RecipesSoul Food

Black Pepper Chicken

This Chinese inspired Black Pepper Chicken is healthier, tastes sensational and takes less time to make than running to your favorite restaurant! This Pepper Chicken is chock full of crunchy chicken, crisp-tender veggies and nutty peanuts coated in a sticky, sweet and peppery garlic stir fry sauce.  The chicken is pan fried in minimal oil (but still emerges crazy crispy!) and is amenable to whatever veggies you like.  Enjoy this Black Pepper Chicken with rice or low carb cauliflower rice and if you’re feeling even more gourmet, add a side of Ramen Noodle Salad and homemade egg rolls!
 CourseMain Course
 Prep Time20minutes 
 Cook Time18minutes 
 Total Time38minutes 
 Servings6 servings



  • 1 ½ lbs. chicken breasts or thighs cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp EACH ground ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable, canola or peanut oil


  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/22 teaspoons black pepper, preferable freshly ground
  • 2 teaspoons ground Szechuan peppercorn/Szechuan powder( (See Notes/Warning for fresh)*
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 12 teaspoons Asian chili sauce (like sambal oelek or sriracha), optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder (optional if you have it)


  • 3/4 cup UNSALTED peanuts (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable, canola or peanut oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, 1/2-inch chop
  • 1 red bell pepper, 1-inch chop
  • 1 orange bell pepper, 1-inch chop
  • 3 stalks celery, 1/2 inch chop
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (may sub 1 tsp ground)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced (may sub 1 tsp powder)

For serving

  • rice
  • green onions, optional for garnish


  • TOAST PEANUTS: Toast the peanuts in a dry, large nonstick skillet over medium heat until toasted golden in spots, stirring a few times; remove from the skillet.
  • MAKE SAUCE: Whisk the Stir Fry Sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl until the cornstarch is completely dissolved; set aside. You can start with less pepper and chili sauce and add more to taste.
  • BREAD CHICKEN: Combine chicken and eggs in a freezer bag and turn to coat. In a separate large freezer bag, combine flour, cornstarch, and seasonings. Remove half of the chicken, dab off excess egg with paper towels and add to flour bag. Shake chicken until well coated, pressing coating into chicken from outside of the bag (or you can open the bag and use your hands). Remove chicken and repeat.
  • COOK CHICKEN: Heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a NONSTICK skillet (you may use less oil but it will be less crispy or more oil for more crispy). Working in two batches, shake off excess breading from chicken and add to the hot skillet in a single layer. Cook for about 4-6 minutes, or until cooked through, flipping halfway. Remove chicken to a paper towel lined plate. Add another drizzle of oil to the skillet if needed and repeat with remaining chicken. Remove chicken and wipe out skillet.
  • STIR FRY VEGGIES: To the now empty pan, heat one tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers and celery and stir fry until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. (Don’t over-cook because they will continue to cook in sauce). Add garlic and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds.
  • COMBINE: Whisk the Stir Fry Sauce (to recombine) and add to the veggies. Simmer until the sauce thickens (it will thicken a little more when combined with the chicken), 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken and peanuts and stir to coat. Adjust to taste with additional, honey, soy sauce, pepper or chili sauce. Garnish with green onions if desired. Serve with rice.


Tips and Tricks

  • Oyster sauce:  Oyster sauce is the base of almost ever stir fry sauce and bumps up the savory umami character.  Oyster sauce is a thick, brown sauce with a balance between sweet and salty with an earthy undertone.  You can find oyster sauce in the Asian aisle of any supermarket for only a few dollars.  Please use QUALITY oyster sauce such as Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman.  You truly can taste the difference and will be sorely disappointed with less quality brands.
  • Rice wine:  I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it. I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for.  The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry. Do NOT substitute rice wine with rice vinegar, they are NOT the same.  Rice vinegar will add an acidic flavor without the sweetness.
  • Szechuan peppercorn:   You will need ground Szechuan peppercorn for this recipe. It can be found on Amazon (my fav!) at most Asian markets (call first) spice stores, or sometimes specialty stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts.   Contrary to popular belief, Szechuan peppercorn are not spicier than black peppercorn, but they do boast a more complex peppery zing.  The spicy illusion comes from the fact they are always cooked with chili peppers.
  • Szechuan peppercorn substitute:  Use equal amounts of freshly ground pepper and freshly ground coriander.
  • Using fresh Szechuan peppercorn:  Toasting and grinding fresh Szechuan peppercorn yourself produces a more potent peppercorn than store-bought pre-ground. If you choose to toast/grind them yourself, start with HALF the amount then add more to taste as needed.
  • Gluten Free Black Pepper Chicken: Use gluten free flour, gluten free soy sauce or tamari, and gluten free oyster sauce.

How to Store and Reheat

  • How to store: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating in microwave:  Take care not to overcook the chicken or it can become rubbery in the microwave.  Microwave for one minute then at 20 second intervals until warmed through.
  • How to reheat on the stove: Leftovers are best reheated on the stove, even if they are small portions.  To reheat, heat a drizzle of oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add the chicken, stirring occasionally until warmed through.
  • How to freeze: Freeze the chicken and sauce separately.  Cook chicken according to directions then let cool to room temperature. Space chicken apart on a baking sheet then transfer to the freezer.  Flash freeze for 1-2 hours or until the chicken is solid.  Add chicken to a freezer size bag, squeeze out excess air. Add the stir fry sauce to a separate freezer safe, airtight container. Freeze the chicken and sauce separately for up to 3 months. When ready to use, thaw chicken and sauce in the refrigerator overnight. Bring the sauce to a simmer to thicken in a nonstick skillet, then add the chicken.
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