a lid to cover your frying pot, be sure to quickly cover your pot once you drop the leaves. Once the sizzling sound dies down, open the lid, and the leaves should be crispy and ready. Simply remove them with a slotted spoon. Now you can toss your fried chicken with the spice mix, and add the crispy fried basil leaves, and be sure to enjoy them while piping hot.

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

5.0 from 5 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 1 hour 30 mins

Serves: 8


  • Fried chicken
  • 1 kilogram chicken thigh meat, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, bruised
  • 1 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 2 tablespoon ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • Spice mix (mix the following together)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon ground pepper (or 1 tablespoon ground pepper + 1 tablespoon chili powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar (or chicken bouillon granules)
  • Optional herb
  • 1 handful of Thai basil leaves


  • Fried chicken
    1. Marinate chicken thigh cubes with soy sauce, five spice powder, ground pepper, and bruised garlic. Set aside for 15 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, place tapioca starch, ground pepper, garlic powder, and salt in a large gallon size ziploack bag. Shake to make a uniform breading mix.
    3. Once the chicken has been marinated for 15 minutes, add the egg into the chicken, stir until all the chicken pieces are coated with egg.
    4. Transfer the chicken into the ziplock bag with the breading mix. Shake well so the chicken pieces are uniformly coated with the breading mix. Arrange the coated chicken pieces on a wire rack to let extra moisture dry out. This should take about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
    5. Heat enough oil for deep frying. Once the oil is hot (~ 180 Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit), gently drop the chicken pieces into hot oil and fry until golden brown. About 2 minutes per batch. Drain excess oil from fried chicken by placing them on a wire rack.
  • Optional fried herb
    1. Add the handful of Thai basil leaves into the still hot oil, and fry until crispy. You may want to use a lid to cover your cooking pot because it will sizzle a lot. Once the sizzling dies down, open the lid, and the leaves should be quite crispy at this stage. Remove from the hot oil with a slotted spoon.
  • To serve
    1. Gently toss fried chicken with spice mix, then transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with fried Thai basil leaves. Serve immediately.
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  • Claudia Lamascolo Claudia Lamascolo says:

    This looks super tender and delicious I really am intrigued by the use of tapioca starch , thats a new ingredient to me. Thanks!

  • Colleen Colleen says:

    These crisp little chicken bites look just delicious. I think they would be a hit for our next summer gathering. Can't wait to make them!

  • Cindy Gordon Cindy Gordon says:

    What a fun popcorn chicken recipe! I am sharing with my neighbors! They were just over and talking about making popcorn chicken but look for a fun twist!

  • Lauren Vavala | Delicious Little Bites Lauren Vavala | Delicious Little Bites says:

    I used to order popcorn chicken all the time at a restaurant here, but it was so plain. This is much more my style and I love that it's so easy to make at home! Delicious!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Out of so many versions of popcorn chicken, my favorite is still Taiwanese popcorn chicken. They are just so crispy and I simply love the seasoning.

  • Sara Welch Sara Welch says:

    What perfectly sized and crispy bites of chicken! Made a great appetizer for my niece's graduation party this weekend!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Oh, congratulations to your niece. I hope you guys have a fun graduation party this weekend, Sara. I am willing to bet that these popcorn chicken will be a hit. :)

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