Famous Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipe with juicy chicken pieces, crispy coating, aromatic basil, and seasoning salt mix. One of the best Asian popcorn chicken recipes that all kids and adults enjoy! Perfect appetizer for all occasions.
Taiwanese fried chicken is one of the most popular street food in Taiwan. Also known as Taiwanese salt and pepper fried chicken and can be found in the menu of Taiwanese restaurants and takeout across the world. Crispy chicken tossed with basil and salt and chilli seasoning powder mix.
Sweet Potato Starch(flour): Authentic Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipes use thick sweet potato flour which is a key ingredient for this particular recipe. It creates an extra crunchy texture and that stays crispy for few hours after you fried them.
If you cannot get sweet potato starch, use potato starch or corn starch as a substitute.
Basil: Another essential ingredient is basil leaves. Thai basil is ideal to add to this recipe but if you cannot get Thai basil, use Italian basil or regular sweet basil.
Homemade Chilli Salt Seasonings: This seasonings chilli salt is way better than store-bought ones and you need very few simple ingredients. You will need, salt, white pepper, paprika powder, ground Sichuan peppercorns. The key ingredient is the Sichuan peppercorns and it has a bit of numbing unique sensation.
There are few ingredients you can add extra in the salt mix. Those are garlic powder and dry red chilli flakes which I love to add in my seasoning sometimes.
Fermented Bean Curd: Every family and restaurant has its own version of recipes. Some add fermented bean curd in the chicken marinade. As this is an easy recipe, I tried to use ingredients as little as possible. No fermented bean curd is used in the marinade. If you wish you add it, add a tablespoon of fermented bean curd in the chicken marinade and mix it well.
How to make Taiwanese popcorn chicken
- Cut chicken thigh into bite-size pieces. Season the chicken pieces with soy sauce, Shao Xing wine, garlic paste, white pepper and Chinese five spices. Let it sit aside and marinade for at least 15 minutes. If you have more time, you can leave it longer.
- Toast the Sichuan peppercorns and grind it into a fine coarse. Mix all the seasoning salt mix in a bowl and set it aside.
- Add one egg white into the chicken marinade before you dust in the flour, to keep the flour stick to the chicken pieces.
- Coat the chicken pieces with a generous amount of sweet potato flour/starch.
- Fry with pre-heated vegetable oil about 330-340° F for 2-3 minutes. Once it start floating remove from oil and set it aside for 2-3 minutes.
- Then fry 2nd time for 2-3 minute, until crispy golden brown. Transfer to paper towel or cooling rack.
- Clear the oil with mesh strainer and fry the basil leaves in the hot oil for 1-2 minutes until crispy.
- In a large bowl or plate, toss the fried chicken pieces with basil leaves and sprinkle the seasoning salt mix.
- Use sweet potato starch(flour) to taste exactly like authentic Taiwanese street food popcorn chicken.
- Double fry the chicken to achieve a crispy, non-greasy coating, fry with over medium-high heat oil.
- Toast the Sichuan peppercorns, before you grind it into a fine coarse. Toasting and grinding peppercorns might look like an extra step. But trust me, the result is definitely worth your effort!
- You can make an extra chilli salt mix and store it in an air-tight jar, it usually lasts for a couple of months. Add as a seasoning powder for fried chicken, chips, or anything of your favourite fries you wish.
- Strain the oil with a fine-mesh strainer after frying each batch. That will keep the oil clean and prevent the crumbs get burnt.
- Do not wash the basil leaves if not necessary, as the moisture from the leaves splat a lot. If you are washing them, pat dry with a kitchen towel and let them air dry for few hours before frying. Or you can use a splatter guard to prevent the splattering oil.
Frequently asked questions
Both are very similar in the cooking process but the coating and seasoning are slightly different. Taiwanese popcorn chicken is made with sweet potato flour coating and seasoned with salt, white pepper, Sichuan peppercorns and paprika.
Chinese Salt and Pepper Chicken is made with chicken pieces, marinated and coated with cornstarch or potato starch. Fry until crispy golden brown and tossed with onions, bell peppers, salt, pepper, and Chinese five spices seasoning mix.
Deep frying tastes best, but if you wish to make it using less oil, you can air fry or bake in the oven.
