Make perfect Salt and Chilli Chicken at home that's light and crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and coated in a super tasty salt and pepper spice mix. This popular dish found on many UK Chinese restaurant and takeaway menus is surprisingly easy to recreate in your own kitchen using everyday ingredients with around 30 minutes of cooking and prep time.
I used to be a bit apprehensive about making fried chicken at home, but once I started I was surprised at how easy it was to cook up some of my favourite dishes like this Crispy Japanese Tempura, Chilli Honey Chicken and this Crispy Chicken Fillet Burger.
The post contains additional information and helpful tips to ensure the recipe turns out great the first time. Please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end if you are in a hurry!
4 reasons why you'll love this recipe:
- Oh so moreish - light and crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, coated in a super tasty salt and pepper spice mix.
- Quick and easy - with just 30 minutes of cooking and prep time
- Cheaper, healthier and quicker than takeaway
- Everyday ingredients - no trip to the Asian grocery store is required.
🛒 Key ingredients:
You should be able to find the ingredients required to make this recipe in your local supermarket.
- Chicken thighs: They are juicier and more succulent than breast, but you can use breast instead. Pork and beef can also be used.
- Spice rub: A mix of salt, black pepper and Chinese five spice is added to the cooked chicken to give the dish its distinctive salty and peppery flavour.
- Cornflour/cornstarch: The chicken is dredged in cornflour/cornstarch before frying to give it its delicious light crispy texture.
- Red and green chillies add spiciness to the dish.
Note that the recipe has not been tested with the below substitutions and variations, so the results cannot be guaranteed.
- Chicken thighs: Swap for chicken breast or pork and beef.
- Cornflour/cornstarch: You can use rice flour instead, but I do not advise using plain flour because it will absorb more moisture and make the chicken greasy.
- Red and green chillies: You could substitute these for chilli flakes or add chilli powder to the spice rub. This recipe has a medium to high level of heat. If you are sensitive to spice you can reduce the amount of chilli used or omit it.
This recipe has been tested on the stove, but can also be cooked in the oven or air fryer if you are looking for a healthier option. Note that ovens and air fryers can differ and cooking times may vary. Keep an eye on the chicken as it cooks to ensure you don't overcook it.
🧑🍳 Recipe steps
1. Prep the chicken and the spice mix
Add the chicken pieces to a mixture of egg white, soy sauce and sesame oil and leave to marinate while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Stir the Chinese five spice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and set aside.
Add the cornflour/cornstarch to a medium to large bowl and dredge the chicken pieces (no more than 3-4 at a time) until generously coated.
Top tip: It can be tempting to put all of the chicken pieces into the bowl of cornflour/cornstarch for speedy dredging, but this is very likely to result in a gloopy mess. I recommend dredging up 3-4 pieces and shaking off any excess egg white mixture beforehand.
3. Fry the chicken
Place a wok or large frying pan on a medium to high heat and add oil. Add the dredged chicken pieces when the oil is hot and fry for a few minutes on each side until golden then remove from the pan and set aside.
4. Fry the veggies
Wipe the pan clean or use a clean pan and add two tablespoons of oil. Add the onion when the oil is hot and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the peppers and fresh chilli. Continue to cook until the peppers soften, reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and fry for one more minute.
5. Add the spice mix and cooked chicken
Add the spice mix, cooked chicken spring onions/scallions to the pan and mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.
- Rice: plain steamed rice or egg fried rice go nicely
- Noodles: a soy sauce-based noodle dish like Chicken Chow Mein or Duck Chow Mein.
- Steamed green veg: like broccoli, pak choi or green beans with garlic and or oyster sauce
- Sandwich/wrap: a great way to enjoy any leftovers. A little hoisin sauce is highly recommended.
Alternative cooking methods:
Bake the chicken pieces at 180°C or 350°F for 10 minutes until the chicken is golden. Place under the grill/broiler for a few minutes to get the chicken extra crispy. You can prepare the veggies on the stove following the recipe from step 7 onwards while the chicken bakes.
Brush the air fryer with oil and cook for 25 minutes at 195°C or 380°F, shaking the basket regularly (every 5 minutes) to ensure the chicken is evenly cooked. Cook at 205°C or 400°F for five more minutes to get it nice and crispy. Meanwhile, cook the veggies on the stove following the recipe from step 7.
