If you’ve ever tasted Chilli Chicken, you know why it’s one of the most popular dishes in Indo-Chinese restaurants. Crispy juicy chicken in a tangy spicy sauce with crunchy blistered peppers and onions. Just thinking about a full steaming plate whisked to the table in a cloud of delicious aromas makes my mouth water.
This homemade Air Fryer or Stovetop Chilli Chicken recipe is much lighter and healthier than the restaurant-style deep-fried version. Yet just as flavor-packed with ginger, garlic, fresh and dried chilis, vinegar, and soy. Packing in more fresh veggies and skipping the deep-frying makes this a very family-friendly meal.
What is Chilli Chicken?
Chilli chicken is a popular Indo-Chinese dish that combines Chinese cooking techniques with Indian flavors. It's a flavorful and spicy dish made with boneless chicken pieces that are typically marinated, deep-fried, and then stir-fried with a variety of aromatic and spicy ingredients.
In this recipe, we achieve the same crispy saucy deliciousness using healthier cooking techniques making it a favorite homemade meal on regular rotation. The best part is that it can be enjoyed in two ways - Chilli Chicken dry, everyone’s favorite starter, Or Chilli Chicken Gravy which can be made by increasing the sauce ingredients and serving over Hakka noodles or fried rice for a fun dinner!
Why is Chili Chicken so good? This dish beautifully represents the appeal of Indo/Chinese cooking with its big bold flavors and blend of ingredients from different cultures. Ginger, garlic, and spicy chilies from India mixed with soy and vinegar from China create a uniquely delicious flavor profile. Indo-Chinese cooking was born in Kolkata and remains incredibly popular to this day.
- Chicken thighs (boneless skinless): Higher in B vitamins, zinc, and iron than white meat. Also less likely to overcook
- Kashmiri Red Chili Powder: vibrant red chili powder, mild heat, full flavor with a hint of smoke.
- Ginger: zesty, slightly sweet, warming spice. Packed with antioxidants, strong anti-inflammatory properties, positive effect on blood sugar and blood pressure, aids in digestion & so much more!
- Garlic: highly aromatic, can be stronger or milder based on cutting and cooking techniques. It may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol protect against heart disease, also be anti-inflammatory
- Dark Soy: darker, thicker, more aged, slightly sweeter, and less salty than other soy
- Chili Garlic Sauce: spice paste of chilis, garlic, and vinegar found at any Asian grocery
- Red and green bell peppers: low in calories, a good source of vitamins A & C, red variety also contains beta-carotene
- Green Chili: spicy heat, source of vitamin A, capsaicin may also boost metabolism
How to Make Chilli Chicken
- In a medium bowl mix together chili powder, salt, black pepper, ginger garlic paste, vinegar, water, cornstarch, and all-purpose flour. Add chicken pieces and coat well (photo 1)
- Preheat the Air Fryer for 5 mins at 400 F. Lightly spray the bottom of the air fryer basket with oil spray. Line half of the chicken in the basket. Do not overcrowd them so you can get crispy chicken. Lightly spray the chicken with oil. Cook at 380 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until the chicken is cooked golden brown, shaking the basket halfway through. Take the air-fried chicken out and reserve. Repeat with the remaining chicken (photos 2, 3, 4)
- Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add white scallions, ginger, garlic, green chili. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes as the garlic starts to turn light golden and aromatic (photos 5 - 6)
- Next, add the onions and peppers and saute for 2 to 3 minutes (photos 7 - 8)
- Stir together soy sauce, chili garlic paste, sugar, and water. Add it to the pan and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly (photo 9)
- Add the cornstarch slurry and cook until the liquids start to thicken. Turn the heat down (photo 10)
- Add the fried chicken to the pan when you are ready to serve (photo 10)
- Mix well and cook until everything is heated through without overcooking the onions and peppers. Garnish with scallions (photo 11)
Tips for the best Homemade Chilli Chicken
- Use boneless chicken thighs as they stay moist and soft
- Adjust the green chili and Kashmiri red chili powder for more or less heat to the final dish
- Add a mix of colored peppers like red and green to a visually appealing dish
- Do not overcook the onions and peppers, you want a nice crunch to them
- Add the air-fried chicken when you are ready to serve for crisp textures
- Check out the notes in the recipe card to make chili chicken gravy
Chilli chicken is best enjoyed hot. When making ahead, add the chicken to the veggies just before serving.
