Quick and easy Chinese chicken with black bean sauce stir fry for a fuss-free weeknight dinner! This healthy stir-fry is umami-packed with a fantastic flavoursome sauce which works perfectly with freshly steamed rice.
I decided to share this recipe as a variation to my Beef with Black Bean Sauce, another commonly eaten dish using salted black beans. For more delicious and easy Asian dinners, also check out my Vegan Dumplings using everyday ingredients and Chinese Eggplant with Minced Pork, a classic homestyle dish.
The crisp and sweetness of the sugar snap peas and brown onions add a delightful contrast to the rich sauce and juicy chicken.
Chinese black bean sauce
Chinese black bean sauce is a very popular and frequently used condiment in Chinese cooking. This sauce is added to stir fries (like this one!), noodles (zhajiangmian), steamed dishes (such as pork short ribs at dim sum/yum cha and steamed fish) and more.
Black bean sauces are widely available and can be found at Asian supermarkets and some major supermarkets (to my Australian readers, these are also available at Coles and Woolworths).
I'm a firm believer that homemade is always better and so you'll find this recipe uses all the ingredients required for a black bean sauce. It's extremely easy to make. There is really no need to buy the premade ones (usually diluted in flavour) when you can make a stir fry using the real stuff - salted, fermented black beans!
Fermented black beans
Fermented black beans are black soy beans that have been salted and fermented over time. The result is umami rich, salty and moorish soft but firm beans. Note, it is not the same as Mexican black beans!
Traditionally, most Chinese households will have fermented black beans in their fridge as opposed to a bottle of store-bought black bean sauce. Growing up, I didn't even know black bean sauces are available for purchase! We only ever used salted black beans mixed with other complimenting seasonings and aromatics.
Adding salted black beans directly in stir fries (mixed with other condiments and aromatics) adds a lot more depth and flavour compared to using the store-bought sauce.
This recipe will show you just how easy it is to make a black bean sauce stir fry using fermented black beans!
Ps. they're only about $2 for a whole bag of about 300 grams /11 ounces which lasts a very long time!
- Fermented black beans (aka salted black beans). The hero of this dish, these salty black soybeans are soft to the touch and adds a savoury, moreish touch to this stir fry. A little goes a long way as too much can make the sauce a little bitter.
- These black beans are available at most Asian supermarkets. I know you can buy bottles of premade black bean sauces at most major supermarkets these days in the International aisle. But why buy diluted versions when you can use the real stuff!?
- To learn a bit more about salted black beans up close including the packaging they come in, check out this recipe's sister post; Beef with Black Bean Sauce.
- Oyster sauce is a Chinese cuisine staple condiment that adds a massive amount of flavour to any dish. Learn more about this umami-powerhouse in this Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce and Shiitake post.
- Sugar snap peas work brilliantly with this black bean stir fry. Feel free to swap out for snow peas, green beans, red capsicums or even cabbage!
- Shaoxing wine another Chinese cooking staple. This rice wine adds depth to cooking. Substitute: dry sherry.
- Cornstarch is naturally gluten-free and the perfect sauce thickener. What's more, this recipe marinates the chicken with cornstarch which will provide a delicious, flavoursome light coating around each piece.
It takes just 12 minutes of cook time to whip up this chicken with black bean sauce! Most of it goes to cooking and browning the chicken as the rest of the ingredients takes literally a couple of minutes.
To start, marinate chicken (cut into bite-size) with soy sauce, oyster sauce, shaoxing wine, cornstarch, garlic and black pepper for 15 minutes.
Whilst the chicken is marinating, get on with prepping the rest of the ingredients (which is not much).
If you've never cooked with sugar snap peas, make sure to peel those woody strings off as they can get quite tough to eat. Unlike snow peas, sugar snap peas mostly always have woody strings.
When ready to cook, first release the flavours of garlic, ginger and salted black beans on medium heat with a little oil. Add chicken to brown and caramelise.
In the last 3 minutes of cooking, add peas, green onion and brown. By putting these vegetables in at the end will ensure they stay crisp, sweet yet still cooked through.
So you can just stop here and this chicken and black bean stir fry will be fantastic. But why stop here when you can extend the yumminess to your rice!? In coming tasty sauce. The secret to not diluting the flavours of a stir fry is mixing a little oyster sauce into water and then add it to the stir fry. This will extend without turning the entire dish flat.
