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

5 from 18 votes
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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.

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Homemade salt and pepper chicken close-up

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

5 from 18 votes
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}
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Keyword: salt and pepper chicken
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Marinating time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 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)


  • 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


  • 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.


  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.


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
Did You Make This Recipe?Don't forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!
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}

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Amanda says:

    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!

  2. Rhianna says:

    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?

    • Maggie says:

      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.

  3. John Parson says:

    5 stars
    I’ll try this one tonight.

  4. Verelle says:

    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 👌

  5. Rahila gupta says:

    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….

  6. Rhonda says:

    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.

    • Mary says:

      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.

  7. M Kish says:

    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.

  8. Rhonda says:

    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.

    • Maggie says:

      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!

  9. Rita Lee says:

    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.

  10. Roland Byrd says:

    5 stars
    Fantastic recipe. Exactly what I have been looking for in regards salt & pepper chicken. Well explained and very tasty

  11. jenia says:

    me and my family loved it,thank you for the recipe, will surely gonna make it very often.

  12. Mare says:

    5 stars
    Made this the other night – really good, a keeper. I wonder if this could be made in the air fryer? Seems like it would take less time and make less of a mess . did mix some of the spice in the batter and did crisp up the basil leaves. Also, what do you think about rice flour, in place of the corn starch?

  13. Phoebe says:

    5 stars
    Thanks, Maggie, for this wonderful recipe. I’ve made it twice in the past month and it’s definitely going into our regular rotation. I love the easy batter that doesn’t require dredging, and the shallow pan-fry—it still satisfies the craving for crunchy, juicy chicken but with a lot less fuss! At first I wondered why the recipe makes so much spice mix, but now I like sprinkling half onto the hot chicken as it comes out of the pan, and putting the rest in a bowl on the table for dipping for an added punch. I’ve marinated overnight and for only 30 minutes, and it came out delicious both times. Thank you for sharing your culinary talent with us. All the best from Chicago!

  14. Philip says:

    Can you use flour instead of cornstarch?

    • Maggie says:

      Flour will give the crust a very different texture. It will be less chewy-crispy and more fluffy and not very crispy. I would recommend not replacing the cornstarch if possible.

  15. george a eifler says:

    Hi Maggie,

    This looks good. We try very hard to keep our cooking oil to a minimum. Can this be cooked in an IP with a air fryer lid? If so what temp & time do you think would be

    Thank you,


    • Maggie says:

      I’ve never tried it in an IP with air fryer lid but I suspect you can. I would set the temperature at 400 F and cook for 7 to 8 minutes. If you don’t mind, spray some oil onto the chicken and also on the bottom of the pot, to keep them crispy.

      • george a eifler says:

        Thank you for your answer and so impressively fast!

        Looking forward to your next recipe because they are sooooooooo good.

  16. Lucy says:

    5 stars
    So delicious! Your recipes are always well-written and clear.

  17. Christine Soto says:

    for some reason, the link to the video for Salt and Pepper chicken is not working. I then went to your You Tube channel to find it, but it won’t download. Just keep getting the circle going round and round on a black screen.

  18. Lisbeth Slabotsky says:

    5 stars
    Happy Secular New Year. 🙂
    This looks delicious and I will use the nori. I was wondering if I can use a garlic ginger paste in place of the fresh versions of both. I have both on hand, it’s just the actual grating that is a problem for me. I use it for cooking Indian dishes.

    Much thanks

    • Maggie says:

      Yeah garlic and ginger paste will totally work for this recipe. Happy cooking!

  19. Sytse says:

    5 stars
    Another fantastic recipe!
    I also tried some bite-size pieces of chicken with a squirt of lemon in the marinade, which makes the chicken even more tender.
    Next, I put the chicken in cold spring rolls (rice plates) with a dash of hoi sin sauce and julienne cut carrot and cucumber. Excellent finger food for an evening with friends!
    Thank you so much for these heaps of inspiration.

  20. Sandy says:

    Loved this dish! Thank you so much!

  21. Kate says:

    YUM! We marinated the chicken for about two hours and then prepared this in the air fryer in a couple of batches. Really fantastic flavor and crunchy exterior!

  22. J-Mom says:

    5 stars
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this recipe! I love salt and pepper chicken but never imagine I would be making this myself. I’m glad that this is a non-deep-fried version. I just don’t want to have to deal with so much oil at home.
    This is really tasty.

  23. Alisa says:

    5 stars
    This recipe was a huge hit between me and my husband! We love love love popcorn chicken, but I appreciate this recipe because I know exactly what I’m putting into my food. We pretty much followed your instructions with a few minor changes:
    1. Used avocado oil because that’s the only oil we use in our household
    3. Used garlic salt instead of salt for the marinade, but used salt for the spice mix
    2. Used ground ginger powder because we didn’t have fresh grated ginger
    3. Air fried after shallow frying for that extra crispness
    I was super skeptical about the spices, but it turned out way more delicious than I expected to the point where we wanted more to coat our chicken! We have a google doc for favorite meal ideas and my husband told me to add this one to the list!
    Very well done and highly recommend!!

  24. jojobe says:

    5 stars
    This is what I’ll cook tomorrow! Do you think I can skip the sugar? Health reasons.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Sorry just saw this and maybe it’s too late. I definitely recommend the sugar since it adds great taste to the chicken. You can reduce the marinade sugar to 1 teaspoon and skip the sugar in the spice mix if needed.

  25. Christine says:

    This recipe looks great and so easy! Definitely going to try this in the next week. Thank you for sharing!

  26. Lucy says:

    5 stars
    Just made it and can confirm it’s delicious. Thank you

  27. Samira says:

    5 stars
    Super delish!! My boyfriend told me he missed the salt and pepper chicken from a Chinese restaurant that he used to go to when he was young. So, I surprised him by making it myself with this recipe. Despite this recipe is obviously not the same as he remembers, this is by far his absolute favorite! Whenever we go to restaurants now he is sometimes curious and still orders it. But he always tells me my salt and pepper chicken is the best! 😉 Thanks for this great recipe!

  28. Jeff says:

    Could you make this in an air fryer? Anyone tried this? Hanks!

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I’ve never tried it in the air fryer but it should work. The batter is on the stickier side, so you might need to add more cornstarch (or a bit flour) so the batter doesn’t fall through the basket. Also you should spray the chicken with a bit oil before air frying.

      • Jeff says:

        Great! Thanks for the tips, Maggie! This is my FAVORITE website for real Chinese recipes. I’m hoping there’ll be an Omnivores Cookbook cookbook someday! 谢谢你!

  29. Elaine says:

    5 stars
    Celebration food. So delicious. I love all of your recipes. Thank you for making this accessible for home cooks!

  30. Connie says:

    Can I use air fryer to air fry instead of oil fry?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I haven’t tried out the air fryer yet but I think you can. If the batter is a bit wet, you can mix in more cornstarch so it’s not so runny in the air fryer.

  31. Christin C says:

    Can I make this in an airfryer? If so, what temperature and time?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      This recipe is not developed for air fryer and I’m afraid the wet batter won’t hold up.

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