Three Cup Chicken (三杯鸡)

5 from 4 votes
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Authentic Chinese restaurant-style flavors abound in this three cup chicken recipe that is simple to make with absolutely aromatic results. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Three cup chicken in a pan

Looking for something different when it comes to making chicken for dinner? Then you should definitely make three cup chicken. It’s a famous Taiwanese dish that has a heavenly aroma and an even more mouthwatering flavor.

Traditionally, three cup chicken is made with an entire chicken, carved-up, bone-in, and skin-on. It’s braised in a sweet and savory broth until it gets a nice, sticky glaze. Then, fresh basil is added for the finishing touch. I’ve found a way to preserve this authentic flavor while using a simpler cut of chicken – the wings – to recreate it for any night of the week. 

Three cup chicken close-up

What is three up chicken

Why is it called three cup chicken? That’s because three of the main ingredients were 1-cup in measurement. Traditionally, there was one cup of soy sauce, one cup of Shaoxing wine, and 1 cup of oil all used to braise the three cup chicken. The modern approach uses basil to provide a divine way to elevate the aroma of this dish for a more fragrant experience. 

My recipe uses the modern approach. This will taste just like a dish from the best Chinese restaurant around and the aroma will have you swooning as it cooks.

Taiwan style three cup chicken

Ingredients

Believe it or not, three cup chicken uses less than ten ingredients, most of which you should have in your pantry already. Your table should look like the picture below when you’re ready to cook.

Ingredients for making three cup chicken

Cooking process

  1. Slowly cook the ginger until caramelized
  2. Cook the garlic and chili peppers
  3. Brown the chicken
  4. Add the sauce and braise
  5. Occasionally turn the chicken to make sure it cooks evenly in the sauce
  6. Toss in the basil when the sauce is thickened
How to make three cup chicken step-by-step

When the three cup chicken is finished cooking, you will have flavorful chicken with chewy-textured skin and a savory-sweet sticky glaze that will have you licking every last bit off your fingertips. 

The active cooking time is really short, too, so you can make this even after a busy day. Would you rather avoid lifting a finger on a weeknight? Prep this a day ahead and you’ll have an amazing meal just waiting to reward you at the end of your day!

Homemade three cup chicken using wings

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Authentic Chinese restaurant-style flavors abound in this three cup chicken recipe that is simple to make with absolutely aromatic results. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Three Cup Chicken (三杯鸡)

5 from 4 votes
Authentic Chinese restaurant-style flavors abound in this three cup chicken recipe that is simple to make with absolutely aromatic results. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}
To make this dish gluten-free, use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine and use tamari to replace the soy sauce.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: restaurant-style
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (900 g) chicken wings
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 3 ” (8 cm) ginger , thinly sliced
  • 16 cloves garlic , lightly smashed
  • 6 dried chili peppers
  • 1/3 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1 bunch basil , stems removed (*Footnote 1)

Instructions

  • In a 12” heavy-bottomed wide skillet (*Footnote 2) heat the sesame oil over low heat and add the ginger. Slowly fry the ginger until it begins to brown and curl on the edges, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and dried chili peppers. Cook until the garlic turns light golden, another 5 minutes.
  • Turn the heat up to a medium-low (be careful not to turn the heat too high or the sesame oil will burn and become bitter). Move all the aromatics to the side of the pan and add the chicken in a single layer. Rearrange the aromatics on top of the chicken to prevent from burning, if needed. If you have trouble fitting all the chicken, you can remove the aromatics and add them back later.
  • Cook the chicken, undisturbed, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook until browned on the other side, another 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add the Shaoxing wine and use a wooden spatula to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add back the aromatics if you removed them previously. Gently stir everything together.
  • Add the soy sauce and sugar and stir again to coat all the chicken pieces.
  • Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low or medium-low. Simmer covered for 40 minutes. Stir and toss occasionally to coat the chicken and check on the consistency of the sauce.
  • After 40 minutes, remove the lid. The sauce should have thickened and coated the chicken very well. If the sauce is still watery, cook uncovered for a few more minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
  • Add the basil. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Once the sauce is thick and glossy, transfer the chicken to a big serving plate.
  • Serve hot over steamed rice as a main dish.

