Recipe Image

Spicy Pecan Popcorn Chicken

  • 25 m
  • 40 m
EatingWell Test Kitchen
“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.”


    • 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


  • 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.
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