Chinese Black Pepper Chicken (黑椒鸡丁)
Forget about Panda Express! This is the best Chinese Black Pepper Chicken recipe with the best black pepper sauce you can make from home easily. Juicy and flavorful cubed chicken breasts with intensely flavored black pepper sauce…you’ll want to drizzle it on everything! Throw in some crisp peppers and crunchy celery, so simple and easy to make, you can make this tonight!
Love more copycat recipes? Then, you’ll also love my Panda express honey walnut shrimp!
Chinese Pepper Chicken Recipe with the Best Black Pepper Sauce
My first experience with black pepper chicken was at the airport in Utah. I was on my way back from a conference and decided to give Panda Express a try. I can’t say if I remember how the dish tasted but the black pepper sauce vaguely reminded me of a sauce that we would use in steak houses in Taiwan.
My readers love the Chinese Pepper Steak recipe so I figured why not share a chicken version. With a few simple tweaks, the cubed chicken breasts become juicy and flavorful and you’ll love my take on the super fragrant black pepper sauce.
What goes in pepper chicken?
- Cubed chicken breasts
- Red bell pepper
- Yellow onion
- Black pepper sauce (gluten-free, paleo, sweetened with jam)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sichuan peppercorn powder (optional. ink in the recipe card)
- Coconut aminos
- Fruit jam (apricot, peach, or pineapple. See recipe for Whole30)
- Chicken or vegetable stock
How to make Black Pepper Chicken Stir-Fry
- Slice and season: Cube the chicken breasts to similar sizes and do a quick marinate.
- Dice the vegetables: This dish comes together quickly so prepare the vegetables and the sauce and set them aside ready to use.
- Coat: Lightly coat the chicken with arrowroot or potato starch right before pan-frying.
- Pan fry: pan fry the chicken in a single layer without disturbing for about 2-3 minutes per side. Set the chicken aside.
- Add: Saute the vegetables until crisp but not mushy.
- Combine: combine the chicken and the black pepper sauce toss and serve!
Check out the step-by-step stories here to see how to make this dish.
My Secret Black Pepper Sauce…Super Flavorful!
- Most pepper chicken recipes use oyster sauce, if you happen to have a bottle of my homemade vegetarian oyster sauce, you can use that to replace coconut aminos in the sauce.
- My black pepper sauce is sweetened with a touch of apricot fruit jam. It’s a little sweet and a little tart, and the jam helps thicken the sauce therefore you can use less starch (i.e. less carb)!
- I added a secret pepper powder- Chinese Sichuan Peppercorn powder. It’s a ground version of the whole Sichuan peppercorns that I found on Amazon. The pepper powder is finely ground so it’s easier to use, and eat, and less pungent. Although it is an optional ingredient, if, however, you are a big fan of Chinese pepper chicken fan, grab a bottle (product link in my recipe card)! Here are the black pepper sauce components:
Freshly ground black pepper
Ground black pepper in a can won’t do the job for this recipe. The flavor won’t be as intense. I recommend you grind the peppercorns in your own pepper mill.
Sichuan peppercorn powder (optional)
This is my personal touch to make the sauce extra fragrant. Sichuan peppercorn powder is milder in flavor than whole peppercorns. It adds a nice floral flavor with a little tingly sensation in the mouthfeel. The Sichuan peppercorn powder is also a good substitute for people who aren’t used to the whole peppercorn flavor. I ordered mine on Amazon (link in my recipe card). You can definitely skip this ingredient if you don’t have it handy.
Fruit jam (or pitted dates/prunes)
A little touch of sweetness to balance the heat and the piney flavor from the peppercorns. The fruit jam also acts as a thickener to round the sauce together. I use St. Dalfour brand apricot, peach, or orange will work well for the sauce. If you are on Whole30, use soft pitted dates or prunes and blend them with the rest of the sauce to make a sauce.
I use chicken stock to thin the sauce. If you aren’t on a specific dietary requirement, you can use Chinese shao hsing wine, Taiwanese michu, or Japanese mirin to replace the stock.
Coconut aminos taste naturally sweeter than soy sauce or tamari. It’s made from coconut blossoms. My recipe measurements are based on using coconut aminos and I follow my tastebuds to make a dish taste right. Regular soy sauce, particularly tamari, is way saltier and tastes more flat (i.e. less well-rounded flavor), and therefore it needs to be balanced with a sweetener (often sugar) to make a dish taste right. If you are a newbie to paleo home cooking, I recommend that you get a bottle of coconut aminos (link in my recipe card) and watch this video to get a quick understanding of the seasoning.
