Salt and pepper chicken bites are a crispy appetizer that’s loaded with flavor. These freshly shredded chicken thighs are marinated, double-fried, and tossed in spice and seasoning to add layers of deliciousness at every opportunity.
This salt and pepper chicken is the perfect appetizer for you spice fans. Boasting juicy double-fried chicken thighs, this addictive finger food is ideal for parties and dinner platters.
The good news is that it takes under an hour to make from scratch, and can be easily tweaked to match your personal spice tolerance levels. Let’s get into this Chinese street food classic!
Salt & Pepper Chicken vs. Popcorn Chicken
Salt and pepper chicken is a traditional Taiwanese chicken dish that involves frying bite-sized chicken pieces and marinating them in pepper salt. Popcorn chicken is a similar dish Americans will find more familiar, which is also breaded, marinated, and bite-sized fried chicken. However, popcorn chicken is missing the salty and spicy kick that pepper salt adds to salt and pepper chicken.
Chicken Thigh vs. Breast
Many salt and pepper chicken recipes call for chicken thighs because they hold up better to the high heat that meat undergoes when it cooks in a wok. Chicken breasts are easier to work with as you don’t have to navigate carving around the bone, but they dry out more easily at high heat.
Wok Deep Frying Tips
Deep-frying in a wok can seem daunting, but you won’t have anything to fear with the following tips.
Use a Thermometer
In a wok, food cooks quickly, so you need to ensure that everything is precise before starting your recipe. The right temperature of the oil is crucial to ensuring that your food cooks through without becoming soggy or too crispy. A kitchen thermometer is the only way to ensure that your oil is at the right temperature.
Cooking oil should be at around 325 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the chicken (determining this precise temperature is when a wok comes in handy). Anything higher than that will burn the outside of the chicken while the inside stays raw.
When frying salt and pepper chicken in a wok, the best oil is a neutral oil with a high smoke point. You don’t want your chicken to absorb any flavors from the oil, and you need the oil to get to high heat without smoking or burning. Good oils to use are vegetable oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, and grapeseed oil.
Minimize Oil Splashing
Make sure your chicken is as dry as possible before adding it because the interaction of water and oil often sets off splashing. Stir it around quickly to prevent splattering. You won’t be able to eliminate splashing completely, but you can try to protect the area around your wok to minimize the mess.
Overcrowding the wok lowers the oil temperature and the effectiveness of the wok. This will make your salt and pepper chicken soggy instead of crispy and could even cause some marinade to fall off. It’s better to work in batches.
Pat Food Dry
Water-based marinades interact with hot oil, causing splashing. Patting food dry also makes frying more effective because it helps the crust form.
Drain food right after taking it out of the wok to prevent the oil from absorbing it. Use paper towels to absorb the most oil, while a rack lets the oil set into the food.
If you’ve made a little too much, you can store this chicken in the fridge, and it will last you about five days. To store it, put it in an airtight bag and then in an airtight container making sure that it is away from other foods and sauces you may have served with the chicken.
The other option is to store the leftover chicken in the freezer to stay fresh for longer. Place the chicken in a freezer-safe plastic bag. And make sure it is airtight. Then put the chicken in the freezer. It will last for about 3months and still be good to eat.
To reheat leftover salt and pepper chicken, remove it from the freezer to the fridge to thaw.
Side Dish Ideas
- Creamy Mushroom Pasta: Salt and pepper chicken is a great way to have chicken with a creamy mushroom pasta dish. The pasta is combined with a creamy garlic sauce and also with sautéed mushrooms. Since both recipes are straightforward to make, they can easily be made for a quick dinner.
- Vegetable Fried Rice: You can also have it with vegetable fried rice, a mixture of fried rice, and fresh vegetables. The chicken makes a meal of the dish, and the two make a good combination.
- Prawn Toast: You can also pair the chicken with prawn toast and serve the two as an appetizer with varying flavors.
- Seasonal Baked Vegetables: You can also have seasonal baked vegetables to pair with the chicken. Try to go with vegetables that can add sweetness to the dish since the chicken is quite salty. Sweetcorn and carrots are good examples of this.
Salt & Pepper Chicken
- 12 skinless chicken thigh fillets cut into chunks or cubes
- 1 cup cornflour
- ½ yellow onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- ½ inch fresh ginger crushed
- 3 red chili peppers ends removed and sliced
- 2 green onions thinly sliced
- ½ tsp Chinese 5-Spice
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp ginger garlic paste
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- In a small bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add chicken pieces and leave to marinate for 30-60 minutes.
- Heat up oil in a wok over medium-high heat for frying. Heat to 350°F/180°C (use a kitchen thermometer)
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Coat each chicken piece in cornflour and add to wok and fry until golden brown. When done, remove the chicken and set to one side.
- Pour used oil from wok and reduce heat to medium-low. Add the garlic, ginger, yellow onion, chili peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add chicken pieces back to wok, along with green onion slices and Chinese 5-Spice. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Remove from wok. Toss in pepper salt and serve.