Taiwanese Fried Chicken

By: takestwoeggsPosted: 14/03/2022 Updated: 30/11/2023
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Total 1 hour 20 minutes
This crispy and addicting bite-sized Taiwanese fried chicken everything you want in a snack—juicy, crispy, and flavorful. This popcorn chicken has deeply infused flavors and a crunchy outer coating that will keep you coming back for more.
Taiwanese Fried Chicken

This crispy and addicting bite-sized Taiwanese fried chicken is everything you want in a snack—juicy, crispy, and flavorful. Taiwanese popcorn chicken has deeply infused flavors and a crunchy outer coating that will keep you coming back for more.

Looking down into a bowl of Taiwanese fried chicken with fried basil and skewers for eating.

Let’s throwback to simpler times when I was in high school and my favorite thing to do with my friends was go to boba shops, and drink mango green tea boba with a side of addicting Taiwanese fried popcorn chicken. My three friends and I loved to sit, eat, and laugh at silly “that’s what she said” jokes for hours. We’d go almost every week and order the same thing and it was the highlight of my adolescence. Whenever I have Taiwanese fried chicken it fills me with so much nostalgia and brings a smile to my face.

This bite-sized fried chicken has so many layers of flavors from the marinade and the seasoning mix it is tossed in. For this Taiwanese fried chicken recipe, I will show you three different methods (deep fry, air fry, and oven bake) that will all yield crispy, juicy, and addicting snacks. Pair this fried chicken with a refreshing glass of brown sugar milk tea, fried rice, and matcha brownies and you have got yourself a delicious meal.

Up close of a bowl of Taiwanese fried chicken with wood skewers and dipping sauce nearby.

What is Taiwanese popcorn chicken?

Taiwanese popcorn chicken, also commonly known as Taiwanese fried chicken, crispy chicken, or salt and pepper chicken is a popular night market snack item in Taiwan. It has permeated across the world and is commonly found at boba tea shops.

Taiwanese crispy fried chicken is marinated in soy sauce and spices, coated with coarse sweet potato starch, double deep-fried, and tossed with a smoky spice mix. This snack is as addicting as it looks and is 100% worth the hype.

A detail shot Taiwanese fried Chicken tossed with fried basil.

Kitchen Equipment

You will need very basic kitchen equipment to make this Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipe. I’ve linked all the tools I used to make them below.

  • Mixing Bowls: you will need mixing bowls to marinate the chicken, dredge the chicken, and make the seasoning mixture. I love using my Duralex glass mixing bowls for this. It comes in 9 different sizes and is very versatile.
  • Wire Rack: when you fry anything you will need a wire cooling rack to place the fried chicken on top so that the chicken can cool and the extra oil can drip off resulting in a crispier and less oily chicken.
  • Baking Tray: you will need a baking tray that fits the wire rack to catch the excess oil that drips off the chicken. Moreover, if you opt for the oven method you will need a baking tray to cook the chicken.
  • Thermometer with attachment clip: a thermometer measures the exact temperature of the oil. You should use a thermometer with an attachment clip to easily attach it to the pot so that you don’t have to fuss over measuring the hot oil.
  • Spider strainer: use a wide spider strainer to scoop out all the chicken and let the excess oil drip through before placing it on the wire rack.
  • Air Fryer (Option 2): if you opt for the air fryer option, you will need an air fryer to air fry the chicken. I love using my Cosori air fryer. It is easy to use, easy to clean and always yields the most delicious and crispy results.

🛒 Ingredients

The ingredients for this Taiwanese fried chicken recipe can be found online or at your local Asian grocery store.

