Every time my husband and I go out for a mid-afternoon snack, it always ends up being boba and fried popcorn chicken. It's the perfect combination of sweet and salty, a refreshing sweet milk tea with a side of spicy fried chicken. I was craving popcorn chicken yet again the other day but this time I decided to make it at home. And since we love it so much, I made it the main star of our lunch. This pomegranate glazed popcorn chicken is a bit different than the Taiwanese version but it's just as delicious. With a sticky sweet glaze, light crispy batter, pomegranate arils, and fried basil, how can you go wrong?
Pomegranate Glazed Popcorn Chicken
- ¼ cup Thai sweet chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces
- salt and pepper
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate arils
- 6 fried basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Drizzle enough oil on a sheet pan to coat the bottom.
- Make pomegranate glaze. Combine Thai sweet chili sauce with pomegranate molasses, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger in a medium saute pan. Bring to a simmer over low heat and continue to cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper and toss with cornstarch and water. The cornstarch should cling to the chicken. Place chicken on prepared sheet pan, giving plenty of space in between. Drizzle oil on top so that each chicken piece is coated. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown, flipping chicken over halfway through.
- Remove chicken from oven and toss with pomegranate glaze. Transfer chicken to serving platter and garnish with pomegranate arils, fried basil, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
What I love about this pomegranate glazed popcorn chicken is that it can just as easily be the snack, appetizer, or main entree of your meal. Serve it alongside a bowl of rice and roasted broccoli for lunch or enjoy it with a cold glass of beer (or boba!) in the afternoon.
I also like the fact that you cook the chicken in the oven and not in a deep fryer. It makes for easier cleanup! You can even reheat it in the air fryer if you're enjoying the leftovers later on, although I doubt you'll have any left!
The real star behind this pomegranate glazed popcorn chicken is, you guessed it, the pomegranate glaze. To make the sauce, simmer Thai chili sweet sauce with pomegranate molasses, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic until slightly thickened.
If you can't find pomegranate molasses, you can use pomegranate juice. Reduce pomegranate juice with sugar and a touch of lemon juice until it becomes thick and syrupy. Depending on how much juice you're reducing, this could take about an hour.
Feel free to make the glaze the day before. It will thicken up more as it cools; if you make the sauce the day before, just pop it in the microwave to reheat it.
Now let's move on to the chicken. I used chicken thighs for this recipe but you can also use chicken breast. Just make sure to use boneless skinless chicken.
Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and coat it with a generous amount of cornstarch. Add the water and toss the mixture to coat. The cornstarch should cling to the chicken and look almost like a batter.
Drizzle enough oil to coat the bottom of the baking sheet and spread the chicken in an even layer. Drizzle more oil on top of the chicken, making sure that each piece is coated. The idea is to mimic frying chicken but in the oven.
Bake the chicken for about 20 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.
If you prefer to use a fryer, you can absolutely deep-fry the popcorn chicken instead while still using the same batter.
Once the chicken is cooked, drizzle the pomegranate glaze on top, tossing to coat.
Transfer the popcorn chicken to a serving platter and garnish it with pomegranate arils, fried basil, and sesame seeds.
This pomegranate glazed popcorn chicken is not like my usual popcorn chicken but boy is it delicious! The sauce is well-balanced with a touch of sweetness and tangy. Meanwhile, the chicken itself is crunchy on the outside and tender inside. I certainly wouldn't mind eating this for my afternoon snack!
For more Asian chicken recipe inspiration check out this roasted miso mushroom chicken!