These spicy and crunchy pecan-crusted chicken nuggets are paired with a quick, creamy ranch dip. If you can't find coarse breadcrumbs, substitute Grape-Nuts cereal instead.

EatingWell Test Kitchen
Source: EatingWell Magazine, March/April 2012


Recipe Summary

40 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a wire rack with cooking spray and set on a foil-lined baking sheet.

  • Combine breadcrumbs (or cereal), pecans, chili powder and salt in a food processor; process until the pecans are finely chopped and the chili powder is mixed throughout, about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish.

  • Whisk egg white and water in a second shallow dish. Add chicken and turn to coat, then dredge in the pecan mixture, turning to coat evenly. Shake off excess. (Discard any remaining egg and pecan mixture.) Place the chicken on the prepared rack and thoroughly coat with cooking spray.

  • Bake the chicken until no longer pink in the center, about 15 minutes.

  • Meanwhile whisk mayonnaise, buttermilk (or milk), dill and garlic powder in a small bowl. Serve the chicken with the dip.


Tip: To make your own fresh breadcrumbs, trim crusts from whole-wheat bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. To make fine breadcrumbs, process until very fine. To make dry breadcrumbs, spread coarse or fine breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. One slice of bread makes about 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs or about 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs. For store-bought coarse dry breadcrumbs we like Ian's brand, labeled “Panko breadcrumbs.” Find them at well-stocked supermarkets.

Nutrition Facts

306 calories; protein 27.5g; carbohydrates 15.9g; dietary fiber 3.1g; sugars 2.3g; fat 15.1g; saturated fat 2g; cholesterol 67mg; vitamin a iu 975IU; vitamin c 0.4mg; folate 8mcg; calcium 52.8mg; iron 2.1mg; magnesium 41.4mg; potassium 338.9mg; sodium 430.1mg; thiamin 0.1mg; added sugar 1g.

Reviews (9)

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9 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 4
  • 4 star values: 3
  • 3 star values: 1
  • 2 star values: 0
  • 1 star values: 1
Rating: 1 stars
Nasty I'm not sure why I wasted the pecans in this. All I could taste was chili powder. Even my non-cooking husband said that it needed some other flavor to balance out whatever that spice was. The only saving grace was the sauce. Won't be making this again. Pros: Easy to make Cons: Tastes awful Read More
Rating: 4 stars
insanely delicious seems bad for you but isn't! This is insanely good. It seems so sinfully bad for you but is actually quite healthy! I made the recipe exactly as shown except used chicken breast tender strips vs cubing a chicken breast myself. Cook time was the same. I'm not a huge fan of spice but this was perfect for me when paired with the dipping sauce. Without dipping sauce I would need to cut the chili a bit. I used half chipolte chili powder and half regular chili powder. Pros: easy quick tasty way to spice up chicken Cons: could be too much spice for people who don't like spice or don't want to use suggested dipping sauce Read More
Rating: 4 stars
This turned out well and I will make it again. Read More
Rating: 5 stars
I love Chicken popcorn very much and I loved your recipe. It's looking amazing. Read More
Rating: 3 stars
Tasty treat This version of popcorn chicken was very good. It was easy and quick to prepare. I like the spicy chili flavor but might try some different spices next time. Pros: Crunchy East to make Quick meal Cons: Burn easily Read More
Rating: 5 stars
good for the whole family My whole family loves this meal. My husband asks me to make it at least once a week. My two-year-old is a very picky eater but when I make this he eats it all and wants more. It's so easy and quick. The sauce is delicious too. I've used it as a dipping sauce for other meals and snacks too. Pros: Quick easy tasty Read More
Rating: 5 stars
Crowd Pleaser! I found this recipe as a slightly healthier alternative to chicken wings as a football snack. The first time I made them the chili powder flavor was a little strong but the second time I halved the chili powder and they were amazing. Everyone we had over for the game loved them! We skipped the sauce and just used ranch dressing. They are definitely a do again... and again. Read More
Rating: 5 stars
Great recipe! Skipped the dipping sauce part because no one in my family wanted it. The chicken was wonderful without it. FYI the amount of coating mixed up will coat up to at least 2 lbs of chicken. I just made 2 lbs and still had some leftover to discard. Read More
Rating: 4 stars
good flavor combination I exactly followed this recipe finding it perfect in flavors and ingredient proportions. The dill sauce was a nice balance to the ground chilli. Next time I may add some hot pepper to the mix. Read More