Marinade

  • Chicken Thigh: you will need to use chicken thigh for this recipe for the juiciest and most flavorful chicken.
  • Garlic: the freshly minced garlic creates a delicious aromatic garlic flavor in the chicken.
  • Shaoxing Wine: adds a vinegary, spicy and caramel-like flavor. You can find Shaoxing wine at your local Asian grocery store or online.
  • Light Soy Sauce: light soy sauce is key for a touch of umami and salt. The light soy sauce makes sure that the chicken will not end up too dark after frying. I always use Lee Kum Kee’s Premium Soy Sauce.
  • Salt: brings out the flavors of the other ingredients and the chicken.
  • White Pepper: is distinctively used in Taiwanese cooking. It has a sharper and more floral flavor than black pepper.
  • Garlic Powder: the garlic powder magnifies the garlic flavor from the fresh garlic. I mean is there a thing as too much garlic?
  • Five Spice Powder: is a mix of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns and fennel. You can find five spice powder at your local grocery store or online. Five spice is the main ingredient that gives the fried chicken that delicious savory warm flavor.
  • Chicken Bouillon Powder: a lot of Asian cooking uses chicken bouillon powder as a flavor enhancer. This enhances the chicken flavor of the chicken.
  • Sugar: sugar balances out the salty flavors from the soy sauce and the other ingredients. It gently sweetens the chicken.

Batter

  • Sweet Potato Flour: or thick sweet potato starch has larger granules than regular flour and gives the fried popcorn chicken that distinctive raggedy, crunchy exterior. Make sure to select the bag that has chunky granules for those extra crispy bites. Since sweet potato flour is a starch, it gives the chicken a crispier coating because there is no gluten in it.
A bag of sweet potato flour on the counter for making Taiwanese Fried Chicken.
  • Cornstarch: adds another layer of coating for the chicken and fills in the gaps for where the coarse sweet potato flour misses.
  • Vegetable Oil: you will need to use a neutral flavored oil with a high smoke point. You can alternatively use canola oil instead.

Seasoning Mixture

  • Salt and White Pepper: brings out the flavors of the marinade
  • Paprika: adds a touch of spice to the chicken. If you want spicier Taiwanese fried chicken add cayenne pepper.
  • Five Spice Powder: adds another layer of warmth and spices to the chicken.
Mixing together a Taiwanese seasoning blend in a small glass bowl with chopsticks.

Garnish

Thai Basil: adds a touch of texture contrast to the chicken. Adding the Thai basil is optional.

A bowl of fresh basil leaves to fry.

How to Make Taiwanese Fried Chicken

I have listed three different methods for how to cook this Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipe—deep fry, air fry, and oven bake.

  1. Marinate the chicken. In a bowl, marinate the 1 inch chicken pieces with minced garlic, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, salt, white pepper, garlic powder, five spice powder, chicken bouillon powder, and sugar for a minimum of 1 hour or overnight. If you are going to air-fry or bake the chicken add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the marinade.
A bowl of pieces of chicken being rubbed with a wet marinade.
  1. Coat the chicken. In a small bowl mix together the sweet potato flour and cornstarch. Working one at a time, toss and coat the chicken pieces until they are well coated. The chicken should be completely covered.
Coating marinaded chicken in potato starch flour to deep fry.
  1. Fry the Thai basil. Rinse and thoroughly dry the Thai basil. Add about 2 inches of oil to a medium pot and bring it to 325°F or 162°C over medium heat. Fry the basil leaves until they turn dark green and crispy about 1 minute. Scoop them out with a spider strainer, set aside to cool.
Flash frying basil leaves in oil before frying Taiwanese chicken.

Deep Fry Option 1

  1. Fry the Chicken. Prepare a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet. Working in batches, add the chicken with a pair of tongs. Make sure to not overcrowd the pot. Fry until lightly golden about 1 minute. Scoop the chicken from the oil with a spider strainer and let the chicken rest. Continue with the remaining chicken.
  2. Second Fry the Chicken. Turn the heat up to 350°F or 175°C, fry the batches again in the same order you first fried them in for an additional 2 minutes or until the pieces float to the surface and are golden brown. Scoop the chicken from the oil and let the chicken rest on the wire rack.
Taiwanese Fried Chicken being scooped from a pot of oil with a spider strainer.

