Forget takeout and make Szechuan Chicken at home. This classic Chinese stir fry is made with tender chicken and dried red chilis coated in a spicy, savory, ever so slightly sweet sauce. Get ready for an exciting pop of flavor in every bite.
Easy Szechuan Chicken Stir Fry
Making a takeout favorite like Szechuan Chicken in your own kitchen is not only satisfying but also budget-friendly. The best part is that it’s ready in under 30 minutes, which is faster than ordering delivery from your favorite Chinese restaurant! This classic stir fry combines the perfect blend of spicy, savory, and sweet flavors, featuring tender chicken, red chilis, and bell peppers, all coated in a delectable sauce that’ll leave you reaching for seconds.
What Is Szechuan Chicken?
Szechuan Chicken, or Sichuan Chicken, is a popular Chinese dish known for its bold and spicy flavors. It typically consists of tender chicken pieces stir-fried with a variety of ingredients, including Szechuan peppercorns, red chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. The chilis impart a spicy kick to a savory yet slightly sweet sauce that coats the chicken. Szechuan Chicken can vary in spiciness, as the heat level can be adjusted to suit individual preferences. It’s often served with vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, and broccoli, and the sauce is a key component, offering a balance of savory, sweet, and spicy flavors.
What’s The Difference Between General Tso Chicken and Szechuan Chicken?
These two spicy Chinese favorites are often mistaken for one another. Some subtle differences set them apart, however. Szechuan chicken is generally spicier than General Tso Chicken. In addition, General Tso Chicken is more heavily breaded and is deep fried as opposed to being stir-fried, as is Szechuan chicken.
How to Make Szechuan Chicken
Making this restaurant-quality dish is easy, I promise, and in just about 30 minutes, you can have an incredibly flavorful Chinese classic on your plate. Here’s an overview of how to make a delicious copycat of Szechuan chicken stir fry.
Szechuan Chicken Ingredients
- Cornstarch: For the sauce and the chicken.
- Soy sauce: Coconut aminos will work here as well.
- Hoisin sauce
- Toasted sesame oil: Make sure you select a “toasted” product. Light sesame oil will not impart the desired flavor.
- Rice wine vinegar
- Minced ginger: Feel free to use jarred ginger. If using ground ginger, use 1/2 teaspoon.
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts: Boneless skinless chicken thighs will work beautifully here as well.
- Avocado oil: Feel free to use another neutral, high-smoke point cooking oil.
- Bell peppers: I like using red and green bell peppers, but the color choice is up to you.
- Dried red chilis: You can usually find these in the produce section at the grocery store. If they aren’t there, try the spice aisle.
- Whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the remainder of the ingredients for the sauce and whisk until smooth.
- Toss the chicken in cornstarch.
- Heat avocado oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.
- Brown the chicken. Add the chicken to the pan and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
- Saute the veggies. Heat the remaining avocado oil in the pan and add the white parts of the scallions, bell peppers, and dried red chilis. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
- Finish it off. Add the browned chicken and the sauce to the pan and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with the green parts of the scallions.
Tips for Homemade Szechuan Chicken
- Think ahead. Stir fries go fast. Once you start tossing ingredients into the pan, you need to be very attentive, constantly keeping them moving. This means you won’t have time to slice and dice once you start cooking. So make sure to prep all your ingredients and keep them close to the stove.
- Use the right pan. It is important to use a heavy-bottomed pan with a large surface area (ideally a wok) when making this delicious chicken stir fry. This ensures an even spread of heat to all areas of the pan and that all of the ingredients have an equal and ample chance of being directly exposed to the hot metal.
- Cook on high. Get your pan nice and hot before you even think about adding anything to it. The high heat cooks quickly, allowing the foods to maintain their fresh, natural flavors while still cooking all the way through.
- Keep it moving. Because you are using such high temperatures, one moment away from the stove could mean burnt chicken. So make sure to continually stir the ingredients in your pan or wok.
- Don’t crowd the pan. When browning the chicken, make sure all of the pieces have enough room to make contact with the hot pan. If the pan is crowded, the chicken will not brown properly and will, instead, release its juices, leaving you with dry meat.
What to Serve with Szechuan Chicken
While this chicken stir fry is delicious on its own, it is even more enjoyable with the addition of a side or two. Here are some of my favorite ways to serve this classic takeout dish.
- Rice. Keep it simple and serve Szechuan chicken over steamed jasmine rice. Looking for something with a little more pizazz? Try my Easy Chicken Fried Rice Recipe (just make it without the chicken).
- Noodles. I love serving this flavorful entree with my Stir Fry Zucchini Noodles or these Teriyaki Noodles.
- Veggies. A variety of Asian-inspired veggie dishes go beautifully with Szechuan chicken. Try my Sesame Snap Peas, this Sesame Cucumber Salad, or my Baby Bok Choy with Warm Garlic Soy Dressing.
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
- Chinese Szechuan chicken makes for wonderful leftovers. Allow the dish to cool completely before sealing it in an airtight container and storing in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- When reheating, heat a bit of avocado oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the leftovers to the pan and cook for 5 minutes (or until heated through), stirring often.
More Chinese Takeout Recipes
We all get cravings for Chinese takeout every once in a while. Here are a few of my other favorite Chinese takeout copycat recipes.
- Easy Chinese Hot Pot Recipe
- Chinese Chicken and Broccoli
- Easy Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
- Salt and Pepper Chicken
- Pork Chop Suey
- 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ¼ cup avocado oil, or another neutral high smoke point cooking oil
- 5 scallions, chopped (green and white parts separated)
- 4 bell peppers, red and green, cut into thin slices
- 10 dried red chilis, or use 2 to 3 teaspoons of red pepper flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth.
- Add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, toasted sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, minced ginger, and honey, and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
- Add the chicken and cornstarch to a medium-sized mixing bowl and toss to coat the chicken with the cornstarch.
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pan or wok, heat half of the avocado oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the chicken and sauté for 3 minutes, browning the chicken on all sides.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining avocado oil and allow to heat for about 20 seconds.
- Add the white parts of the scallions, sliced bell peppers, and dried red chilis to the pan and sauté until the chilis start to hydrate and the bell peppers begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and sauté for 15 seconds or until fragrant.
- Return the chicken to the pan, stir in the Szechuan sauce, and continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Season with salt and ground black pepper and garnish with the green parts of the scallions.
- Chicken: I used boneless skinless chicken breasts, but boneless chicken thighs are also a good option.
- Avocado Oil: I like this oil for high-heat cooking, but you can also use vegetable oil, peanut oil, or other high-smoke point oil.
- Dried Chilis: You can get a bag of these at your local import/export store, a well-stocked grocery store, Amazon, etc… However, if you can’t find any, use a couple of teaspoons (or to taste) of red pepper flakes.
- Use the right pan. It is important to use a heavy-bottomed pan with a large surface area – think Wok – when making delicious stir-fries.
- Don’t crowd the pan when cooking the chicken. If the pan is loaded, the chicken will steam and not brown.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.