Spray or brush cooking oil on the coated chicken pieces generously, place them over a wire rack. Bake in preheated oven/air fryer about 320° F for 20-25 minutes or until crispy golden brown. Flip halfway through.
Neutral flavour frying oil is best for deep frying. We usually use sunflower, canola, grapeseed, peanut or vegetable oil for deep frying recipes.
Yes, I do reuse the frying oil. Once the oil is cool down strain all the crumbs out with a fine mesh strainer to clear the oil. Store in an airtight jar or container in a cool and dry place. I usually reuse it in my stir-fries and curry dishes. Do not reuse, if the oil is too dark and thick.
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How To Serve This Dish
This dish is perfectly great on its own with Chinese tea, green tea, beer, cold drink, or any of your favourite drinks. You can pair this dish with Hot and Sour Soup, Beef and Noodles Stir Fry, Garlic Fried Rice, or Soy Sauce Chicken Noodles and make it a wholesome dinner.
More Asian fried chicken recipes:
- Orange Chicken ( Crispy chicken tossed with sweet, savoury, tangy orange sauce. )
- Honey Lemon Chicken ( Incredibly delicious Chinese Lemon Chicken Recipe. )
- General Tso’s Chicken ( Restaurant style General Tso's Chicken! )
- Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings ( Better than takeout Crispy Wings! )
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Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken Recipe
- 1 lb Boneless Chicken Thigh ( about 450g ) Or Chicken breast
- 1½ cup Sweet potato flour (about 200g) ( or potato/corn starch )
- Basil leaves A handful ( Thai/Sweet/Italian Basil )
- Oil For frying ( Vegetable or neutral flavoured oil )
- 1 tbsp Soy sauce ( Light soy sauce/ all purpose soy sauce )
- 1 tbsp Shao Xing Wine ( Chinese Cooking Rice Wine ) see details in note
- 1 tbsp Grated garlic or garlic paste
- ½ tsp White pepper powder
- ½ tsp Chinese five spices See details in note
- 1 Egg white
- 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns ( toasted, finely ground ) See details in note
- 1 tsp White pepper powder
- ½ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Paprika
- Cut the chicken thigh into medium bite-size pieces. Marinade the chicken pieces with soy sauce, Shao Xing wine, garlic paste, white pepper and Chinese five spices. Mix well and set it aside for 15 minutes. Or you can leave it overnight in fridge with air-tight container.
- Finely grind the roasted Sichuan peppercorns and mix it with white pepper powder, salt and paprika powder. Set it aside.
- Break one egg white into the marinated chicken pieces and mix it well.
- Place the sweet potato flour/ potato starch in a large bowl. Add 3-4 chicken pieces in the flour, dredge and press gently to coat evenly. Toss the excess flour out before frying.
- Heat the vegetable oil or neutral flavour oil to medium-high heat about 330-340°F. ( Fill the oil over 2 inch. )
- Add the coated chicken pieces and fry for 2-3 minutes. Once the chicken pieces start to float remove from oil and set aside for 2-3 minutes. ( Fry with batches if needed, do not overcrowd the oil. Skim the fried crumbs out with mesh strainer after frying each batch. )
- Place the fried chicken back in the oil and fry for another 2-3 minutes, or until the coating is crispy. Remove from oil and transfer to kitchen towel or cooling rack.
- Fry the basil leaves in the remaining oil for 1-2 minutes until crispy. Place the fried basil leaves over the kitchen towel.
- Mix fried chicken pieces and basil leaves, sprinkle the salt seasoning mix on top. ( Or you can toss everything in a large mixing bowl. )
- Transfer to serving plate and serve immediately.
- Basil Leaves - Pat dry or air dry the basil leaves before frying to prevent splattering oil.
- Sweet Potato Flour/Starch - Medium-thick sweet potato flour is ideal for this recipe but you can substitute it with potato starch or corn starch if you cannot get sweet potato starch.
- Shao Xing Wine - is a Chinese cooking rice wine, you can omit it or substitute it with Japanese mirin or dry sherry.
- Chinese Five Spices - consists of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds powder. It has a warm, toasty, distinct flavour.
- Sichuan Peppercorns - is ideal to add to the seasoning salt mix. If you don't like the numbing taste of Sichuan peppercorns, add black pepper as a substitute.
- Where to buy these ingredients? You can buy at most Chinese/Oriental grocery stores, supermarket Asian aisles, or Amazon online.