This taiwanese fried chicken is super crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and so flavorful and addictive. Everything a good fried chicken should be. No wonder it's one of the most popular street food of Taiwan's night market!
Taiwanese fried chicken is one of our favorite Taiwanese street foods. It's crunchy, juicy, and so well seasoned! So addicting! It's even better with a can of bubbly soda or an ice cold beer, lol.
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What is Taiwanese fried chicken?
Taiwanese fried chicken (台湾盐酥鸡 - tái wān yán sū jī) in Chinese translates to salted crispy chicken. It's also known as Taiwanese popcorn chicken and salt and pepper chicken due to it's small bite size pieces and the salt and white pepper seasoning.
This popular Taiwanese street food is typically seasoned and battered with sweet potato starch and doubled fried until crispy. These days, you'll also find fried Thai basil as a popular add-on to this fried chicken snack.
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs - Chicken thighs are the best for frying because they're so flavorful and juicy. You can either keep or trim off the excess fat on the chicken thighs. But make sure to cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces.
- If you use boneless chicken thighs with the skin on, it'll make the Taiwanese fried chicken even more flavorful. But the skinless version is usually more accessible to most of us. That's why we based our recipe on.
- Shaoxing cooking wine - Rice wine adds flavor and also gets rid of unwanted poultry smell.
- Soy sauce - This salts the chicken and adds umami flavor. We used light sodium soy sauce, but you can use regular ones as well. You may need to hold back a little on the salt.
- Chinese five spice powder - This is one of the main seasonings used to flavor Taiwanese fried chicken. Just a little bit of five spice goes a long way.
- White pepper - This is the other main spice used to season the fried chicken. It gives Taiwanese fried chicken its distinctive peppery flavor. A must have! Some will be used in the marinade and some will be used at the end in the dry seasoning.
- Sichuan peppercorn (optional) - You can either ground the Sichuan peppercorn or use pre-ground Sichuan pepper powder. The flavor and slight "numbing" effect is actually very pleasant.
- Sweet potato starch (地瓜粉/ 番薯粉)- The coarse version of sweet potato starch is the best option. The coarse granules gives Taiwanese fried chicken its iconic bubble bead appearance.
- Salt - The salt is for seasoning the sweet potato starch because everything should be layered with flavor when possible! Some salt will be used at the end for the dry seasoning.
- Thai basil (optional) - A recent addition to Taiwanese fried chicken. Thai basil not only flavors the frying oil, it also adds color and a light, earthy crisp to the snack.
What kind of flour is used to make Taiwanese fried chicken?
The best and most traditional flour used to make Taiwanese fried chicken is sweet potato starch, specifically the coarse version. The irregular granules of the starch gives Taiwanese fried chicken that ultra crispy fry and its iconic bubbly, beady appearance.
If you can't find sweet potato starch, you could also use tapioca starch/flour instead. Do note the result will be a little different.
How to make Taiwanese fried chicken
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe and instructions!
Season and batter the chicken:
1. In a mixing bowl, add the chicken thighs, rice wine, soy sauce, five spice, white pepper, and Sichuan pepper.
Give the chicken a good mix and let it marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.
2. While marinating, preheat the fryer to 350°F. If you are frying on the stovetop, add 2 to 3 inches of frying oil to a pot and heat it over medium heat until it reaches 350°F. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain the temperature.
3. Add the sweet potato starch and salt to the chicken and mix until the pieces are well coated. It'll look dry with small clumps of starch. Don't drain the leftover marinade! It'll help the starch adhere to the chicken.*
🌟 Pro tip: Don't dust off those starch clumps! They give Taiwanese fried chicken those extra crunchy, bubbly bits when fried.
Fry the Thai basil (optional):
4. Quickly place drop the basil leaves into the hot oil and cover with a lid. Let the basil fry for about 5 to 10 seconds or until dark green and mostly even in color. Promptly remove and let the basil drain on some paper towels.
🚨 CAUTION! Please be careful when frying the basil leaves! The oil will pop violently. So if you feel uncomfortable frying the basil, do omit it! The Taiwanese fried chicken will taste just as good.
Fry the chicken:
5. For the first fry, keep the oil at 350°F. Carefully place each chicken pieces separately into the oil. Fry the chicken for about 3 to 4 minutes or until they float to the surface and feels kind of crispy. Fry in small batches if needed.
🌟 Pro tip: When the chicken pieces float to the surface, break up pieces of Taiwanese fried chicken that may have become stuck together. Also skimp off excess starch bits in the oil.
6. Remove the fried chicken pieces and increase the oil to 400°F. Also skim the oil to get rid of unwanted starch pieces and crumbs.
7. Once the oil is at 400°F, gently place the fried chicken pieces back into the oil and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the chicken is golden and crunchy. Remove from the oil and let drain for a moment.
8. (Optional) Mix together 1 teaspoon of salt with 1 teaspoon of white pepper and season the Taiwanese fried chicken to your preference. Toss in a bowl to help evenly distribute the seasoning.
9. Arrange the Taiwanese fried chicken in a bowl or plate along with the fried Thai basil. Enjoy while hot!
Frying Thai basil
Because basil have more moisture in it than other herbs, it tends to pop when it comes into contact with hot oil. So be very careful when frying it and watch out for oil splatter.
