Chinese Bang Bang Chicken (棒棒鸡)

The real-deal Sichuan version of Bang Bang chicken made with juicy tender shredded chicken covered with a savory, nutty, spicy sauce with a hint of tangy and sweet notes. Originally a traditional Chinese appetizer, make it ahead and serve it at your next movie night or game day party. Mind blow guaranteed. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Sichuan-style shredded chicken in red oil

This famous Sichuanese dish is as mind-blowing as its name suggests! (I know I’ve used “mind-blowing” twice, but that’s how my friend described it when I served the dish.) You may have seen Bang Bang Chicken on Chinese takeout menus or in new hipster Chinese restaurants. But it’s pretty rare that you’ll find a Bang Bang Chicken that is true to the original. In the American version, chicken chunks are usually breaded, fried, and served with a nutty sauce. Or even mayonnaise! (I’m not sure if that should even be called Bang Bang Chicken…?!)

Let me tell you about real-deal Sichuan-style bang bang chicken. The funny-sounding name comes from the legend of its creation. In order to fairly divide chicken that was in high demand, merchants would use small wooden sticks or batons (棒棒, bàng bàng) to shred up the meat evenly. That’s what creates the tender, melt-in-the-mouth texture so vital to good bang bang chicken. Finely smothered in a rich sauce of intense Sichuanese guài wèi (怪味). Translated literally, it means ‘strange flavor’, but refers to a sauce that has so many flavors – spicy, savory, sour, nutty, and sweet – and is perfectly balanced. With the addition of fragrant homemade chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns, you’ve got yourself a legit bang bang. Watch out – it could get explosive!

Sichuan-style shredded chicken in red oil close-up

Cooking notes

1. How to make extra tender chicken

Despite the legend, I personally think the reason that Chinese people use a baton to shred the chicken is because they hadn’t yet started using forks. The legend also says the chicken-beating process creates extra tender meat. I think the real trick here is to not overcook the chicken. I’ve tried beating the chicken with a rolling pin before shredding. It does make the shredding faster but it also makes your kitchen counter a bit messy. I’ll leave it to your judgement to decide whether to beat the chicken or not before shredding.

Now here is the real trick. Even though the traditional approach is to boil the chicken in an aromatics-infused broth, I found that steaming the chicken creates a better result.

Simply chop up some green onions and make a bed of them on a plate, place the chicken breast on top, and sprinkle with salt. Set up your steamer, place the plate into it, and cook for 20 minutes for small pieces of chicken, or about 30 minutes for larger pieces. Compared to the boiling method, the steaming method seasons the chicken better without letting the delicious juice get lost in water.

2. Addictive sauce

It’s hard to believe you can make an addictive sauce so easily. OK, the ingredient list is not super short, but all you need to do is grate some ginger and garlic using your lemon zester and stir a few sauces together. It creates a perfectly balanced sauce that is spicy, savory, tangy, and sweet, with the numbing aroma of the Sichuan peppercorns.

I highly recommend you grind the Sichuan peppercorns from whole pods. NEVER buy the Sichuan peppercorn powder from the Asian market. It is not fresh and doesn’t even taste close to the real thing. To source premium quality Sichuan peppercorns, get The Mala Market brand online. The fastest way to grind them is to use a coffee grinder (you’ll want to wipe the grinder clean with a wet paper towel once finished, so your next cup of coffee won’t numb your entire mouth). Once you grind the Sichuan peppercorns, store the powder in an airtight container in the fridge and use within a month.

How to make Chinese bang bang chicken cooking step-by-step

3. Homemade chili oil

I would say this is the most important part of the dish. If you’ve never made chili oil before and are intimidated by the process, check out my homemade chili oil recipe. It takes 5 minutes to put together and it will make all your Sichuan cooking (or Chinese cooking in general) better.

A word on the amount of chili oil used in this recipe: if you want to recreate the authentic Sichuan experience, you need to use a LOT of chili oil. By a lot, I mean, the plate of chicken should be half-covered in oil (using anywhere between 1/4 to 1/3 cup of chili oil). I know it’s not the healthiest dish, but you’d be surprised how great it tastes if you pour on the extra chili oil. Of course, you won’t consume all the oil and there’ll be plenty left once you finish eating the chicken. The idea is to have a stunning presentation. Plus, each piece of chicken you pick up will be coated with sauce and chili oil, which delivers the extra fragrance.

