This crispy fried vegan popcorn chicken is the ultimate vegan comfort food!  If you miss deep-fried popcorn chicken, chicken nuggets, or chicken tenders, then this is the recipe for you!  Batter your favorite vegan chicken substitute, season it to perfection, and fry it to a golden brown.

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This is not vegan health food, but it satisfies those cravings for fried chicken and will make your whole family jump with joy!  Perfect for special occasions, parties, and to show people how delicious vegan food can be.

Kids go crazy for these vegan popcorn nuggets and even my kids’ meat-eating friends have said that they taste just like real popcorn chicken.

❤️ Why you’ll love this recipe 

  • It will satisfy your craving for fried chicken.
  • It’s vegan, gluten-free, and can be made soy-free too!
  • You can make it with any vegan chicken product that you like.
  • You can use this basic recipe to make any shape you want like nuggets, strips, or patties.
  • Bake these vegan chicken bites instead of frying them for a healthier alternative.
A plate full of vegan fried chicken strips on a bed of kale with sweet mustard dipping sauce.

Use the basic coating recipe to make any type of vegan fried chicken that you want, like vegan chicken nuggets, chicken patties, or popcorn nuggets!  The breading is light and crispy and seasoned with a perfect blend of spices that will ensure you never miss KFC!

🧾 Ingredients and substitutions

  • A vegan “chicken” substitute – See the list below of choices.
  • Flour – All-purpose white flour or any gluten-free flour mix. (I use Trader Joe’s all-purpose gluten-free flour mix).
  • Corn Meal – This gives it a little crunch and texture.
  • Corn Starch – This makes it crispy.  (You can substitute this with potato starch if you would like).
  • Seasoning – Cajun seasoning mix or Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning work great and make it easy.  You can add ¼ teaspoon each of cayenne pepper, black pepper, paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder.  Ali from Gimme Some Oven also has a great homemade cajun seasoning mix.
  • Nutritional Yeast – Aka nooch.  This is a yellow powder you can buy at most health food stores. It gives it a little added umami flavor. (optional)
  • Baking Soda – This makes the batter expand a little when frying and gives it a light, airy, crispy texture.
  • Salt – For flavor.  The amount needed will depend on if there was salt in the seasoning mix that you used.  If you use a mix like Tony Chachere’s, then do you not need to add additional salt.  If your seasoning mix is salt-free, then you need to add about ¾ tsp of salt.
  • Oil – For frying your “chicken.” (I use canola oil).

🔪 Tools needed

  • Deep Frier It’s easiest to use a deep fryer if you have one, but you can also use a saucepan filled with oil and a skimmer strainer to get your fried chicken out of the oil. 

🌟 Types of vegan “chicken” 

Vegan chicken products – you can use any of the following for your vegan popcorn chicken.

  • Butler Soy Curls – I use this for mine since they are gluten-free.  I also like that they are self-stable until you rehydrate them.  They also have a similar texture to real chicken.  Use the longer ones for vegan chicken tenders, and the shorter ones for vegan popcorn chicken.  Rehydrate them in Not Chick’n Broth or Better Than Boullion No chicken base.
  • Beyond Meat Chicken Strips – If you want a gluten and soy-free option this is perfect.
  • Gardein Chicken Patties – These are gluten-free vegan chicken patties that are not breaded. (Not soy-free)
  • Seitan – Seitan is a meat-like product made from wheat gluten.  They sell a chicken-flavored version that works great with this recipe or you can easily make your own using my homemade vegan chicken recipe.
  • Tofu – If you don’t like the chicken substitutes, you can coat the tofu in the breading and fry it as you would the chicken products.
  • Jack Fruit – You can buy this in a can of brine.  It has a stringy meaty texture similar to chicken.

🥄 Make the coating

  1. Add cornmeal, flour, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, seasoning, and baking soda to a mixing bowl.
  2. Stir the dry ingredients until well-mixed.
Two pictures showing the process of mixing the flours, herbs, and spices to make vegan popcorn chicken.

🥄 Preparing vegan chicken 

If using Butler Soy Curls 

  1. If using soy curls, rehydrate 2 cups of them in 1 cup of vegan chicken-style broth, like “Not Chick’n.”  Allow them to soak up the liquid for about 5 minutes.
  2. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and toss wet soy curls in the dry coating mixture.
  3. Shake the bowl tossing the soy curls until they are coated in the breading.
A collage of 2 pictures showing adding the Butler Soy Curls to the coating mixture and shaking until well coated.

If using store-bought frozen chicken products 

  1. Allow them to thaw until they’re soft.
  2. Dip them into plant-based milk or aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas) to make them wet so the coating will stick to them.
  3. Drop them into the bowl of dry ingredients and shake until they are coated in the breading.   

If using Tofu

  1. Drain and press the tofu and cut it into the size you want.
  2. Toss tofu into the dry breading mixture and toss until well coated.

👩🏻‍🍳 Pro Tips

  • If your vegan “chicken” is wet to start like soy curls, seitan, tofu, or jackfruit, just toss it into the breading mixture. 
  • If it is dry, like a packed chicken strip or chicken patty, dip it into a little plant-based milk like soy milk, and then coat it with the dry mixture.

🥄 Cooking methods 

Deep Fry – This method will give you the most traditional taste and fry the “chicken” evenly.

  1. Set your deep fryer to 370° F and wait for it to come up to that temperature.
  2. Put about 1 ½ cups of the breaded “chicken” into the frying basket and lower it into the oil.
  3. Fry for about 3 minutes until it they float to the top, the bubbling decreases, and they are a crispy golden color.
  4. Pour onto a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
A collage of 3 pictures showing the process steps of before, during and after cooking the plant-based fried chicken nuggets.

