9 Classic Chinese Sichuan Dishes

Szechuan beef stir-fried with vegetables in bowl
Lisovskaya / Getty Images

What makes Sichuan (Szechuan) cuisine so special? Hot, humid climates like Sichuan province call for food that is both hot and highly spiced.

But that's not the only reason. Hot foods like red chili stimulate the palate, making it more sensitive to the other flavors—sweet, sour, bitter, salty, aromatic, and fragrant—in Sichuan dishes and also cleanse the palate in preparation for the next dish.

  • 01 of 09

    Kung Pao Chicken

    Spicy kung pao chicken with rice
    GMVozd / Getty Images

    This is the popular dish made with chicken, peanuts, and hot chiles, that is named after a generic government official or kung pao. Feel free to turn the heat up or down on this dish by adjusting the amount of chiles used. Cashews can replace the peanuts.

  • 02 of 09

    Mapo Tofu (Mapo Doufu)

    Mapo tofu recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Ulyana Verbytska

    Tofu and a bit of ground meat are dressed up with spicy seasonings in this popular dish. The name mapo doufu means "old pockmarked grandmother bean curd" in honor of the old woman who is reputed to have invented the dish. Feel free to substitute ground beef for the ground pork if desired.

  • 03 of 09

    Hot and Sour Soup

    Hot and sour soup


    MyNatara / Getty Images 

    Unlike other Szechuan recipes, this popular soup gets its heat from white pepper (the sour comes from vinegar). Tofu adds extra protein to this warming soup that is reputed to be good for colds.

  • 04 of 09

    Chinese Green Beans

    Chinese Green Beans Recipe

     The Spruce

    This popular Szechuan dish is a staple at many Chinese restaurant buffets. Instead of chili paste, feel free to add 4 to 6 small dried red chilis if desired.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Twice Cooked Pork (Hui Guo Rou)

    Twice cooked pork hui guo rou recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Anfisa Strizh

    In this Szechuan dish, pork is first simmered in a broth of water, rice wine, and ginger and then stir-fried along with vegetables like leeks and red bell pepper, chili paste, sweet bean paste, and dark soy sauce. It can be served with rice or on its own.

  • 06 of 09

    Crispy Szechuan Beef (Gan Bian Niu Rou Si)

    Chinese szechuan beef recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Anfisa Strizh

    This recipe uses a technique known as "dry-frying" where the beef is fried for several minutes, making it extra chewy and crispy. The dry-fried beef is then stir-fried with Chinese spices and seasonings.

  • 07 of 09

    Chicken With Orange Peel

    Orange chicken
    Saibal / Getty Images

    Poultry and citrus are a popular combination in western China. The linking of hot chiles with Szechuan peppercorn produces the "numbing fire" that gives the cuisine its fiery reputation.

  • 08 of 09

    Bang Bang Chicken (Bang Bang Ji)

    Bang bang chicken & vegetable noodles
    haoliang / Getty Images

    Sweet, sour, and salty come together in this popular dish, also known as strange flavor chicken. Chunky peanut butter can be used in place of sesame paste.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Spicy Szechuan Eggplant

    Szechuan Eggplant in Garlic Sauce

    The Spruce

    Eggplant and ground pork are stir-fried with chile paste and other seasonings in this spicy Szechuan recipe. For a vegetarian version, leave out the ground pork and increase the amount of eggplant.