If you want to keep the dish healthier, feel free to reduce the amount of chili oil. The result will still be very delicious.

4. Best party food

Growing up in China, bang bang chicken was always a humble appetizer to me. The dish you order in a restaurant so you have something to snack on before the main dishes arrive.

I changed my mind after I served it a few times in the US. One friend raved about it and another is serving it at her Super Bowl party next year. It occured to me, why not serve bang bang chicken at a party? You can make it ahead and store it in the fridge. The chicken will taste even better the next day, after it soaks in the sauce. It might be different from your regular party food, but I think it’s stunning looking. Don’t you?

Chinese bang bang chicken

More Sichuan-inspired party food

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Chinese Bang Bang Chicken (棒棒鸡) - The real-deal Sichuan version of Bang Bang chicken made with juicy tender shredded chicken breast covered with a savory, nutty, spicy sauce with a hint of tangy and sweet notes. Originally a traditional Chinese appetizer, make it ahead and serve it at your next movie night or game day party. Mind blow guaranteed.

Chinese Bang Bang Chicken (棒棒鸡)

The real-deal Sichuan version of Bang Bang chicken made with juicy tender shredded chicken covered with a savory, nutty, spicy sauce with a hint of tangy and sweet notes. Originally a traditional Chinese appetizer, make it ahead and serve it at your next movie night or game day party. Mind blow guaranteed.
To make the dish gluten-free, use tamari or coconut amino to replace soy sauce, and use rice vinegar instead of Chinkiang vinegar.
4.75 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: party food
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 372kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs (700 g) boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 green onions , separated

Sauce

Instructions

  • Chop 2 green onions into 2” (5 cm) sticks. Slice the remaining 2 green onions into thin slices.
  • Prepare a steamer by adding 2” (5 cm) water into the pot. Cover and heat over medium-high heat until boiling.
  • Use a plate that can fit into your steamer rack. Spread the green onion sticks onto the plate to make a bed. Place the chicken breast on top. Sprinkle salt evenly over the chicken.
  • When steam comes out of the steamer, place the steamer rack with the chicken on top, and cover the steamer. Cook for 20 minutes. Test the chicken by using a thermometer inserted into the thickest part. It should read 165 degrees F (73 C). Or insert a knife into the thickest part, and the juice should run clear. If the chicken is still pink inside, steam for another 5 to 10 minutes. Once done, transfer the chicken to a plate to cool.
  • While cooking the chicken, combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk to mix well.
  • Once the chicken is cooled, transfer it onto a cutting board. Use a meat pounder or a rolling pin to pound the chicken (optional), then shred into thin slices using two forks.
  • Place the chicken into a large bowl or deep plate. Drizzle the sauce on top and mix well. Garnish with thinly sliced green onion. If you want to create the authentic look, like at a Sichuan restaurant, drizzle more chili oil (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup) onto the chicken.
  • Serve as a cold appetizer or a main dish.

Notes

  1. If you want to re-create the authentic Sichuan experience, you need to pour chili oil onto the chicken until the plate is half-smothered in chili oil. Of course, you won’t consume all the oil and there’ll be plenty left once you finish eating the chicken. The idea is to have a stunning presentation. Plus, each piece of chicken you pick up will be coated with sauce and chili oil, which delivers the extra fragrance.

Nutrition

Serving: 4g | Calories: 372kcal | Carbohydrates: 6.6g | Protein: 41.5g | Fat: 19.4g | Saturated Fat: 2.7g | Cholesterol: 109mg | Sodium: 994mg | Potassium: 827mg | Fiber: 1.6g | Sugar: 2.2g | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 2mg

The original recipe is published on Aug 11, 2014 and updated by Oct 12, 2019.

Chinese Bang Bang Chicken (棒棒鸡) - The real-deal Sichuan version of Bang Bang chicken made with juicy tender shredded chicken breast covered with a savory, nutty, spicy sauce with a hint of tangy and sweet notes. Originally a traditional Chinese appetizer, make it ahead and serve it at your next movie night or game day party. Mind blow guaranteed. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Disclosure

Omnivore's Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

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29 thoughts on “Chinese Bang Bang Chicken (棒棒鸡)

  1. Christine | No Gojis No Glory

    Haha! Now that’s an interesting theory! Makes you wonder about the stories behind a lot of dishes… Love that you used chicken legs instead. Chicken breast can be such a challenge to cook with sometimes…definitely not a go-to for a moist option. Such a beautiful dish 🙂

