Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Taiwanese popcorn chicken spilling out of a paper bag

Taiwanese popcorn chicken, also referred to as Crispy Chicken or Salt and Pepper Chicken, is a popular snack often found at tapioca/boba tea cafes.

a close-up photo of Taiwanese popcorn chicken in a white serving dish

The crunchy bite-sized pieces of chicken are dusted with a special mix of seasoning which makes them quite addicting. If you’ve never had them before or you’re a big fan of the snack, I definitely recommend you trying out this recipe.

a close-up photo of Taiwanese popcorn chicken

A few months ago, while visiting my parents’ house, my mom was watching a video demonstrating various Taiwanese snacks. Watching the video inspired me to try making the crispy chicken. After a few lackluster orders of popcorn chicken lately in San Diego, I finally got to it.

I was surprised at how relatively easy this was. And the chicken came out perfect. Super crunchy and not at all oily or powdery like some versions we’ve eaten. Mr. K was thrilled. He commented that we no longer needed to order it, I can just make it at home all the time. To which I replied, Uh no thanks.

The key to the flavor is a five spice powder. The powder is usually found in Chinese markets, alongside white pepper, in a small shaker and it’s labeled “five spice powder.”

a process photo showing the chicken marinating in a bowl
Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients. You marinate the chicken for about half an hour in a few spices. Then you coat the chicken and fry it. You sprinkle some more five spice powder and it’s ready to go.

pieces of Taiwanese popcorn chicken

Just writing about this recipe is making my mouth water. I’m going to have to make another batch this weekend.
Taiwanese popcorn chicken in a dish garnished with herbs

Taiwanese Crispy Salt and Pepper Popcorn Chicken

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Snacks
Cuisine: Taiwanese

Taiwanese popcorn chicken, also referred to as Crispy Chicken or Salt and Pepper Chicken, is a popular snack often found at tapioca/boba tea cafes. Don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients because it's pretty easy to make. Just be sure to allow at least 30 minutes for the chicken to marinate.

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces

For the Marinade

  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp five spice powder (see note)
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp sugar

For Frying

  • handful of fresh Thai basil leaves
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1 egg whisked
  • 1 tbsp five spice powder for dusting
  • Oil for deep-frying

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken and marinade ingredients, making sure to completely coat the chicken. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.

  2. Pour oil at least one inch deep into pot or wok being used for frying and turn to medium-high heat. In a small bowl, pour in whisked egg. In a separate small bowl, pour in cornstarch. When oil is heated, coat chicken in egg, then in cornstarch and then place into hot oil. Let chicken fry on both sides until batter becomes a medium brown (about 3-4 minutes). You can fry a few pieces of chicken at a time. When chicken is done, remove and place on a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess oil.

  3. After you have finished with all of the chicken, drop in fresh basil leaves. The leaves cook quite fast, so you only need to fry them for a few seconds. Be careful as they might make a popping sound. Sprinkle basil on top of chicken. Sprinkle an additional 1 tbsp of five spice powder on top of chicken and toss chicken to make sure all chicken pieces are coated with powder and mixed with basil. If you feel more seasoning is necessary, sprinkle a little more five spice powder. Serve immediately while the chicken is still crispy.

Notes:

Five-spice powder is a seasoning blend found at Chinese markets next to white pepper bottles.

All images and content are © Kirbie's Cravings.

23 comments on “Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken”

  1. One of my favorites! Thanks for the recipe, now I can make this at home anytime.

  2. I have tried these at the Chinese Night Market at Vancouver and they’re super delicious and also known as Basil popcorn chicken. Can’t wait to make these at home, Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  3. Hi, i was also wondering if about the best sauce to dip the snack in. I often times get a dipping sauce when i order it and the sauces vary depending where i buy it at.

  4. yum!! have u tried baking this?

  5. can you post a pic of the ingredients? im having difficulty with the shaoxing and the pepperpowders

    • i dont have all the ingredients on me right now to take a picture, but you should be able to easily find them in a chinese grocery store like ranch 99. both are pretty common ingredients in chinese recipes.

  6. How important is the shaoxing cooking wine? I’m thinking about omitting it because it’s something I never use…Thanks!

    • you’ll definitely taste a difference as it adds the acidity. You can try it without. I’m not sure how much it will affect it.

    • You can use rice wine or rice vinegar which is essentially the same thing as shoaxing cooking wine.

  7. What would you suggest to use if you don’t have have shaoxing cooking wine?

  8. You can use vinegar (rice vinegar should be fine) to add the tiny bit of acidity.  i’ve been using balsamic in my dishes.  it has that sweet floral note w/ acidity that the cooking wine does. 

  9. I made this the other night and it was AMAZING. I’m not a pro at cooking or anything (actually just starting out!), but this was way better than the delivery popcorn chicken I usually get. Recipe was easy to follow as well, so thank you!
    I can’t wait to try a ton of your other recipes.

    • awesome! I love making this. now I hardly ever buy popcorn chicken anymore because whenever I do, I’m disappointed and prefer my homemade version

  10. This one of my absolute favorite Taiwanese foods! I tried your recipe today and it’s SO GOOD. This is my first time making it and I thought I’d have to try out a few recipes before coming up with right combination of flavors. But your recipe is “the one”. ?  Thanks so much for sharing!!

  11. Hi Kirby

    I am in South Africa but lived in Taiwan for 3 years and in South Korea for 3 years. I absolutely love the Chinese popcorn chicken and the Bibimpap. I have made bibimpap and gimpap on numerous occasions and my hubby is now hooked on it 😉 Kirby what ingredients can I use to replicate the 5 spices … we don’t have it here especially not in the province I live and I so want to make this, I miss it from my days in Taiwan… Please help.

    Regards Rashida

    • Hi Rashida, if you do a search for five spice powder, you should come across several recipes where you can make your own blend. Hope that helps!

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