This Szechuan chicken recipe has just the right amount of spice, with seasoned chicken, spicy chilies and homemade Szechuan sauce, an easy weeknight meal. It's perfect for spicy food lovers.
Spicy Szechuan Chicken Recipe
Who is ready for easy cooking? I know I am. So many nights I want a quick and easy recipe to whip together in the kitchen. Chicken is a simple go-to, but chicken can get a bit boring sometimes, right?
Not tonight! Tonight we're making spicy Szechuan Chicken, and it is delicious. Pure satisfaction. Szechuan Chicken satisfies that craving I get for spicy food with big flavor.
What is Szechuan Chicken?
Szechuan chicken (or Sichuan Chicken) is a spicy stir fry dish that originated from China, known for it's liberal use of hot chilies and tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns.
You can very easily adjust the heat and spice level to your own preferences by removing some of the peppers for milder heat, or adding in others to really blast off on the heat scale. I know some of you crazy chiliheads are going to REALLY spice things up on this one.
Yesterday I made this Homemade Szechuan Sauce Recipe, which you can totally make ahead of time if you want, though you don't have to. It's super easy to whip together while your chicken is marinating.
Consider this recipe when you get the urge for Chinese takeout. This is so much better when you make it at home. Homemade is always better, and it's done in under 30 minutes! I hope you enjoy it!
Let's talk about how to make Szechuan chicken, shall we?
Szechuan Chicken Ingredients
- FOR THE SZECHUAN CHICKEN
- Chicken. You can use chicken breast or chicken thighs.
- Liquids. Soy sauce, sesame oil. Sesame oil is key to flavor, though you can use vegetable oil/olive oil if you need to.
- Corn Starch. For thickening.
- Chili Peppers. I'm using bell pepper, serrano peppers, dried chile de arbol peppers (optional for extra spicy, or use other dried red chilies you love).
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sichuan Peppercorns. (aka Szechuan Peppercorns, or use black peppercorns - see the Recipe Notes section below for additional notes.)
- Peanuts. Peanuts offer a nice crunchy quality and flavor. Cashews are great here, too!
- FOR THE SZECHUAN SAUCE
- Soy sauce.
- Rice wine vinegar.
- Sesame oil.
- Ground ginger. Fresh minced ginger is good, too.
- Honey .
- Chili garlic sauce.
- Garlic powder. Fresh minced garlic is good, too.
- Sriracha .
- Crushed red pepper flakes.
- Chicken stock.
- Cornstarch. For thickening
- Sichuan peppercorns. - Lightly toasted and ground.
- Chinese 5 Spice. This is a wonderful spice blend that is essential to many Chinese dishes. I strongly suggest you acquire it, or try my homemade version.
- FOR SERVING
- Cooked white rice or noodles, spicy chili flakes, green onions.
How to Make Szechuan Chicken - the Recipe Method
Marinate the Chicken. Add the chopped chicken to a large bowl. Add soy sauce, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Marinate for 10 minutes.
You can marinate for longer if you'd like, though you'll get good flavor from a quick 10-minute marinade. I like to marinate mine overnight in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.
Make the Szechuan Sauce. Whisk all of the ingredients except the cornstarch together in a small bowl. Pour into a pot and bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
To thicken the sauce, dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water until well mixed. Stir it into the szechuan sauce and stir until it thickens up, 2-3 minutes. Set it aside for now.
Cook the Chicken. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan to medium heat. Toss the chicken pieces with 1/2 cup corn starch to coat. Add it to the pan and cook, stirring, 5-6 minutes, or until it is cooked through. Remove the chicken and set it aside.
The cornstarch adds some nice texture to the chicken when pan fried, as opposed to being deep fried.
Cook the Peppers. Heat the pan back to medium-high heat and add the peppers. Cook for 5 minutes to soften them up.
I often like to get a bit of caramelization on them from the high heat. Stir fry, my friends!
Add the Flavor Builders. Add the chiles de arbol, peppercorns and chopped peanuts and cook another 2 minutes, stirring. Please see my notes below about the Szechuan peppercorns.
