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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 extra dip…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 fries and veggies for an easy Thai inspired dinner that’s different, sweet, spicy, and full of flavor.

overhead photo of Coconut Popcorn Chicken with Sweet Thai Chili Lime Sauce

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.

overhead prep photo of Coconut Popcorn Chicken on baking sheet

The steps.

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.

overhead close up photo of Coconut Popcorn Chicken with Sweet Thai Chili Lime Sauce

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!

overhead action photo of Coconut Popcorn Chicken with Sweet Thai Chili Lime Sauce being drizzled over the chicken

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?

overhead close up photo of Coconut Popcorn Chicken with Sweet Thai Chili Lime Sauce

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!

Watch the Video:

Coconut Popcorn Chicken with Sweet Thai Chili Lime Sauce

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories Per Serving: 581 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Ingredients

Sweet Thai Chili Lime Sauce

Instructions

  • 1. In a bowl, whisk together the mustard and yogurt. Add the chicken and toss well to coat.
    2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
    3. Add the coconut, Panko, paprika, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to a medium-sized bowl. Stir to combine.
    4. Remove each piece of chicken from the mustard mix, and dredge through the crumbs, pressing gently to adhere. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all the chicken has been used. Make sure not to crowd your pan, if necessary use two baking sheets. Lightly brush/drizzle the chicken with olive oil. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
    5. Meanwhile, make the chili sauce. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
    6. Serve the chicken topped with flaky salt, fresh cilantro, limes, and the Sweet Thai Chili Lime Sauce for dipping. Add creamy honey mustard for a little double-dip. Enjoy!

Notes

Creamy Honey Mustard: Combine 1/4 dijon mustard, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek Yogurt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of cayenne pepper in a bowl until smooth. Season with salt. 
Sweet Thai Chili Sauce: this is my favorite brand of sweet Thai chili sauce.
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Comments

  1. Is there anyway you can make these ahead? I am cooking for 20 people and want to prep as much possible so wondering if after dredging them I can freeze and then bake when I am ready to serve

    1. Hey Tasha,
      Totally! That will work well for you. Let me know if you give the recipe a try, I hope you love it! xTieghan

        1. Hi Melissa,
          Nope, you can follow the recipe as is. Please let me know if you give it a try, I hope you love the recipe! xTieghan

  2. 1 star
    This recipe I thought would be good. I used chicken tenders and prepared as directed using the yogurt as the initial base with mustard. The coconut was unsweetened. It didn’t have enough flavors and was dry. I think it was due to unsweetened coconut. I will not be making this again.

    1. Hi Karen,
      So sorry you did not enjoy this recipe, please let me know if I can help in anyway! xTieghan

  3. 5 stars
    This is so great! I’m allergic to shellfish, and have always been so jealous of coconut shrimp! This chicken has a nice fairly subtle coconut flavor and it cooks up really crispy, but still tender and juicy thanks to the mustard. The chili sauce is excellent, but you’re right, both sauces make it a real winner! Everything was so quick and easy too!

    1. Hey Laura,
      Thanks so much for making this recipe, I am so glad to hear that it was enjoyed! Have a wonderful day:) xTieghan

      1. Hey Corrinne,
        Sure, I bet that would work well for you! Please let me know if you give the recipe a try, I hope you love it! xTieghan

  4. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and my husband kept saying how great it was in between bites!
    I opted to use chicken tenders (honestly I took them out of the freezer by mistake) and serve the recipe chicken finger style instead of popcorn, (it saved me a bit of time not having to cube the chicken).
    The two sauces together really take the recipe over the top, the combination is fantastic!
    I love how you use different ingredients to add a twist to a recipe!
    Thanks for another great recipe Tieghan!

    1. Hey Lori,
      I am so so glad to hear that this recipe was enjoyed and I appreciate you giving it a try!! xxTieghan

  5. 2 stars
    I really wanted to like this! But the chicken was bland, soggy in the bottom, and did not get brown and crisp on top at 20 min of baking. (The sauce was really good!) Suggest the following:

    -Include salt during the dijon/yogurt marinade and let sit for 30 min before baking
    -Increase panko and decrease coconut flakes
    -Bake on a wire rack on a baking sheet to get heat underneath chicken
    -Need to adjust heat somehow to get chicken brown but cooked—maybe increase temp? Or bake at lower temp for shorter time then broil at end?

  6. What is the amount of dijon mustard to use on the honey mustard dipping sauce? It just says 1/4 dijon mustard. 🙂

    1. Hey Natalie,
      You will want to use 1/4 cup of dijon mustard. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan

    1. Hey Kim,
      Yes, that is just fine! I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  7. Can this be made without coconut? I have a coconut hater so was thinking half made as per recipe and half without coconut. Looks delicious!! Thanks!

    1. Hey there,
      Yes, that would be just fine to do! I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan

  8. Wonderful tasty chicken nuggets. Will post pictures in my instagram today.
    Based on this, I’ve also used tempeh, to make the nuggets vegetarian. Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Hey Ina,
      Happy Monday! I am so glad this recipe was enjoyed, thanks a bunch for making it! xTieghan

  9. 5 stars
    Another excellent recipe. Made both dips and they were delicious. The dijon mustard in the coating adds to the flavor.

    1. Hey Sharron,
      Awesome!! Love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks a lot for making it! Have a great weekend:) xxTieghan

  10. 5 stars
    This recipe is amazing. Made these for dinner last week – super easy – and then enjoyed them again on a Cobb salad for lunch the following day.
    I loved pairing them with some fresh cut pineapple – had me feeling like I was on vacation by the beach!!

  11. 5 stars
    This coconut popcorn chicken with sweet thai chili lime sauce recipe is AMAZING! I loved everything about it- how easy the recipe was to follow to how great it tastes! The Thai Chili and Honey Mustard sauces were the PERFECT complement!! This will definitely be a “go-to” recipe in my house, thank you!!