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Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken

Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken is easy to make without the mess—or extra calories!—of deep frying. This version gets a hit of mouth-tingling spice from Szechuan peppercorns and a topping of stir-fried hot chiles and sliced garlic.

Close up, low angled shot of air fryer fried salt and pepper chicken.

I love to make Salt and Pepper Chicken by deep frying it on occasion. But sometimes I just don’t want to deal with the mess, or the extra calories, that comes with making deep fried food at home. But I swear, this Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken is just as delicious as the deep fried version.

Made in the air fryer, this salt and pepper chicken is just as crispy and crunchy as the deep fried version. It also has the same spicy chile-garlic topping.

The flavors of ginger, garlic, white pepper, Sichuan peppercorns, and chiles explode in your mouth.

Overhead shot of the ingredients needed to make air fryer fried salt and pepper chicken.

What ingredients do you need?

Most of the ingredients needed to make Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken are widely available in supermarkets. I’ve offered easy substitutions for those items that might be harder to

  • Shaoxing wine (or substitute dry sherry, dry white wine, sake, or even beer). You can buy Shaoxing wine at Asian markets or online.
  • Fresh ginger
  • Fresh garlic
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Cornstarch or potato starch
  • Oil for spritzing or brushing
  • Red or green chile peppers (you can use fresno, jalapeno, serrano, or another chile.)
  • Ground white pepper
  • Szechuan Pepper Salt or Sichuan Pepper Salt (make your own using the linked recipe or find it at an Asian market or buy Szechuan pepper-salt online). This is optional, but really takes the dish over the top.

How do you make it?

  1. See my post on how to make Air Fryer Fried Chicken for helpful tips.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients and add the chicken. Toss to coat and then marinate for at least 20 minutes or as long as overnight (in the refrigerator if more than 20 minutes).
  3. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl.
  4. Put the cornstarch in a separate bowl.
  5. Dunk the chicken pieces first in the egg and then in the cornstarch to coat.
  6. Arrange the coated chicken pieces in the air fryer in a single layer and spritz or brush with oil.
  7. Air fry the chicken, flipping it over halfway through cooking if you are using a basket style air fryer or an air fryer lid on a pressure cooker.
  8. While the chicken is cooking, saute the chilies and garlic.
  9. When the chicken is finished air frying, transfer it to a medium bowl and toss with the chile-garlic topping and season with the Szechuan Pepper-Salt and white pepper.

Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken Frequently Asked Questions

CAN YOU MAKE AIR FRIED SALT AND PEPPER CHICKEN WITH CHICKEN WINGS?

Absolutely. I often make Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Wings for movie nights or sportsball watching (uh, yeah, I don’t watch the sportsball lol).
Because the wings have skin on them, you can skip the egg dip after marinating. Just dredge them in cornstarch and arrange them in the air fryer. They may take a little longer to cook, too.

WHAT IS SZECHUAN PEPPER-SALT?

Szechuan Pepper-Salt is a mix of Sichuan peppercorns and salt that have been roasted together and then ground to a powder.
Sichuan peppercorns have a citrusy flavor. The spice causes mild numbing of the lips and tongue, which many people find rather addictive.
Szechuan pepper is used in lots classic Sichuan-style dishes including Szechuan Shrimp and Dan Dan Noodles.
You can use it as a seasoning for meat and vegetables—or even popcorn!—or add it to marinades.
Make your own Szechuan Pepper-Salt or you can buy it at an Asian market or online. You can also skip it. The flavor won’t be the same, but the dish will still be delicious.

DO YOU NEED TO USE A PARCHMENT PAPER LINER IN THE AIR FRYER BASKET?

You don’t need a parchment paper liner, but I find that it makes it easier to flip the chicken pieces and also reduces cleanup time and effort. You can use reusable silicone liners if you don’t like the disposable parchment paper ones.

What is Shiaoxing wine and is there a good substitute?

Shiaoxing cooking wine is a Chinese rice wine. You can buy it in Asian markets or online. Or you can substitute dry sherry, dry white wine, sake, or beer.

low angled shot of the air fryer fried chicken with chile garlic topping.

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Yield: Serves 4

Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken

Close up, low angled shot of air fryer fried salt and pepper chicken.

Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken is easy to make without the mess—or extra calories!—of deep frying. This version gets a hit of mouth-tingling spice from Szechuan peppercorns and a topping of white pepper and stir-fried hot chiles and sliced garlic.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

To marinate the chicken

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Shiaoxing wine (or substitute mirin, sake, sochu, or dry white wine)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For dredging and air frying

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • Oil for spritzing or brushing

For the topping

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 to 6 chiles (like serrano, red or green or a combination), thinly sliced
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon Szechuan pepper-salt (see note)

Instructions

  1. Line the air fryer basket with parchment paper or a reusable silicone liner (see note).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, salt, and pepper and toss to coat the chicken. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes. If you want to marinate the chicken for longer, cover and refrigerate it for as long as overnight.
  3. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl.
  4. Put the cornstarch in a separate shallow bowl.
  5. Dunk the chicken pieces first in the cornstarch, then in the egg, and then in the cornstarch again to coat. Arrange the coated chicken pieces on the parchment paper in the air fryer.
  6. Once all of the chicken is coated and arranged in the air fryer (you will likely have to do this in 2 batches), spritz or brush the chicken with a bit of cooking oil.
  7. Air fry the chicken at 400ºF for 8 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over, spritz or brush with a bit more oil, and then cook for another 7 minutes at 400ºF.
  8. While the chicken is cooking, melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once it is sizzling and begins to foam, add the chiles and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the chiles begin to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  9. When the chicken is finished in the air fryer, transfer it to a serving bowl or platter. Add the fried chiles and garlic and toss gently to distribute. Sprinkle with the white pepper and the pepper-salt and serve immediately.

    Notes

    1. If you don’t have Shiaoxing wine, you can substitute sake, dry sherry, dry white wine, or even beer.

    2. Instead of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, you can use bone-in wings or drumsticks. You’ll want to cook them a bit longer to make sure they're cooked through.

    3. Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cooks often use potato starch in place of cornstarch for dredging. It tends to make a crunchier coating but doesn't brown as well. You can substitute potato starch or you can use a combination of the two.

    4. You can make Szechuan Pepper-Salt yourself or buy it online or in an Asian market. If you don't have it, you can substitute kosher salt and ground black pepper.

    5. Choose your chiles based on how spicy you want the dish to be. You can use very spicy Thai chiles, spicy serrano chiles, milder Jalapenos, or even milder fresnos. If you don’t want any heat at all from the chiles, use red and/or green bell peppers instead.

    6. I like to line my air fryer basket with perforated parchment paper liners or a silicone liner to make flipping and cleanup easier. See the post for links to purchase either of these.

    Nutrition Information

    Yield

    4

    Serving Size

    1

    Amount Per Serving Calories 530Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 308mgSodium 970mgCarbohydrates 37gFiber 2gSugar 4gProtein 46g

    Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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    By on August 17th, 2021

    About Robin Donovan


    Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

    I’m the author of more than 40 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners, 5 Ingredient Cooking for Two, Sushi at Home, The Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

    My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and other popular publications.

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