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Homemade salt and pepper chicken is crispy, flavorful and healthier than takeout! Transforming an iconic Chinese takeout into a quick and easy family-friendly weeknight dinner!
Salt and Pepper Chicken
- 1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, Note 1
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Chinese five spice mix
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- ¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper, (½ a large bell pepper)
- ¼ cup finely diced green bell pepper, (½ a large bell pepper)
- 2 tablespoons sliced green onion, (about 2)
- Pat dry chicken thighs with paper towel and cut into bite-size pieces.
- In a small bowl, combine salt, black pepper and Chinese five spice mix. Mix well.
- Season chicken with the prepared seasoning mix.
- Let the chicken marinate for at least 5 minutes, while you prepare the vegetables. (You can marinade it up to 1 day, covered, in the fridge.)
- Add cornstarch to the marinated chicken and toss to coat, making sure each and every chicken piece is completely coated in cornstarch.
- Heat half of the oil in a wide skillet over medium high heat. Working in batches, arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer and fry for 2 minutes each side until golden. (Note: Do not move the chicken for 2 minutes. This will help develop color and crispiness.) Remove the cooked chicken onto a clean plate and repeat with the remaining oil and chicken. Keep the temperature of the oil steady at medium high and do not over crowd the pan, or they won’t get nice and golden.
- Once all the chicken pieces are fried, add the peppers and green onion (only the white and pale green part. Reserve the dark green part to garnish) to the now empty skillet.
- Sauté for a minute. Don’t overcook the peppers, as you want them to be crunchy.
- Add the fried chicken pieces back into the skillet and toss with the sautéed peppers for 30-45 seconds.
- Garnish with reserved green part of the scallions. And serve immediately with steamed or fried rice.
Forget take-out on a busy weeknight, this quick and easy dinner recipe is here to be your family favorite!
INGREDIENTS FOR CHINESE SALT AND PEPPER CHICKEN:
- Chicken – We prefer to use chicken thighs as it yields more flavorful dish. That said, chicken breast works well too. In fact, I used chicken breast in these photos. It’s really up to you!
- Chinese five spice mix – This spice mix is made up of cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, Sichuan peppercorn and cloves.
- Cornstarch – The key to a light and crisp crust is cornstarch. I don’t recommend to substitute all-purpose flour, because it results heavy and oil-logged crust.
- Bell peppers – Traditionally, red and green chilies or jalapenos are used in salt & pepper chicken. But to keep this dish family-friendly, we used red and green bell pepper instead. If you like it spicy, feel free to use chilis or jalapenos.
How to make salt and pepper chicken:
- Pat dry chicken thighs and cut them into bite-size pieces. Combine seasoning, mix well and season the chicken.
- Marinate chicken for 5 minutes and prepare the vegetables. Add cornstarch to the marinated chicken and ensure each piece is coated.
- Cook chicken pieces on medium-high heat in a skillet with oil. Work in batches. Remove chicken from skillet once done.
- Add peppers and green onion and saute for a minute. Add chicken pieces back and toss them.
- Garnish and enjoy it with steamed or fried rice.
Where does salt and pepper chicken come from?
Salt and pepper chicken is one of the classic menu items in Chinese restaurants!
Traditionally, chicken pieces are dunked in a thick wet batter and deep fried in very hot oil. Then the deep fried chicken pieces are sautéed with chilies and finished with seasoned salt and pepper.
We’ve simplified this dish for home cooking, but still kept the same delicious flavors intact. Even though chicken is shallow fried, it has the same amount of crispness. And it all comes together in 25 minutes!
Should you salt chicken before grilling?
Yes, if you’re grilling, keep the chicken in one piece and simply marinate it in the spice mixture for up to 1 day.
How do I get my chicken nice and crispy?
To ensure your chicken is nice and crispy, follow these 2 steps:
- Don’t overcrowd the pan. You want your chicken all in one layer, so each chicken piece gets brown nicely.
- Then let the chicken pieces cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. This will help develop color and crispiness. And flip the chicken and repeat on other side as well.