That Spicy Chick

Five Spice Chicken Stir-fry

This Five Spice Chicken Stir-fry is quick and easy to make in 30 minutes and full of the BEST savory, spicy and sweet flavors! Tender chicken pieces, onion, fragrant aromatics and chilies get tossed in a mouthwatering sauce that will tingle your tastebuds!

New favorite weeknight chicken stir-fry alert! Five Spice Chicken Stir-fry is happening and it is DELICIOUS!

It’s a simple and super quick dish to whip up on any given weeknight. All you need is just 30 minutes and one wok and this beauty is on the table. 

We have tender peppery chicken pieces, tender-crisp onion, fragrant garlic, red chilies, spring onion and warming ginger. Everything gets kissed by a tantalizing savory-sweet sauce that’s perfumed with the wonderful warming and liquorice-like flavors of Chinese five spice and toasted sesame aromas!

This is a great Chinese chicken main dish that you can serve with steamed rice, over noodles, or zoodles if going low carb and a side of steamed or stir-fried veggies. You could also jazz it up with more veggies and double the mouthwatering sauce and serve over rice or noodles.

Five spice chicken stir-fry closeup on a plate.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Quick and easy. It’s ready in just 30 minutes and all you need is one wok!
  • Incredible sauce. We have a sweet and savory sauce that packs a punch and warming and aromatic flavors of Chinese five spice powder coating everything!
  • Tender chicken. Marinating the chicken briefly with potato starch, pepper, sauces and sesame oil not only flavors the chicken but also helps to create a velvety coating for each piece. This allows the meat to stay tender on the inside when cooking over high heat. 
  • Adjustable quantity. You can easily double all the recipe ingredients to make 4 servings instead of 2.
  • Customizable. Make it with pork, beef or even shrimp and add any of your favorite stir-fry friendly veggies.
  • Better than takeout. This dish is healthier than a chicken and broccoli dish from a Chinese takeout restaurant and it tastes AMAZING!

Ingredient Notes and Substitutes

Labeled ingredients for 5-spice chicken stir-fry on a wooden board.
Fresh & Pantry Ingredients
  • Marinated Chicken: I’ve used sliced boneless and skinless chicken thighs as they are more tender and flavorful than chicken breasts. However, you can use boneless and skinless chicken breasts if you prefer a leaner option. I’ve marinated the chicken with ground white pepper, potato starch (or you can use corn starch), low sodium light soy sauce, and Shao Xing rice wine.
  • Aromatics: The Chinese holy trinity – ginger, spring onion (scallion/green onion) and garlic.
  • Fresh Bird’s Eye Red Chilies: Or use any other small hot red chilies that are easily available to you. Use less for a milder dish.
  • Dried Red Chilies: I’ve used Thai Jinda dried chilies here which are quite hot. Any type of Chinese or Thai dried red chilies can be used. Adjust the quantity based on your heat level preference and how spicy the chilies are. If using Thai Bird’s Eye dried chilies, use less as they are hotter than most Chinese dried chilies.
  • Yellow Onion: Or use red or white onion if you prefer.
  • Peanut Oil: Or any other neutral flavored cooking oil with a high smoke point. 
Labeled sauce ingredients for 5-spice chicken stir-fry and sauce in a measuring cup.
Stir-fry Sauce Ingredients
  • Potato Starch: To act as our thickening agent. Corn starch can be substituted instead.
  • Kosher Salt: Use half the amount if using iodized table salt.
  • Chinese Five Spice Powder: A mixture of usually five or more spices that’s used in Chinese cuisine. It’s typically made with cloves, cinnamon, star anise, Sichuan red peppercorns and fennel seeds. Sometimes orange peel or ginger is also added. I personally prefer No. 1 Hand Brand blend which has ground cumin and coriander seeds instead of fennel. Either store-bought or homemade is fine. Although not spicy-hot, it is very potent so a little goes a long way. Find it in the herbs and spices section of any mainstream supermarket. (See FAQs section below for a homemade substitute.)
  • White Sugar: Or use any other sweetener of choice to taste.
  • Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce: Low sodium so that we can control the salt level better.
  • Shao Xing Rice Wine: A fragrant Chinese cooking wine with a floral aroma. It’s typically used in marinades and stir-fry sauces in Chinese cuisine and is an Asian pantry staple. Substitute with dry sherry if unavailable.
  • Chinkiang Vinegar: A Chinese black vinegar. Substitute with half distilled white vinegar and balsamic vinegar if unavailable.
  • Dark Soy Sauce: This is thicker and less salty than your typical light soy sauce and is mainly used for color here. Substitute with low sodium light soy sauce if unavailable. 
  • Sesame Oil: To infuse the dish with fragrant toasted sesame aromas.
  • Chili Oil (optional): This is a pure Chinese chili oil without flakes and seeds and it’s used here to add extra heat. Omit for a milder dish. 

Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.

How to Make Five Spice Chicken Stir-fry

1. Cook the chicken. Heat oil in a large wok or deep heavy bottomed frying pan over high heat and cook the marinated chicken pieces until 80% cooked. Transfer to a clean bowl. 

Cooking marinated chicken thigh pieces in a large wok.

2. Stir-fry the onions and ginger. Stir-fry the yellow onion, spring onion white and light green parts and ginger until you can smell the ginger. 

3. Add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant.

4. Add and stir-fry the fresh and dried red chilies to combine. 

5. Add the chicken and sauce. Toss for a minute, until the sauce thickens and everything is coated well with it.

Process steps to cook 5-spice chicken stir-fry in a wok.

6. Toss through spring onion dark green parts. Switch off the heat.

Added spring onion batons to wok with 5-spice chicken stir-fry.

Serve! Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately with warm steamed rice or over cooked noodles. You can also serve it over zoodles (zucchini noodles) for a low carb option.

Overhead shot of plate with 5-spice chicken stir-fry.

Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.

Cook’s Tips

  • Mise en place. This stir-fry is ready VERY quickly. Make sure you have everything prepped, ready to go and by the side of your wok before you start cooking.
  • Adjust spice level to taste. For a milder stir-fry dish, use less of (or omit) the fresh and dried red chilies completely. You can leave the dried chilies whole so you get the wonderful aroma in the dish but not the spice. Alternatively, shake out and discard all the seeds after snipping them as they are what contain the heat. Also omit the pure chili oil from the stir-fry sauce.
  • Don’t overcook the chicken. You want it to stay nice and tender and remember that it will finish cooking at the end even if you only cook it 80% through during the first round of cooking.
  • Add a splash of water to the wok if the sauce thickens too quickly. Depending on the heat range of your stovetop, the sauce may thicken instantly once it’s poured in. Add a splash of water to loosen it up again and continue stir-frying until everything is evenly coated in it.
  • Double the recipe. Simply click ‘2x’ in the recipe card below to double all the ingredients and make four servings. Be sure to use a large enough wok or large deep heavy bottomed frying pan if doubling the recipe. Alternatively, cook in two batches if your pan is not large enough.
Chopsticks holding up a five spice chicken piece above plate with stir-fry.

FAQs

What are the spices in five spice powder?

Chinese five spice powder is made up of ground star anise, cloves, fennel seeds, cinnamon or cassia (Chinese cinnamon) and either ginger, white pepper, black pepper or Sichuan red peppercorns. However, a Thai brand Chinese five spice powder such as No. 1 Hand Brand is made up of ground cinnamon, star anise, coriander, cumin, and Sichuan red peppercorns.

What can I substitute for five spice powder?

Mix ¼ teaspoon garam masala (homemade preferred) and ⅛ teaspoon each of ground star anise and ground Sichuan red peppercorns. If your garam masala already has black pepper incorporated in it, you don’t need to add the ground Sichuan red peppercorns. Use this mixture as a substitute for ½ teaspoon of five spice powder.

What to use five spice powder for?

Use it in dry rubs and marinades for poultry, fish or meat. It goes well with fatty meats like goose, duck and pork. It can also be used in stir-fries, stews, soups, braises, on roasted vegetables and even in dessert cakes and other desserts like this five spice peach galette

Overhead shot of Five Spice Chicken Stir-fry on a plate on top of a mat.

