Szechuan chicken or Sichuan chicken is a popular Chinese style chicken appetizer most often found on the Chinese restaurant menus. Sichuan is the name of a province in China. It is also spelled as Szechuan or Szechwan in different regions of the world.
What is Szechuan chicken?
Szechuan chicken is a delicious and flavourful dish made by tossing chicken in spicy, sour, hot & tongue tickling Sichuan sauce.
Sichuan cuisine is well known and loved for its bold flavours which comes from the generous use of garlic, red chilies and Sichuan peppercorn.
Originally foods from Sichuan cuisine are hot, spicy, pungent & sweet. Most Chinese restaurants serve foods that are toned down to suit the local palate.
I have also included lots of tips & substitutes for the ingredients. The recipe does not turn out to be very hot or spicy and it is basically my toned down version. For a spicier version you can simply triple the amount of red chilies and paste in the recipe.
This recipe is roughly adapted from the variations I have tasted over the years in many Chinese restaurants.
Tips & substitutes
Sauce: This recipe needs Szechuan sauce. You can easily make it following my instructions below or buy it from a store. If using store bought do choose one that has Sichuan peppercorn, red chilies and garlic as the key ingredients since they are the flavour enhancers here.
Sichuan peppercorn is the star ingredient of the Sichuan chicken recipe. These tiny little peppercorn have a citrusy aroma with a tongue numbing & tickling sensation. I have shared a picture below. In case you prefer to make your own sauce like me then look out for these online.
If you are not accessible to Sichuan pepper corn then simply substitute with ground pepper. The dish will still turn out great but you will miss the most important flavors of Sichuan food.
Chicken: We love the crisp fried chicken in the Sichuan sauce so I either deep fry or grill it. The grilled version is healthier but the chicken does not crisp up like the fried version. You can also fry the chicken in a air fryer if you have.
If you are into healthy eating you may pan fry but it will surely not turn the way I have shown in the pictures.
Optional ingredient: Fermented bean paste known as Doubanjiang is another ingredient that is used in the authentic Sichuan cuisine. This is an optional ingredient and you can use it if you like it.
Alternately you can also use fermented chilli bean paste to make the sauce & skip the red chili paste I mentioned below.
Szechuan chicken (Sichuan chicken)
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- 250 grams chicken or ½ lb cubed boneless
- 1 egg white (refer notes on brine)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon crushed pepper
- 1 teaspoon soya sauce (chose naturally brewed)
- 3 tablespoon Corn starch or (white corn flour)
- ¼ cup oil or as needed for frying or grilling
other ingredients or use bottled sichuan sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil or any
- 2 to 4 dried red chilies (refer notes)
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn ground (refer notes)
- 1 teaspoon garlic chopped
- 1 teaspoon ginger chopped
- 2 to 3 sprigs spring onions or scallions (greens & whites separated)
- 1 tablespoon soya sauce (naturally brewed)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoon red chilli paste or 1 tablespoon chilli powder or 15 red chilies (notes)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon Salt (adjust to taste)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground pepper or pepper powder
How to make the recipe
- Make the red chilli paste by mixing red chilli powder with 2 tbsps water. Or Soak red chilies in hot water for 30 mins and drain. Blend them with little water to a smooth paste. Set aside.
- To a large mixing bowl add chicken, salt, pepper, soya sauce & flour.
- Add egg white & mix everything well until the chicken is well coated. (refer picture below).
- Heat oil in a pan for deep frying.
- When the oil is medium hot, gently slide the chicken pieces one after the other. (fry them in batches)
- Fry them on a medium high flame until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate.
How to make szechuan chicken
- Turn off the stove & remove the oil to a small bowl, retaining 1 tbsp in the pan.
- Cool down the oil a bit and then fry the red chilies until crisp without burning.
- Add the ginger garlic. Saute them on a high flame for 30 seconds.
- Then add the spring onions whites & fry for 1 min.
- Add the ground sichuan peppercorns & saute until aromatic for 30 seconds.
- Next add red chili paste, soya sauce, sugar, vinegar and very little salt. Stir well.
- Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons water or oil and allow the sauce to bubble & thicken slightly.
- Taste the sauce and add more chilli paste, sichuan peppercorns, sugar, salt, vinegar etc to suit your taste.
- Stir in the fried chicken and toss on the highest flame for 1 minute until the sichuan sauce coats the chicken well.
- Sprinkle ground pepper and spring onion greens.
- Garnish with more spring onion greens. Serve hot with noodles or fried rice or as a appetizer.
- Dried red chilies: You can use as many as you wish. These add a smoky hot flavor to the dish.
- Sichuan peppercorn give a characteristic unique flavor to the Szechuan chicken. But if you don’t have just replace it with coarsely crushed pepper. But you will miss the citrusy flavor, tongue numbing & tongue tickling sensation in the dish.
- Red chilli powder or paste : If using red chilli powder, mix it with 2 tbsps of water and make a paste. OR You can use plain store bought red chilli paste or fermented chilli bean paste. Alternately you can soak 12 to 15 red chilies in little hot water for 30 minutes & then blend them to a smooth paste with 2 to 3 tbsps water.
- Overall the dish is not spicy and my kids could eat it. But the heat level depends on the kind of chili paste and sichuan peppercorns used.
- Grilling chicken here works best with overnight brining and skipping the egg.
Szechuan chicken recipe originally published in March 2015. Republished in November 2019.
1.Add the chicken to a bowl along with soya sauce, salt, pepper powder and flour. Next add eff white only as needed and coat the chicken well. You can alternately skip egg and brine the chicken overnight following my tip in the recipe notes above.
For spicier chicken you can also add little chilli paste like I did here.
2.Heat 1/4 cup oil in a small pan. When the oil is hot enough, regulate the flame to medium. Then slide chicken pieces one after the other and fry them in batches. When the chicken turns golden & crisp, remove them to a steel colander.
Tip: Do not crowd the pan by adding a lot of chicken to the pan while frying. Do not over fry as they tend to turn hard.
Alternately you can also grill the chicken in oven by placing on a wired rack. More details in the recipe notes.
How to make szechuan chicken
3.Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Alternately remove the oil you used for deep frying to a small bowl. Turn off the stove for a minute and bring down the temperature of the oil slightly.
4. Add the red chilies and fry for 30 seconds or until it turns crisp. Then add ginger and garlic. Saute for 1 minute.
5.Then saute the spring onions for a minute on a high flame. Next add the sichuan peppercorn (ground for intense flavor, whole for milder flavor). Saute for 30 seconds.
6. Then pour soya sauce.
7. Next add red chilli paste or fermented chilli bean paste, vinegar, salt and sugar.
8.Saute for a minute and then pour 3 to 4 tbsps water or oil.
9. Mix and let the sauces bubble. The sauce will thicken slightly. Taste the sauce and add more chili paste, sugar etc to suit your taste. Ensure the sauce is tasting like you want it, then proceed further. You can also add more water if the sauce turns too thick.
10.Add fried chicken and toss well in the sauce for 1 minute until the sauce coats the chicken well.
11. Then add ground pepper (powder) and green onions.
Serve szechuan chicken hot as a appetizer or side with fried rice or noodles. It is best served hot asthe crisp fried chicken begin to soften when it cools down.