Salt and Pepper Chicken Without Deep-Frying (椒盐鸡)

This Taiwanese salt and pepper chicken recipe uses minimal oil to create the most scrumptious result. These chicken bites are super crispy, juicy, and bursting with flavor. {Gluten-Free}

Homemade salt and pepper chicken served in a tray

Taiwan, a small, sweet-potato-shaped island off the east coast of the China mainland, is world-famous for its incredible street food scene. Salt’n’Pepper Chicken (pronounced Yán Sū Jī in Mandarin) is one of Taiwanese people’s favorite night market munchies, normally eaten out of a basket or paper bag. It’s sort of like popcorn chicken, made from bite-size tender breast or thigh cuts with a crunchy coating seasoned with zesty and refreshing ginger and five-spice. It’s like a party on your palate!

Unfortunately, constantly eating deep-fried street snacks isn’t so good for the waistline. Plus, it always makes a mess in the kitchen and produces a ton of leftover oil. So I’ve come up with a recipe that avoids the deep-frying method and drastically reduces the calorie count. The look of the final product might not be as perfect as the deep-fried version, but the flavor is out of this world! You’ll get the same crispy result using a large skillet at high temperature and a fraction of the oil, allowing you to indulge in your night market cravings guilt-free.

Taiwanese Homemade salt and pepper chicken

Cooking notes

1. The marinade

The marinade is the highlight of the recipe. It uses brown sugar, fresh ginger and garlic to impart a rich taste to the chicken. Ideally, marinating in the fridge overnight will help the chicken develop a deeper flavor. But if you’re short on time, you can let the chicken marinate at room temperature for half an hour, and the result will be great, as well.

Marinating chicken

3. The batter

The simple mix of egg and cornstarch does its magic. Not only does it create crispy chicken, but the cooked coating also holds well and stays crispy even after you chill the chicken for a while. When you mix the batter for the shallow fry, keep in mind that the batter should look a bit dry and not runny.

On the other hand, if you do prefer to deep fry the chicken, the batter works just as great.

4. How to shallow fry

I’ve tried shallow frying with a nonstick pan and a carbon steel pan. They both work very well.

Different from deep-frying, shallow frying requires you to flip the chicken to sear both sides properly and develop the crispy coating.

Also, keep in mind that cooking time varies quite a bit depending on the pan and your stove. If you’re using a light nonstick pan and an electric stove, it will take longer to brown and cook the chicken through. When using a heavy-duty pan (such as a cast iron or carbon steel pan) with a powerful gas stove, the cooking time might be cut in half. Always keep an eye on the bottom of the chicken, and cook it according to your own observations.

Salt and pepper chicken cooking step-by-step

Homemade salt and pepper chicken close-up

5. Spice mix

I made more spice mix than you might use in the recipe, so you can serve some on the side to adjust the flavor based on personal preference.

6. No basil? no problem

The authentic Taiwanese-style salt and pepper chicken uses fried crispy basil leaves to add another flavor dimension to the dish. But it does require some extra effort to cook. I’ve found that dried nori sheets have a similar texture and an equally interesting taste. You can simply shred some nori and add it to the chicken and skip frying the basil.

You can use the large nori sheets that are made for sushi rolls, or the small snack size ones that are sold in grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s.

Homemade salt and pepper chicken

How to cook salt and pepper chicken video

I recorded a short video to show you how easy it is to cook this dish. Find more videos to learn Chinese cooking on my YouTube channel!

More delicious appetizer recipes

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.

Homemade salt and pepper chicken close-up

Salt and Pepper Chicken Without Deep-Frying (椒盐鸡)

This Taiwanese salt and pepper chicken recipe uses minimal oil to create the most scrumptious result. These chicken bites are super crispy, juicy, and bursting with flavor. {Gluten-Free}
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Keyword: salt and pepper chicken
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Marinating time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 329kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450 grams) boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts) , cut to 1-inch (2-cm) pieces
  • 1 egg , beaten
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 small batch basil (or nori sheets) (*Footnote 1)

Marinade

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

Spice Mix

  • 2 teaspoons white pepper powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

