This easy, delicious, umami-packed black pepper chicken is inspired by the restaurant version from Panda Express. With only ten minutes of active cook time, it’s the perfect weeknight meal to fulfill your takeout craving. Low-carb and keto-friendly! Try it out today. For another easy weeknight meal, try my Korean BBQ Meatballs.
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I’m going to give it to you straight. It’s 2020, my family has been stuck in the house since March, and sometimes cooking just gets old. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cooked the vast majority of our daily meals since we’ve been in isolation, but I’m not going to pretend that we have not had our fair share of restaurant food delivered straight to our front door.
We might as well have a loyalty card at this point.
One meal that I keep returning to is delicious Chinese Black Pepper Chicken. I’ve had this from several local spots around town, but most recently from Panda Express. It was late and they were still open, so big chain food was in the cards.
I started thinking about the cost effectiveness of ordering a dish that seemed so easy to make right at home. Actually, one of my more popular recipes is a restaurant “copycat” that I love; my Blackened Chicken Tenders inspired by the Popeye’s version.
So I sought out to recreate Black Pepper Chicken in my modest home kitchen, and it turned out absolutely wonderfully. Now, that’s not to say that you won’t catch me scrolling through the delivery apps ever again, but at least I have a life saver of a recipe in my back pocket for when the craving hits. Let’s get into some details.
What Ingredients Will I Need?
To make this Panda Express inspired black pepper chicken you will need the following:
- Chicken Thighs, boneless, skinless
- Garlic Cloves, minced
- Sliced Celery
- Chopped Green Onion
- White Onion, Sliced
- Chicken Broth
- Oyster Sauce
- Ground Ginger
- Low Sodium Soy Sauce
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Kosher Salt
- Coarse Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Is Black Pepper Chicken Keto-Friendly?
The Panda Express version of this dish contains 15 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber. My version has just 4 net grams of carbs making it low-carb and suitable for a ketogenic lifestyle.
Is Black Pepper Chicken Fried/Breaded?
This chicken is not breaded and the recipe uses no flour. It is stir fried over high heat for maximum flavor and a quick meal. In fact, this dish only takes about 10 minutes of active cook time.
What is Oyster Sauce?
If you’re thinking about skipping the oyster sauce, I beg you to reconsider. This bold, savory, flavorful, umami-packed sauce boosts the flavor of any dish that it’s added to. But, what exactly is it? As the name suggests, oyster sauce is made of oysters that have been cooked in water until caramelized, viscous, and dark brown. There are often other additives such as soy sauce, salt, corn starch, and sometimes sugar. The additives will vary depending on the brand you buy. Oyster sauce should be relatively easy to find without the need for visiting a specialty market. It was readily available in multiple brands on the “international” aisle of my local HEB as well as Walmart.
Can I Use Chicken Breast Instead of Chicken Thighs?
I’ve tested this recipe many times using both chicken breast and chicken thighs. While chicken breast works just fine, that’s all it is to me; “fine.” In my experience using chicken thighs results in a much more flavorful, addictive, juicy, and crave-worthy dish.
Do I Need a Wok to Make Black Pepper Chicken?
While stir fry is often best prepared using a wok, I find that a large cast iron skillet works really well. Cast iron holds heat well and evenly distributes it. So don’t fret if you don’t have a wok at your disposal.
As obvious of a point as this is to make, I’m still going to make it. This recipe uses a lot of black pepper; three tablespoons to be exact. I highly advise against using finely ground black pepper. What you want is coarse black pepper. I like to buy whole black peppercorns and grind them myself in my spice grinder. You can simply purchase coarse ground black pepper as well. As long as you’re not using finely ground black pepper you should be good!
How to Make Panda Express Inspired Black Pepper Chicken
- Start by prepping your veggies. Slice the celery and onions (white and green) and mince the garlic. Set Aside.
- Cut chicken thighs into small, bite sized pieces, approximately ¼ inch in thickness.
- To create the marinade, combine the chicken broth, oyster sauce, ground ginger, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, salt and coarse black pepper in a large bowl. Stir well using a whisk until a homogenous sauce forms.
- Toss the chicken and vegetables in the marinade until well coated. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap, and allow the chicken to marinade in the refrigerator for at least one hour. You can also marinade overnight for a quick and easy meal the next day.
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator.
- In a large cast iron skillet, heat the grapeseed oil over medium high heat for at least two minutes. If you do not have grapeseed oil, use your favorite high heat oil of choice. I would avoid extra virgin olive oil. While it’s a common choice, it tends to have a lower smoke point and burn more quickly.
- Add the contents of the bowl to the hot oil in the skillet, and stir fry for approximately ten minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.
Serving Suggestions (Keto):
- Serve with steamed broccoli
- Serve over cauliflower rice
- Serve with your favorite noodle substitute
- Eat it straight up out the pan, as-is (this choice is near and dear to my heart)
That’s all. Easy as can be. This recipe works great as a weeknight meal that’s low-fuss and high-flavor.
As usual, try it out and let me know what you think. Don’t forget to tag me on Instagram so that I can show off your creation! Join the family while you’re there. I’d love to have you.
Can’t make this right now? Save it to your favorite Pinterest board for later so that you don’t lose it!
This easy, delicious, umami-packed black pepper chicken is inspired by the restaurant version from Panda Express. With only ten minutes of active cook time, it's the perfect weeknight meal to fulfill your takeout craving. Low-carb and keto-friendly! Try it out today.
- 2.5 pounds Chicken Thighs, boneless, skinless
- 4 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 cup Sliced Celery
- 1 cup Chopped Green Onion
- 1/2 White Onion, Sliced
- ½ cup Chicken Broth
- 2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
- 2 teaspoons Ground Ginger
- 2 teaspoons Low Sodium Soy Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 2 tablespoons Coarse Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Cut chicken thighs into small bite-sized pieces, approximately 1/4 inch in thickness.
Prepare the vegetables - minced the garlic, slice the celery, chop the green onion, and slice the white onion, Set aside.
To create the marinade combine the chicken broth, oyster sauce, ground ginger, low sodium soy sauce, rice win vinegar, salt, and coarse black pepper in a large bowl. Use a whisk to stir until one homogenous sauce forms.
Toss the chicken and vegetables in the marinade until well-coated. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour to marinate.
Add the grapeseed oil to a large cast iron skillet, and heat over medium high heat on the stovetop for two minutes.
Add the contents of the bowl to the hot oil and stir fry for ten minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked.
This chicken can be served with steamed broccoli, cauliflower rice, or your favorite noodle substitute.
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Mr. Kitchen Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet Frying Pan-12 inch Non- Stick for Home
Hamilton Beach Fresh Grind 4.5oz Electric Coffee Grinder for Beans, Spices and More, Stainless Steel Blades, Black
Amazon Brand - Happy Belly Tellicherry Black Pepper, Whole Peppercorn, 3.5 Ounces
Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Flavored Sauce 18 Ounce (1 Pack)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 380Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 231mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 47g