The other day Mike made falafel and as I was nomming on those delicious little nuggets of deep-fried goodness, I thought to myself, wouldn’t these taste AMAZING as Taiwanese fried chicken!?!? I suggested it to Mike and he was off to the races. He nailed the flavor bang on and while the texture is obviously not chicken-y, I almost kind of sort of preferred the chickpea version. We did a side-by-side taste test with a takeout version and they more than held up.

What is Taiwanese fried chicken?

You may be wondering what Taiwanese fried chicken is. If you haven’t had it, they’re little juicy pieces of deep fried chicken with the most amazing crunch and flavor. They’re sold everywhere in Taiwan: at night markets, restaurants, boba cafes, even grocery stores. They are absolutely one of my favorite snacks.

Pieces of chicken are marinated in soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, five spice, white pepper, and a touch of of sugar. Different vendors have different ratios but generally, those are the main flavor components. After being marinated, the chicken pieces are coated in sweet potato flour, which is what gives it their signature crunch. A little bath in hot oil and then you’re headed to fried chicken heaven.

Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Cooking Notes

Just like falafel, you need to use dried chickpeas to make these – using canned won’t work because the chickpeas are already cooked and when you blend them they will turn into hummus.

Because you’re using dried chickpeas, you need to plan ahead a little bit – soak your chickpeas the night before you want your Taiwanese popcorn chick-pea snack.

There are two ways to form the nuggets. You can either squish the chickpea mixture into organic small shapes (like falafels) or if you’re more comfortable with hot oil, you can make a big patty and then break up the patty in the hot oil once it’s a little solid.

Making the smaller shapes are easier to deep fry and keep the oil nice and crumb free, but the more organic shapes that you get from breaking up a big patty gives you more interesting craggily crunchy bites. If you go the big patty route, your oil will definitely have more random crumbs in it, so go with what is most comfortable.

Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Ingredient Notes

These totally have the flavor of Taiwanese fried chicken thanks to the generous amount of five spice and white pepper. Five spice is a common Chinese spice mix made up of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel. The mix is sold in most grocery stores and online so there’s no need to make your own.

Taste-wise, five spice has a hint of licorice from the star anise and fennel and a warm undertone from the cinnamon and cloves. It has just the tiniest memory of spice with a bit of a peppery note from the Sichuan peppercorns. Five spice is supposed to have the balanced five tastes of Chinese food: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy. Five spice can differ depending on brand because the blends are proprietary – if you find that you don’t like five spice it might just be that you don’t like your specific brand of five spice. When buying online, we like simply organic.

Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Special Equipment

A food processor to process the chickpeas. We like this small one from KitchenAid.
A small, deep pot for deep frying.
A spider or slotted spoon for pulling the nuggets out of the hot oil.

Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

What do you serve Taiwanese fried chickpeas with?

Taiwanese popcorn chicken is usually served as a snack on its own or with a carb such as noodles or rice. These would go great with better than takeout sesame noodles, broccoli soy salad, fluffy rice, miso smashed cucumbers and green beans, or even with a homemade coffee jelly bubble tea!

Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Garnish

Traditionally Taiwanese popcorn chicken is served with fried Thai basil but feel free to finish with any herbs you have on hand. Mike deep fried some cilantro because we didn’t have basil and it was perfect.

Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe

Serves 2
0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 large shallot quartered
  • 8 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tbsp five spice
  • 1 tbsp white peppercorns ground or crushed

Instructions

  • Soak your chickpeas overnight in 2-3 cups of water. The next day, drain well and dry with a kitchen towel.
    Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Combine the shallot, garlic, five spice, and white pepper along with the chickpeas in a food processor. Blitz into a crumbly paste.
    Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Refrigerate your paste for 1-2 hours. Then when you are ready to fry, form into irregular shapes (see note). Before frying, optionally combine 1 teaspoon each of additional five spice and white pepper to use as a dusting powder.
    Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Heat your oil to 300ºF. Drop your chickpea balls in a few at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry for 1-2 minutes, depending on your desired level of brownness. If you are using a dusting powder, dust your chickpea balls as soon as you remove them. Enjoy immediately.
    Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Notes

You can form regular balls or random chicken shapes by squeezing the chickpea mixture in both hands. If your chickpeas aren't sticking together well, oil or wet your hands with water.

Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn Chickpea Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

10 Comments

  1. Da Cipriano says:

    I will definitely try this recipe, it looks really appetizing. Thank you for your posts, I love it.

  2. Joelle says:

    Would baking work for this recipe?

    1. Stephanie says:

      you can try baking them, but make sure you coat them with a bit of oil before baking. they won’t end up as brown or crispy though!

  3. Connie says:

    I did tried Taiwanese chicken but failed but l will definitely try again with this recipe. Thanks.

  4. I love when ideas like this happen like that. This one is brilliant!

  5. So fun! Brilliant vegan take, going to try and make these! :) Have you guys ever made/tried seitan?

    1. Stephanie says:

      no! i don’t think i’ve ever eaten it before? LOL

  6. Woww. I have never tried Taiwan food but this one looks cool and delicious. Will try it sooon.

  7. Monica says:

    Think you could make these with dried lentils instead of chickpeas?

    1. Stephanie says:

      i haven’t tried but i think it might work. have you made lentil falafels before? if those worked out then these probably will :)

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Thanks for reading as always!
-Steph & Mike