This Spicy Pepper Chicken is quick and easy to make, and full of the BEST spicy peppery flavors. Juicy and tender chicken pieces get tossed in a mouthwatering sauce infused with freshly cracked black pepper and ground Sichuan red peppercorns.
3 TBLS Canola Oil (or any other neutral flavored cooking oil with a high smoke point)
Marinate the chicken: Clean and trim off any excess fat from the chicken thighs. Then cut into bite-sized pieces and add to a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the grated garlic, ground white pepper, low sodium light soy sauce, corn starch, and sesame oil. Mix until combined well, then set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Prepare fresh ingredients: Dice the onion and bell pepper. Mince the garlic, roughly chop the ginger, and chop the red chilies and spring onion, separating the white from the green parts. Destem the Thai dried red chilies.
Make the sauce: Toast the Sichuan red peppercorns in a dry wok until fragrant, making sure to shake the pan often so that they don’t burn. Then transfer to a mortar and pestle (or mini blender) and pound into a fine powder. Add 1 TBLS of the Sichuan red peppercorns to a measuring cup or small bowl, followed by the freshly cracked black pepper, corn starch, oyster sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, low sodium light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, chinkiang vinegar, light brown sugar, sesame oil, and water. Mix with a spoon until combined well and set aside.
For the Spicy Pepper Chicken:
Fry the red chilies: Heat ½ tablespoon of canola oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the Thai dried red chilies and sauté for 30-40 seconds, until crisp and fragrant. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a paper towel lined plate to drain. (No need to the wipe out the wok.)
Cook the chicken: Add 1.5 tablespoons of oil to the wok and heat over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken and spread out the pieces immediately around the wok. Cook undisturbed for a minute, then stir-fry for another minute until the chicken has cooked through. Transfer to a clean bowl using a slotted spoon.
Stir-fry the onion and aromatics: Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the wok and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion, spring onion whites, and ginger and stir-fry for a minute, until the onion starts to soften. Next, add the garlic and chilies and stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Add the bell pepper, chicken, and sauce: Add the bell pepper and Thai dried red chilies and toss to combine. Then add the chicken and pour in the sauce. Stir-fry continuously for about a minute, until everything is coated well in the sauce and it starts to thicken.
Toss through spring onion greens: Stir in most of the spring onion greens (reserve some for garnish), then switch off the heat.
To Serve: Transfer to a serving bowl/dish and garnish with the remaining spring onion greens. Serve immediately with warm steamed rice.
Ingredient Notes, Cook’s Tips, and FAQs
Sichuan Red Peppercorns (花椒 – huājiāo): These give the dish it’s addictive spicy numbing flavor. It’s also known as prickly ash. It is available in Chinese or Asian supermarkets, or you can order it online. Use good quality Sichuan red peppercorns. The fresher they are, the better flavor they will infuse the dish with. If you are not a fan of the numbing spicy flavor that they have, you can use more freshly cracked black pepper and make this a black pepper chicken stir-fry instead.
Chinese ingredients for the sauce: Shao Xing rice wine, dark soy sauce, and chinkiang vinegar can all be found at Asian or Chinese supermarkets or online. You can substitute dry sherry for the Shao Xing rice wine, low sodium light soy sauce for the dark soy sauce, and half balsamic vinegar and half white vinegar for chinkiang vinegar if needed.
Chilies: Use as many or as few as you like based on your heat level preference. Or deseed them to make the dish milder, or omit them completely.
Veggies: Feel free to sub in or add any stir-fry friendly veggies you like. Diced celery, snap peas, carrots, broccoli, etc. would all taste great.
Cut the bell pepper and onion approximately the same size as the chicken. This promotes even cooking.
Can I make this gluten-free? Use a gluten free oyster sauce, soy sauces, and dry sherry instead of the Shao Xing rice wine. For the chinkiang vinegar, substitute with 1 TSP balsamic vinegar and 1 TSP rice vinegar (or white vinegar).
Can I use a different protein? Sliced pork tenderloin or loin, or beef flank or skirt steak would work well. You could also make this with some crispy pan-fried tofu cubes if you want to make it vegetarian/vegan.
To make it vegetarian/vegan: Use pan-fried tofu cubes for the protein. Cut a large block of firm or extra firm tofu (350-400 grams) into cubes. Then season with salt and pepper. Pan-fry in a bit of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and golden on all sides. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Follow the rest of the instructions for the recipe, and add the crispy tofu cubes into the wok when you would add the cooked chicken back in.