Crispy flavorful Chinese salt and pepper chicken, prepared and fried in less than 20 minutes is a great dinner main dish. Serve it with steamed rice, noodles or vegetables.
If you are searching for an affordable Asian dish with a lot of flavor in short cooking time, this is a winner!
It is a gluten-free Chinese chicken thigh recipe. I used less oil for this oriental recipe to make a healthier version without compromising the taste. I use a popular pan-fried cooking method, which is faster, but you can use less oil by cooking in the oven.
Chinese five spice makes it so flavorful and intriguing. The best part is that you can make this spice mix at home, and it can be stored in a jar for other recipes. It is one of the best Asian spices for chicken!
This homemade recipe for Chinese salt and pepper chicken is certainly better than you local takeaway. Moreover, regulate the heat by adding more chilies or use bell pepper instead.
It is a simple Asian fried chicken recipe that doesn’t require chef skills or special ingredients. You will need a good wok or large pan and follow the instruction to make a satisfying mouth-watering chicken recipe.
Leftover Chinese style fried chicken can be served cold on top of the salad or in a wrap. Reheat for lunch or enjoy it as a salt and pepper chicken snack with chips.
Ingredients for Chinese salt and pepper chicken
Chicken thighs. Chicken thighs are more flavorful and stay juicy on high heat. I recommend choosing boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces. If you like crunchy bits, you can use chicken with skin on.
And of course, if you are the person who likes to it with your fingers, then go for the skinless chicken thighs! We live once, so who’ll judge you, if you snack the bones and lick your fingers, heh?
You can substitute to chicken breast, but be careful not to fry it until dry. Chicken breast should be cooked on a medium heat for about 5 minutes. If you have chicken breast, better check our keto orange chicken recipe that has a sticky Asian sauce.
This Asian recipe can be made with chicken wings. But the time of frying chicken wings should be adjusted accordingly. Cook chicken wings at least 5 minutes on high heat to get the golden brown texture.
Chilies. We love to add heat with marinated or pickled chilies, so we always have a jar for cooking. It makes the flavor much more concentrated, but you can experiment by adding a fresh red or green chili pepper. Regulate the heat by adding hotter or milder chilies.
Garlic and onion. These are staples for a flavorful fried Chinese dish. Mince them finally and add as instructed in recipe card. You don’t want to over-fry the garlic and onion to add bitterness, so add them at the end. Also you can sprinkle some green onion on top of the served dish!
Peanut oil. Peanut oil is great for frying, and it adds more flavor to this Chinese salt and pepper chicken. You can substitute it to any other vegetable oil such as canola oil, if it is what you have in your pantry.
Vegetables. As I already mentioned, you can add bell pepper instead of chillies. If you are cooking it for kids or older people or need to avoid heat in your mouth, use carrots and bell pepper.
Chinese salt and pepper chicken seasoning
Chicken five spice. This seasoning can be found in Asian section of your local market, but you can easily make it at home. It makes chicken coating so delicious – sweet, sour, a little bitter and umami.
To make this seasoning combine 5 Chinese spices: anise seeds, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and peppercorns in coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
By the way, if you can’t find fennel in the spice section of your store, check if they have pure fennel tea. 2 teabags is usually enough to cut and add to the spice mix.
Salt. I use regular table salt for this recipe.
Pepper. It is called a salt and pepper chicken for a reason. However, it is quite a lot of pepper in five-spice mixture to my taste, so I didn’t add more pepper, while cooking the poultry.
I used whole black peppercorns for the spice mix. The ground black pepper can lose flavor, if the pack is open, and it stands for couple days.
Taste a bite of chicken after it is cooked. If it needs more seasoning, add more ground black pepper or kosher salt to your taste.
However, keep in mind that it will be hot and flavorful after addition of chilies, garlic and onion.
Chicken powder. Many take out restaurant use chicken powder or chicken bullion powder. You can add half of a teaspoon to the spice mix to boost the flavor.
