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Recreate this Chinese takeaway favourite in the comfort of your own kitchen! A sticky and rich umami sauce clinging to tender chicken and crunchy veg. Serve this chicken in black bean sauce with a generous helping of steaming rice and your favourite pair of chopsticks!
What is it?
Black bean sauce is a Chinese dish that is popular throughout China and in Western cultures. It’s commonly served with either chicken or beef and vegetables in a stir fry.
The sauce uses fermented black beans and it’s very important to get the right type of bean (read on for more information on this).
This recipe combines chicken with red and green peppers, onion and spring onion. It’s really easy and quick to make (the hardest part is probably hunting down the right kind of beans).
What can I serve it with?
As with any classic Chinese takeaway, some egg-fried rice or plain steamed basmati is a must! Prawn crackers never go amiss either. If you want to make the meal into more of a banquet you could also add some sides – great if you are feeding a crowd. Some ideas include:
- Salt and pepper prawns
- Pak choi with oyster sauce
- Stir-fried morning glory (ok so this is technically Thai, but it goes really well)
What kind of black beans do I need?
It’s very important to get the right type of black beans for this recipe. Black bean sauce uses salted soya beans, not the large black beans you may be used to (the type you will find often in Mexican dishes, which are black turtle beans). They are usually called salted or fermented black beans (confusing, right). The official name is Douchi.
You’ll know you have the right stuff by the smell – they are very potent and have a rich and soy-like aroma. On their own, the beans taste bitter and salty but fear not. In the sauce, they bubble down into a sticky and delicious savoury flavour bomb!
While you may struggle to get these beans in your local supermarket, they are readily available in Asian stores or even on Amazon.
Can I just use black bean sauce instead?
Absolutely, you can use a premade black bean sauce instead of hunting down fermented beans (and to make the prep a little easier).
I recommend using a concentrated sauce which is more like a paste (such as this sauce). This will give you a more authentic result as you don’t have added flavours or preservatives and you can simply use this to replace the black beans in the recipe (and potentially garlic if it is included in the sauce you purchase.)
If you buy a ready-made stirfry sauce (such as this one) then you can use this to completely replace the sauce in the recipe, although these sauces tend to have a lot of extra sugar and other additives.
What can I use instead of Shaoxing wine?
Firstly, if it’s alcohol you are trying to avoid then fear not as the alcohol burns off during the cooking process.
If you simply can’t find it (it is available on Amazon) or would prefer not to use it for other reasons then opt for:
- Dry sherry – a simple cooking sherry is fine
- Mirin – a Japanese rice wine, which you can buy completely alcohol free from many supermarkets or online.
- Apple juice – as shaoxing wine is sweet, this is a good alternative to add extra sweet flavour.
What are the secrets of a good stir fry?
- When making a stir fry make sure you have everything ready in advance (this is called mise en place if you want to get cheffy about it). You want to cook everything quickly so the ingredients remain crisp and spending time chopping and mixing during the cooking process will slow you down.
- Use a wok – There is a reason why they are always used for quick cook recipes such as for stir fry – they have a large surface area, meaning you can spread things out and get more heat through the ingredients when cooking for a shorter period.
- Slice the veg thinly and evenly – big chunks will not cook quickly enough and uneven pieces won’t cook at the same rate.
- Hear the sizzle! – if the oil is not smoking hot then you’ll end up having to cook things longer resulting in a softer texture for your veg.
- Use an oil with a high smoke point. This is not an occasion for olive oil which will make your kitchen very smoky with the high heat. Good options are vegetable oil, sunflower oil or canola/rapeseed oil.
How to prepare the chicken
The best way to prepare chicken for stir-frying is to slice it into thin small strips. This is perfect for short and fast cooking over a searing high heat.
To do this cut the chicken breast in half along the length then cut small strips along the width. You might also find it easier to place the chicken in the freezer for 20-30 minutes first as the chicken will become more solid and therefore easier to slice into.
Can I make it in advance?
While this recipe is at its best when eaten straight away, you can keep it in the fridge, sealed, for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave, in the oven or on the hob/stove. Make sure it’s steaming hot before serving but be careful not to overdo it to prevent the chicken from drying out.