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 use, so you can adjust the seasoning according to your preference.
  • When you’re ready to cook, add the beaten egg into the bowl with the chicken. Stir to mix well. Add the cornstarch. Stir to coat the chicken, until it forms an uneven coating with a little dry cornstarch left unattached. The batter should be quite dry and not very runny.
  • Add the oil to a large skillet (nonstick or carbon steel), just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the chicken one piece at a time using a pair of chopsticks or tongs. Turn to medium heat if the pan starts to smoke too much.
  • Cook the chicken until the bottom turns golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip to brown the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. (Alternatively, you can deep-fry the chicken with more oil at 350 F (176 C) until golden brown.) Transfer chicken to a large plate and remove the pan from the stove to let it cool a bit.
  • Your pan should still have a thin layer of oil remaining in it. If not, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil. Heat over medium heat. Spread the basil leaves. Cook the bottom side for 30 seconds. Flip to cook the other side until crispy. Transfer the basil leaves to a large plate to cool.
  • While the chicken is still hot, 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 cooked basil leaves and toss again.
  • Serve as an appetizer.
  • You can store the leftover chicken in a sealed container in the fridge. To reheat the chicken, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Heat the chicken for 10 to 15 minutes, or until heated through.

Notes

  1. The crispy basil leaves add another flavor dimension 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 equally interesting taste. You can simply shred some nori and add it to the chicken to skip frying the basil.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 329kcal | Carbohydrates: 19.6g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 14.7g | Saturated Fat: 3.6g | Cholesterol: 122mg | Sodium: 710mg | Potassium: 266mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 2.6g | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1.6mg
Taiwanese salt and pepper chicken - This recipe uses minimal oil to create the most scrumptious result. These chicken bites are super crispy, juicy, and bursting with flavor. {Gluten-Free}

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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12 thoughts on “Salt and Pepper Chicken Without Deep-Frying (椒盐鸡)

  1. Amanda

    This sounds so lovely! I’m craving it now. I can taste it in my head though I’ll have to give it a try. 🙂 The white pepper spice mix sounds delicious with the basil!

    Reply
  2. Rhianna

    You mention Shaoxing wine in the post, but it isn’t listed as an ingredient…? And what is the diameter of the pan that you use? 10 inches?

    Reply
    1. Maggie

      Hi Rhianna, thanks for catching this! I used 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine in the batter when I was testing the recipe. But ended up not using it in the final version because the liquid makes the batter slightly less crispy. I used a 12 inches pan but I think the 10 inches will work just fine if you cook the chicken in two batches.

      Reply
  3. Verelle

    I made it last night for dinner and the pepper seasoning made it very tasty I also made the garlic noodles with shredded snow peas and it made a wonderful dinner and heaps of leftovers for tonight’s dinner 👌

    Reply
  4. Rahila gupta

    I have just tried this. It was really tasty. But I didn’t have basil or nori sheet so I substituted deep fried lime leaves. Then went a little mad and deep fried cashew nuts, red chillies and garlic and added it as garnish. Mmmm….

    Reply
  5. Rhonda

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie,
    Another fanastic recipe! Made this last night with your recipe for Black Bean Paste. Absolutely fabulous! Hubby didnt care for the black bean paste, but he is super, super picky! Told him thats fine, more for me! He adores the chicken though and said its a winner, winner chicken dinner!

    I am proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks! At age 62, I wanted to learn Asian cooking. Found your blog when searching for cooking without a Wok. It is so much fun and so informative! I want to thank you for everything you do. This is the one and only blog I follow. Always look forward to your next email where I can look up what to try next. Thank you for time, and love that you put into your blog.

    Reply
    1. Mary

      5 stars
      Hi, I am also an old dog learning new tricks. I am 71 and lives in Singapore. Beautiful Maggie also gives us beautiful looking food.

      Reply
  6. M Kish

    5 stars
    Thank you so much – I love all the flavors and after reviewing the recipe details, you have made it so simple that yields a great chicken entree or snack.

    Reply
  7. Rhonda

    5 stars
    Have made this a couple of times now, and thought I would share a tip. I took 1/ 2 of the spice mix, and added it to the marinade. I also crumbled my dried Basil leaves, and added that to the marinade. Makes a bold statement and dont need the extra step of sprinkling the chicken with seasoning after the fact. Plus, no worries about the seasonings not sticking to the chicken.

    Reply
    1. Maggie

      What a great idea of coating the chicken with spices! I will try it out myself the next time. I also love the sound of adding dried basil leaves to the marinade. Yum!

      Reply
  8. Rita Lee

    5 stars
    even though my batter turned out a little goopy and wet, I cooked the chicken pieces in batches and while it didn’t turn out as crispy as I would have liked, it was still super duper delish and my fam gave it rave reviews. A total keeper—and my hubs has the brilliant idea to use the leftover spice mix on popcorn. Can’t wait to try! by the way, the only tweak I made was to add a glump of shio kogi, only cuz I had some on hand, to the marinade for some extra umami and tenderization.

    Reply