Salt and pepper chicken is a beloved dish in Chinese cuisine, characterized by its powerful yet simple flavors. The crispiness of fried chicken combined with the warmth of salt and the zing of pepper make it a universally appealing recipe. This guide is designed to walk you through every step of creating this delectable dish in your very own kitchen.

Salt and Pepper Chicken

Ingredients Required

For the Chicken

  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (thighs and drumsticks work best for juicy meat and crispy skin)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup cornstarch for coating
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

For the Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons sea salt flakes or kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (optional, for a hotter flavor)


  • Mixing bowls
  • Deep fryer or large, deep skillet
  • Paper towels
  • Tongs


Step 1: Prepare the Chicken

  1. Start by preparing the chicken. In a bowl, mix the chicken pieces with the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and five-spice powder. Make sure the chicken is coated evenly.
  2. Next, add the beaten egg to the chicken and stir until every piece is coated. This will help the cornstarch stick to the chicken in the next step.
  3. Place the cornstarch in a separate bowl. Take each piece of chicken, one at a time, and roll it in the cornstarch until it is fully coated.

Step 2: Deep Fry the Coated Chicken

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep fryer or large, deep skillet to around 350°F (175°C).
  2. Carefully add the chicken to the hot oil, a few pieces at a time, ensuring not to overcrowd the frying vessel. Crowding can lower the oil's temperature and prevent the chicken from crisping up.
  3. Fry the chicken for about 8 to 10 minutes or until it is golden brown and cooked through. You can ensure the chicken is cooked by piercing the thickest part with a knife. The juices that run out should be clear, not pink.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked, use tongs to transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
  5. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken pieces.

Step 3: Season the Chicken

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the sea salt and black pepper. If using white pepper, add it in now.
  2. While the chicken is still hot, sprinkle the salt and pepper seasoning over the pieces, ensuring the seasoning sticks to the chicken.

Step 4: Serve and Enjoy

Plate your salt and pepper chicken and serve it piping hot. The combination of the crispy texture outside and the succulent meat inside, seasoned with the exhilarating salt and pepper mix, is sure to be a hit.

Tips for Achieving the Perfect Flavor and Texture

  • Marinate Intelligently: A good marinade adds depth to the flavor. A combination of soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and five-spice powder injects rich umami into the chicken.
  • Egg First, Cornstarch Second: Coating the marinated chicken with egg wash before the cornstarch helps the coating adhere to the chicken and provides an extra layer of texture.
  • Fry at the Right Temperature: Maintain a consistent oil temperature to achieve crispy, non-greasy chicken. Using a thermometer can help maintain the ideal frying temp.
  • Season When Hot: Sprinkle the salt and pepper while the chicken is still hot so the seasoning melts slightly and clings to the crispy crust effectively.
  • Rest and Drain: After frying, allow your chicken to rest for a minute to allow excess oil to drain. Resting will also help the crust set and become extra crispy.
  • Size Matters: Cut your chicken pieces to similar sizes to ensure even cooking. This will also make the portions more manageable and the flavor more consistent.

Serving Suggestions and Pairing with Other Dishes

Salt and pepper chicken is a versatile dish that can be served as an appetizer or as a main course. This dish pairs well with steamed rice, fried rice, noodles, or even in a hearty salad. For those who enjoy a little heat, a side of sweet chili sauce is a delicious accompaniment.

Complementary Dishes Include:

  • Stir-fried mixed vegetables
  • Egg drop soup
  • Garlic green beans
  • Steamed bok choy


By following these detailed steps, you can create an authentic and flavorful salt and pepper-chicken dish right at home. With the right preparation and technique, you'll end up with chicken that's crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, seasoned to perfection. The satisfaction of cooking such a delicious dish is truly rewarding. Now it's time to roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and get cooking!

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