Using a deep-fat fryer will get you delicious crispy chicken quickly. Fill your deep-fat fryer with the recommended amount of oil (this is likely to be several cups or around 2 litres). Set the temperature to 180°C or 350°F. Add the chicken pieces when the oil comes to temperature and fry for 2-3 minutes until golden.
👍 Top tips
- Dredge a few pieces of chicken at a time - add no more then 3-4 pieces to the cornflour/cornstarch at a time, shaking off any excess egg white mixture first. Adding all the chicken at once might seem like a more efficient way of doing things, but it's likely you'll end up with a gloopy sticky mess.
- Get the pan red hot before you add the chicken - for perfectly crispy chicken. It's likely to come out soft and greasy if you add it too early.
- Use a fresh pan or clean the pan before frying the veggies. Quickly and safely clean the wok by taking it off the heat and using tongs or chopsticks to wipe away the excess oil and cornflour/cornstarch with kitchen paper.
Sea salt, white or black pepper and Chinese five spice are the most common ingredients. Variations can include chilli flakes, ground ginger, garlic powder and sugar.
The 4 key spices are usually Chinese cinnamon, fennel seed, star anise and cloves. The fifth spice is often ginger, white pepper or Sichuan peppercorns.
Chinese chicken is often cooked using the velveting technique, where the chicken is placed in an egg white mix and then dredged in cornflour/cornstarch. This protects the chicken from a hot wok and gets it super crispy on the outside while remaining tender and juicy on the inside.
The two dishes are very similar. Both contain crispy fried chicken coated in a spice mix often consisting of salt, pepper and Chinese five spice. Salt and chilli chicken is hotter and made with fresh or dry chillies. The chicken pieces are also dipped into egg white before being dredged and fried.
Fried chicken tastes delicious when eaten fresh. It will quickly turn craggy and doesn't lend itself to meal prepping. However, it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be reheated on the stove or in the microwave. This dish is not suitable for freezing.
😋 Check out my other Chinese takeaway recipes
Takeaway food is often bland-tasting, greasy, expensive and unhealthy. My takeaway alternatives are delicious, fast, easy to make, cost-effective and so much better for you and include Honey Chilli Chicken, Chicken Chow Mein, Sweet & Sour Chicken and Prawn Fried Rice.
Did you try this recipe? It would be really great if you could leave a comment and a star rating ⭐️. I would love to receive your feedback and know that other readers find it helpful too.
Don't forget to tag #knifeandsoulrecipes on Instagram or @knifeandsoul on Pinterest!
Salt and Chilli Chicken
- 1 egg white
- ½ tbsp sesame oil
- ½ tbsp soy sauce
- 500g (18 oz) chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces (note 1)
- 1.5 tsp chinese five spice
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp black pepper
- 80 g (⅔ cup) cornflour/cornstarch
- 4-5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion choppde
- 1 green pepper diced (note 2)
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 red chilli finely chopped
- 1 green chilli finely chopped
- 3 spring onions / scallions thinly sliced
- Mix the egg white, sesame oil, and soy sauce in a medium to large bowl and add the chicken.
- Make the spice mix by combining the Chinese five spice, salt and black pepper in a small bowl.
- Pour the cornflour/cornstarch into a large bowl and dredge the chicken pieces (no more than 2-3 at a time) so that they have a generous coating of cornflour. Gently shake off the excess and put onto a plate.
- Place a wok or large frying pan on a high heat and add around three-quarters of the oil. Add the chicken pieces when the oil is hot and fry for a few minutes turning regularly, until they are golden brown on all sides. Note that you may have to do this in two batches to avoid crowding the pan. (note 3 & 4)
- Place the cooked chicken pieces onto a plate or board lined with kitchen paper when done.
- Wipe the wok (note 5) or use a clean wok or frying pan.
- Add the remaining oil and fry the onion for a couple of minutes and then add the green pepper and chillies.
- Turn the heat down to medium when the green pepper and onion start to soften, add the garlic and fry for one more minute.
- Add the chicken, spice mix and spring onions/scallions, and toss everything in the pan together until the spice mix is evenly distributed.
- Serve immediately with your choice of sides.
- I cut my chicken into 2 cm/inch pieces.
- Cut into 1cm / ⅓ inch pieces
- It's likely you will need to add more oil to the pan if you need to fry the chicken in more than one batch.
- Check the chicken is cooked by cutting one of the larger pieces in half to make sure it is white and opaque in the middle.
- Quickly and safely clean the wok by taking it off the heat and using tongs or chopsticks to wipe away the excess oil and cornflour/cornstarch with kitchen paper.