Black bean chicken stir fry is such a flavourful delicious option for a weeknight dinner. This recipe uses only one tablespoon of oil and a healthy method to make the most tender chicken breast slices! Add crunchy sweet bell peppers and umami rich black beans and you have a low-fat crazy delicious dish!
- What are Chinese fermented black beans?
- What’s the difference between Chinese black beans and black bean sauce?
- Dried Black Beans vs. Wet Black Beans
- Black Bean Sauce vs. Whole Fermented Black Beans
- Expert Tips for Making the Best Black Bean Chicken
- How to Slice Chicken Breast Properly
- How to Tenderize Chicken Breast for Stir Frying
- How to Make Black Bean Chicken – Step by Step Instructions
- Serving Tips
- Storing tips
- Make Ahead Tips
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Other Stir Fry Recipes to Try
What are Chinese fermented black beans?
Chinese black beans (a.k.a douchi 豆豉) are heavily salted fermented black soybeans. They are not the same as black turtle beans popular in Latin American cuisine and can’t be substituted. They come in different forms – whole dried and wet versions as well as in a variety of sauces. Because they are fermented, they are quite salty and have an earthy sweet bitter taste to them.
How do you use Chinese fermented black beans?
Chinese black beans are used as a flavouring like you would use soy sauce or hoisin. I’d definitely put black beans as an all-star umami bomb in Chinese cuisine. Slather it over fish prior to steaming, add it in your stir fry or mix it in your noodles. Put it on anything for a unique savoury sweet dish. Chinese black beans are very strong, so a little goes a long way. They will become the predominant flavour to your dish, so other seasonings will take a back seat.
What’s the difference between Chinese black beans and black bean sauce?
If you ever walk through the sauce/seasoning aisle of an Asian grocery store, it can feel quite overwhelming! Even if you know what you need, there are so many versions of the same thing. For fermented black beans, there’s black bean sauce, wet black beans and dried black beans. So what’s the difference?
Dried Black Beans vs. Wet Black Beans
Dried and wet versions are the most similar and you can find them in jars or sealed bags. They both consist of the whole bean. The dried ones usually include salt and other dry seasonings like five spice. The wet version includes salt as well as additional seasonings like sugar and soy sauce depending on the brand. Rinse dried black beans under water and drain to remove the salty sandy coating. Wet whole black beans usually have soy sauce and sugar mixed and are sweeter. Use these right out of the package or rinse them a bit if you want.
Black Bean Sauce vs. Whole Fermented Black Beans
Black bean sauce includes other seasonings like soy sauce, garlic, rice wine, sugar and other spices. The black beans are roughly chopped up along with other ingredients in liquid to give a sauce-like consistency. After a taste test, black bean sauce is more than twice as salty as their whole bean counterparts. When using black bean sauce over whole black beans, I would use half the amount in your dish.
Is Chinese black bean sauce healthy?
Black soybeans like other soybeans, are rich in fiber, plant based protein and low in saturated fats. It’s also a good source of vitamin K, iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and riboflavin.
They are used in Chinese medicine for their antioxidant features and believed to be a great anti-aging product as well. My Chinese parents used to tell me black beans were great to stay youthful because their black color will transfer to keep my hair black…to this day I’m not sure if that was a simplistic childhood explanation or they honestly believed that.
Given all the healthy benefits of black soybeans, fermented black beans are great to add into your meals. In my opinion, black bean sauce is somewhat healthy because it has fermented black beans but it also includes soy sauce, other seasonings and way more salt than their whole bean counterparts. So I would recommend whole fermented black beans instead if you’re trying to reap more health benefits. Just chop them up fine to give the “sauce” like quality.
Expert Tips for Making the Best Black Bean Chicken
Black bean chicken or chicken with black bean sauce, is a classic Chinese dish that’s fast and easy to make. The traditional version uses sweet bell peppers and onions, but you can easily swap out for any of your favourite vegetables. It’s dinner in a pan that’s perfect if you don’t have a lot of time. Follow these tips to make the best black bean chicken!
- Ginger and garlic: Chinese fermented black beans go amazingly well with ginger and garlic. Always pair these two aromatics for amazing flavour
- Black bean sauce vs whole black beans: Black bean sauce is at least twice as salty as whole fermented black beans. When using sauce, reduce the amount of black beans by half to offset the saltiness. I usually sub 2 tsps of black bean sauce for every 2 tablespoons of whole black beans.