You can also freeze the recipe for up to 3 months. Defrost thoroughly before reheating.
For a full list of ingredients with weights and measurements jump to the printable recipe card.
For the chicken
- Chicken breast, skinless and boneless, sliced into thin pieces – see notes above for preparation tips
- Sesame oil
- Soy sauce
For the sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Dark soy sauce
- Shaoxing wine – see notes above for alternatives
For the stir-fry
- Onion, sliced into thick chunks
- Red & green peppers (capsicum), cut into thin pieces
- Fermented/salted black beans – for more information, see notes above
- Garlic, crushed
- Red chillis, finely chopped – if you prefer a totally mild dish then omit these
- Spring onions – sliced
How to make it
For more detailed steps with recipe tips jump to the printable recipe card.
- Mix all the chicken ingredients together, adding the chicken last once the marinade is fully combined.
- Make the sauce by mixing all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Rinse the black beans if fresh, or pour over boiling water and leave for 5-10 minutes if dried before draining.
- Lightly mash the beans with a fork and then stir together with the garlic.
- Heat the oil in a wok and stir fry the chicken for a couple of minutes until sealed.
- Add the onions and cook for a further minute.
- Add the peppers and spring onion and cook for another 1-2 minutes before adding the black beans and garlic mix.
- Cook for a further minute before pouring in the sauce and cooking for a final 1-2 minutes.
Looking for more great Chinese recipes? Try:
- Chinese cumin lamb
- Mandarin chicken
- Sweet and sour chicken hong kong style
- Salt and pepper chips
- Salt and pepper chicken
Products that work well for this recipe:
Fermented Black Beans
Carbon Steel Wok
Chopstick Helper – for Adults (2 pieces)
A sticky and rich umami sauce clinging to tender chicken and crunchy veg. This chicken in black bean sauce is delicious and easy – the perfect fakeaway!
The default recipe serves 4.
For the chicken…
- 500g/1lb skinless and boneless chicken breast, sliced into small thin pieces (see note 1)
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
For the sauce…
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp shaoxing wine (see note 2)
For the stir fry…
- 1 tbsp vegetable or rapeseed (canola) oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced into thick pieces around 2.5cm/1in thick
- 1 red pepper/capsicum, deseeded and sliced into strips
- 1 green pepper/capsicum, deseeded and sliced into strips
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 tbsp salted/fermented black beans (see note 3)
- 2 red chillis, deseeded and finely chopped (see note 4)
- 2 large spring onions, sliced
- Mix together the cornflour, sesame oil and soy sauce for the chicken and then stir in the chicken pieces
- In a large bowl, mix together all the sauce ingredients
- If you are using dried black beans then add them to a small bowl and pour over boiling water. Leave for 5-10 minutes and then drain in a small sieve. If not simply rinse the black beans before using.
- Place the black beans into a small bowl and lightly mash them with a fork. Mix in the garlic and set aside.
- Next, make the stir fry. Heat the oil in a large wok until smoking hot. Add the chicken and cook for 1-2 minutes until sealed all over.
- Add the onion to the wok and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring or tossing regularly.
- Add the pepper and spring onion. Continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the black beans and the garlic to the wok. Cook for a further minute before adding the sauce and stirring to combine. Cook for a final minute.
- Slice the chicken breast in half lengthways and then slice along the width into thin pieces.
- You can substitute dry cooking sherry, mirin (a Japanese rice wine that can also be purchased non-alcoholic) or even a little apple juice for the Shaoxing wine.
- Make sure to buy fermented (also called salted) black beans. These are called Douchi or sometimes tochi in China. They are different to the black beans you will find in Mexican or Latin American cooking. You can buy them in tins, packets or vacuum packed. If they are dried follow step 3 to hydrate them.
- I like a little heat in the dish, but if you prefer it mild then leave the chillis out.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Hob / Stove
- Cuisine: Chinese
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 290
- Fat: 6g
- Carbohydrates: 20g
- Protein: 34g
Keywords: dinner, chinese, asian, stir fry, chicken, black bean, peppers, easy