Szechuan chicken is all about bold flavors, with the perfect balance of heat, sweetness, and tanginess. And the best part? It’s way better than the takeout version! Let’s fire up those taste buds and get cooking!
As much as I love Chinese takeout, it can get pricey. I’ll let you in on a secret- you can make all of your Chinese takeout faves at home with just a few simple ingredients! A few of my favorite recipes to try: slow cooker General Tso’s chicken, kung pao shrimp, and some crispy crab rangoon to complete your meal!
What is Szechuan Chicken?
Szechuan chicken is a mouthwatering Chinese dish that’s loved by many, and for good reason! Hailing from the Sichuan (hence the name) province of China, it’s known for its bold and spicy flavors that pack a punch. The dish typically features juicy chicken pieces tossed in a glaze made with sweet chili sauce, garlic, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns. It’s a perfect blend of heat, tanginess, and umami flavors that make it an absolute knockout dish.
While Szechuan chicken is certainly a fan favorite at many Chinese takeout joints, there’s something special about making it at home. (Find my full list of “better than takeout” recipes here!) Not only can you control the spice level to your liking, but you can also experiment with different ingredients and techniques to make it your own. Trust me, this juicy, saucy chicken is sure to be a hit at your house. Serve it with white rice or fried rice, and maybe even some quick and easy air fryer wontons! With a dinner this tasty, your family will want Szechuan chicken to be a regular in the dinner rotation.
To make this delicious Chinese classic, you’ll need ingredients like five spice, chili sauce, and Chinese black vinegar- all of which can be found at your local Asian grocer. And let me tell you, it’s worth the trip! So grab your shopping list and let’s get cooking! Note: to make the flavor of this dish even better, I used homemade Szechuan sauce. Check out my recipe here to make sure you have all the ingredients for it!
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts: Chicken is coated in a mixture of cornstarch and Chinese five spice, giving it a crispy texture and a burst of tasty flavor. You can also use sliced pork or beef as a substitute.
- Chinese Black Vinegar and Soy Sauce: To balance out the heat and acidity of some of the other ingredients, I add Chinese black vinegar and soy sauce. These two ingredients work together to add tanginess and a touch of saltiness to the dish.
- Chinese Five Spice: A fragrant blend of spices that includes cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. You can buy this premade or make your own blend!
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch not only helps to crisp up the chicken, but also acts as a thickener for the sauce, giving it a glossy and silky texture.
- Vegetable Oil: Used to fry the chicken and veggies to crispy perfection. You can also use sesame oil instead, to infuse the dish with a little more flavor.
- Vegetables: For some color, fresh flavor, and extra texture, I added diced yellow onion, sugar snap peas, chopped broccoli and red bell peppers. Feel free to switch any of these out with what you have in your fridge!
- Szechuan Sauce: This spicy, sweet, and savory sauce gives the chicken its signature bold flavor.
How to Make Szechuan Chicken
This recipe for Szechuan chicken is so easy! Whisk up your sauce, grab your wok, and then cook all of your ingredients together! You’ll have bold, juicy chicken ready in no time.
- Cut Chicken, Prepare Marinade: Cut your chicken breasts into bite size chunks. In a medium bowl, combine your black vinegar, soy sauce, Chinese five spice, and cornstarch. Whisk to combine. Add your chicken to the bowl and then toss to coat evenly. Cover and allow the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Fry Chicken: In a large skillet, wok, or frying pan, over medium high heat, heat your vegetable oil. Once your oil is hot enough, add in your marinated chicken, slowly to avoid hot oil splashing out. Fry the chicken for about 5 minutes, turning to brown the chicken evenly. Then remove the chicken from the pan.
- Sauté Vegetables: In a large wok, heat 2 tablespoons of your oil over medium high heat, add in your onion and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, snap peas, broccoli, bell peppers, and carrots. Stir fry your vegetables for 5-6 minutes then add in your cooked chicken.
- Add Sauce: Reduce the heat to medium and pour your Szechuan sauce over the chicken and vegetables and continue to stir fry everything together until your vegetables have tenderized.
- Serve: Remove from heat and serve your chicken stir fry over rice.
Tips and Variations
This Szechuan chicken recipe is pretty straightforward, but here are a few extra tips to keep in mind. I know you will love how it turns out! It may even rival your favorite Chinese takeout spot.
- Use Chicken Thighs: If you’re feeling adventurous, try using chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts for an extra juicy and flavorful dish.
- Swap Out Vinegar: Don’t have Chinese black vinegar on hand? No problem – you can substitute with balsamic vinegar for a similar tangy flavor.
- Avoid Overcrowding Pan: Don’t overcrowd your skillet or wok when you fry your chicken. Work in batches if needed so each piece has enough room to fry and crisp up.
- Add Nuts: A common addition in Chinese takeout, adding things like peanuts or cashews gives the dish extra flavor and texture!
- Garnish: For a picture-perfect finishing touch, top with sesame seeds and chopped green onions!
- Low-Carb/ Keto-Friendly Meal: Swap out white rice for cauliflower rice if you want to keep carbs low.
Really, Szechuan chicken is a meal on its own when you serve it over some white rice. You have your protein, carbs, and tasty fresh veggies, too! But what would a dinner inspired by Chinese takeout be without some variety? If you’re feeling ambitious, these are a few more great recipes to make alongside this tasty chicken. Good news is, they’re super easy to whip up!
You’ve got to keep any leftovers you may have of your Szechuan chicken! Chinese food is great for storing and reheating. Pop it in the microwave, heat up some Minute Rice, and you have a quick and delicious meal on your hands.
- In the Refrigerator: Transfer Szechuan chicken to an airtight container and store for up to 4 days. When you’re ready to enjoy it, reheat over the stove or in the microwave until warmed through.
Cut your chicken breasts into bite size chunks. In a medium bowl, combine your black vinegar, soy sauce, Chinese five spice, and cornstarch whisk to combine. Add your chicken to the bowl and toss to coat evenly. Cover and allow the chicken to marinate for 3o minutes at room temperature.
In a frying pan, over medium high heat, heat your vegetable oil. Once your oil is hot enough, add in your marinated chicken, slowly to avoid hot oil splashing out. Fry the chicken for about 5 minutes, turning to brown the chicken evenly. Remove the chicken from the pan.
In a large wok, heat 2 tablespoons of your oil over medium high heat, add in your onion and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, snap peas, broccoli, bell peppers, and carrots. Stir fry your vegetables for 5-6 minutes then add in your cooked chicken.
Reduce the heat to medium and pour your szechuan sauce over the chicken and vegetables and continue to stir fry everything together until your vegetables have tenderized.
Remove from heat and serve over rice.
Calories239kcal (12%)Carbohydrates13g (4%)Protein36g (72%)Fat4g (6%)Saturated Fat1g (5%)Polyunsaturated Fat1gMonounsaturated Fat1gTrans Fat0.02gCholesterol97mg (32%)Sodium1576mg (66%)Potassium795mg (23%)Fiber2g (8%)Sugar7g (8%)Vitamin A943IU (19%)Vitamin C52mg (63%)Calcium43mg (4%)Iron2mg (11%)
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.