Chinese Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings are a restaurant takeout favorite that’s easy to make at home. I love this spicy version with Szechuan peppercorns and stir-fried hot chile peppers and garlic.
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These Chinese salt and pepper chicken wings are crispy, crunchy, and spicy. The flavors are explosive—a gingery, garlicky marinade, crispy fried chicken wings, and a topping of stir-fried chiles and garlic.
The final touch is a seasoning mix that combines Szechuan peppercorns with kosher salt and a dash of ground white pepper. It is truly tongue tingling.
The Sichuan peppercorns have a slight mouth-numbing effect that is especially appealing when combined with the sharp heat of chile peppers and white pepper.
This is seriously good food. Like, insanely good, you-should-drop-everything-and-make-it-right-now good.
I usually avoid frying food in my kitchen, but every time I make this dish, I’m reminded that it’s not actually that hard! Or even that messy!
I do more of a shallow fry than a deep fry—filling a large cast-iron skillet with about 2 inches of oil. That keeps the splatter to a minimum and also minimizes the quantity of oil you need to use.
You could order this from your favorite takeout place, but let’s face it, fried food is never that great when you order out. It always loses its crunch by the time it gets to the dinner table. But this dish? Its crunch will knock your socks off.
The chicken pieces are encased in a super crispy, crunchy fried coating that makes it so worth the effort.
The best part is the topping of stir-fried chiles and garlic tossed with a seasoning made of Sichuan peppercorns and kosher salt and a dash of white pepper.
What ingredients do you need to make chinese salt and pepper chicken wings?
Most of the ingredients for this dish are things you’ll find at your regular supermarket, otherwise, I offer easy substitutions.
- Shaoxing wine (you can substitute sake, dry sherry, dry white wine, or even beer). You can buy Shaoxing wine at Asian markets or online.
- Chicken wings (or substitute boneless, skinless chicken thigh cut into cubes)
- Potato starch (or substitute cornstarch)
- Oil for frying (any neutral-flavored, high-smoke-point oil like safflower, sunflower seed, peanut, corn, canola, or vegetable oil)
- Red or green chile peppers (you can use serrano, fresno, jalapeno, or another chile. If you don’t want the dish to be spicy, use green or red bell pepper instead)
- Ground white pepper (or substitute ground black 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). You can also skip this and just use kosher salt and ground white pepper or ground black pepper.
How do you make it?
Chinese Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings are much easier to make than you might think. Here are the basic steps:
- Marinate the chicken (15 to 20 minutes) in a mixture of rice wine, garlic, and ginger to give it lots of flavor.
- Coat the chicken pieces in starch (you can use potato starch or cornstarch).
- Drop the dredged chicken pieces in a skillet filled with about 2 inches of hot oil.
- Fry, turning once, until golden brown all over.
- While the chicken is frying, you can prep the topping. Slice chiles and garlic and quickly stir fry them in butter or oil.
- Toss the fried chicken pieces with the stir-fried chile-and-garlic topping and then season with Sichuan Pepper-Salt and white pepper.
- Devour, ideally with an ice-cold Chinese beer to quench the fire.
Can you make this Chinese salt and pepper chicken with boneless chicken?
Absolutely. I often make this dish with boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into cubes. The recipe remains exactly the same, but you will cook the cubed chicken for less time. Just cook it until the cubes are browned all over, about 3 to 5 minutes.
What is Szechuan Pepper-Salt?
Szechuan Pepper-Salt is a seasoning mix that combines Szechuan peppercorns with salt. The two seasonings are roasted together in a skillet until they become toasty and aromatic.
The mixture is then ground to a fine powder and the hulls of the Sichuan peppercorns are sifted out and discarded.
The flavor of Szechuan peppercorns is floral, citrusy, and warm, but not hot like black peppercorns or chile peppers. The spice creates a mild numbing sensation in the mouth, which makes it rather addictive.
Toasted and ground with kosher salt, it adds intriguing flavor to this Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings recipe.
Sichuan Pepper-Salt is an all-purpose seasoning. Add it to marinades for meat, sprinkle it on cooked vegetables, or use it to season popcorn or other savory snacks.
You can make your own roasted Szechuan Pepper-Salt or buy it at an Asian market or online. If you don’t have it, you can substitute kosher salt and ground white pepper or black pepper. The flavor will be different, but it will still be delicious.