Use a suitable lid to cover the pot or fryer when frying the basil and promptly remove when the leaves are dark green and mostly even in color, about 5 to 10 seconds.
Also, if your Thai basils require washing or rinsing, make sure they are thoroughly dried to prevent unnecessary oil splatter.
- Cut the chicken thighs into 1 inch pieces. If your chicken is smaller or large, please adjust the frying and marinating time accordingly.
- Use coarse sweet potato starch if possible. This will produce Taiwanese fried chicken with the best appearance and texture.
- Make sure to double fry! The first fry cooks the chicken, and the second fry ensure the chicken pieces are super crispy.
- Make sure the oil is at the proper temperature. If the oil temperature is too low, the chicken can be undercooked. But if the temperature is too hight, the chicken will be dry. A kitchen thermometer is highly recommend.
- Don't overcrowd the pot. Adding too much chicken to the oil can drastically drop the oil temperature too much. This can cause the chicken to be undercooked and/or make the chicken taste greasy. So fry in smaller batches if necessary!
- Be careful when frying the Thai basil! Because it contains more moisture than herbs like rosemary, the oil will splatter quite violently.
How to reheat Taiwanese fried chicken
If you have an air fryer, Taiwanese fried chicken can be easily reheated! Simply place any leftover fried chicken pieces in the air fryer basket and air fry them for 5 minutes at 350°F. They will become perfectly crispy again, but will be slightly dryer compared to freshly fried ones.
You can also reheat it in the oven at 375°F for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is hot throughout and crispy on the outside. Make sure to preheat the oven and either place it on an oven safe tray with a rack or flip the chicken half way during baking.
Although both Taiwanese fried chicken and Korean fried chicken are both well known for their ultra crispiness due to double frying, they are totally different in all other aspect from the seasoning to the batter. Also, Korean fried chicken have sauce options while Taiwanese fried chicken is tossed in a dry seasoning mix.
Coarse sweet potato starch is the best option for coating Taiwanese fried chicken. The starch granules are thicker, which gives Taiwanese fried chicken its iconic bubbly appearance and crunchiness.
If you can't find sweet potato starch, tapioca starch is a suitable substitute.
Taiwanese Fried Chicken Recipe
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicke thighs cut into 1 inch, bite size pieces (about 3 to 4 chicken thighs)
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (we used light sodium soy sauce)
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- ½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn ground (optional)
- ½ teaspoon white pepper plus more for finishing
- ½ cup sweet potato starch preferrably the coarse version*
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for finishing
- 15 leaves Thai basil more or less to your preference (optional)
- Oil for frying
- Marinate and batter the chicken:In a mixing bowl, add the diced chicken thighs, Shaoxing cooking wine, soy sauce, five spice powder, ground Sichuan pepper, and white pepper. Give everything a good mix and let it marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.
- While the chicken is marinating, preheat your fryer to to 350°F or add about 2 to 3 inches of oil into a pot and preheat on medium heat the oil to 350°F. Adjust the heat to maintain the temperature as needed.
- Add the sweet potato starch and salt to the chicken and mix well. It'll look like a dry batter with small clumps of sweet potato starch.
- Optional: Fry the Thai basilQuickly drop the Thai basil leaves into the 350°F preheated oil and cover with a lid. Let the basil leaves fry for about 10 seconds, or until dark green, and remove promptly. Place them on paper towels to drain.*Please be very careful with this step! The basil leaves will pop pretty violently when fried, that's why we recommend placing a lid on it. Do skip this step if you feel uncomfortable doing so. Your safety is always first!*
- For the first fry:Keeping the oil at 350°F, carefully place each chicken pieces seperately into the oil. Let the chicken pieces fry for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the chicken pieces floats to the surface and feels kind of crispy. Remove the chicken pieces.*Fry the chicken in small batches if needed, but never overcrowd the pot. Overcrowding will lower the oil temperature too much and not fry the chicken properly. *
- For the second fry:Increase the oil temperature to 400°F. Carefully add the Taiwanese fried chicken back into the oil and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the chicken is golden and completely cripsy. Remove from the oil.*Do note that starch does not brown the same as flour. So some bits may look a bit paler, and that is totally normal.*
- Optional: To finish the Taiwanese fried chicken:Mix together 1 teaspoon of salt with 1 teaspoon of white pepper. Season the fried chicken pieces with the seasoning mix to your preference and toss to help evenly distribute.
- Serve:Arrange the Taiwanese fried chicken in a serving bowl/plate along with the fried basil leaves. Enjoy while hot!
- Cut the chicken thighs into 1 inch chunks. The size of the chicken is very important for the frying time. So please try your best to keep the chicken pieces as close to 1 inch as possible, or you'll have to adjust the fry time accordingly.
- If you're frying on your stovetop, make sure to adjust the heat as needed to maintain the frying temperatures.
- Coarse sweet potato starch is the best option for Taiwanese fried chicken. However, if you cannot find any sweet potato starch, tapioca starch would be the next best option.
- Thai basil will pop when fried. Please be very careful! If you feel uncomfortable, do omit it. The Taiwanese fried chicken will still tastes just as good.