Taiwanese popcorn chicken

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken with Crispy Basil

This Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken recipe is absolutely delicious. Full of flavour, texture and umami. They’re incredibly moreish and go down so well with a cold beer.

I personally discovered Taiwanese Fried Chicken in Europe and learnt that it’s one of those dishes that you can make almost identically at home. With a killer marinade, the right starch and a pot of oil, you can make fried chicken really easily.

The dish has been known as Popcorn Chicken in the west but is know as Taiwanese Fried Chicken in Taiwan. It originates from the night markets of Taiwan and has become incredibly popular all over the world.

Taiwanese popcorn chicken fried

What Makes the Perfect Taiwanese Fried Chicken?

In this section I’ll break down the different components of getting the perfect Taiwanese popcorn chicken. From the marinade to frying, learn more about each step and how you can make it at home.


For an authentic Taiwanese Popcorn chicken you’ll need boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or legs). These are very forgiving when fried and stay super juicy. Breast can work as well but doesn’t have the texture and flavour.

Taiwanese popcorn chicken thigh
Chicken thighs diced into 1 inch pieces and seasoned with salt.

A Flavourful Marinade

I’d argue the most important part of making a really good Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken is the marinade. Even marinating for 30 minutes will result in super tender, flavourful chicken bites. It’s not just the ingredients, it’s also how you prepare them and mix them into the chicken. Here are the key components of a great marinade for popcorn chicken:

5 spice marinade
The marinade mixed with the chicken. You should have a thick mixture that is well combined.
  • Ginger & Garlic: A small amount of garlic and ginger is used in this recipe. They both perfume and flavour the chicken which when combined with salt penetrate into the meat and are kept in place when frying by the thickening from the cornstarch. The key here is to grate the garlic and ginger to ensure even distribution and to retain the juices. Note that you’ll need fresh garlic and ginger – dried won’t work.

  • Soy Sauce: Soy sauce is added for flavour and for colour. Light is best but you can use dark if you’ve only got that on hand.

  • Cooking Wine: Shaoxing cooking wine is used for sweetness and flavour. The alcohol will also help puff up the batter to make it extra crispy! Sherry can be used as a replacement.

  • Salt, Sugar & Spices: Salt, sugar, white pepper and Chinese Five Spice are used to flavour and season the chicken. The 5 Spice gives it the characteristic flavour so don’t miss that out!

  • Cornstarch & Egg White: Cornstarch is very important to the marinade. It both thickens the marinade ensuring the flavours adhere to the chicken. Both egg whites and cornstarch also help to tenderise the chicken over time due to the more alkaline ph.

Which Flour?

Now you’ve marinated your chicken, you’ll need to flour it before you fry. By adding flour, or starch, you create a fantastic crust that becomes craggy and crunchy after frying.

The best flour to use for Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken is coarse sweet potato starch. This can be found in your local Asian markets. Coarse sweet potato starch has large granules which makes is super crispy and full of texture!

If you can’t find this then potato starch or plain corn starch will be fine. I also use a small amount of baking powder to add even more crunch.

coarse sweet potato flour


To make Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken you will need to deep fry. This isn’t as hard as you think. Discover our guide on how to deep fry at home.

Some recipes say that you need to double fry for extra crispiness however I think this is excessive. Why? The chicken is cut into small chunks and will cook quickly. Keeping the fryer on for extended periods will produce more frying odours then and it’s even messier having to do it twice.

You’ll get perfectly crispy chicken if you fry once at 180c/356f (initial temperature) for a few minutes.


Now you’ve fried your chicken you’re ready for the final step – the all important seasoning!

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken is finished off with fried Thai basil leaves. These are put in the fryer at the end with the chicken to crisp up. You just need to be careful and cover the pot with a lid as they will splatter oil as they fry!

Finally the chicken is seasoned with a mix of salt, white pepper, MSG (optional but it is safe!) and Chinese five spice.

Dipping Sauce

OK to preface, a dipping sauce is not traditional (at least not from what i’ve seen!). But that said I do love having a mayo based dipping sauce! I make mine by mixing store bought mayo and Doubanjiang sauce. The result is a creamy, umami and spicy sauce that works perfectly with the fried chicken.

dipping sauce


Makes enough for 2 people.

Chicken & Marinade

  • 200g of boneless, skinless chicken thighs diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 knob of ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine (sherry can be used a replacement)
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 0.25 tsp white pepper
  • 0.5 tsp Chinese five spice
  • 0.5 tsp MSG (optional)


  • 150g corse sweet potato starch (or cornstarch)
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder


  • 1 handful Thai basil (or normal basil)
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 0.1 tsp Chinese five spice
  • 0.25 tsp MSG (optional)
  • 0.1 tsp white pepper

For the dipping sauce

  • 50g mayonnaise
  • 50g Doubanjiang sauce

How to Make Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

  1. Start by dicing your chicken thighs into 1 inch cubes. Put them them into a mixing bowl and season lightly with salt.

  2. Add the rest of the marinade ingredients in and mix with your hands. Massage the chicken aggressively with your hands – this will help tenderise the chicken even more. The mixture should be quite thick at this point (if not add more cornstarch). Reserve the chicken in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.

  3. When you’re ready to fry heat a pot of oil or fryer to 180c/356f.

  4. Mix the corse sweet potato starch or cornstarch with the baking soda.

  5. Toss the chicken into the starch and ensure that it’s well coated.

  6. Fry the chicken for a few minutes, work in batches if needed. Ensure the chicken hits 75c/167f internally and place on kitchen roll to soak up excess oil.

  7. Once the chicken is cooked place the Thai basil leaves in the oil and immediately cover with a lid. Once the crackling and popping as stopped, remove and reserve on kitchen roll.

  8. For the dipping sauce, mix the mayonnaise and Doubanjiang sauce together.

  9. Once ready to eat, season the chicken with the seasoning powder and serve immediately!
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