Air Fry Option 2

  1. Air-fry the Chicken. Preheat your air fryer to 400°F. Using cooking spray, lightly grease the air fryer basket. Place the chicken into the basket leaving some space in between the pieces. Spray the tops of the chicken with the cooking spray. Cook at 400°F or 204°C for 5 minutes. Then flip the chicken and coat with more cooking spray and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes then spray with oil and cook for an additional 5 more minutes. (This will mimic a second fry) Remove from the basket and let the chicken rest on a wire rack.

Bake Option 3

  1. Bake the Chicken. Preheat the oven to 450°F or 232°C. Place the chicken on a wire rack over a foil lined baking sheet. Spray the chicken with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and coat with more cooking spray and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes.
  2. Mix the seasoning mixture. In a small bowl mix together the seasoning mixture. Once the chicken is cooked toss chicken with the seasoning to taste. Serve with the fried Thai basil leaves. Enjoy immediately.
A comparison of cooking methods for Taiwanese fried chicken to show the various textures.
Deep-frying yields the best texture and juiciness out of the three Taiwanese chicken cooking methods.

Tips for the Best Taiwanese Fried Chicken

  • Use fatty cuts of chicken. For the juiciest and most tender bites, I recommend using a cut with more fat. The fat will melt into the chicken as it cooks yielding a juicier bite.
  • Marinate the chicken for at least 1 hour. Marinating the chicken will allow the chicken time to soak in the flavors for a more flavorful and tasty chicken.
  • Use a heavy bottomed pot to deep fry. Make sure you use a heavy bottomed pot to deep fry and hold the hot oil. Make sure there is plenty of room on the edges of the pot so the oil doesn’t boil over.
  • Keep a kitchen thermometer in the oil. Keeping a kitchen thermometer in the oil can regulate the changing temperatures of the oil when frying.
  • For air frying or oven baking, spray the chicken with oil. You will need to spray the chicken with oil in order for the chicken to brown and become crispy. Make sure that each piece has enough oil so the chicken browns evenly.

Storage Instructions

This dish is best served immediately. You can store this Taiwanese fried chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. It will lose its crispiness over time in the freezer. To reheat simply pop them in the oven or air fryer until warm.

Frequently Asked Q’s & A’s

What is the best type of coating for Taiwanese popcorn chicken?

If you look closely at the popcorn chicken, you will notice that it has a crust of tiny powder-like balls of crispiness. This comes from the coarse sweet potato starch or sweet potato flour. The coarse starch has thicker granules which will yield a crispier chicken. I opted to mix in cornstarch for an additional crunch to the chicken.

If you do not have access to sweet potato starch, substitute it out for cornstarch instead. Do not substitute sweet potato starch with all-purpose flour, tapioca starch, or rice starch. It will not yield the same crispy results.

Why do you double fry Taiwanese fried chicken?

Double frying the chicken creates an extra crunchy and crispy experience that isn’t oily and soggy. Double frying helps with that evaporation process. When the chicken rests and cools in between the first and second fry, additional water evaporates from the skin. So when you place it back in for a second fry, the rest of the water evaporates allowing the skin to brown and crisp before the meat overcooks.

What is the difference between fried, air-fried, and baked chicken?

This all comes down to preference. The deep-fried will probably yield the tastiest, crispiest, and juiciest fried chicken. The air fryer will yield the crunchiest popcorn chicken but may turn out a tad dry. Lastly, the oven-baked will yield a juicy less crispy chicken.

Can I substitute out the protein?

Yes! You can make this Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipe with any protein of your preference such as beef, pork, or tofu.

Additional Chicken Recipes to Try

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Recipe

Up close of a bowl of Taiwanese Fried chicken in a bowl.

