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Szechuan Chicken is popular for good reason. Each bite is bursting with spicy, sweet flavor that will have you going back for more!
Szechuan Chicken is a popular Chinese dish featuring tender, crispy bites of meat tossed with red chili peppers, crushed Szechuan peppercorns, and a sticky sauce.
The result is a tantalizing combination of spicy, sweet, and salty flavors that you are sure to love! Spoon some over steamed rice or noodles and add an eggroll or two to round out your plate.
This recipe makes more than enough to feed the whole family or have leftovers for the next few days. If you’re dining alone, you can easily cut the ingredients in half to make a smaller batch.
Why you’ll love Szechuan Chicken!
- Once everything is prepped, it cooks in just 15 minutes.
- Easily adjust the spiciness to suit your preferences.
- Feeds six for a fraction of the cost of takeout.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
- Chicken – We used a mix of boneless, skinless thighs and breasts, but you can easily use all of one or the other for this Asian chicken recipe.
- Nuts – Cashews or peanuts add some crunch and another layer of flavor to the dish. Choose raw, unsalted nuts since they will be toasted first.
- Scallions – Also known as green onions, scallions spice this dish nicely. You will use the entire stalk for this meal. Chop up the white part to include in the dish. Then reserve the green tops to use as garnish.
- Red hot chili peppers – Tianjin peppers (or Tien Tsin) are the authentic choice for this dish. If you can’t find them, Mexican chiles de arbol are similar enough and carried in most supermarkets.
- Szechuan peppercorns – See photo below. This is the secret to that signature mouth-numbing heat found in this Asian chicken recipe. There’s a slight hint of citrus that tingles your tongue and allows you to fully experience the spiciness of the peppers. Find them at Asian food markets, specialty spice shops, or online.
Chef’s Tip –
Have all of your ingredients prepped and ready. (See Cook Like a Pro with Mise en Place.) This dish comes together in a snap once you get started!
Special supplies needed
- Wok – An essential piece of cookware for all of your Asian recipes! The high sides reduce splatters and the larger surface area means evenly cooked food every time.
- Spider Strainer – This bowl shaped skimming tool allows you to easily transfer fried food to a plate without taking any oil with you! Use it to fish out any bits left in the pan as well, which helps the oil temperature to recover faster.
How do I make Szechuan Chicken?
- Toast the nuts on the stove. Give the pan a shake every now and then for even coloring and remove when they are lightly browned. If you will be serving rice, get that started now as well.
- Marinate the chicken in soy sauce, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then stir in the egg white and cornstarch.
- Heat oil in a wok and prepare the sauce in a separate bowl. For best results, use a candy thermometer to determine when it has reached the correct temperature.
- Double fry the meat. Allow the oil to come back to temperature between each batch. The first round should be cooked at 325 degrees F. Then increase the heat to 375 degrees F for the second round.
- Cook the bell peppers in some of the remaining oil. Transfer to a bowl once they are tender and crisp.
- Add the spices and aromatics to the pan with a little more oil. Cook for about a minute.
- Stir in the prepared sauce and toss with the meat and bell peppers.
- Garnish with toasted nuts and green onion after spooning into bowls or over cooked rice.
Chef’s Tips –
- The hot oil will likely splatter when you fry the meat the second time, so lower the chicken carefully into the pan to avoid burns.
- Don’t overcrowd the wok! Too much food at once will cause the oil temperature to drop, and the chicken pieces won’t get crispy.
- Szechuan peppercorns have a very intense aroma and your eyes may water as the oils are released with the heat. Be prepared to take a step back from the pan if this happens.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is typically in Szechuan chicken? This dish includes crispy bites of poultry tossed with hot chili peppers and a spicy sauce. It is often served over rice, and we included some red bell pepper strips for a serving of veggies.
- What’s the difference between Hunan and Szechuan chicken? Hunan combines thinly sliced breast meat and mixed vegetables with a sauce featuring spicy chili bean paste, oyster sauce, and rice wine. It has more of a dry heat compared to Szechuan chicken and is stir fried instead of deep fried.
- Is there a way to check the oil temp without a thermometer? There are a few different methods that will work in a pinch, but we highly recommend using a thermometer for this Asian chicken recipe.
- How can I make the dish less spicy? Feel free to reduce the amount of peppercorns and chilis or leave out the chili peppers altogether for a milder flavor.
- What else can I add to this Asian chicken recipe? Get creative with extra veggies like mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, or celery. Toss these in with the bell peppers, and be sure that everything has a uniform slice so it cooks evenly.
- How long will leftovers last in the refrigerator? Store in a sealed container for up to 4 days and reheat in the microwave or on the stove.
You might enjoy these other Asian recipes:
- Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Healthier Beef Lo Mein
- Stir Fry Vegetables
- Moo Goo Gai Pan
- Asian Barbecue Chicken Wings
½ cup raw cashews or peanuts
White rice, for serving
½ pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into one-inch pieces
½ pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into one-inch pieces
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 egg white
¼ cup corn starch
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons red chili paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ cup water
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle (be careful not to touch your eyes with your pepper-covered hands)
10 small red hot chili pepper, stems removed * see note about varieties
1 large bunch of scallion whites, cut into one-inch pieces (save tops for garnish)
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
Scallion tops, sliced thin for garnish
All ingredients must be prepared and ready to assemble this dish. Once the cooking begins, the dish comes together quickly.
In a small pan over medium heat, toast cashews or peanuts for a few minutes to lightly brown. Set aside.
If you are serving with rice, start cooking that now.
Place the chicken, salt, pepper, pepper flakes and soy sauce in a small bowl, mix and let sit 30 minutes at room temperature.
While the chicken sits for 30 minutes, make the sauce by whisking all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
After 30 minutes add the egg white and corn starch to the chicken and mix to dissolve the corn starch. The mixture will be thick and gooey.
In your wok over medium high heat, heat the vegetable oil to 325 degrees F using a candy thermometer or other means to gauge the temperature. Have a bowl standing by.
The next step will be to double fry the chicken.
Drop the chicken pieces one at a time into the hot oil and fry in 5-6 batches just for about two minutes, flipping each over to lightly fry on both sides. Then using a spider or strainer, move each batch to the waiting bowl. Let the oil temperature recover between batches.
Once all the chicken has fried, turn the heat to high to heat oil to 375 degrees F and once hot, add half of the cooked chicken to crisp. Fry for about another 1-2 minutes until nicely browned and crispy and then move to a plate covered in a paper towel. Once the oil heats back up, fry the second half and then move to the same plate. (Note: The second frying will splatter, so be careful adding the half-cooked chicken to the hot oil.)
Pour the hot oil into a small metal bowl and spoon one tablespoon back into the wok and heat over a medium high burner.
Once hot, add the bell peppers and cook for about three minutes then move to a waiting bowl.
Add one more tablespoon of the oil and once hot, add the peppercorns, chili peppers, scallion whites, garlic and ginger and toss and cook for one minute. (Note: The Szechuan peppercorns are very intense and fill the air with their spicy eye-watering scent once they hit the hot pan.)
Add the reserved sauce and once hot, add the cooked chicken and bell peppers back in and toss.
Remove from heat and serve with or over cooked white rice and top with toasted cashews and scallion greens.
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