These ultra crispy chicken bites are lightened up by baking instead of frying in oil, then tossed in a mouthwatering copycat Caribbean Jerk sauce!
This is my take on the ultimate popcorn chicken. These chicken bites are soaked in buttermilk before breading, to ensure an ultra-juicy inside, then coated in a delicious panko crust and baked until tender and crispy. Either leave them as is and dip in the tantalizing Caribbean Jerk sauce, or toss them all together for a boneless wings type of dish! Either way, there’s NO way you’ll be able to have just one!
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I have a weakness for bite sized foods… there’s just something about them that I can’t get enough of! They’re just so “pop-able” and fun. Popcorn chicken is one of the items that I always order when we’re at a fast food place… I’m addicted to that crunch! But alas, I can’t eat fried foods all the time, so that’s why I chose to bake these little chicken bites. I can’t lie and say that they’re just as crunchy as battered and fried chicken bites, but you know, they’re close! Plus, you can enjoy more of them, because they’re a little healthier for you.
My breading method for these bites is a little different from my Parmesan Crusted Chicken Nuggets (which are the best way to win some MAJOR brownie points with your kiddos!), but they still take 30 minutes or less to get on the table. That makes these chicken bites perfect for a hectic weeknight (like when school starts back up), or even a lazy weekend night when cooking a big meal sounds like WAYYYY too much effort. We all have those weekend nights… hey, I’m a food blogger and there are some nights where we literally eat frozen pizza because I just can’t get it together lol.
You have two choices here… you can enjoy these crunchy little chicken bites plain, with the sauce on the side, or go all in and toss the chicken bites WITH the sauce for maximum flavor. I usually am a fan of the maximum flavor option, but there’s something to be said about the simplicity of a perfectly crunchy piece of chicken.
If you do choose to enjoy the chicken with the sauce on the side, don’t worry, they’re not boring. There’s a bit of the Caribbean Jerk sauce mixed in the egg step of the breading process, and some spices in the breadcrumb mixture… so you’ll still have plenty of great flavor going on!
The Caribbean Jerk sauce is a copycat of Buffalo Wild Wings… so it may not be an authentic “jerk” sauce, but it’s definitely tasty! Not to mention easy… you just pulse it in a blender, then simmer it on the stove for about 20 minutes. I usually blend the sauce, then simmer it as I’m breading and baking the chicken. The sauce can totally be made ahead of time too!
Some things I used to make this recipe:
KitchenAid Jelly Roll Pan – I love the size and sturdiness of this pan!
Ninja Professional Blender – Never deal with chunky sauces or smoothies again! This blender is simply amazing!
Pre-Cut Parchment Paper – No more fighting with your parchment paper rolling up and struggling to get it cut to size for your pan!
Cuisinart Saucepan with Cover – This saucepan is my workhorse… great quality!
Do your tastebuds a favor and make these Caribbean Jerk Chicken Bites soon!
Baked Caribbean Jerk Chicken Bites
CARIBBEAN JERK SAUCE:
- 2 Tbsp minced sweet onion
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp hot sauce your favorite brand
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1 1/2 tsp parsley
- 1 tsp cornstarch + 1 tsp water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1/8 tsp sage
- 1/8 tsp thyme
- 1-2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts diced into small bite-sized pieces, or thighs
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Several dashes of hot sauce optional
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 Tbsp Caribbean Jerk sauce from above
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 3/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Cooking spray
CARIBBEAN JERK SAUCE:
Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth.
Pour into saucepan and simmer over LOW heat for 20 minutes, or until thickened slightly.
Place diced chicken into zip-top plastic bag. Add buttermilk, salt, pepper, and hot sauce (if using). Seal bag and massage to coat all the chicken in buttermilk mixture. Set aside while you prepare other ingredients.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper sprayed lightly with cooking spray.
Gather 3 bowls; spoon flour and salt and pepper in one bowl (toss to combine), eggs and 1 1/2 tbsp jerk sauce in one bowl (beat together lightly), and panko breadcrumbs, dried parsley, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper in the last bowl (toss to combine). Line up bowls so that the order goes flour, eggs, panko, then have prepared baking sheet at the end.
Using one hand for wet ingredients and another hand for dry ingredients, transfer chicken from buttermilk mixture (a couple pieces at a time), shaking excess buttermilk from chicken, to the flour bowl. Coat chicken in flour, then transfer to the egg bowl. Turn chicken in egg mixture, then transfer chicken to the panko bowl. Toss chicken in panko mixture until well coated, then transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining chicken pieces, leaving about 1/2 inch between chicken pieces on the baking sheet to allow for even cooking.
Bake chicken for 15 minutes, or until cooked through, turning over halfway through. If desired, broil chicken for a minute to get them even crispier.
Serve chicken with Caribbean Jerk sauce on the side for dipping, or add chicken to a large bowl, top with sauce and toss to coat chicken in the sauce.
Recipe Notes1. Sauce recipe from Blendtec