Variations

  • Use honey instead of sugar. You will need more water and can omit the potato starch from the sauce as the honey version will thicken the sauce and make everything nice and glossy too. The flavor will be slightly different, but I can vouch that it is equally delicious.
  • Use a different protein. Sliced pork tenderloin (fillet) or beef flank or skirt steak would taste great. You could also make it with shrimp.
  • Make it vegetarian/vegan: Use crispy pan-fried tofu cubes instead of chicken. If doing so, add the low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, and ground white pepper that you would have used to marinate the chicken to the stir-fry sauce. Also, use 1 teaspoon potato starch (or corn starch) instead of ½ teaspoon and ¼ cup water in the stir-fry sauce.
  • Make it gluten-free. Use gluten-free soy sauces, coconut aminos or tamari, dry sherry instead of Shao Xing rice wine, and half balsamic and half distilled white vinegar to replace the Chinkiang vinegar.  
  • Add nuts. For some added crunch, roasted unsalted peanuts or cashews would taste great.
  • Add more veggies. I kept this five spice chicken stir-fry pretty basic and only used yellow onion. However, red or yellow bell pepper, snap peas, edamame, baby corn, asparagus, snow peas, green beans, blanched broccoli florets, blanched diced carrots or any other stir-fry friendly veggies can be used. You can add 1-2 cups of veggies and double the sauce ingredients so that there is enough to coat and flavor everything beautifully. 
Chopsticks holding up chicken piece and closeup of chicken stir-fry. Text overlay "Five Spice Chicken Stir-fry" and "thatspicychick.com".

More Easy Chicken Stir-fry Recipes


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Five spice chicken stir-fry closeup on a plate.

Five Spice Chicken Stir-fry

5 from 1 reviews

Quick and easy to make in 30 minutes and full of the BEST savory, spicy and sweet flavors! Tender chicken pieces, onion, fragrant aromatics and chilies get tossed in a mouthwatering sauce in this Five Spice Chicken Stir-fry!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stir-fry
  • Cuisine: Chinese
Scale

Ingredients

For the Chicken Marinade:

  • 250 grams / 9 ounces Chicken Thigh Fillets, excess fat trimmed, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • ⅛ TSP Ground White Pepper
  • 1 TSP Potato Starch
  • ½ TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 TSP Shao Xing Rice Wine (substitute dry sherry if unavailable)

For the Sauce:

  • ½ TSP Potato Starch
  • ⅛ TSP Kosher Salt (use half the amount if using iodized table salt)
  • ½ TSP Chinese Five Spice Powder (store-bought or homemade – note 1)
  • 1 TSP White Sugar (or other sweetener of choice – note 2)
  • 1 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 TBLS Shao Xing Rice Wine
  • ½ TBLS Chinkiang Vinegar (Chinese black vinegar – substitute with half distilled white vinegar and balsamic vinegar if unavailable)
  • ½ TSP Dark Soy Sauce
  • ½ TSP Sesame Oil
  • ½ TSP Pure Chili Oil (optional – without flakes and seeds)
  • 3 TBLS Water

For the Five Spice Chicken Stir-fry:

  • medium Yellow Onion – sliced into ¼-inch wide strips, then sliced in half across the middle
  • 2 medium Spring Onions (Scallion/Green Onion) – cut into 1-inch pieces, white and light green parts separated from dark green parts
  • 1-inch piece fresh Ginger – julienned (about 2 tablespoons julienned)
  • 3 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 13 fresh Red Chilies (Thai Bird’s Eye or any other small hot red chilies), to taste – destemmed, finely chopped
  • 310 Dried Red Chilies (note 3), to taste – snipped into ½-inch pieces, seeds shaken out and discarded for milder dish if preferred
  • 2 TBLS Peanut Oil (or any other neutral oil with a high smoke point)

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Marinate the chicken: Clean and trim the chicken thigh fillets and slice into bite-sized pieces. Add to a medium bowl, followed by the ground white pepper, potato starch, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine and sesame oil. Mix well to coat and set aside.
  2. Make the sauce: Whisk together the potato starch, kosher salt, Chinese five spice powder, white sugar, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, Chinkiang vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, pure chili oil (if using) and water in a small measuring cup or bowl until thoroughly combined.
  3. Prepare the rest of the ingredients: Prepare the yellow onion, spring onion, ginger, garlic, fresh red chilies and dried red chilies as indicated in the ‘Ingredients’ section. (Pro-tip: Discard all or some of the seeds from the dried red chilies for a milder flavor. You can also leave them whole to get the aroma without the added heat in the final stir-fry dish.)

