This Szechuan chicken is a spicy stir fry made with tender pieces of chicken and colorful vegetables, all tossed in a sweet and savory sauce. A classic Chinese style dish that tastes just as good as what you’d get at a restaurant!
When I go to my local Chinese restaurant, I always order the Szechuan chicken. It’s got the perfect blend of chicken and veggies with sweet, savory and spicy notes. My version uses ingredients that are available in most grocery stores which makes this recipe quick and easy for a busy weeknight.
What is Szechuan chicken?
This dish is a chicken stir fry that contains plenty of spice in the form of sichuan peppercorns and dried red chilies. It originated from the Sichuan providence of China, which is how it got its name. Szechuan chicken also typically contains vegetables, and also may contain peanuts in some cases.
How do you make Szechuan chicken?
This recipe starts with pieces of chicken breast that are coated in corn starch and seasonings, then pan fried until crisp. Remove the chicken from the pan, then add in vegetables, red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. While the chicken and vegetables are cooking, prepare the sauce by whisking together soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil and chicken broth. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables, and let it simmer until thickened. Serve immediately over rice and enjoy.
Tips for the perfect stir fry
- The Sichuan peppercorns are what gives this dish its authentic flavor. These peppercorns have a citrus flavor and also provide a tingly numbing type sensation in the mouth which contributes to the heat of this dish. If you can’t find this spice, it’s fine to omit it. You can break open a few of the chili peppers and sprinkle the seeds into the dish to create more heat if you don’t have the peppercorns.
- Dried red chilies provide a lot of the heat and a mild nutty flavor. While several types of dried red chiles can be used in Szechuan dishes, I use chiles de arbol. Chiles de arbol are Mexican chili peppers that are commonly found in grocery stores. They also bring a lot of flavor and meld well with the sauce.
- This recipe uses hoisin sauce as part of the flavoring components. Hoisin sauce has a dark brown-red appearance and a slightly sweet and tangy flavor. Many Chinese dishes use hoisin sauce to provide depth of flavor to the dishes. You can find hoisin sauce in the Asian section of your local supermarket.
- Szechuan chicken will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 days which makes this a great dish for meal prep.
- I recommend serving your stir fry over steamed rice to help temper the heat. Other options include quinoa, noodles or cauliflower rice.
What is the difference between Szechuan chicken and General Tso’s chicken?
Szechuan chicken tender to be spicier than General Tso’s chicken and contains the Sichuan peppercorns. General Tso’s chicken has a heavier batter on the chicken, and the chicken is deep fried instead of pan fried. Szechuan chicken tends to contain a fair amount of vegetables, whereas General Tso’s chicken is served on its own or with broccoli.
This dish is great as-is, but you can also change up the ingredients to customize it to your tastes.
- Protein: Instead of chicken breast, try sliced steak, chicken thighs, shrimp or tofu.
- Vegetables: While bell peppers are commonly found in this dish, I’ve also seen it served with other vegetables including mushrooms, broccoli and carrots.
- Nuts: Some versions of Szechuan chicken contain peanuts. Cashews or almonds would also be a good choice.
You can’t go wrong with the sweet and spicy flavors of this classic recipe. Next time you’re craving Chinese food, skip the take out and make it at home!
More Asian dishes you’ll enjoy
Szechuan Chicken Video
For the stir fry
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1/2 cup yellow onion cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 green bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
- 25 small dried red chilies
- 1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns optional
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce
- 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- Place the chicken in a bowl with the corn starch and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over high heat.
- Place the chicken in a single layer in the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown. You may have to do this step in batches.
- Remove the chicken from the pan. Cover to keep warm.
- Add the onion and red and green bell peppers to the pan. Stir in the chilies and sichuan peppercorns. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
- Add the garlic and ginger to the pan; cook for an additional 30 seconds. Return the chicken to the pan with the vegetables.
- While the chicken and vegetables are cooking, make the sauce. Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
- Add the sauce to the chicken mixture and bring to a boil; cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until sauce is just thickened. Serve immediately.