Spicy Pecan Popcorn Chicken

Spicy Pecan Popcorn Chicken

8 Reviews
From: EatingWell Magazine, March/April 2012

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.

Ingredients 4 servings

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Original recipe yields 4 servings
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  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • ¾ cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Tip) or Grape-Nuts cereal
  • ½ cup pecan pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup low-fat buttermilk or milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon fresh
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder


  • Active

  • Ready In

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Thoroughly coat a wire rack with cooking spray and set on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bake the chicken until no longer pink in the center, about 15 minutes.
  5. 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 ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs or about ⅓ cup dry breadcrumbs. For store-bought coarse dry breadcrumbs we like Ian's brand, labeled “Panko breadcrumbs.” Find them at well-stocked supermarkets.

Nutrition information

  • Per serving: 306 calories; 15 g fat(2 g sat); 3 g fiber; 16 g carbohydrates; 27 g protein; 8 mcg folate; 67 mg cholesterol; 2 g sugars; 1 g added sugars; 975 IU vitamin A; 0 mg vitamin C; 53 mg calcium; 2 mg iron; 430 mg sodium; 339 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (20% daily value)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 1
  • Exchanges: 1 starch, 3 lean meat, 1 fat

Reviews 8

July 04, 2017
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By: Kathy Ruth
This turned out well and I will make it again.
August 10, 2015
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By: EatingWell User
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
January 12, 2015
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By: EatingWell User
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.
November 23, 2014
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By: EatingWell User
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
January 31, 2013
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By: MissesSummers
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
May 27, 2012
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By: res_emptito
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.
April 23, 2012
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By: nvs1s
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.
April 02, 2012
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By: EatingWell User
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
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