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This recipe for Chinese salt and pepper chicken wings is a delicious and unique twist on the classic chicken wing recipe. With flavorful ingredients like Chinese five spice powder and white pepper powder, this chicken wing recipe will make your tastebuds dance!
This salt and pepper chicken wing recipe is actually extremely near and dear to me because I grew up eating Taiwanese salt and pepper chicken at night markets in Taipei, Taiwan. Chinese salt and pepper chicken is highly nostalgic for me and I crave it all the time. Thankfully, with the Taiwanese and Chinese cultural prevalence in the area I live, salt and pepper chicken is fairly easy to find — but finding the place that makes it just like Taiwan is a bit more difficult.
My recipe for salt and pepper chicken is the wings version. This is obviously a little more difficult to eat walking around than the traditional salt and pepper chicken cubes. It is still very delicious and a new way to make chicken wings.
What is Chinese salt and pepper chicken?
To clarify, salt and pepper chicken originated in Taiwan. Most people call it “Chinese” because they associate Taiwanese as Chinese and I’d just like to say we are not one in the same. Similar, but not the same. That’s like saying New Zealanders are Australian.
Whatever you call it, Chinese salt and pepper chicken or Taiwanese salt and pepper chicken, the concept is the same. It’s a traditional street food that consists of dark meat chicken chunks coated in a crunchy crust and tossed in a salt and pepper mixture. They typically serve it in a newspaper or parchment paper funnel and give you a long toothpick for it. The idea is what you can walk around (typically the night market) while snacking on it.
Also, to clarify the salt and pepper mixture: it is not just salt and ground black pepper. The name is deceiving but the pepper in Asian salt and pepper chicken is white pepper powder. More on that below.
Ingredients You’ll Need
For exact measurements, scroll down to the bottom of the post for the recipe card.
- Chicken wings – both drums and flats are used in this recipe.
- Fresh minced garlic
- Grated ginger
- Brown sugar
- Cornstarch – this gives the crust on the chicken wings an extraordinary crunch and texture.
- Chinese five spice powder – this spice is heavily complex and savory in flavor and it is what gives salt and pepper chicken its unique taste.
- White pepper powder – the star of the show is white pepper powder. Different than ground black pepper, white pepper powder is more earthy and has a tiny bit more heat. It gives a slow burn in the back of your throat and is predominantly used in Asian/Chinese cooking as opposed to black pepper.
Substituting white pepper powder for black pepper: I highly do not recommend substituting this. It makes this dish inauthentic and the flavor is just off and not traditional. White pepper powder is a lot easier to find these days in the Asian section of your local grocery store or Amazon always has it.
How to make Chinese salt and pepper chicken wings
For full instructions, scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe card.
Dry rub and marinate the chicken. In a large bowl, add your chicken wings then garlic, ginger, and brown sugar. Using your hands, disperse and massage the mixture together. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.
Set oven and prepare baking sheets. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare two large baking sheets. Line the bottoms with foil then place a metal baking rack on top. This encourages air flow which will give your chicken wings so much extra crunch! You can lightly spray the metal baking rack a bit of cooking spray to prevent sticking.
Coat your chicken wings. To get that amazing exterior crunch and texture, you’ll want to toss the chicken wings with cornstarch. No need to rinse the dry rub off!
Line up the chicken wings. Take the chicken wings and gently shake off the excess cornstarch. Line the chicken wings on the prepared baking sheets, evenly spaced about 2 inches apart, ensuring they do not touch.
Bake. Bake the chicken wings for 30-35 minutes.
Make the seasoning mix. While the chicken is baking, mix together the Chinese five spice powder, white pepper, and salt.
Toss in seasoning mix. When the chicken is done, remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Using tongs, place chicken wings in a large bowl, sprinkle seasoning mix on top and toss to coat.
What to serve with Chinese salt and pepper chicken wings?
I associate salt and pepper chicken with snacking because that’s what it’s really what it is tradionally meant to be. You can serve these salt and pepper chicken wings with a spread of Taiwanese appetizers such as Scallion Pancakes (蔥油餅), Spicy Chinese Cucumber Salad, Taiwanese Tea Eggs or pair the chicken wings with a Taiwanese main entree such as Instant Pot Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (牛肉面) or Taiwanese Braised Minced Pork (滷肉飯).
Can I use all drums or all flats? Yes, you can use whatever kind of chicken wings you like.
Can I use regular chicken for this recipe? Sure, you can cube your boneless, skinless chicken thighs into cubes and follow the same instructions. I caution against using chicken breasts as they will be too dry and not juicy.
What if I can’t find Chinese five spice powder? Amazon sells it or you can make your own!
Do I have to marinate it for two hours? Can it be less? You can definitely do it for less time, such as 30 minutes, but the longer it marinates, the more flavor it develops from the garlic and ginger.
Storing and reheating instructions
The best way to reheat chicken wings is to do so in the oven at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes. With the crust on these salt and pepper chicken wings, you’re going to want to do that instead of the microwave.
Chinese Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings
- 2 ½ pounds chicken wings, combination of drums and flats
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 ¼ teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
- 2 teaspoons white pepper powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
The default measuring system for this website is US Customary. Unit conversions are provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. While we strive to provide accurate unit conversions, please be aware that there may be some discrepancies.
- Place your chicken wings in a large bowl. Add garlic, ginger, and brown sugar. Using your hands, massage the mixture to coat the chicken.
- Cover and put in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400 °F and line two large rimmed baking sheets with foil then place a metal baking rack on top of each. Lightly spray the baking racks with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Remove chicken from fridge and add cornstarch on top. Toss the chicken in the cornstarch until all chicken wings are coated.
- Arrange the chicken wings on top of the baking rack, shaking off the excess cornstarch before placing on the rack. Make sure the chicken wings don't touch and there's at least 2 inches between each.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 °F. For a more browned exterior, broil for 1-2 minutes, keeping a close eye on it.
- While the chicken is baking, mix together Chinese five spice powder, white pepper powder, and salt.
- Remove chicken wings from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Using tongs, add the chicken wings to a large bowl then toss in the seasoning mixture. Adjust to your taste whether that be more pepper, more five spice powder, or more salt.
- Serve and enjoy!
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Sunday 13th of November 2022
Can air fryer be used for the chicken wings receipe ? Thank you.
Wednesday 16th of November 2022
yes, definitely!! you'll just have to do them in batches so it might take a while.