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An easy black pepper chicken with juicy tender chicken, crisp vegetables and a rich savory black pepper sauce. It takes no time to put together and tastes better than your usual Chinese restaurant takeout! {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Real-deal Chinese restaurant style black pepper chicken cooked in a wok

Black pepper chicken should be one of the meals on your dinner menu rotation. Not only because it’s so easy to put together and delicious, but also because it is loaded with healthy lean protein and colorful veggies that make it perfect as a one-pot meal. 

Making restaurant stir fry might look challenging at first glance, but once you’ve followed a solid recipe once, you’ll understand the workflow and the whole process will become way less intimidating. Plus, once you’ve tasted how great a homemade stir fry is, you’ll prefer it over takeout. The homemade version also contains less oil, sugar, and sodium, which is better for your body.

Black pepper chicken ingredients

For black pepper chicken, you probably already have most of the ingredients in your pantry.

Make sure you cut the ingredients, prepare the sauce, and marinate the chicken before you start cooking. When the stir fry starts, you will need to move fast so the ingredients won’t overcook.

When you’re ready to cook, your table should have:

  • Minced ginger and garlic in a plate
  • Mixed sauce (it’s nice to have a small spoon on the side because you’ll need to stir the sauce again before adding it to the pan)
  • Marinated chicken

I like to prepare by grouping my ingredients together so it makes the cooking easier, plus you will have fewer bowls to clean up later.

Cooking notes

1. The key for tender juicy chicken

No matter whether you use chicken breasts or thighs, if you follow this procedure you will get super tender chicken just like you’d get at a Chinese restaurant:

  • Always cut the meat against the grain. Try to maintain the same thickness and size for each slice.
  • Always marinate the chicken. The whole process will help soften the chicken and create a rich flavor.
  • Let the chicken sear for 30 seconds before stirring it. If you try to stir the chicken immediately, you’ll find it stuck to the pan due to the cornstarch in the recipe. If you let the chicken cook for a bit before moving it, the meat will come out well-seared without being torn apart.

2. Why you need to remove the chicken once

Transferring the half-cooked chicken to a plate before adding the rest of the ingredients is crucial for two reasons. 

  • When you add the sauce and veggies, the pan temperature will drop significantly. If you don’t take the chicken out beforehand, the veggies won’t be seared properly, and the sauce will reduce very slowly. Both result in a soupy dish with steamed ingredients.
  • The chicken is slightly underdone when you remove it, and is just cooked through once added back. If you leave the chicken in the skillet the whole time, by the time that the veggies are cooked, the chicken will be way overdone – dry and chewy.

3. Get used to the pace of stir frying

I found that Chinese stir frying has a much faster pace than most Western cooking. When I start cooking a dish, it takes me about 5 minutes (or maybe less) to finish. This means you have less than a minute between adding ingredients. So do read through the recipe before cooking, and move quickly once you start.

How to make black pepper chicken

  1. Spread out the chicken in a heated large skillet
  2. Once the surface of the chicken is lightly charred but the inside is still pink, remove from the pan
  3. Add the aromatics and saute gently
  4. Stir fry the vegetables
  5. Pour in the black pepper sauce and cook until it thickens
  6. Add back the chicken and stir everything together
Black Pepper Chicken Process Chinese restaurant style black pepper chicken in a wok close up

That’s it! The chicken is tender and juicy and the vegetables crisp with vibrant colors. You can serve it by itself or over steamed rice. For a healthier meal, try to use steamed brown rice. If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for a month or two. I hope you enjoy!

More Chinese takeout recipes

  • Chinese Curry Chicken
  • Chinese Beef and Broccoli (牛肉炒西兰花)
  • Sweet and Sour Tofu (糖醋豆腐)
  • Easy Shrimp and Broccoli
  • Easy Mongolian Meatballs

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An easy black pepper chicken with juicy tender chicken, crisp vegetables and a rich savory black pepper sauce. It takes no time to put together and tastes better than your usual Chinese restaurant takeout! {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Black Pepper Chicken

An easy black pepper chicken with juicy tender chicken, crisp vegetables and a rich savory black pepper sauce. It takes no time to put together and tastes better than your usual Chinese restaurant takeout! {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

To make the dish gluten-free, use tamari instead of soy sauce (both light and dark), and use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine.

Author: Maggie Zhu

Course: Main

Cuisine: Chinese

Keyword: takeout

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 1 lb (450 g) chicken breasts (or thighs) , sliced against the grain into 1/4” (5-mm) thick pieces


  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Stir fry

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1/2 white onion , chopped
  • 2 bell peppers , chopped (I used mixed colors)


  • Combine chicken, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and cornstarch in a medium-sized bowl. Gently mix by hand until the chicken is coated with a thin layer of the mixture. Marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the chicken. Immediately spread the chicken into a single layer using a spatula, with as little overlap as possible. Sear for 30 seconds or so, until the bottom is lightly browned. Flip the chicken. Cook for 15 to 20 seconds. Stir occasionally, until both sides are browned but still a bit pink inside. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the ginger and garlic. Give it a quick stir until fragrant. Add the white onion and peppers. Stir and cook for 20 seconds.

  • Stir the sauce mixture until the cornstarch is dissolved completely, and pour it into the skillet. Stir with a spatula immediately and cook until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, a few seconds. Add back the cooked chicken. Quickly stir a few times to coat everything with the sauce. Turn off heat and remove the skillet from the stove. Immediately transfer everything to a big plate so the ingredients won’t keep cooking in the hot skillet.

  • Serve hot as a main dish.


Serving: 1 serving , Calories: 269 kcal , Carbohydrates: 17.8 g , Protein: 26.1 g , Fat: 10 g , Saturated Fat: 1.2 g , Cholesterol: 73 mg , Sodium: 674 mg , Potassium: 607 mg , Fiber: 1.3 g , Sugar: 9.4 g , Calcium: 20 mg , Iron: 1 mg

The post was published on July 11, 2018 and updated by Jun 9, 2022.