- Slice your chicken thin: The key to a good stir fry is timing all the ingredients so they are perfectly cooked at the same time. Slice your chicken breast thinly, cook it briefly first and add it back in at the end.
- Velvet your chicken: Tenderize your chicken breast using the velveting technique described below. If you’re using chicken thighs, you won’t risk serving dry chicken but will contain more fat. This extra step of velveting will deliver tender chicken breast without the extra fat 🙂
- Add vegetables: The traditional Chinese recipe uses bell peppers which I’ve included in this recipe, but any vegetable works well. Blanched broccoli, celery, carrots, green beans are great alternatives to add along with your onions. If you’re using a quick cook vegetable like spinach or lettuce, add it last along with your chicken.
- Keep your pan hot with minimal moisture: You never want to “boil” your ingredients when stir frying. The key technique is to keep the surface of the pan hot and relatively dry until near the end where you deglaze with a bit of liquid to create the sauce.
- Have all ingredients ready to go: Like all stir frys, this dish comes together quickly so make sure you have everything ready to go before turning on the heat.
- Don’t walk away: Go to the bathroom before, don’t check your phone – watch and don’t look away! Because the pan stays dry most of the time, it’s about a 30 second difference to magically “wok hei” flavour and burnt sadness.
- Don’t overcrowd your pan: If you’re making larger portions, it’s better to stir fry in batches to properly brown your vegetables.
How to Slice Chicken Breast Properly
Black bean chicken is best served with thinly sliced chicken – about ⅛” slices. The easiest way to slice your chicken is to cut it partially frozen. Place your chicken in the freezer for about 30 minutes prior to cutting to make it easier to handle. The chicken slices will defrost quickly once cut.
Always slice your chicken breast with a sharp knife against the grain to ensure tender slices. The grain means the muscular fibres that run in one direction of the chicken breast. Your knife should make a “T” with these muscular fibers. Please see the picture below.
Cutting in the same direction as the grain will ensure chewy and stringy chicken breast.
How to Tenderize Chicken Breast for Stir Frying
I learned how to tenderize chicken properly following The Woks of Life, which recommends a combination of corn starch, oil and water and time. Growing up, I always marinated my chicken with cornstarch and seasonings but the addition of water and oil makes the most tender chicken breast! I’m definitely a big fan!
This recipe also follows the quick blanch method for a healthier option. The oil and cornstarch used to tenderize ends up mostly in your blanching liquid while locking in the juices. Another option is to flash fry the chicken instead for more flavour. However, but I find the black beans more than make up in flavour. You can also skip the extra oil you’ll need to keep the chicken from sticking to the pan while frying.
Marinate and Blanch Thinly Sliced Chicken Breast
- Step 1: Add oil, water, cornstarch and soy sauce to the sliced chicken. Let it sit to marinate for 15 – 20 minutes while you chop and prepare your other ingredients.
- Step 2: Boil water in a deep pan.
- Step 3: Add the chicken slices to the boiling water making sure to separate the slices from sticking to each other. Blanch for 1-2 minutes.
- Step 4: Once all the slices have changed color from pink to opaque, remove from the water and set aside. Discard the water.
How to Make Black Bean Chicken – Step by Step Instructions
This dish comes together quickly. Dinner will be ready in 30 minutes!
- Step 1: Using the same pan for blanching the chicken, dry the insides with paper towels. Turn the heat on medium and add oil.
- Step 2: Add the onions and bell peppers. Stir fry for about a minute.
- Step 3: Add the minced ginger and fry until fragrant – approximately 15 seconds.
- Step 4: Add the garlic, chili flakes (if using) and black beans (or black sauce). Stir and mix.
- Step 5: The bottom of the pan should be browning but not burning. If browning too quickly, lower the heat. Once the onions start to turn translucent, add the Shaoxing wine (or broth/water) to deglaze the pan.
- Step 6: Add the sugar and mix thoroughly. A nice sauce should form. Add water (optional) if you would like more sauce.
- Step 7: Add back the chicken and stir everything thoroughly. Taste a small piece from your dish and salt to taste.
- Step 8: Serve hot!