For the Five Spice Chicken Stir-fry:

  1. Cook the chicken: Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a large wok over high heat. Once hot, add the marinated chicken and immediately spread the pieces out in the wok. Allow to cook for 30 seconds, then stir-fry for another 30-40 seconds or until 80% cooked. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a clean bowl and set aside.
  2. Stir-fry the onions, ginger and garlic: Heat the oil remaining in the wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the yellow onion, spring onion white and light green parts and ginger. Stir-fry for 20 seconds until you can smell the ginger. Add the garlic and stir-fry for another 20 seconds until fragrant.
  3. Add the chilies: Add the fresh and dried red chilies and stir-fry for 20 seconds to combine.
  4. Add the chicken and sauce: Add the chicken and all the juices in the bowl. Give the sauce a quick stir with a spoon to loosen up the starch that will have settled at the bottom. Turn the heat up to high and pour the sauce over everything. Stir-fry for a minute, until the sauce thickens and everything is coated well with it. (Note: If the sauce thickens too quickly, you can add a splash of water and continue stir-frying.)
  5. Toss through spring onion: Toss through the spring onion dark green parts and switch off the heat.
  6. To Serve: Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately with warm steamed rice, over cooked noodles or zoodles (zucchini noodles) for a low carb option.

Notes

  1. Chinese Five Spice Powder. This is a mixture of usually five or more spices that’s used in Chinese cuisine. It’s typically made with cloves, cinnamon, star anise, Sichuan red peppercorns and fennel seeds. Sometimes orange peel or ginger is also added. I personally prefer No. 1 Hand Brand blend which has ground cumin and coriander seeds instead of fennel. Either store-bought or homemade is fine. Although not spicy-hot, it is very potent so a little goes a long way. Find it in the herbs and spices section of any mainstream supermarket. For a substitute, mix ¼ teaspoon garam masala (homemade preferred) and ⅛ teaspoon each of ground star anise and ground Sichuan red peppercorns. If your garam masala already has black pepper incorporated in it, you don’t need to add the ground Sichuan red peppercorns. Use this mixture as a substitute for the ½ teaspoon of five spice powder called for in this recipe.
  2. White Sugar. You can use honey or any other sweetener of your choice to taste instead of sugar. If using honey, you will need more water and can omit the potato starch from the sauce as the honey version will thicken the sauce and make everything nice and glossy. The flavor will be slightly different, but it’s equally delicious.
  3. Dried red chilies. I’ve used Thai Jinda dried chilies here which are quite hot. Either Chinese or Thai dried red chilies can be used. Adjust the quantity based on your heat level preference and how spicy the chilies are. If using Thai Bird’s Eye dried chilies, use less as they are hotter than most Chinese dried chilies.
  4. Adjust spice level to taste. For a milder stir-fry dish, use less of (or omit) the fresh and dried red chilies completely. You can leave them whole so you get the wonderful aroma in the dish but not the spice. Alternatively, shake out and discard all the seeds after snipping them as they are what contain the heat. Also omit the pure chili oil from the stir-fry sauce.
  5. Double the recipe. Simply click ‘2x’ at the top of the recipe card above to double all the ingredients and make four servings. Be sure to use a large enough wok or large deep heavy bottomed frying pan if doubling the recipe. Alternatively, cook in two batches if your pan is not big enough.
  6. Storing leftovers. Although this stir-fry tastes best right after cooking, you can store any leftovers in a sealed airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat on high in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until hot throughout.
  7. See ‘Variations’ section in the post above if you’d like to customize this stir-fry.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 379
  • Sugar: 8.3g
  • Sodium: 572.1mg
  • Fat: 21.9g
  • Saturated Fat: 4g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 15.7g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 18.6g
  • Fiber: 2.3g
  • Protein: 28g
  • Cholesterol: 117.5mg

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.