This salt and pepper chicken is crunchy, crispy and incredibly flavorful! This healthy version of the classic Chinese dish is easy to make and just spicy enough. This recipe is quick, savory and way better than takeout!

Salt and pepper chicken thighs with peppers on plate

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • This Chinese salt and pepper chicken is packed with flavor!
  • This easy to make dish is great for dinner, meal prep and leftovers.
  • It is made in one skillet.
  • The chicken is crispy and crunchy on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside.
  • The onions are so soft and flavorful.
  • This recipe is Whole30 compliant, Paleo, gluten free, dairy free, and oil free.
  • Check out this Whole30 Orange Chicken for another takeout idea!

Ingredients & Substitutions

The onion becomes super soft and tender while cooking. It adds such a great flavor. White onions and yellow onions are best for this recipe.

Use mild or spicy peppers. Totally a personal preference. I used serrano and fresno chilis. These both pack some heat! I highly recommend dicing the chilis very finely.

Minced garlic adds a great depth of flavor. Freshly minced garlic has the most robust flavor. If needed, garlic powder can be substituted.

Olive oil is a great cooking fat. Use extra virgin or mild tasting. For another option, avocado oil works well too.

Both chicken thighs and chicken breasts can be used, but I highly recommend chicken thighs. They do not get dry or overcooked as easily as chicken breasts do. Use boneless, skinless thighs for best results.

Tapioca flour is used to coat the chicken. It is very similar to cornstarch, but it is corn free. If desired, use cornstarch or arrowroot powder in its place.

Chinese five spice is a unique blend of spices that is a little sweet! It adds such a great flavor to this dish. See below for options if you do not have access to this ingredient.

Both salt and pepper are obviously needed. A lot of salt and pepper go into this dish. As always, feel free to start small and add more salt and pepper as desired. This dish is salty!

Chopped greens onion would be a great garnish in this case.

Chinese salt and pepper chicken on plate

Chicken Breasts Versus Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are the best cut of meat for this salt and pepper chicken. Thighs remain tender whereas chicken breasts tend to dry out as cooked.

Boneless skinless chicken thighs are easy to work with, flavorful, and juicy. Chicken thighs hold up to the high heat better.

If you only have chicken breasts, this recipe will be fine. Just be sure not to overcook the chicken and dry it out.

What is Chinese Five Spice?

Chinese five spice is a mixture made up of five spices. These flavors run the gamut. They include salty, bitter, sweet, sour and savory. This unique blend of ingredients is used oftentimes in Chinese cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine, and Hawaiian cuisine.

Star anise, cinnamon, cloves, sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds make up Chinese five spice.

If needed, garam masala has a somewhat similar taste to Chinese five spice.

Taste & Texture

This dish has bold flavors. It is both slightly sweet and spicy.

The chicken is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It has the texture of being lightly fried or battered.

How to Make

Step 1

First, dice onion and chili peppers.

Step 2

Then, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, chopped onions, chopped chili peppers, and minced garlic to a large skillet over low medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes or until onions have become soft, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Diced onions and chili peppers in pan

Step 3

While the veggies are cooking, slice chicken thighs into 1 inch pieces. Add chicken, tapioca flour, Chinese five spice, salt and pepper to a bowl. Toss until chicken is completely coated.

Step 4

Once onions are soft, remove onions, chilis and minced garlic from pan. Place on a plate nearby.

Onions and peppers in skillet

Step 5

Add in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and coated chicken to skillet. Cook on medium for 7 to 8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Flip every couple minutes. Add more oil to the skillet if needed.

Step 6

Then, reduce heat to low. Return onions, chilis and garlic to pan. Cook on low for 2 to 3 minutes.

Salt and pepper chicken in skillet

Step 7

Finally, remove from heat. Garnish with chopped green onions if desired. Serve!

Expert Tips & Tricks

Use boneless skinless chicken thighs for best results.

Chop chicken into evenly sized 1 inch cubes. This ensures even cooking.

Adjust seasonings to suit your taste. As written, this recipe is salty. Taste as you cook and add seasonings as desired.

Use meat thermometer to check temperature of chicken. This helps the chicken to not become overcooked.

How to Serve & Store

Serve salt and pepper chicken hot! Serve over cauliflower rice, rice noodles, white rice or brown rice. It is also great on its own.

Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Chinese chicken on plate

Frequently Asked Questions

Which cut of chicken is best?

Boneless skinless chicken thighs are best.

Can I use less salt?

Yes! Add as much or as little salt as desired.

What if I don’t have Chinese five spice?

See above for what makes up Chinese five spice. Or, garam masala tastes somewhat similar.

You May Also Like

If you make this salt and pepper chicken recipe, I would really appreciate a review! You can find me on InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest. I would love for you to follow along! 

Salt and pepper chicken thighs with peppers on plate

Get the Recipe: Salt and Pepper Chicken

This Chinese salt and pepper chicken is spicy, easy and loaded with flavor! The chicken is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The peppers and onions are delicious too!
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Ingredients

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red chili pepper, diced
  • 1 green chili pepper, diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • cup tapioca flour, or cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp Chinese five spice
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground pepper
  • chopped green onions, to garnish

Instructions 

  • First, dice onion and chili peppers.
  • Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, chopped onions, chopped chili peppers, and minced garlic to a large skillet over low medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes or until onions have softened, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, slice chicken into 1 inch pieces. Add chicken, tapioca flour, Chinese five spice, salt and pepper to a bowl. Toss until chicken is completely coated.
  • Once onions are soft, remove onions, chilis and minced garlic from pan. Place on a plate nearby.
  • Add in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and coated chicken to skillet. Cook on medium for 7 to 8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, flipping every couple minutes.
  • Reduce heat to low. Return onions, chilis and garlic to pan. Cook on low for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Finally, remove from heat. Garnish with chopped green onions if desired. Serve!

Notes

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs work best for this recipe.
  • Add more olive oil to skillet as needed.  It should never be dry.
  • This chicken is spicy.  Feel free to adjust seasonings as needed.
  • It is also very salty!  This is how it is supposed to be, but feel free to scale back on the salt level to suit your taste.
  • Use meat thermometer to ensure chicken is done cooking.  It should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Calories: 427kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 45g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 11g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 215mg, Sodium: 1987mg, Potassium: 688mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 176IU, Vitamin C: 21mg, Calcium: 51mg, Iron: 3mg

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