Taiwanese popcorn chicken, also known as Taiwanese salt and pepper fried chicken, is a popular street food. The crunchy bite size chicken pieces are tossed with fried basil and dusted with savory seasoning powder. Super satisfying!

Taiwanese popcorn chicken is served in a container with toothpicks.

Taiwan is famous for their street food, and these days this Taiwanese popcorn chicken is popular around the world. It can be found in many market stalls, street cafes, and night markets throughout Taiwan.

I remember seeing people munching this savory popcorn chicken snack as they strolled through the market street when I was living in Taipei many years ago.

The size of the chicken pieces resembles the size of popcorn, and it is often in a bucket-like container so people can easily hold it in their hand and eat it like popcorn, too. It is meant to be a casual snack that you can enjoy even as you shop.

Crunchy Taiwanese popcorn chicken is garnished with fried basil in a container.

Luckily, this bite-sized Taiwanese fried chicken is easy to make at home.

This Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipe will replicate the popular night market chicken snack – with a crispy and crunchy coating on the outside and juicy moist chicken meat inside.

Enjoy them at home while you are watching movies or at the parties. Along with Korean fried chicken, it is great for serving with cold drinks. It’s a crowd pleaser!

Ingredients for making Taiwanese popcorn chicken

Key ingredients for the best Taiwanese popcorn chicken

  • Five spice powder – It provides the distinct Taiwanese fried chicken flavor. The powder consists of a Chinese spice mixture (usually cinnamon, sichuan peppercorn, star anise, cloves, and fennel). The spices can vary depending on the brand though. Five spice powder is easy to find in Asian markets or online.
  • Sweet potato starch – Authentic Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipes use sweet potato starch. It is coarser than cornstarch or regular potato starch, creating an extra crunchy texture. It stays crispy for few hours. If you can’t find sweet potato starch, the next best option is tapioca starch or cornstarch.
  • Ground pepper – If you can find Sichuan pepper that would be ideal, but it is not always easy to get genuine Sichuan pepper. In that case, try white pepper instead.
  • Other spices – chili powder, paprika, garlic powder
  • Thai basil – This fragrant herb is NOT a must-have ingredient, but it adds great texture and a lovely color contrast. Once deep fried, however, Thai basil doesn’t add much fragrance to the dish. So it is perfectly okay to omit if you can’t find any.
  • Chicken Thigh – Thigh or breast? Dark meat wins. You’ll definitely want thighs for this recipe.
A few pieces of Taiwanese popcorn chicken is placed on a parchment paper.

Before you get started

Here are a couple of tips and a warning;

  1. Marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes to overnight for a better taste before you deep fry them.
  2. Be cautious! Make sure your Thai basil is completely dry. Any water remaining on the surface will create a vigorous oil splash. Even if the herbs are wiped dry, expect a little oil splash anyway. Try to stay a step away from the wok right after adding the leaves in hot oil.
  3. Double deep-frying ensures an extra crispy and crunchy coating of the chicken pieces, while creating the iconic golden brown color on the surface.

How to make Taiwanese popcorn chicken

Step 1. Marinate chicken

In a mixing bowl, combine chicken pieces, garlic, white pepper (or ground Sichuan pepper), five spice powder, sugar, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, salt, egg white and 4 tablespoons of sweet potato starch. Mix well and marinate for at least 30 minutes to overnight for a better flavor.

Step 2. Coat chicken with starch

Put 1 cup of extra sweet potato starch in a large bowl. Add a batch of marinated chicken pieces and coat with the extra starch. Put the chicken pieces in a plate and let sit for 5 minutes. You will see the starch form small beads on the surface as it clings to the chicken.

Step 3. Deep-fry Thai basil

Heat up a wok of oil on medium heat and fry Thai basil leaves. Watch out for the oil splash. Deep fry for about 10-15 seconds until the leaves are crisp, but still retain their green color. Transfer basil to a wired rack.

Step 4. First deep-fry

Drop pieces of chicken (one small batch at a time) into hot oil and fry them until lightly golden, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pieces and transfer to a wired rack. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Step 5. Second deep-fry

Raise the heat to medium high. Add a batch of fried chicken pieces to the hot oil again and fry them until they turn deep golden brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the pieces and return them to the wired rack. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Step 6. Make spice seasoning mix

Mix together salt, paprika, chili powder, white pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl.

Step 7. Sprinkle seasoning mix over chicken

Put popcorn chicken in a large bowl along with Thai basil. Sprinkle some of the spice mixture (as much as you desire) and toss it all together. Serve immediately.

More Authentic Chinese Recipes

If you enjoy authentic Chinese dishes, check these recipes out. They are some of my favorites.

Taiwanese popcorn chicken is garnished with Thai basil.
Taiwanese popcorn chicken is served in a container with toothpicks.

Crunchy Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken Recipe

Taiwanese popcorn chicken is made with crunchy bite size chicken pieces tossed with fried basil, then dusted with savory seasoning powder. It is a popular street food.
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Ingredients

For spice seasoning mix

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper, or Sichuan pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Instructions 

  • In a mixing bowl, combine chicken pieces, garlic, white pepper, five spice powder, sugar, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, salt, egg white, and 4 tablespoons of sweet potato starch. Mix well and marinate for at least 30 minutes to overnight for a better flavor.
  • Put 1 cup of extra sweet potato starch in a large bowl. Add a batch of marinated chicken pieces and coat with the extra starch. Put the chicken pieces in a plate and let sit for 5 minutes. You will see the starch form small beads on the surface as it clings to the chicken.
  • Heat up a wok of oil on medium heat and fry Thai basil leaves. Watch out for the oil splash. Deep fry for about 10-15 seconds until the leaves are crisp, but still retain their green color. Transfer basil to a wired rack.
  • First deep-fry: Drop pieces of chicken (one small batch at a time) into hot oil and fry them until lightly golden, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pieces and transfer to a wired rack. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  • Second deep-fry: Raise the heat to medium high. Add a batch of fried chicken pieces to the hot oil again and fry them until they turn deep golden brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the pieces and return them to the wired rack. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  • To make spice seasoning mix, mix together salt, paprika, chili powder, white pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl.
  • Put popcorn chicken in a large bowl along with Thai basil. Sprinkle some of the spice seasoning mix (as much as you desire) and toss it all together. Serve immediately.
Calories: 217kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 0.02g, Cholesterol: 108mg, Sodium: 1101mg, Potassium: 348mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 323IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 34mg, Iron: 2mg
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