Coconut Popcorn Chicken with Sweet Thai Chili Lime Sauce.
Switching up Monday night with my (oven-fried) Coconut Popcorn Chicken. This coconut “popcorn” chicken is breaded in sweet coconut, oven-baked, then dipped in a spicy, tangy Thai chili lime sauce. Add a creamy honey mustard sauce for an extradip…you’ll be so glad you did! This is what I call at-home takeout. And yes, these popcorn chicken bites are even healthier than takeout because they’re baked, not fried…plus so much tastier. Serve with steamed rice or oven-baked french friesand veggies for an easy Thai inspired dinner that’s different, sweet, spicy, and full of flavor.
I’m always getting asked where I get inspiration from, and the truth is that my inspiration comes from various places. It can come from my family, the seasons, a simple photo, or even a flower. I can find inspiration for new recipes in almost anything, even the most random items.
This fun coconutty popcorn chicken however? Well, the inspiration for this one came from an overflowing stock of sweet Thai chili sauce. We accidentally ordered ten bottles of this sweet and spicy sauce. And while it’s a sauce I love, I don’t use it that often to warrant 10 whole bottles.
This got me thinking, what can I do with all that sauce? Which is when the idea came to me to make coconut chicken. Sure, I’ve heard of coconut shrimp, but coconut chicken wasn’t something I’ve personally seen (although I’m sure it’s out there). The thought of coconut-crusted chicken dipped in a sweet and tangy Thai chili sauce was way too enticing. I had to at least test out. With my oldest brother quarantined here with us in Colorado, I figured now is as good a time as any.
Creighton loves any kind of breaded chicken, especially popcorn chicken. Or chicken nuggets as he prefers to call them. And while I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about the coconut breading, Creighton said these were some of the best “chicken nuggets” he’s ever had.
He also said, it’s all about the sauces…you gotta have both the chili and the honey mustard.
To start, mix up the creamy mustard and toss it with the trimmed chicken tenders. The creamy mustard is our “glue”, it helps adhere the shredded coconut onto the chicken.
Next, combine unsweetened coconut with Panko breadcrumbs. The shredded coconut is the KEY flavor here. As the chicken bakes in the oven, the coconut “fries” and becomes sweet, nutty, and extra crisp.
Tip? Pulse the coconut in the food processor to really break the shreds down into a fine crumb. If you don’t have a food processor, try to find this brand of shredded coconut, which comes very finely shredded. This step is not a must, but I did find the chicken to cook up nicer with a finely shredded coconut versus the small shreds of coconut that are much more common in the store-bought brands.
Next, bake the chicken in the oven until it crisps all over. My secret is to gently dab/brush the chicken with olive oil before it bakes. This helps the coating to really crisp up nicely in the oven. You can’t skip this step, it’s crucial.
On to the Thai and mustard sauces.
No popcorn chicken is complete without a dipping sauce…or two. As I said, I paired this coconut popcorn chicken with a sweet Thai chili sauce using this sauce as my base. I then added a couple tablespoons of ketchup, garlic, and plenty of fresh lime zest and juice. It takes seconds to put together and is truly what I call, an addicting sauce. Think sweet, tangy, and just a touch spicy.
And then, because I felt like we also needed a creamy sauce, I did a simple honey mustard. It’s sweet and creamy, which balances out the heat from the chili sauce. You can skip this sauce if you don’t care for it, but I’d highly recommend using both sauces together. You then get a little sticky sweet and spicy sauce mixed in with a little creamy honey mustard.
It is SO GOOD!
Bake the chicken, then serve it up along with the Thai and mustard sauces. Add steamed rice and broccoli to complete the meal. Dinner equals done.
To sum things up, the chicken is crispy, coconutty, and very addicting. The sauce is spicy, yet sweet and tangy. Put everything together and you’ll have tangy, salty, sweet, coconutty, and spicy popcorn chicken. The most delicious flavors.
Added bonus? Many of these ingredients can easily be found in your pantry and your freezer. With such a large family, I always try to keep chicken tenders in the freezer at all times. They thaw much quicker than chicken breasts, and they make for a great last-minute popcorn chicken. The rest of the ingredients are all taken from the pantry shelves…unsweetened coconut, Panko breadcrumbs, seasonings, and spices.
Just add fresh limes and cilantro.
And with that, who’s ready for a fun, different, and delicious Monday night dinner?
Lastly, if you make this coconut popcorn chicken with sweet Thai chili lime sauce, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
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