Notes

  1. Thai basil if possible, other basil will work fine.
  2. You can use a wok or dutch oven to cook this recipe, as well. I prefer to use a large skillet or wok over a dutch oven because it reduces the sauce faster and creates the perfect caramelized result. If you use a dutch oven, you might need to leave the pot uncovered longer at the end of the cooking to reduce the sauce.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 373kcal, Carbohydrates: 17.9g, Protein: 16.9g, Fat: 25.8g, Saturated Fat: 5.8g, Cholesterol: 60mg, Sodium: 845mg, Potassium: 239mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4.7g, Calcium: 67mg, Iron: 2mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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.

Other dishes to serve with three cup chicken

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Barnett Frankel says:

    This is a silly question, but this is finger food, tight?

    • Sameera says:

      What can I substitute for wine.want to make it halal

      • Maggie says:

        I’m afraid there’s no really good substitute in this dish because the Shaoxing wine is a main ingredient. In other recipes (where you use 1 tablespoon wine instead of 1/3 cup), I would say use a chicken broth to replace it. This recipe it’s a bit tricky. I think you can always use a good quality chicken broth with a splash of vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar would be a good choice), but the taste of the dish will change dramatically.

  2. Liz says:

    If I *did* happen to have a whole chicken handy, do you think I would be able to follow the recipe as-is (with maybe some minor adjustments to cooking times)? Thank you!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Liz, I’m pretty sure you can use this recipe for the chopped bone-in skin-on chicken. I think as long as you keep the pieces bite-size (similar to the wings), they will cook properly without the needs to adjust seasoning and cooking time.

      • Liz says:

        5 stars
        Thanks Maggie! I made this tonight with a whole chicken and it was fantastic! The chicken was relatively small and I cut it into about 10 pieces (split the breasts, legs, and wings), and I didn’t end up having to change any of the timing. The meat was almost falling off the bones at the end and the sauce was amazing on rice. This went great with a little sesame cucumber salad, and we can’t wait to have the leftovers!

  3. Rich says:

    Made these wings tonight. Very delicious. It does take about an hour to cook but well worth it. Not spicy but very savory. Served with Napa cabbage sautéed that I grew in the garden.

  4. red says:

    Have to try this. Wow! And I’m not wild about chicken. But, wow!

  5. Lin says:

    5 stars
    Hello Maggie, I recently discovered your site and I have been cooking your recipes each week. I made this chicken recipe last week and my family loved it so much. Instead of 40 minutes on the stovetop, I cooked the chicken in the Instant Pot for 13 minutes. I will be making it again tomorrow!

    Tonight, I made your salt and pepper chicken, and entered the recipe in my “family favorite” list.

    Now, if I say a recipe is by you, my husband is excited about the dinner! I am from Beijing China too, and very impressed with what you have created here. The dishes are delicious, authentic and do-able for a week night. Can’t wait to cook more from your site!

  6. Quinn says:

    5 stars
    This dish is so simple and yet so good. I recommend Thai basil if you can find it (if you can’t, then grow it…it’s worth the effort), and don’t be afraid to double, triple or quadruple the amount of basil.

    I’ve been married 24 years and this is the first time I was asked to cook the same dish two nights in row. Last night I made a variant on the dish using a beautiful black cod fillet. Obviously you can’t cook the cod for 40 minutes, but you can reduce the sauce with ginger and garlic first, then sauté the fish and then add the sauce when the fish is at the desired texture. Serve on a bed of Thai basil sprigs. Delicious!

    Thank you Maggie!

    • Maggie says:

      So happy to hear you like the dish! Wow, it sounds really amazing adding some cod to the sauce at the end. Great idea! 🙂

  7. Paul Jaouen says:

    Recipe looks great. Does this call for sesame oil or toasted sesame oil?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Paul, the recipe calls toasted sesame oil.

      • Paul Jaouen says:

        Thanks Maggie. I’ll probably make this later in the week. I have so much Thai basil in my garden. Love all your recipes.

  8. Sara says:

    5 stars
    I love your recipe. But can I please get an alternative for Shaoxing wine.

    • Maggie says:

      I’m afraid there’s no great alternative for Shaoxing wine because this recipe uses it as a main ingredient.

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