This spicy Szechuan chicken stir fry is better than the takeaway!
I love the numbing heat of Szechuan peppercorns and this Szechuan chicken recipe calls for a good dose of them. The heat is nothing like that of chillies and doesn’t linger.
The dried red chillies and chilli oil do though but you can add them to taste.
If you like a good heat in a dish, you’re going to love this Szechuan chicken recipe!
I’ve been making and serving this recipe for as long as I can remember. I did grow up near San Francisco after all and the ingredients were so easy to source even back in the early 80s.
In San Francisco, Szechuan chicken is one of the most ordered and loved Chinese stir fries. Usually, quite a few dry red chillies are added to the dish which give it a good heat. You can add as many or as few as you like. In fact, they aren’t even meant to be eaten.
The chillies spice up the sauce and make it look pretty. I do eat a few though just because I love them.
If you would like your Szechuan chicken super spicy, cut the chillies in thirds and add the seeds too. If that isn’t the heat you are going for, throw them in whole.
Which cut of chicken?
You could use chicken breasts or thighs. I recommend the brown thigh meat though as it has so much more flavour.
Depending on the restaurant you go to for your Szechuan chicken, the meat will be cut into tiny or bite sized pieces. Personally, I prefer good bite sized pieces but that is of course up to you.
Want to make your Szechuan chicken even spicier?
I often cook this recipe with chilli oil and a good tablespoon of the chillies, shallots and garlic that settle at the bottom of the jar.
Sourcing Szechuan peppercorns…
Szechuan peppercorns are one of my favourite spices. They are actually berries and don’t only taste nice but smell amazing too.
You can find them at Asian shops and online though I highly recommend finding a good shop so that you can spell them before you purchase.
Good quality Szechuan peppercorns should have a pungent aroma that practically hits you in the face. If you don’t get that, they may not be the best.
The difference between Szechuan chicken and that other hugely popular dish General Tso’s Chicken…
Szechuan chicken originates from China and is popular there too. General Tso’s is an American Chinese restaurant invention.
Generally speaking Szechuan chicken is usually spicier than General Tso’s chicken. Although the sauces are similar, General Tso’s does not call for Szechuan peppercorns either though I see no reason why you couldn’t add them anyway.
Another difference is that General Tso’s chicken is marinated in a light batter and deep fried. Szechuan chicken is only dusted with flour and shallow fried.
Really though, that’s just being technical. You can mix and match to your liking.
Step by step photos
If you like this Szechuan chicken recipe, you might like to try some of these too…
Salt and Pepper Chicken
Sweet and Sour Chicken
General Tso’s Chicken
- 700g (1 ½ lbs) boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch pieces
- FOR THE SAUCE
- 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 100ml (1/3 cup) chicken stock
- FOR THE MARINADE
- 2 tbsp Chinese rice wine
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- Dry Ingredients
- 3 tbsp rice flour
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- FOR THE STIR FRY
- Oil for shallow frying
- 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp spring onions (scallions)
- 1 onion, quartered and cut into small 2.5cm (1 inch) petals
- 1 red bell pepper cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces
- 1 green bell pepper cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces
- 1 tablespoon szechuan peppercorns, lightly crushed
- 15 small dried red Chinese or bird’s eye chillies
- 1 tsp white pepper
- Start by preparing the sauce. Whisk all of the sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth. Set aside.
- Now place the chicken pieces in a mixing bowl and add the marinade ingredients. You can cook almost immediately or allow to marinate overnight for even better results.
- Place the dry ingredient to coat the chicken on a plate and then dust the marinated chicken pieces with the flour. Be sure to shake off any excess flour.
- Heat about 2.5cm (1 inch) of vegetable oil in a wok and place over a medium high heat. The oil needs to reach 200c/400f before adding the chicken. If you don't have any oil thermometer. place the end of a wooden chopstick or spatula in the oil. If bubble begin to sizzle around the wood immediately, your oil is ready.
- Cook the flour coated chicken in small batches. If you add too many pieces, it will cool the oil so don't do that.
- Fry each batch until the chicken is lightly browned and crispy. Transfer to a rack to drain off any excess oil. This should all take about 5 - 7 minutes.
- Pour out the oil and clean your wok with a paper towels. Then add about 1 tbps oil and fry the garlic, ginger and spring onions (scallions) for about 30 seconds.
- Add the onions, bell peppers and szechuan peppers fry for about a minutes or until the veggies are just cooked through and still a bit crisp.
- Sti in the dried chillies, white pepper and sauce and bring to a simmer. Then return fried chicken and to the wok and stir to coat in the sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 531Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 3006mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 4gSugar: 15gProtein: 22g
I hope you enjoy this Szechuan chicken recipe. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
Thursday 18th of August 2022
Hi Dan, many thanks for your curry recipes I have made many of them with great success but this is the first time I have tried one of your Chinese recipes. I used pork tenderloin instead of chicken and I must say it was heavenly. Take away Szechuan will never taste the same again.
Monday 22nd of August 2022
Great to hear, I think I will give it a go with pork, sounds nice. Thanks Dan