Complete the Dish. Add the chicken back to the pan along with the homemade Szechuan sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. You can simmer for longer if you'd like. If the dish gets too thicken, add in a bit of water to thin it out.
Serve it Up. Serve with rice or noodles. Garnish with extra chopped peanuts and spicy chili flakes. Spring onions are good here, too, or fresh chopped herbs.
Boom! Done! Spicy Szechuan Chicken is ready to enjoy. I love this recipe. It's so easy to make, isn't it? So much better than takeout, even from your favorite Chinese restaurant. It's a great quick and easy weeknight dinner.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- The Spice Factor. I use a lot of chili peppers in this recipe, specifically bell peppers, serrano peppers and chile de arbol peppers. The serranos and chiles de arbol are quite spicy, and are completely optional. Use a jalapeno pepper for a milder level of heat, or omit them entirely, or core them out to reduce the heat.
- Make Ahead Szechuan Sauce. You can very easily make this sauce ahead of time, the night before or even up to a week. Just keep it in the refrigerator, covered, until you need it. You can also make a big batch of Szechuan sauce and use it for multiple recipes.
- Szechuan Peppercorns. Szechuan peppercorns (aka Sichuan pepper) are an acquired taste, so keep this in mind if you have not tried them before. They are different from black peppercorns, with an almost floral taste described as lemony or perfumy, and can have a tongue numbing sensation. They are often hit or miss with people, so I suggest using it sparingly at first if you have any concerns.
Store any leftover Szechuan Chicken in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy my Szechuan chicken recipe. The ultimate Chinese chicken stir fry! Mine is an extra spicy version! I love spicy Chinese food. Who needs takeout? Let me know if you make it. I'd love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!
If you enjoy cooking Chinese dishes and Asian cuisine, I recommend this book for a lot of easy and iconic recipes from a great chef. I'm learning a lot from it and it helped me to make this dish.
- 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die: Discover a New World of Flavors in Authentic Recipes - by Chef Jet Tila (affiliate link, my friends!)
Try Some of My Other Spicy Chicken Recipes
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Szechuan Chicken Recipe
FOR THE SZECHUAN CHICKEN
- 1 pound chicken breast chopped into bite-sized pieces (you can also use chicken thighs if you'd like)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup corn starch (use 1-2 tablespoons for a thinner consistency)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil or use olive oil
- 1 large bell pepper chopped
- 2 serrano pepper chopped (optional for extra spicy!)
- 10 dried chile de arbol peppers optional for extra spicy, or use other dried peppers you love
- 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns or use black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup peanuts chopped (plus more for garnish - cashews are great here, too!)
FOR THE SZECHUAN SAUCE
- 1/4 soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger fresh minced ginger is good too
- 1 tablespoon honey or more for sweeter
- 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder fresh minced garlic is good too
- 1 teaspoon sriracha or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch for thickening
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon szechuan peppercorns lightly toasted and ground or use black peppercorns instead
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
- Cooked white rice or noodles, spicy chili flakes
- Add the chopped chicken to a large bowl. Add soy sauce, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Marinate for 10 minutes.
FOR THE HOMEMADE SZECHUAN SAUCE
- While the chicken is marinating, whisk all of the ingredients except the cornstarch together in a small pot.
- Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
- To thicken the sauce, dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water until well mixed. Stir it into the Szechuan sauce and stir until it thickens up, 2-3 minutes. For thicker Szechuan sauce, use 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Remove from heat and set aside.
FOR THE SZECHUAN CHICKEN
- Heat the oil in a large pan to medium heat.
- Toss the chicken with 1/2 cup corn starch to coat. Add it to the pan and cook, stirring, 5-6 minutes, or until it is cooked through. Remove the chicken and set it aside.
- Heat the pan back to medium-high heat and add the peppers. Cook for 5 minutes to soften.
- Add the chiles de arbol, peppercorns and chopped peanuts and cook another 2 minutes, stirring.
- Add the chicken back to the pan along with the homemade Szechuan sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Serve with rice or noodles. Garnish with extra chopped peanuts and spicy chili flakes.
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 5/31/22 to include new information and video. It was originally published on 5/27/20.