Juicy Flavorful Cubed Chicken Breasts
Most of the black pepper chicken recipes call for chicken thighs because thighs are usually more moist than breasts. However, I found that if you season the chicken correctly and control your stove top temperature well, chicken breasts can be equally tender and flavorful, and they crisp up beautifully because of less moisture content. So please read the recipe instructions from beginning to the end first before you start this dish. Often, I leave extra tips in the notes sections to answer some of the common questions my readers tend to have.
Tips for the best black pepper chicken recipe
- Dice the chicken to a similar size so the cooking time will be even.
- Slice the celery on a diagonal for more crunch
- Secret Black pepper sauce – this dish comes together quickly so prepare the sauce and vegetables first before you start cooking.
- A light coating of the chicken cubes before pan-frying – wait until the oil is hot then quickly coat the chicken right before pan-frying. If you coat the chicken too early, they turn watery and gloopy.
- Small batch cooking – the recipe is written for 1 lb chicken. If you do a larger batch, I recommend you pan-fry the chicken in a separate batch so each piece can crisp up beautifully.
What goes well with Chinese Pepper Chicken
And don’t forget a big bowl of veggies on the side – Chinese broccoli recipe in garlic sauce, Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce (vegetarian), Sauteed snow pea leaves, Chinese mustard greens, Baby bok choy salad, Chinese cabbage stir-fry, Taiwanese cabbage stir-fry, Asian cucumber salad, or Lemon garlic broccoli. Browse more paleo side dishes.
Chicken and broccoli stir-fry, Crispy Mongolian Chicken, Paleo Kung Pao Chicken, Ginger Chicken with squash, Moo goo gai pan, Moo shu chicken, and Instant Pot Chinese chicken soup. See more of my Paleo take on Chinese American dishes.
Black Pepper Chicken with the Best Black Pepper Sauce!
For the chicken:
For the vegetables:
- 1 medium size red bell pepper, dice to 1-inch cubes
- 6 oz. celery stalks, sliced on diagonal, about 3-4 medium length stalks
- 3.5 oz yellow onion, diced, about 1 small onion
For the black pepper sauce:
- Slice the chicken breasts to 1-inch cubes and in a bowl add and mix well with the seasonings from coconut aminos to garlic powder. Set aside in the fridge while you prepare other items.
- Prepare the bell pepper, celery, and onion in one bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix and stir-well the black pepper sauce.
- In a 10 to 12-inch saute pan, add the avocado oil and preheat over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Test the temperature with a wooden chopstick, if it shows bubbles around the chopstick when inserting it into the oil, the temperature is hot enough. You can also use a thermometer to reach 350F/177C.
- In the meantime, lightly coat the chicken with the starch. Toss well.
- Add the chicken pieces one-by-one into the pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high. Pan fry the chicken in a single layer without disturbing for about 3 minutes on the first side. Then use a chopstick or tong to cook the flip side for about 2 minutes. Transfer them out to a separate plate.
- You should have some oil left in the skillet, if not, add 1 more tablespoon of oil. Saute the pepper, celery, and onion with 2 pinches of salt over medium-high heat for 1 minute.
- Return the chicken to the pan and pour-in the black pepper sauce. Toss to coat the sauce over for 1 minute.
- Turn off the heat. Transfer the food to a serving plate. Taste and season with more freshly ground black pepper or salt, if desired. Serve hot.
- Freshly ground black pepper
Ground black pepper in a can won’t do the job for this recipe. The flavor won’t be as intense. I recommend you grind the peppercorns in your own pepper mill. Use ⅔ tsp freshly ground black pepper if you don’t have Sichuan peppercorn powder for this recipe.
- Sichuan peppercorn powder (optional)
This is my personal touch to make the sauce extra fragrant. Sichuan peppercorn powder is milder in flavor than the whole peppercorns. It adds a nice floral flavor. The powder version is also a good substitute for people who aren’t used to the whole peppercorn flavor. I ordered mine on Amazon. You can definitely skip this ingredient if you don’t have it handy.
- Fruit jam (or pitted dates/prunes)
A little touch of sweetness to balance the heat and the piney flavor from the peppercorns. The fruit jam also acts as a thickener to round the sauce together. I use St. Dalfour brand apricot, peach, or orange will work well for the sauce. If you are on Whole30, use 2-3 soft and moist pitted dates or prunes and blend them with the rest of ingredients to make a sauce.
- Chicken stock
I use chicken stock to thin the sauce. If you aren’t on a specific dietary requirement, you can use Chinese shao hsing wine, Taiwanese michu, or Japanese mirin to replace the stock in the same quantity.
- Small batch cooking – this recipe is written for 1 lb chicken. If you do a larger batch, I recommend you pan fry the chicken in a separate batch so each piece can crisp up beautifully.
If you give this Chinese pepper chicken recipe a try, please leave a comment and rate the recipe in the comments section below. It helps my blog grow organically so that I can continue sharing awesome free recipes on my website. Thank you!