Serve black bean chicken hot and immediately it’s off the stove. For a classic Chinese family dinner, serve it with steamed rice and a plate of Chinese yu choy or Shanghai bok choy. Also, top it over rice noodles for a quick lunch. For a low carb option, serve it with cauliflower rice or diced silken tofu.
Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes stirring in between.
How long can you store Chinese black beans?
Fermentation acts as a preservation method which means any food has a longer shelf life especially if stored in your fridge. You can probably keep fermented black beans in your fridge forever. I’ve easily kept jars of black beans in my fridge for over a year!
Make Ahead Tips
To save some time on the day of cooking, prepare all the ingredients the day before. Slice and velvet the chicken and leave it in an airtight container. I left my chicken over 24 hours in the fridge and it came out even more tender! Mince the garlic, ginger, chop the peppers and onions. Have all your ingredients ready to go and dinner can be ready in 15 minutes or less!
Black beans: You can substitute whole fermented black beans with black bean sauce. Just make sure to half the amount of sauce used. For every two tablespoons of whole black beans, use one tablespoon of sauce.
Chilli flakes/oil: Add a little spice to your black bean chicken by add chilli flakes or chilli oil.
Peppers: Instead of peppers, use celery, blanched broccoli, cauliflower or string beans. If you’re choosing a quick cook vegetable like lettuce or spinach, add it last along with your chicken.
Chicken breast: Use chicken thighs instead of breast and skip the blanching since thighs have a less risk of drying out. Thinly sliced pork loin or beef will also work well.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Fermented black beans have a funky, earthy, salty rich umami flavour. Black bean sauce has the same flavours but it’s saltier than whole black beans and will sometimes include garlic and soy sauce.
Fermented black beans have antioxidant properties, low in saturated fats and are rich in protein, fiber and iron. Black bean sauce unfortunately is quite high in salt content and is mainly used as a flavouring for dishes and should be used in small amounts.
Chinese black bean sauce is made of fermented black soybeans and includes other seasonings such as soy sauce, sugar, garlic, rice wine and sometimes 5 spice powder.
Not at all! Black bean sauce is salty, earthy, savoury with a hint of sweetness.
Other Stir Fry Recipes to Try
Easy Healthy Chinese Black Bean Chicken Stir-Fry with Peppers
- 1 8-9 inch deep fry pan or carbon steel wok use a deeper pan to poach your chicken breast and stir fry
For the Chicken Breast Marinade
- 1 lb chicken breast (about 2-3 chicken breasts) (Note 1)
- 4 Tbsp. water
- 3 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp oil
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
For the Rest of the Dish
- 2 sweet bell peppers (any color)
- 2 small white onions
- 1 tsp ginger (minced or grated)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 4 Tbsp. dried whole black beans rinsed and drained (or wet whole black beans or black bean sauce) (Note 2) (Note 3)
- 2 tsp brown sugar (heaping)
- ¼ cup Shaoxing wine (or water/broth)
- 2 Tbsp. water (optional) for more sauce (Note 4)
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp chilli flakes/oil (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil) for frying
Marinate and Velvet the Chicken Breast
- Add oil, water, cornstarch and soy sauce to the sliced chicken. Let it sit to marinate for 15 – 20 minutes while you chop and prepare your other ingredients.
- Boil water in a deep pan. (Note 5)
- Add the chicken slices to the boiling water making sure to separate the slices and prevent them sticking to each other. Blanch for 1-2 minutes.
- Once all the slices have changed color from pink to opaque, remove from the water and set aside. Discard the water.
Cook the Rest of the Dish
- Using the same pan for blanching the chicken, dry the insides with paper towels. Turn the heat on medium and add oil.
- Add the onions and bell peppers. Stir fry for about a minute.
- Add the minced ginger and fry until fragrant – approximately 15 seconds.
- Add the garlic, chilli flakes (if using) and black beans (or black sauce). Stir and mix.
- The bottom of the pan should be browning but not burning. If browning too quickly, lower the heat. Once the onions start to turn translucent, add the Shaoxing wine (or broth/water) to deglaze the pan.
- Add the sugar and mix thoroughly. A nice sauce should form. Add water (optional) if you would like more sauce.
- Add back the chicken slices and stir everything thoroughly for about 1 minute. Taste a small piece from your dish and salt to taste.
- Serve hot!