Crock Pot Bang Bang Chicken Recipe

Transforming your favorite takeout dishes into lighter, more nutritious versions is one way to improve your diet without compromising on taste. Tasting Table recipe developer Julianne De Witt shares this crock pot bang bang chicken recipe, which she describes as similar to the classic Sichuan recipe, though modified for the slow cooker. Most modern takeout versions of the dish consist of battered fried chicken served with a mayo sauce. The traditional dish, however, is more likely to take the form of shredded chicken and thinly sliced cucumber in a spicy sauce. 

It's believed that the dish originated as a street food in early 1900s Sichuan in the town of Hang Yang Ba. Bang bang chicken got its name due to its method of preparation, in which a tool called a "bang" is used to tenderize the poached chicken to make it easier to shred. The process also facilitates the absorption of the savory sauce, which is commonly made with soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili oil, sesame, ginger, garlic, and spices.

"I like this recipe because it's tasty and a lot healthier than the breaded and deep-fried version," De Witt says and notes, "I like to keep the chicken in bite-sized pieces, but you can also shred the meat once it's finished cooking if that's preferable." During the long slow cooking time, the chicken will soak up the flavorful sauce, which has just the right amount of heat from ginger, 5-spice powder, and Sichuan peppercorns. If you're unfamiliar with Sichuan peppercorns, you'll immediately notice their mouth-numbing properties. For even more heat, De Witt suggests serving the meal with a hot sauce like sriracha. 

Gather the ingredients for crock pot bang bang chicken

For this recipe, get boneless skinless chicken thighs and salt. For the sauce, you'll need soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili oil, tahini, crushed garlic cloves, grated ginger, whole Sichuan peppercorns, and 5-spice powder. To serve, thinly slice a cucumber into batons, dice scallions, and get sesame seeds. De Witt suggests serving this crock pot bang bang chicken with steamed rice and hot sauce.

Step 1: Chop the chicken

Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Step 2: Put the chicken in the crock pot

Add the chicken to the crock pot.

Step 3: Salt the chicken

Season the chicken with salt.

Step 4: Combine the sauce ingredients

Prepare the sauce by adding the soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili oil, tahini, garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, and 5-spice powder to a bowl.

Step 5: Whisk the sauce

Whisk to combine the sauce ingredients.

Step 6: Add the sauce to the pot

Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Step 7: Cook on high

Set the crock pot to cook for 3 hours on high.

Step 8: Stir the chicken

Stir the chicken twice during the cooking time.

Step 9: Plate the cucumber and chicken

Add the cucumber to a platter. Spoon chicken in the center of the platter and pour some of the remaining sauce from the crock pot over the chicken.

Step 10: Garnish with scallions

Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.

Step 11: Serve the bang bang chicken

Serve with rice and hot sauce, if desired.

Crock Pot Bang Bang Chicken Recipe
No Ratings
Serve up a lighter, more flavorful version of the Chinese food takeout classic with convenient crock pot bang bang chicken, studded with Sichuan peppercorns.
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
3
hours
Servings
4
Servings
bang bang chicken with cucumbers
Total time: 3 hours, 10 minutes
Ingredients
  • For the chicken
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • For the Sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chili oil
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon 5-Spice Powder
  • To Serve
  • 1 cucumber sliced in thin batons
  • Sesame seeds
  • Diced scallions
Optional Ingredients
  • Steamed rice
  • Hot sauce
Directions
  1. Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Add the chicken to the crock pot.
  3. Season the chicken with salt.
  4. Prepare the sauce by adding the soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili oil, tahini, garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, and 5-spice powder to a bowl.
  5. Whisk to combine the sauce ingredients.
  6. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
  7. Set the crock pot to cook for 3 hours on high.
  8. Stir the chicken twice during the cooking time.
  9. Add the cucumber to a platter. Spoon chicken in the center of the platter and pour some of the remaining sauce from the crock pot over the chicken.
  10. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.
  11. Serve with rice and hot sauce, if desired.
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What are Sichuan peppercorns?

Sichuan peppercorns have a misleading name, as De Witt explains, "They're not true peppercorns but are the dried berries of the prickly ash tree." Although the shape is similar to black, green, white, or pink peppercorns, they are entirely distinct. You'll still taste a peppery hint in the dish, but Sichuan peppercorns are in a league of their own. De Witt describes, "The flavor is an interesting combination of mouth-numbing heat accented with floral and citrus notes." They have a unique and notable numbing effect that can make your lips and palate feel tingly, and they can also cause you to taste other flavors in the dish a little differently.

In the kitchen, the dried berries are a delicious, and arguably necessary, component of Sichuan dishes. De Witt adds, "They are a staple spice in Sichuan cooking and can be found whole or ground." In this recipe, she uses whole peppercorns, but you'll find them ground in most Chinese five-spice powder mixes. By using whole peppercorns in the bang bang chicken sauce, you add an intense pop of flavor to each bite. 

What can I use in place of Sichuan peppercorns?

If you want to add a peppery kick to your dish but can't get your hands on the real deal, De Witt notes, "While there is nothing else that can really replicate the flavor of Sichuan peppercorns, crushed black peppercorns will add some spice and depth to your dish." Though the former are not actual peppercorns, they still infuse a pepperiness that you can get from black peppercorns. Don't expect the tingling numbness that accompanies the Sichuan variety though.

To emphasize the citrusy aspects of Sichuan peppercorns, you can combine crushed black peppercorns with coriander seeds. For an extra kick, add lemon zest and the main aromatic elements of Sichuan peppercorns will be present. Since this recipe calls for whole peppercorns, stick to lightly crushed whole black peppercorns or coriander seeds instead of ground.

Alternatively, other spices such as Tasmanian pepperberry with its fruity and pungent bite, Tellicherry peppercorns with their milder citrusy notes, or grains of paradise with their more floral aromas, can make a decent substitute.