To make ahead, cook the veggies and air fry the chicken. Then reheat the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes just before tossing it in the skillet with the veggies. Enjoy right away for the best textures and flavors.
To reheat leftovers, place the Chilli chicken on a baking tray and reheat at 400 for 5 minutes. You can also microwave the leftovers which will still taste delicious minus the crisp textures of the chicken.
What is the difference between chicken 65 and chicken chilli?
While both Chicken 65 and chicken chili involve marinating and frying chicken, Chicken 65 has South Indian roots, is heavily spiced, and is typically served as an appetizer. On the other hand, chicken chili is an Indo-Chinese dish, has a milder spice level with a soy-based sauce, and is often served as a main course.
Chicken 65 is typically made with bite-sized bone-in or boneless chicken pieces that are marinated in a blend of spices, yogurt, and often curry leaves. Unlike Chicken Chilli it does not have additional veggies like onions and peppers. The marinated chicken is then deep-fried until crispy. It is known for its intense flavor, which includes a mix of heat, tanginess, and aromatic spices.
Air Fryer Cooking Tips
- You may need to increase or decrease the cooking time depending on your air fryer. Check your food frequently to prevent it from burning. This is especially important during the last few minutes of cooking. Air fryers come in different sizes, so your food might not fit the same way that recipes online show.
- Do not use aerosol spray cans to apply the non-stick spray to the basket. Aerosol spray cans usually contain harsh ingredients that are known to cause chipping in air fryer baskets.
- Shake the basket during cooking times for smaller things like chicken wings, fries, and small veggies. Do this every few minutes or halfway through cooking.
- Be careful not to press the basket release button while you are carrying the baskets. This will cause the inner basket to pull out and the outer basket will drop, which might damage it.
- Do not place anything on top of your air fryer. This disrupts the airflow and will cause poor air frying results.
- If you air fry high-fat foods, pour out the fat droppings from under the inner basket. This will prevent excess smoke while it cooks next time.
Chilli Chicken - Airfryer or Stovetop recipe
- 1 pound chicken thighs skinless and boneless, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon ginger diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 green chili sliced
- ½ cup white scallions chopped
- 1 cup red onion cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 cup red pepper cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup green pepper cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup green scallions chopped
- Pat dry the chicken well with paper towels.
- In a medium bowl mix together Kashmiri red chili powder, salt, black pepper, ginger paste, garlic paste, vinegar, water, cornstarch, and all-purpose flour. Add chicken pieces and coat well. Allow the chicken to marinate for 10-minutes as you prep the veggies.
- Preheat the air fryer for 5 mins at 400 F. Lightly spray the bottom of the air fryer basket with oil. Line half of the chicken in the basket. Do not overcrowd them so you can get crispy chicken. Lightly spray oil over the chicken. Cook at 380 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes shaking the basket halfway through. Take the air-fried chicken out and reserve. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
- Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add white scallions, ginger, garlic, green chili, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes as the garlic starts to turn light golden and aromatic.
- Then add the onions and peppers and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir together soy sauce, chili garlic paste, sugar, and water. Add it to the pan and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.
- Add the cornstarch slurry and cook until the liquids start to thicken. Turn the heat down. Toss the air-fried chicken in the pan when you are ready to serve. Cook until everything is heated through without overcooking the onions and peppers. Garnish with scallions.
- To make Chilli chicken gravy, follow the same recipe as above. Simply, add the corn starch to 1 cup of water
- Add another tablespoon of chili garlic paste, and adjust salt to taste
- Shallow fry the chicken in 2 to 3 batches. Heat 1-inch oil in a skillet
- Add the chicken pieces and shallow fry them for 5 to 6 mins. Once ready take them out on a paper towel-lined dish and reserve
- Repeat with the remaining chicken