Taiwanese Fried Chicken Recipe (Popcorn Chicken)

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken Recipe – Bite-size pieces of chicken are marinated with Szechuan peppercorns, then double breaded and fried for a dish that’s crunchy, spicy, and deliciously addictive!

Close view Taiwanese popcorn chicken with fried basil leaves in a bowl.

Why We Love This Popcorn Chicken Recipe

This brilliant Taiwanese Popcorn Fried Chicken dish is bold and zesty with tantalizing Szechuan pepper and basil!

Tender pieces of boneless chicken thighs are soaked in a peppercorn marinade, then double breaded, and twice-fried for an extra crispy coating. Although some recipes call for a dry breading method, we feel making a simple tempura-style batter creates the best crust.

The dish gets an extra punch of flavor from fresh basil leaves… Also double fried for a terrific bite. So it has all of the earthy, spicy, juicy, and crunchy textures and flavors you crave.

You can serve it as a high-protein poppable snack, or as the main protein in an Asian dinner, alongside stir-fried vegetables, steamed rice, or fried rice.

Top down view of popcorn fried chicken with basil in a bowl.

Ingredients You Need

  • Boneless chicken thighs – fat trimmed off (or chicken breasts)
  • Soy saucelow sodium, or coconut aminos
  • Shaoxing rice wine – or Mirin
  • Chinese five spice – garam masala with ground star anise is a close substitute
  • Szechuan peppercorns – ground
  • Salt – to taste
  • Tapioca powder – to make the tempura-style batter that is light and crispy
  • Cornstarch – for the gluten-free breading
  • Egg – a binder for the breading
  • Fresh basil leaves – sweet or Thai
  • Fry oil – canola, peanut, or grapeseed
Hand holding piece of fried chicken, with bite taken to show inside.

How to Make Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

First, set out a large bowl. Cut the chicken thighs into 1-inch bite-size pieces in place in the bowl. 

Then add in the soy sauce, rice wine, Chinese five spice, garlic powder, ½ teaspoon of ground Szechuan peppercorns, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix well and marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Raw pieces of chicken coated in soy sauce in a bowl.

Meanwhile, set a large saucepot on the stovetop. Attach a cooking thermometer to the side of the pot and pour in the oil. Set a holding plate to the side of the pot and line it with paper towels to absorb excess oil. In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1 teaspoon of ground Szechuan peppercorns and 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside. 

Once the chicken has had time to marinate, turn the stove on medium to heat the oil.

Add tapioca flour, cornstarch, and an egg to the chicken mixture. Stir well to coat all the chicken pieces in the batter.

Pro Tip: If the batter seems too thick and claylike, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, until it has a glue consistency.

Marinating pieces of chicken in a bowl.

Once the oil reaches 375-400°F, dump the basil leaves into the frying oil. Quickly step back, because basil leaves contain quite a bit of moisture and will POP!

Then use a skimmer to stir the basil leaves for 30 to 60 seconds. (This step infuses basil flavor into the oil to season the chicken pieces.) Move the leaves to the holding plate.

Next, gently place 10 to 12 battered chicken pieces into the hot oil. Use the skimmer to stir the pieces so they don’t stick together. Fry the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Use the skimmer to move them to the holding plate, and repeat in two or three more small batches. 

Frying chicken pieces in hot oil.

Once all the chicken is cooked, carefully dump all the chicken pieces and basil back into the hot oil for a second fry. Stir and fry them for 30 to 60 seconds to make the breading extra crispy.

Get the Complete (Printable) Taiwanese Fried Chicken Recipe Below. Enjoy!

Popcorn chicken and basil being deep fried in a pot.

Remove from the oil and immediately sprinkle the twice-fried chicken pieces with the salt and pepper seasoning.

Plated Taiwanese popcorn fried chicken in a bowl.

Serving Suggestions

Enjoy Taiwanese popcorn chicken hot as-is for a snack or appetizer. Serve with Asian-inspired dipping sauces, like a spicy soy sauce or chile garlic dumpling sauce.

These yummy bites of crunchy goodness are great as a main dish! Enjoy it warm alongside fluffy steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables. We love Stir-Fried Asian Mushrooms and Sugar Snap Peas, or hearty Veggie with Noodles Stir Fry.

You can also serve with low carb Cauliflower Rice or Broccoli Rice, if you like!

Top down view pieces of Taiwanese chicken fried with basil leaves, in a bowl.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you make this Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipe without tapioca powder?

Yes, you can omit the tapioca powder and use just cornstarch for the breading. The chicken won’t be quite as light and crunchy, but will still be delicious!

Is Taiwanese popcorn chicken spicy?

There is definitely a kick of heat in this dish. Ground Szechuan peppercorns in the marinade infuse the chicken with lots of spice. The flavor of Chinese peppercorns creates a tingling sensation in your mouth!

However, you can totally omit the peppercorns if you want a mild Taiwanese fried chicken recipe.

How long do leftovers last?

Popcorn chicken is best to enjoy freshly fried. But leftovers will keep well for up to 3 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

How do you reheat Taiwanese fried chicken?

I recommend that you reheat the chicken in the oven or air fryer.

To heat them in the oven, let the bites come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Then bake on a lined baking sheet for 15 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven.

Reheat fried chicken in an air fryer for 4 minutes at 375 degrees.

Close view finished Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipe.

Looking for More Comfort Food Recipes? Be Sure to Also Try:

Taiwanese Fried Chicken (Popcorn Chicken)

Bite-size pieces of chicken are marinated with Szechuan peppercorns, then double breaded and fried for a dish that’s crunchy, spicy, and deliciously addictive!

Servings: 4 – 6 servings

  • Set out a large bowl. Cut the chicken thighs into 1 inch bite-size pieces in place in the bowl.

  • Then add in the soy sauce, rice wine, Chinese five spice, garlic powder, ½ teaspoon of ground Szechuan peppercorns, ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix well and marinate for at least 20 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, set a large saucepot on the stovetop. Attach a cooking thermometer to the side of the pot and pour in the oil. Set a holding plate to the side of the pot and line it with paper towels to absorb excess oil. In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1 teaspoon of ground Szechuan peppercorns and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

  • Once the chicken has had time to marinate, turn the stove on medium to heat the oil.

  • Add tapioca flour, cornstarch, and an egg to the chicken mixture. Stir well to coat all the chicken pieces in batter. If the batter seems too thick and claylike, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, until it has a “glue” consistency.

  • Once the oil reaches 375-400°F, dump the basil leaves into the fry oil. Quickly step back, because basil leaves contain quite a bit of moisture and will POP! Then use a skimmer to stir the basil leaves for 30 to 60 seconds. Move them to the holding plate. (This step infuses basil flavor into the oil to season the chicken pieces.)

  • Next, gently place 10 to 12 battered chicken pieces into the hot oil. Use the skimmer to stir the pieces so they don’t stick together. Fry the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Use the skimmer to move them to the holding plate, and repeat in two or three more small batches.

  • Once all the chicken is cooked, carefully dump all the chicken pieces and basil back into the hot oil for a second fry. Stir and fry them for 30 to 60 seconds to make the breading extra crispy. Remove from the oil and immediately sprinkle with the salt and pepper seasoning.

Serve the popcorn chicken hot as-is for a snack, or served warm with steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables.
Popcorn chicken is best to enjoy freshly fried. But leftovers will keep well for up to 3 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Serving: 0.25lb, Calories: 466kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 31g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Monounsaturated Fat: 12g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 208mg, Sodium: 1523mg, Potassium: 436mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 0.2g, Vitamin A: 513IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 47mg, Iron: 2mg

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