Stir well then dinner is ready!
Tips for making the perfect chicken with black bean sauce every time
- Take the time to marinate the chicken for at least 15 minutes. Because the chicken has been cut up into small pieces, just 15 minutes will be sufficient for the marinade to sip into the chicken.
- Do not overcook the sugar snap peas. They're best when eaten crisp and only take a couple of minutes to cook. A nice contrast to the soft (and juicy!) chicken pieces. Furthermore, their clean, natural sweetness complements the umami-packed black bean sauce perfectly!
- Get a good colour on the chicken. Colour equals flavour. To achieve a good caramelisation on the chicken, similar to the way you would steaks. Spread the chicken out in a single layer, turning every 1 or 2 minutes until cooked. This seals the chicken and minimises the release of chicken juices, keeping them in. Also, bear in mind, this step caramelises both the chicken and the marinade, making it even richer in flavour.
- Squash the fermented black beans with the back of the spatula to help release flavours further.
- If using chicken breasts instead of thighs be careful not to overcook it! Although marinating chicken helps make it more tender and juicy, it's always best practice to not overcook chicken breasts to avoid disappointing dry bites!
Good to know (FAQs)
Fermented, salted black beans is the key ingredient, combined with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, shaoxing wine, sugar, oil, cornstarch and water. You'll find this recipe uses all of these ingredients with the exception of sugar. Since oyster sauce is used in this dish, the sugar can be omitted. Oyster sauce has a sweet element to it which works and balances perfectly with this stir fry.
An explosion of umami! It tastes sweet, salty, mooreish, garlicky, gingery which is contrasted perfectly with the crisp and freshness of sugar snap peas.
No. Since shaoxing wine is used, which contains small amounts of wheat, it is not gluten-free. However, you can easily substitute the shaoxing wine with with dry sherry in this recipe. It is also worth noting that not all oyster sauces are gluten-free (also used in this recipe) so do your research on which brands of oyster sauces are gluten-free if you are senstive to gluten!
Nope! The cornstarch added during the marinating process is sufficient to thicken the sauce for the entire dish as well as adding a glossy coating around the chicken. The result is a gravy-like consistency.
Make the sauce seasoning yourself like this recipe! If you cannot get your hands on these black beans, simply leave them out! This recipe will still taste really delicious thanks to the added soy sauce, oyster sauce and shaoxing wine. Remember the fermented black soybeans are quite salty so to compensate, add some salt or a little extra soy sauce.
No! Chinese black beans are made of black soy beans which has been salted and fermented to create that rich, umami flavour. If you bite into a salted black bean, you'll find it will taste a little bitter. Therefore, salted black beans are often mixed with other condiments to balance out the bitterness.
Leftovers and freezing
The great thing about this easy chicken with black bean stir fry is that it keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days in an airtight container! Up to 4 months in the freezer.
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you 🙂
Happy cooking! - Gen
Chicken with Black Bean Sauce
- 500 g /1lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into bite size
- 2 cups sugar snap peas ~200g/7oz, woody strings removed
- 1 onion thickly diced
- 1 green onion cut into 5cm/2inch long
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ½ tablespoon salted black beans (note 1)
- ½ tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon oil neutral tasting eg. sunflower
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine
- ½ tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 clove garlic minced
- black pepper
- Combine chicken with chicken marinade, mix well and marinate for 15 minutes.
- In a non-stick pan, add oil, ginger, garlic, salted black beans and cook on medium-low heat. With the back of the spatula, squash the black beans to help release more flavours.
- Once the ginger and garlic start turning lightly golden (about 1 minute), add the marinated chicken. Spread the chicken out into a single layer, turn the heat up to high.
- Saute and only flip the chicken every minute to allow caramelisation and browning. After about 5 minutes, stir through green onions. Stir fry for about 1 minute.
- Add brown onions and sugar snap peas. Continue to stir fry until chicken is cooked, about 3 minutes.
- Combine ½ tablespoon oyster sauce with ¼ cup of water, mix well and pour into the pan. Stir constantly for 1 further minute.
- Serve with freshly steamed rice!