Pan Fry – This will also work well and taste authentic; however it is just a little harder to get them evenly cooked.

  1. Put a generous amount of oil in the bottom of a frying pan and turn the heat to medium-high and allow the oil to heat up to 370°F.  (If you don’t have a thermometer, take one small piece and test it.  Put it in the pan and see if it sizzles and starts to brown after about 3 minutes of cooking). 
  2. Place the breaded vegan chicken into the pan using tongs.  (It will spatter, and you don’t want to splash the oil).
  3. Fry on each side for about 3 minutes until golden brown and turn with tongs until all sides are golden brown.

Baked – This is definitely a healthier option, but it will not have that authentic popcorn chicken taste without the oil.

  1. Preheat your oven to 425° F.
  2. Place the breaded chicken on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  3. Spray the vegan chicken nuggets with spray oil.
  4. Baked at 425° F for 7 minutes.
  5. Flip the vegan chicken and spray with oil again, and bake for another 7 minutes.

🌟 Can I use an air fryer?

I have had many requests to make vegan popcorn chicken in an air fryer, so I did some research for you. Sam, from Everyday Family Cooking, has a great air fryer conversion calculator on her site.  According to the conversion, I would suggest following the instructions for the baked version, but lowering the temperature to 400° F.   If you try it, please leave a comment and let us know how it turned out for you!

A piece of vegan popcorn chicken dipped into vegan honey mustard sauce.

🌟 Dipping Sauces 

We love to dip our popcorn nuggets in vegan honey mustardBBQ sauce, or vegan buffalo sauce. You can also use ketchup, sriracha, vegan mayo, vegan chipotle mayo,  vegan tartar sauce, garlic cilantro sauce, sweet chili sauce, vegan garlic aioli, or any other dipping sauce that you like. 

A plate full of vegan fried chicken strips with vegan honey mustard dipping sauce.

🌟 More meaty vegan recipes

📌 Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for new vegan recipes!

📋 Vegan popcorn chicken recipe

Vegan fried chicken strips on a bed of kale with vegan honey mustard dipping sauce.
5 from 10 rating

Vegan Popcorn Chicken

The best vegan popcorn chicken ever! Easily make it gluten-free and soy-free too! 

Ingredients

Fried "Chicken" Coating

  • 1/4 cup flour, (gluten free if desired)
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch, or potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons Tony Chachere’s seasoning, or creole seasoning
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, (If using salt free seasoning)

"Chicken"

For Frying

  • 3 cups oil, for frying

Equipment

Instructions
 

Make the coating

  • Add 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, 2 tbsp corn starch, 1 tsp nutritional yeast, 2 tsp seasoning, 3/4 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt (if using salt-free seasoning) to a mixing bowl.
  • Stir the dry ingredients until well mixed.

Prepare the vegan chicken

    For soy curls

    • If using soy curls, rehydrate 2 cups of them in 1 cup of vegan chicken-style broth, like “Not Chick’n.”  Allow them to soak up the liquid for about 5 minutes.
    • Scoop out with a slotted spoon and toss wet soy curls in the dry coating mixture.
    • Shake the bowl tossing the soy curls until they are coated in the breading.

    For store-bought frozen chicken products

    • Allow them to thaw until they’re soft.
    • Dip them into plant-based milk or aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas) to wet them so the coating will stick.
    • Drop them into the bowl of dry ingredients and shake until they are coated in the breading.

    For tofu

    • Drain and press the tofu and cut into the size you want.
    • Add tofu into the dry breading mixture and toss until well coated.

    Cook vegan fried chicken

      Deep Fry – This method will give you the most traditional taste and fry the “chicken” evenly.

      • Set your deep fryer to 370°F (188°C) and wait for it to come up to that temperature.
      • Add about 1 ½ cups of the breaded “chicken” to the frying basket and lower it into the oil.
      • Fry for about 3 minutes until it they float to the top, the bubbling decreases, and they are a crispy golden color.
      • Set on a paper towel to cool and soak up any additional oil. 

      Pan Fry – This will also work well and taste authentic; however it is a little more difficult to get them evenly cooked.

      • Put a generous amount of oil in the bottom of a frying pan and turn heat to medium-high. Allow the oil to heat up to 370°F (188°C).  (If you don't have a thermometer, take one small piece and test it.  Put it in the pan and see if it sizzles and starts to brown after about 3 minutes of cooking).
      • Place the breaded vegan chicken into the pan using tongs.  (It will spatter, and you don’t want to splash the oil).
      • Fry on each side for about 3-4 minutes until golden brown and turn with tongs until all sides are golden brown.
      • Set on a paper towel to cool and soak up any additional oil. 

      Baked – This is definitely a healthier option, but it will not have that authentic fried chicken taste without the oil.

      • Pre-heat your oven to 425°F (220°C).
      • Place the breaded chicken on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
      • Spray the vegan chicken nuggets with spray oil.
      • Bake at 425°F (220°C) for 7 minutes.
      • Flip the vegan chicken and spray with oil again. Bake for another 7 minutes.

      Notes

      • If your vegan “chicken” is wet to start like soy curls, seitan, tofu, or jackfruit, just toss it into the breading mixture. 
      • If it is dry, like a packed chicken strip or chicken patty, dip it into a little plant-based milk, like soy milk, then coat it with the dry mixture.
      Serving: 0.74cup, Calories: 220kcal, Carbohydrates: 26g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 1g, Sodium: 776mg, Potassium: 89mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin C: 4.1mg, Calcium: 157mg, Iron: 5.6mg
      Did you make this recipe?Please leave a star rating and review below!