This Salt and Pepper Chicken is crispy, packed with spices, and is super easy to whip up. While it does require shallow frying, the chicken is coated in a large baggie for easy cleanup. The crispy salt and pepper chicken is finished with chilis, scallions, and garlic for even more flavor.
If you have any leftover chicken, you can freeze it and repurpose it and make my Marinated Chicken Stir Fry, Easy Air Fryer Frozen Chicken or Cast Iron Chicken Breast.
- Great appetizer for Super Bowl or the holidays
- Simple cornstarch coating (no eggs)
- Minimal ingredients required
- Chinese five spice for a unique flavor
- Shallow frying (no deep frying required)
- Sautéed chilis and garlic
- Easy clean up
- Vegetable Oil: You can swap this for any neutral flavored oil. It must have a high smoke point. Some great oils for frying are safflower, peanut, corn, or grapeseed.
- Chinese Five Spice: You can find this spice blend in most grocery stores on the spice aisle. It is a combination of cinnamon, fennel, star anise, and white pepper typically. I do not recommend skipping this ingredient. It really gives the salt and pepper chicken a unique flavor.
- Toasted Sesame Oil: Be sure to use toasted or dark sesame oil, instead of the regular lighter sesame oil. It has a completely different taste.
Complete list of ingredients and amounts is located on the recipe card below.
Helpful Equipment & Tools
- Taylor Precision Products Stainless Steel Candy Deep Fry Food Cooking Kitchen Thermometer: This thermometer is inexpensive and perfect for frying because it attaches to the pot to show the temperature continuously. It is important to make sure the oil is the correct temperature so the chicken becomes golden without becoming dry in the middle.
- ThermoPro TP03 Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer: This thermometer is perfect for checking the internal temperature of proteins. I recommend that anyone that cooks has one on hand. I use it almost daily!
- Fullstar Vegetable Chopper: I highly recommend this chopper if you cut vegetables often. It comes with two different sized blades. The small blade is perfect for chopping the peppers for this salt and pepper chicken.
- Heat the oil.
- Coat the chicken.
- Sauté the peppers and onions and serve!
Step by Step
Step 1: Line a large plate with paper towels. Fill a large heavy duty pot with about 1.5 inches of vegetable oil.
Step 2: Heat the oil over medium to medium heat or until the temperature is about 360-375 degrees. The oil temperature will drop as the chicken is added.
Step 3: While the oil heats, combine the chicken, cornstarch, salt, pepper, and chinese five spice in a large bag or bowl.
Step 4: Add about half of the chicken to the oil so that none of the pieces are touching. Fry the chicken for 3-5 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
TIP - Use a baggie for easy clean up.
TIP - Use a thermometer to check the oil and chicken’s internal temperature.
TIP - Do not overload the frying pot or the chicken will not cook evenly.
Step 5: Remove the chicken from oil and place on the plate.
Step 6: Repeat with the remaining chicken.
TIP - Place the fried chicken on a paper towel lined plate so they can absorb the oil.
Step 7: In a skillet, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add the chilis, jalapeño, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes or until fragrant.
Step 8: Top the salt and pepper chicken with the peppers and scallions. Serve hot.
Make Ahead & Storage
- This salt and pepper is best served fresh because it will be hot and crispy. It should not be made in advance.
- Refrigerator: Store leftover salt and pepper chicken in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
- Reheating: I do not recommend reheating leftovers in the microwave. Reheat in the air fryer at 360 degrees for 3-4 minutes.
- Freezer: Allow the chicken to cool overnight in the fridge. Place cooled chicken on a baking sheet or plate not touching lined with parchment paper. Freeze for 4-6 hours. Transfer to an airtight bag or container. Store frozen for 2-3 months.
- Reheating: I do not recommend reheating leftovers in the microwave. Reheat in the air fryer at 400 degrees for 9-11 minutes, shaking halfway through, or until crispy and heated through.
- Be prepared. Get a plate with paper towels prepped and clean tongs ready for removing the cooked chicken from the oil. Since the chicken cooks so fast, it is best to have these items ready.
- Use thermometers. The oil needs to be around 375 degrees and the internal temperature of the cooked chicken needs to be at 165 degrees. It is very hard to know when the oil is hot enough or the chicken is done without a thermometer.
- Shake the chicken in a bag. I like to put the coating and the chicken in a large bag and shake it for a minute or so. This ensures the chicken is well coated. There should not be much coating leftover.
- Do not overload the frying pot. I use a large stock pot and find that cooking this chicken in two batches is perfect. If you are using a smaller pot, you may have to cook it in 3 batches.
- Serve the salt and pepper chicken hot. This chicken is definitely best served fresh.
- The chicken is salty. The chicken should be a little saltier than you might be used to.
- The peppers are spicy. If you are extremely sensitive to spice, you can omit the peppers.
- The recipe can be doubled. This recipe can be doubled for a larger group. You can serve the chicken as is ready or keep it warm in the oven. Just note it might dry out if it is held in the oven for long periods of time.
- Spicy: Add about ¼-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the coating for extra spicy salt and pepper chicken. Be careful though, cayenne is hot!
Cornstarch helps the chicken to get extra crispy while frying. It also gives the chicken a beautiful deep golden brown color.
My research on this subject was inconclusive. It seems that the dish comes from Cantonese cuisine which is found in China. But I also found some sources that claim the dish comes from Taiwan.
Watch the How to Video
Salt and Pepper Chicken
- vegetable oil for frying*
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, diced into 1 inch pieces
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon chinese five spice*
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil*
- ¼ cup finely diced white onion
- 1-2 fresno or thai chilis, seeds removed & diced
- 1 jalapeño, seeds removed & diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup sliced scallion
- Review all recipe notes and instructions before beginning.
- Line a large plate with paper towels. Fill a large heavy duty pot with about 1.5 inches of vegetable oil.
- Heat the oil over medium to medium heat or until the temperature is about 360-375 degrees. The oil temperature will drop as the chicken is added.
- While the oil heats, combine the chicken, cornstarch, salt, pepper, and chinese five spice in a large bag or bowl.
- Add about half of the chicken to the oil so that none of the pieces are touching. Fry the chicken for 3-5 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
- Remove the chicken from oil and place on the plate.
- Repeat with the remaining chicken.
- In a skillet, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add the chilis, jalapeño, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes or until fragrant.
- Top the salt and pepper chicken with the peppers and scallions. Serve hot.
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