Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken

5 from 3 votes
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A super easy and fast air fryer salt and pepper chicken recipe that creates extra crispy chicken bites coated in a delicious pepper salt without making a mess. It takes no time to put together and tastes just as good as deep-fried! {Gluten-Free}

Air fryer salt and pepper chicken served in a plate

Since I posted the original salt and pepper chicken recipe, I have been asked by readers if the dish can be made in an air fryer. It took me so long to start experimenting with it, and now I regret that I didn’t do it earlier! Once I tried making salt and pepper chicken in an air fryer, I found the process so simple and the result great! I won’t be going back to the stovetop method anytime soon.

Why air fryer salt and pepper chicken

Salt and pepper chicken is a famous Taiwanese snack, featuring crispy chicken bites coated in a savory pepper salt and garnished with crispy basil and chili pepper. It used to be my favorite snack to order when I would meet up with friends for bubble tea.

Traditionally the chicken is marinated and deep fried. However I found it so much easier to make in an air fryer and the result is just as great.

It comes in handy especially when you make the dish in the summer. The air fryer doesn’t heat up my kitchen at all, when I found it torturous to stand in front of the hot stove for more than 10 minutes.

Air fryer salt and pepper chicken with basil, pepper and lemon
Picking up a crispy chicken bite from a plate

Ingredients for air fryer salt and pepper chicken

Making air fryer salt and pepper chicken is so easy and you will find that most of the ingredients are already in your pantry. 

The fresh ginger and garlic in the marinade are important, as they make the chicken extra fragrant.

The key ingredient to making the pepper salt is white pepper. It has a brighter tone that really stands out. A touch of five spice powder adds warm flavor to the chicken, making it richer and more savory. I also love to serve my air fryer salt and pepper chicken with a squeeze of lemon.

Traditional salt and pepper chicken uses deep fried crispy basil leaves to add another dimension of flavor to the dish, but it does require some extra effort to cook them. I’ve found that dried nori sheets have a similar texture and an equally interesting taste. Or you can simply serve the chicken with fresh basil like I did in the recipe, which tastes great as well.

How to make air fryer salt and pepper chicken

Making air fryer salt and pepper chicken couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is:

  • Marinate the chicken in a few simple ingredients
  • Coat the chicken with cornstarch right before cooking
  • Add the chicken to your air fryer basket and spray with oil
  • Cook at 350°F (176°C) for 10 minutes
  • Raise the air fryer temperature to 400°F (200°C) and cook for 5 minutes
  • Toss the air fried chicken with the salt and pepper spice mix
How to make air fryer salt and pepper chicken step-by-step
Air fryer salt and pepper chicken close up

One word about the type of air fryer you use

I use a Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven currently. We upgraded to it when our old one from 5 years ago gave out.

I ended up getting an air fryer toaster oven because:

  1. It has more basket space so I can cook more food at one time
  2. The basket is stainless steel. I found most air fryers use nonstick coatings which I try to avoid.
  3. The air fryer has a beautiful design that looks great on my kitchen counter. 

I have to admit that I rarely turn on my big oven since I got the air fryer toaster oven. It heats up and cooks so much faster, and does not heat up my room. 

Depending on the type of air fryer you use, you might find the cooking time varies lightly. My air fryer is quite powerful and sometimes it needs less time. When you’re using an air fryer recipe, always check on your food a few times during cooking, and slightly adjust the cooking time according to the best result.

Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken

That’s all! This air fryer chicken is such a great appetizer for your dinner, or a snack for movie night. I hope you enjoy this one!

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A super easy and fast air fryer salt and pepper chicken recipe that creates extra crispy chicken bites coated in a delicious pepper salt without making a mess. It takes no time to put together and tastes just as good as deep-fried! {Gluten-Free}

Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken

5 from 3 votes
A super easy and fast air fryer salt and pepper chicken recipe that creates extra crispy chicken bites coated in a delicious pepper salt without making a mess. It takes no time to put together and tastes just as good as deep-fried! {Gluten-Free}
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Keyword: homestyle
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Marinating time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450 g) boneless skinless chicken thighs , cut to 1-inch (2-cm) pieces (or breasts)
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • Oil spray

Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic , finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Spice Mix

  • 2 teaspoons white pepper powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1/8 teaspoon five-spice powder

Garnish (Optional)

  • 1 small batch basil , sliced (or nori sheets) (*Footnote 1)
  • Lemon wedges
  • Sliced hot peppers of your choice (jalapeno, Asian red long pepper, Bird eye chile etc)

Instructions

  • Combine the chicken and the marinade ingredients in a big bowl. Mix well. Marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to overnight in the fridge.
  • Combine the ingredients for the spice mix in a small bowl and stir to mix well. Note, this recipe prepares more spice mix than you might end up using, so you can adjust the seasoning according to your preference.
  • When you’re ready to cook, add the cornstarch to the chicken, a few tablespoons at a time. Stir to coat the chicken, until all the pieces are covered with cornstarch.
  • Place the chicken pieces into your air fryer basket (or tray), without overlapping. Cook in batches if needed. Spray oil onto the chicken until there’s no dry cornstarch on the surface.
  • Cook in the air fryer at 350°F (176°C) for 10 minutes. Take out the chicken, flip and spray oil again. Raise the temperature to 400°F (200°C) and cook until the chicken turns golden brown, 5 minutes or so. Transfer all the chicken pieces to a big bowl. Sprinkle about half of the spice mix over the chicken and gently toss it with a pair of tongs. Taste the chicken. Add more spice mix if needed.
  • Add the sliced basil to the chicken, garnish with chili pepper, and serve with lemon wedges on the side, if using. Serve hot as an appetizer.

Notes

  1. Traditional salt and pepper chicken uses crispy deep fried basil leaves to add another dimension of flavor to the dish, but it does require some extra effort to cook them since you can’t fry them in the air fryer. I’ve found that dried nori sheets have a similar texture and an equally interesting taste. Or you can simply serve the chicken with fresh basil like I did in the recipe, which tastes great as well.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 318kcal, Carbohydrates: 17.4g, Protein: 33.2g, Fat: 11.9g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 101mg, Sodium: 682mg, Potassium: 311mg, Fiber: 0.6g, Sugar: 0.8g, Calcium: 28mg, Iron: 2mg
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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Kim says:

    I’m wondering whether you could do salt and pepper squid in the same way?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I will need to test that out but I think squid is a bit trickier in the air fryer. The cornstarch might not grab onto the squid so well because the surface is so smooth. Maybe I will need to add eggs to the batter. I do want to develop a recipe for it because I love the dish too 🙂 Stay tuned!

      • Kim says:

        Thanks Maggie

  2. Kp says:

    5 stars
    Made this earlier tonight in our air fryer and with chicken breast. It was delicious! Thanks for the recipe

  3. Amanda says:

    5 stars
    Made this recipe tonight, so easy and delicious. Reminds me of Taiwanese popcorn chicken. I didn’t have basil or seaweed garnish and still tasted fantastic. I did use less of the spice mix personally, so could be good to start with adding a little, taste testing and adding more if you need. Will definitely be making again!

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      So happy to hear you made this one! And thanks for leaving a positive review 🙂

  4. Chinny Heng says:

    Can you let me know which cuisinart model you are using? Thanks

  5. Mireya Pizarro says:

    5 stars
    Looks delicious and healthy! I don’t have an air fryer so could I make this in the oven?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I think you can! I would raise 50F for the baking, and turn on the convection if you have one. You can also keep the chicken pieces just slightly bigger, in case they need longer time to brown. If they do not brown at the end of cooking, you can also turn on the broiler to give it a blast as the end.

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