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Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞)

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Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) recipe on

What another whirlwind weekend it’s been. We just got back from Knoxville last night from a family wedding. It was a perfect weekend; sunny, mid-70s and no clouds in the sky!

With all the flying we’ve been doing lately, I keeping thinking about how airplanes are miraculous little {big} metal things. As much as I hate flying, I can’t help but think, every time we’re in the air, how awesome it is that this invention is able to bring families and friends together. I also love how there are always so many different people, each with a different story, traveling to a million different places for different reasons. However, what’s interesting to me is, even though everyone traveling has a different purpose, I love that in a way, we all have the same purpose and all somehow have six degrees of separation.

I say this because on the flight to Atlanta on Thursday evening, we sat next to a man whom we didn’t know (like how it usually is). Jason chatted with him for part of the flight and then we said our goodbyes, as we were off to different places. As we boarded the plane on Sunday evening and made our way to our row, the same man was in our same row, too. And it’s not like we were in the same row, either. CRAZY! And even crazier? After chatting with him some more, we found out that his business partner’s son and I went to the same high school and university…ahhh small world!!

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) recipe on

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) recipe on

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) recipe on

It feels appropriate that after my two weeks in Taiwan that I share a traditional Taiwanese dish with you. This is one of my favorite dishes my mom makes and it’s so comforting and reminds me of home and Taiwan. We had some in Taiwan and it was incredible. Nothing like getting it from the place it originates!

So it’s called Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) because you use one cup of each: soy sauce, sesame oil, and cooking wine. However, my mom and I alter the recipe a lot to our own tastes and we don’t really use a whole cup of each because we find that to be a little too much! As with all traditional dishes, it’s always altered to suit your own taste buds and never is made the same twice. Below, the recipe is just a base and you can use it as is or continue to build upon it based on your personal taste preference. I do suggest that you taste the sauce before putting your chicken all up in it because then you can’t turn around!

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) recipe on

I took photos of the raw chicken legs to help you picture what they look like when you get them at the grocery store. I found mine at the Asian mart but you should be able to find them at your regular grocery store. If you can’t find them already chopped like this (it’s basically a chicken drumstick chopped in half), just get regular drumsticks and hack them in half and you’ll get the above.

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) recipe on

Lots of garlic, ginger, and basil in this dish! It’s essential so don’t skimp :)

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) recipe on

And the three ingredients that make up the “three-cup chicken” namesake!

Closeup of three cup chicken in skillet with basil leaves

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞)

This traditional Taiwanese dish is a family favorite and easy to make at home!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Julie Chiou
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  • 2 ½ tablespoon black sesame oil
  • 20 cloves garlic, kept whole but smashed
  • 1 large ginger root, sliced
  • 3 pounds chicken drumsticks, halved
  • cup dark soy sauce*
  • ½ cup Chinese cooking wine
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
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  • In a large skillet over medium high heat up 2 1/2 tbsp. of sesame oil until glistening. Add the garlic and ginger into the skillet and cook until the edges of the ginger slices are slightly browned and golden. About 7 minutes. You'll need to keep tossing the garlic and ginger so they don't burn.
  • Add the chicken drumsticks to the skillet then add the soy sauce, cooking wine, water, and basil leaves. Gently toss to coat then turn the heat to medium low and cover skillet and let look for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the chicken so the other sides of the chicken can cook in the sauce. You'll want to keep turning the chicken every 10 minutes until the meat turns a dark brown. This took me about 35-40 minutes to cook to achieve the desired color.
  • Serve over rice.

Recipe Notes

  • Pour the extra sauce over rice and chicken. It's so good!!
  • Dark soy sauce has more in-depth flavor than regular soy sauce. It's also saltier. If you can't find dark soy sauce (different than regular soy sauce) at the store, it's perfectly fine to use regular soy sauce or low-sodium soy sauce. Adjust seasonings to your taste.
  • Transfer any leftover three cup chicken to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days. It can be reheated in the microwave or in a skillet set over medium heat.



Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 518 kcal | Carbohydrates: 8 g | Protein: 44 g | Fat: 30 g | Saturated Fat: 7 g | Trans Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 210 mg | Sodium: 1323 mg | Potassium: 660 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 1 g

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.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Keyword: 3 cup chicken, easy chicken dinners, san bei ji
Recipe Rating


Tuesday 6th of May 2014

This looks every kind of amazing!


Tuesday 6th of May 2014

I need this on the dinner table!

Gerry @ Foodness Gracious

Tuesday 6th of May 2014

Yeah, I could do some damage to this meal! Looks amazing..


Tuesday 6th of May 2014

What a wonderful dish, love traditional recipes and the stories behind them. Small world!

Ali | Gimme Some Oven

Monday 5th of May 2014

I love small world stories! So cool!

And this chicken sounds amazing! I've never heard of this recipe before, but all of those ingredients sound right up my alley. :)