Tips for success
- You only need to marinate the chicken for 15 to 20 minutes. But if you have time, marinate it overnight for even more flavor.
- If you are using boneless chicken, use a heavy saucepan instead of a skillet to fry the chicken. The higher sides of a saucepan will help to contain the oil spatter.
- If you are frying larger pieces of bone-in chicken, use a large, heavy skillet. Fill it with just about 2 inches of oil, enough to submerge the chicken pieces halfway. Cook until they are golden brown on the bottom, then turn them over to cook until they are golden brown all over.
- You can use any neutral-flavored, high-smoke-point oil for frying. I usually use safflower oil. Other good choices are sunflower seed, peanut, canola, corn, vegetable, or grapeseed oil.
- Fry the chicken in batches so that you don’t crowd the pan. If you put too much chicken into the oil at once, it will lower the temperature of the oil and you won’t get that nice golden brown color.
- Use chicken wings, drumsticks, or boneless, skinless thighs that have been cut into chunks. You can use breast meat if you like, but I prefer using dark meat because it is more tender and more flavorful.
- Choose your chiles based on how spicy you want the dish to be. I like a lot of spice, so I used serrano peppers. Jalapenos are milder than serranos, and fresno chiles are even milder. If you don’t want that kick of heat, use red and/or green bell peppers instead.
- For Taiwanese Salt and Pepper Chicken, leave out the chile peppers and use fresh basil leaves instead. Quickly stir fry the basil leaves with the garlic before tossing with the fried chicken.
What do you serve with this Chinese Salt and Pepper Chicken recipe?
I love to serve this Chinse Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings with nothing but an ice cold beer. It’s a great party appetizer or game-day snack.
If you want to serve it as a meal, serve it with stir-fried vegetables and steamed rice.
- For the chicken
- ¾ cup Shaoxing wine (see note for substitutions)
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ½ pounds chicken wings
- 1 cup potato starch (see note for substitutions)
- Oil for frying (2 to 3 cups)
- For the chile topping
- 4 to 6 chiles (like serrano, red or green or a combination), thinly sliced
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon Szechuan pepper-salt (see note)
- In a large bowl, combine the wine, ginger, minced garlic, and salt and stir to mix. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes or overnight (cover and refrigerate if more than 20 minutes).
- In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil until it shimmers (about 350°F).
- Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade) and toss it with the potato starch, coating well.
- Shake excess potato starch off of the chicken pieces and drop them into the hot oil. You can do 5 to 7 pieces of chicken at a time, but don’t crowd the skillet. Plan to cook the chicken in 2 or 3 batches. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the bottoms of the chicken pieces are golden brown. Turn the chicken over and cook for about 5 minutes more, until golden brown on the second side. Transfer the cooked chicken pieces to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Cook the remaining chicken pieces in the same manner.
- Once all of the chicken has been fried, heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and let it melt. 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.
- Put the fried chicken on a serving platter and then dump the fried chiles and garlic over the top. Sprinkle with the white pepper and the pepper-salt and serve immediately.
1. If you don’t have Shiaoxing wine, you can substitute sake, dry sherry, dry white wine, or even beer.
2. You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into chunks instead of chicken wings. You’ll want to cook it for a shorter time, just until the outside of each piece is golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.
3. I like to use potato starch for my fried chicken as I think it is what is most commonly used Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cooks. You can substitute cornstarch, which is more widely available in US supermarkets. You can also use sweet potato starch, which you’ll find in Asian markets.
4. If you don’t have Szechuan Pepper-Salt, you can substitute kosher salt and ground black pepper.
5. Use chicken wings, drumsticks, or boneless, skinless thighs that have been cut into chunks. You can use breast meat if you like, but I prefer using dark meat because it is more tender and more flavorful.
6. You can use any neutral-flavored, high-smoke-point oil for frying. Some good options are safflower, sunflower seed, peanut, canola, corn, vegetable, or grapeseed oil.
7. 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.
8. You can make Szechuan pepper-salt yourself or buy it in an Asian market or online. If you don’t have it, you can also just substitute kosher salt and white or black pepper.
Amount Per Serving Calories 641Total Fat 39gSaturated Fat 14gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 22gCholesterol 130mgSodium 930mgCarbohydrates 39gFiber 3gSugar 3gProtein 29g
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.