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Yep, I prefer chicken legs over chicken breast for most of the time. Especially for stir-fry and baking dishes, leg meat is much easier to deal with and the flavor is better. And yes, they are much more moist than chicken breast! Have a great weekend 🙂

      Reply
  2. Michelle @ Healthy Recipe Ecstasy

    I always think about Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish Grill when I hear “Bang Bang” but this is totally different than anything I’ve ever seen, and I’m loving it! You always surprise me with interesting recipes. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      What does Bang Bang shrimp like? Is it fried? I once see a fried version of Bang Bang chicken and thought it’s quite strange (but tasty!). There is another version of bang bang chicken by using peanut sauce (tasty too!). The combination of soy sauce and chili sauce is very classic, and I consider it Chinese version of “olive oil + balsamic vinegar”! 🙂

      Reply
      1. Michelle @ Healthy Recipe Ecstasy

        Yes Bang Bang shrimp is breaded and fried. It has a very tasty sauce but I’m not sure what’s in it. This looks much healthier. 🙂

  3. Robyn @ simply fresh dinners

    You can count me in when it’s fresh, healthy and easy, Maggie. The fact that it’s chicken and spicy will make it a favourite! I will confess to never having made this but your gorgeous photos and tempting recipe will definitely have me adding this to the menu.
    I’ve made a healthy version of Bang Bang shrimp with panko and egg whites that I baked in the oven. I guess I should put that on the blog, lol.
    Love visiting your blog, Maggie. I know I’ll always learn something and the images are always so interesting. Great video, too!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      The baked version of Bang Bang Shrimp sounds so delicious! I love to bake fry stuff too, they are healthier and easier to clean up. Really glad you like the recipe and my blog! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Tuesday Tidbits - simply fresh dinners

  5. steve freiman

    I did a search for variations on this recipe and found that the majority of them call for breading and frying the chicken — this looks much more appealing and I’m making it today.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Steve, glad to hear you like this recipe! Yeah, I know the fried version you mentioned (it is mostly served outside of China). Even here in China, we have two versions, one with peanut butter, and one without.
      Happy cooking and let me know how it goes! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Cynthia Phillips

    Maggie, this recipe looks wonderful & I love the score you used for your video. What is the name of the piece pls? Tx.

    Reply
  7. Phil

    Looks really good. Could Tahini be a sub for Chinese Sesame Paste?

    BTW I just used your recipe to make the Sichuan Chili Oil. Did not have fresh ginger so I added 1/8 tsp powdered ginger. All else was per the recipe and it is fab. Thanks for the recipe

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Phil, yes you can use tahini to replace the Chinese sesame paste. Usually, I would recommend unsweetened peanut butter, since tahini doesn’t have the toasted taste. But the paste in this recipe is used as a hidden flavor, so tahini totally works.
      Glad to hear your chili oil turned out well! Hope you enjoy this one as well 🙂

      Reply
  8. Michael K Malone

    5 stars
    Just had this cold for breakfast… would never have thought it could be eaten this way. It did help with the Mala Market items as ingredients available. Thanks for the recipe !!

    Reply
  9. Kevin

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious!! I just today received my order of the new Chinese sesame paste from Mala Market, so it was this or Dan Dan noodles, and I went with this as I just made the Cantonese Ground Beef and Eggs about 6 hrs ago!

    This Bang Bang Chicken is SO good and better than the best I’ve had anywhere, not even a close second anywhere in sight! I make my own chili oil as well, and went with the full 4oz on the plate! With the chicken, the green onions and sesame seeds it was a beautiful presentation, only outdone by the amazing flavor! So good, so addictive….an explosion of flavor indeed!

    Another amazing recipe Maggie, thanks for sharing these, I’m hopelessly addicted to your website!

    Reply
  10. ElizaW

    4 stars
    Hi Maggie,
    Another A++ recipe according to my hubby. I did make a couple of changes due to acid reflux. I added two more Tbl of soy sauce, and didn’t add the extra chili sauce to the plate. Was afraid it would be too hot for us. I stir fried the green onion , then layed the whole chicken breast on top of the onion, covered and let the steam heat it up. (Hubby didn’t want cold, shredded chicken). Once plated with asparagas, I poured the sause over all of it. Amazing flavor! A sure rotation in my recipe book. Thank you for all that you do! I would give five stars, but since I changed it a bit, I had to account for that.

    Reply