Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken (Air Fryer)

Salty with a hint of sweetness, Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken is a popular and delightful dish at restaurants worldwide. Enjoy a healthy version of this dish anytime at home by air frying the chicken with just a minimal amount of oil!

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes – Cooking Time: 18 minutes – Total Time: 28 minutes

Helpful equipment

  • Air fryer plus air fryer baking pan
  • parchment paper


  • 3/4 lb. chicken cut into 1” pieces

Chicken marinade:
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 tsp oyster sauce (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp five spice powder
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp salt

For the coating:
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt (or 1/8 salt + 1/8 garlic powder)
  • 1/8 tsp Sichuan peppercorn powder

Seasoning and basil:
  • Handful of basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorn powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tbsp. oil


Step 1
Marinate the chicken. In a container, place chicken and add minced garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce, five spice powder, white pepper, and salt. Toss chicken with marinade ingredients until each piece is evenly coated and the ingredients are well combined. Set aside or refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours for best taste.

Step 2
In a small bowl, prepare the seasoning. Combine ¼ tsp Sichuan peppercorn powder and ¼ tsp salt. Note that this may yield more seasoning than needed.

Step 3
Line the air fryer basket with parchment paper. Sprinkle a pinch of seasoning over the parchment paper.

Step 4
In a separate bowl, combine tapioca flour, garlic salt and Sichuan peppercorn powder. Coat each chicken piece completely with this flour mixture. Arrange the coated chicken pieces spaced apart on the parchment paper, ensuring they do not touch.

Step 5
Lightly baste the chicken pieces with oil and sprinkle a few pinches of seasoning over them.

Step 6
Air fry for 12 minutes at 375F. Flip the chicken pieces and sprinkle with seasoning (optionally, remove or replace the parchment paper with a new, dry sheet). Continue air frying at 400F for 4-6 minutes. Repeat this process in batches if necessary.

Step 7
Set aside the chicken pieces when completely air fried. Toss basil with oil and a pinch of seasoning. Place the seasoned basil in the air fryer basket and air fry 1 minute at 400F.

Step 8
Finally, gently toss the cooked chicken with basil, serve, and enjoy!


  • While any type of basil works, Thai basil's bold, anise-like flavor beautifully complements the chicken.
  • Although brining the chicken beforehand is optional, brining adds extra tenderness and reduces dryness. A standard brining procedure is described in this post “How to Brine Meat.”
  • Tapioca starch is sticky and may cause the chicken to adhere to the air fryer baking pan. Greasing the pan or lining it with parchment paper will help prevent sticking. Additionally, spacing the chicken pieces apart ensures they don't clump together during cooking.
  • Optionally, you can remove and replace the parchment paper in the air fryer before flipping the chicken pieces. This prevents them from resting on damp parchment paper, ensuring they remain crisp and dry.

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