A family-friendly recipe for Baked Orange Chicken Poppers stars juicy DIY chicken nuggets baked to crispy perfection in the oven or air fryer and tossed in the ultimate tangy, citrusy glaze.
Few foods bring on the cheers in our house quite like orange chicken. What’s this mama not to love about a recipe that’s beloved by both adults and kids alike? One family, one meal for the win!
This latest iteration is my most favorite yet, with starring roles played by both the insanely crunchy chicken poppers, as well as the perfectly balanced homemade orange chicken sauce made with refreshingly pure Florida’s Natural orange juice!
The setup on homemade chicken poppers couldn’t be simpler, but the difference between decent nuggets and stellar nuggets comes down to a few pro tips:
- Thighs the Limit: Using chicken thighs rather than breasts ensures your nuggets will be juicy, tender and, most importantly, moist
- Panko Perfection: Japanese-style breadcrumbs (a.k.a. panko) result in the perfect crispy crunch, whether you’re making these nuggets in the oven or in an air fryer
- Delicious Citrus: The combination of orange juice and orange marmalade delivers big on the flavor front
Speaking of delicious citrus…
As a proud 6-year member of the Florida’s Natural Brunch Club, I can think of no better way to celebrate my love of late-morning snacking than with an appetizer that marries crispy chicken and a tangy orange glaze.
Best of all, because Florida’s Natural orange juice is made with just one ingredient (oranges!), you get an intense citrus flavor in every crispy, crunchy bite.
For optional heat, finish off your orange chicken poppers with a sprinkle of crushed red pepper for fiery, citrusy sweetness that can be baked up in the oven or in an air fryer for a quick appetizer, protein-packed snack or lunchbox superstar.Craving more? Subscribe to Just a Taste to get new recipes and a newsletter delivered straight to your inbox! And stay in touch on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.
For the chicken poppers:
- Cooking spray
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
For the sauce:
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/3 cup orange marmalade
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup Florida's Natural orange juice
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Make the chicken:
- Trim any fat from the chicken thighs and cut them into 1-inch pieces.
- Add the flour and salt to a sealable plastic bag.Add the chicken to the bag, press out any air then seal the bag shut. Shake the bag until the chicken pieces are coated on all sides.
- In a shallow dish, whisk together the eggs. Add the breadcrumbs to a second shallow dish.
- Remove each piece of chicken from the bag and shake off any excess flour. Dip the chicken in the eggs, shake off any excess, then dip it in the breadcrumbs, pressing to coat the chicken on all sides. Repeat the coating process with all of the chicken pieces.
To cook the chicken in the oven:
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and grease it generously with cooking spray, then arrange the chicken nuggets in a single layer.
- Coat the chicken with cooking spray then bake them for 10 minutes. Flip the chicken nuggets once, then continue baking until cooked through and crispy, an additional 7 to 10 minutes.
To cook the chicken in an air fryer:
- Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. Arrange a portion of the chicken nuggets in a single layer in the air fryer basket, then coat them with cooking spray.
- Cook the chicken for 15 minutes, flipping them once halfway through, until they are cooked through. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining chicken nuggets.
Make the sauce:
- Add the olive oil and sesame oil to a small saucepan set over medium-low heat.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Whisk in the orange marmalade, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and orange juice.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Transfer it to a serving bowl.
- Serve the chicken with the sauce for dipping or toss the chicken in the sauce to coat.