However, the five-spice to my taste is enough to make this Chinese chicken dish stand out. Chicken powder can make it too salty, so be careful with it.
How to make chicken salt and pepper
First prepare all the ingredients. If you don’t have Chinese five spice, combine the spices in a coffee grinder or use mortar and pestle. It should look fine and combined. Store leftover seasoning in a closed glass jar.
Chop chicken thigh fillets into bite size pieces.
In a bowl combine cornstarch, salt and Chinese five-spice.
Coat chopped chicken fillets in the spice mixture.
Heat the wok pan or a large pan with peanut oil. If you have an oil thermometer it should be 350 F. If you don’t have it, you can check the temperature by testing with one piece of chicken. If it is starting to sizzle, oil is ready.
Remove excess seasoning from the chicken pieces, before adding to the hot oil.
Fry the chicken for 5-8 minutes on every side until golden. Transfer cooked chicken to the clean bowl or cooling rack. You can place it on the paper towels, if you want to absorb excess oil.
Keep in mind that the frying time also depends on the type of the pan you use and power of your gas or electric stove. Follow the instructions, but trust your eyes an experience with your cookware.
Cook in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan. Remove leftover crumbs from oil and try to make oil clear, when cooking the second or third batch. It is better to use another pan or add clear oil, if there are too many crumbs.
After chicken is cooked, clean the pan or use another one. Heat a little bit of oil again.
Add chopped onion and chilies and fry 2-3 minutes.
Add chopped garlic and fry 1 more minute. Stir often, so it is evenly cooked.
Finally, add cooked chicken and fry all together 1 more minute.
Your dinner is ready! Serve Chinese salt and pepper chicken with regular rice or cauliflower rice, add some chopped parsley or scallions on top.
Don’t forget to taste it, if it needs more salt and pepper to your taste.
Other methods of cooking Asian chicken recipe
Oven method. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Mix all chicken with spice mix, place in a large baking tray in a single layer. Sprinkle with oil. Bake about 15 minutes. You can switch a grill for 3 minutes to make it crispier. Cook the vegetables as instructed in the pan and mix with the chicken.
Air Fryer. Set the temperature for 380 F / 195 C and brush the basket with oil. Cook chicken mixed with spices about 30 minutes, tossing the basket every 5 minutes. Prepare vegetables separately in a pan and mix with chicken.
How to store Chinese Salt and Pepper chicken
Store in an air-tight container in the fridge up to 5 days.
Chinese salt and pepper chicken will keep in the freezer for 3 months.
Chinese salt and pepper chicken
- pan or wok
- bowl for mixing
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 onion chopped
- 5-6 pcs chicken thighs skinless, boneless, chopped
- 5 tbsp peanut oil + extra
- 3 green and red chili peppers marinated, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
Chinese five spice:
- 3 tsp anise seeds ground
- ½ tsp cloves ground
- 1 tbsp cinnamon ground
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds ground
- 1½ tsp black peppercorns ground
- Mix all ingredients for Chinese Five Spice.3 tsp anise seeds, ½ tsp cloves, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp fennel seeds, 1½ tsp black peppercorns
- Mix cornstarch with starch, salt and Five Spice.1/2 cup cornstarch, 1 tsp salt
- Toss chicken bites in the cornflour mixture.5-6 pcs chicken thighs
- Heat oil on a large pan or wok. Add chicken to the pan, don't overcrowd it.5 tbsp peanut oil
- Fry chicken 5-8 min in batches on both sides. Set aside.5-6 pcs chicken thighs
- Heat oil in a clean pan.
- Add chopped onion and garlic in a pan. Fry for 1 minute, mixing, until fragrant.1 onion, 2 cloves garlic
- Add mixed chopped peppers. Fry 2-3 minutes, stirring.3 green and red chili peppers
- Add fried chicken back to the pan and fry together with vegetables for 1 more minute.
- Add parsley or scallions and serve with cooked rice.