Taiwanese Fried Chicken

4.84 from 6 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Marinate Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
This crispy and addicting bite-sized Taiwanese fried chicken everything you want in a snack—juicy, crispy, and flavorful. This popcorn chicken has deeply infused flavors and a crunchy outer coating that will keep you coming back for more.
Servings: 3 servings
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Marinade

Batter

Seasoning Mixture

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon five spice powder
  • Handful Thai basil

Instructions

  • Marinate the chicken. In a bowl, marinate the 1 inch chicken pieces with minced garlic, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, salt, white pepper, garlic powder, five spice powder, chicken bouillon powder, and sugar for a minimum of 1 hour or overnight. If you are going to air-fry or bake the chicken add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the marinade.
  • Coat the chicken. In a small bowl mix together the sweet potato flour and cornstarch. Working one at a time, toss and coat the chicken pieces until they are well coated. The chicken should be completely covered.
  • Fry the Thai basil. Rinse and thoroughly dry the Thai basil. Add about 2 inches of oil to a medium pot and bring it to 325°F or 162°C over medium heat. Fry the basil leaves until they turn dark green and crispy about 1 minute. Scoop them out with a spider strainer, set aside on wire rack to cool.
  • Fry the Chicken (Option 1). Prepare a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet. Working in batches, add the chicken with a pair of tongs. Make sure to not overcrowd the pot. Fry until lightly golden about 1 minute. Scoop the chicken from the oil with a spider strainer and let the chicken rest. Continue with the remaining chicken.
  • Second Fry the Chicken. Turn the heat up to 350°F or 175°C, fry the batches again in the same order you first fried them in for an additional 2 minutes or until the pieces float to the surface and are golden brown. Scoop the chicken from the oil and let the chicken rest on the wire rack.
  • Air-fry the Chicken (Option 2). Preheat your air fryer to 400°F. Using cooking spray, lightly grease the air fryer basket. Place the chicken into the basket leaving some space in between the pieces. Spray the tops of the chicken with the cooking spray. Cook at 400°F or 204°C for 5 minutes. Then flip the chicken and coat with more cooking spray and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes then spray with oil and cook for an additional 5 more minutes. (This will mimic a second fry) Remove from the basket and let the chicken rest on a wire rack.
  • Bake the Chicken (Option 3). Preheat the oven to 450°F or 232°C. Place the chicken on a wire rack over a foil lined baking sheet. Spray the chicken with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and coat with more cooking spray and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Mix the seasoning mixture. In a small bowl mix together the seasoning mixture. Once the chicken is cooked toss chicken with the seasoning to taste. Serve with the fried Thai basil leaves. Enjoy immediately.

Notes

  • Use fatty cuts of chicken. For the juiciest and most tender bites, I recommend using a cut with more fat. The fat will melt into the chicken as it cooks yielding a juicier bite.
  • Marinate the chicken for at least 1 hour. Marinating the chicken will allow the chicken time to soak in the flavors for a more flavorful and tasty Taiwanese popcorn chicken.
  • Use a heavy-bottomed pot to deep fry. Make sure you use a heavy-bottomed pot to deep fry and hold the hot oil. Make sure there is plenty of room on the edges of the pot so the oil doesn’t boil over.
  • Keep a kitchen thermometer in the oil. Keeping a kitchen thermometer in the oil can regulate the changing temperatures of the oil when frying.
  • For air frying or oven baking, spray the chicken with oil. You will need to spray the chicken with oil in order for the chicken to brown and become crispy. Make sure that each piece has enough oil so the chicken browns evenly.
  • Storage Instructions: This dish is best served immediately. You can store this Taiwanese fried chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. It will lose its crispiness over time in the freezer. To reheat simply pop them in the oven or air fryer until warm.

Nutrition:

Calories: 2659kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 256g | Saturated Fat: 42g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 137g | Monounsaturated Fat: 63g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 148mg | Sodium: 1719mg | Potassium: 380mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 151IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 2mg

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