Szechuan Chicken is the classic Chinese dish featuring a fiery combination of garlic, ginger, dried chilis and Szechuan seasonings. It’s ready in just 20 minutes for a dinner that will tantalize your taste buds, so much better than takeout!

Szechuan Chicken is the classic Chinese dish featuring a fiery combination of garlic, ginger, dried chilis and Szechuan seasonings. It’s ready in just 20 minutes for a dinner that will tantalize your taste buds, so much better than takeout!

Szechuan Chicken or Sichuan Chicken prepared authentically with chicken thighs, dried chilis, Szechuan peppercorns and green onions

Not for the faint of heart, Szechuan Chicken is an unforgettable experience with its aromatic and numbing qualities. This recipe is always a hit with friends who love fiery food, and you can also dial down the heat for people who prefer milder flavors.

I learned how to make it properly while living in Shanghai years ago, and since then Sichian cuisine has become huge in both America and China.

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In spite of its success, authentic Szechaun Chicken can be hard to find in spite of its appearances on takeout menus across the country. By making it yourself, you can discover its bold flavors, plus you can adjust the spiciness to suit your taste.

WHAT IS SZECHUAN CHICKEN?

Szechuan Chicken originates from China’s Sichuan province, where the capital city Chengdu was named a world culinary capital by UNESCO.  You may have heard of other famous Szechaun dishes like Kung Pao Chicken and Mapo Tofu.

Unlike other dishes, Szechuan chicken is a stir-fry combining fragrant garlic and ginger with dried chili heat and the tangy flavor of Szechuan peppercorns. Unlike other peppercorns, Szechuan pepper is not spicy per se, but rather creates a slight numbing sensation in the mouth, which is a characteristic of Sichuan cuisine.

Szechuan chicken is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It has no sauce like its cousin Kung Pao Chicken and no sweetness like General Tso’s Chicken. There are variations adding in peanuts or bell peppers, as well as Indonesian-style versions using sambal oelek chili paste instead of dried chilis.

Typically Szechuan chicken is served on top of steamed rice with other dishes, helping to absorb some of the heat.

Delicious and authentic Szechuan Chicken or Sichuan Chicken on a serving plate ready to be eaten

HOW TO MAKE SZECHUAN CHICKEN

Szechaun chicken doesn’t need to be complicated, but it helps to organize your ingredients ahead of time since some are less common.

  • Boneless chicken thighs (or chicken breasts)
  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh ginger
  • Dried red chilis (cayenne chilis, which are 2-3 inches long)
  • Szechaun peppercorns (see details below)
  • Soy sauce
  • Chinese cooking wine
  • Cornstarch

Szechuan peppercorns are the most important ingredient to get the real Szechuan flavor. They’re available in most Asian grocery stores and are also easy to order online. If you’re really in a pinch, substitute coriander seeds instead.

You can control the amount of heat with the number of chilis used. For milder flavor, just use a few chilis. For maximum heat, plan on using a 1:1 proportion of chicken and chilis!

Szechuan Chicken closeup with a garnish of slivered green onions

TIPS AND SECRETS FOR MAKING THE BEST SZECHUAN CHICKEN

  • Look for dried red chilis with bright color with labels such as cayenne peppers or chiles de árbol. Avoid dark red ones that may indicate an incorrect chili or excess storage time.
  • Using a large nonstick skillet will give enough room to crispen the chicken. Complete in several batches if you have a smaller skillet.
  • If your dish ends up being too firey for your taste, don’t rush for a glass of water! Cool down by consuming rice, bread or dairy instead.
  • Here are some options to make healthier Szechuan Chicken: use half the amount of oil, use low-sodium soy sauce and serve on brown rice.
  • Don’t eat the Szechuan peppercorns, which are there mainly for flavor.

EQUIPMENT FOR MAKING SZECHUAN CHICKEN

  • A large nonstick skillet or wok is important for getting crispy chicken.
  • Look for dried red chilis with bright color with labels such as cayenne peppers or chiles de árbol. Avoid dark red ones that may indicate an incorrect chili or excess storage time.

HOW TO SERVE SZECHUAN CHICKEN

The traditional way to serve Szechuan Chicken is simply on top of steamed white rice, which helps to reduce the heat in your mouth. Flat noodles like fettucine or rice noodles also work well.

You might want to serve it with a side dish such as a sautéed green vegetable like bok choy to balance out the heat…

This Szechuan Chicken is the classic Chinese dish made with chicken thighs, Szechuan peppercorns, dried chilis, garlic, ginger and green onions. It makes a fabulous dinner idea for anyone who loves spicy food!
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Easy 20 Minute Szechuan Chicken

This Szechuan Chicken is a simple version of the classic Chinese dish, flavorful and spicy! One taste and you’ll want to skip the takeout and make it over again. It’s a delicious weeknight dinner.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese, Sichuan, Szechuan
Keyword szechuan chicken
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 640 kcal
Author TipBuzz

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce low-sodium recommended
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar or other cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

Chicken

  • 1 ½ lbs chicken thighs or chicken breasts
  • ½ cup canola oil I used peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger peeled and minced
  • 3 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 4-40 chili peppers cayenne peppers
  • ½ tsp salt or more or less to taste

Serving – optional

  • Steamed white rice
  • green onions minced
  • sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine and cornstarch until combined.
  2. Mix in the chicken pieces and reserve for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients.

  3. Set aside a paper-towel lined plate.
  4. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when shimmering hot, add the chicken.
  5. Fry for 1-2 minutes until golden and crispy, turning occasionally using a slotted spoon.
  6. Remove chicken to a prepared plate and reduce heat to medium.
  7. Remove excess oil from the skillet and then add in garlic, ginger, Szechuan peppercorns and dried chilis.
  8. Sauté for one minute until fragrant and add in the cooked chicken.
  9. Toss until combined and remove from heat.
  10. Garnish with optional minced green onion. Serve with rice or noodles and enjoy!

Recipe Tips

  • If you wish to add vegetables, you can sauté chunks of bell peppers along with the garlic and ginger.
  • You can cook Szechuan chicken ahead of time and then reheat in a skillet or microwave for 4-5 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • If you are unable to get Szechuan peppercorns, try a 1:1 substitution of coriander seeds instead.
Nutrition Facts
Easy 20 Minute Szechuan Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 640 Calories from Fat 504
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 56g 86%
Saturated Fat 9g 45%
Cholesterol 166mg 55%
Sodium 532mg 22%
Potassium 379mg 11%
Total Carbohydrates 4g 1%
Protein 28g 56%
Vitamin A 5.3%
Vitamin C 0.8%
Calcium 1.7%
Iron 7.7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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