Sichuan Cuisine - China's Most Popular Cuisine

Written by Matteo Updated Jun. 1, 2023

Sichuan cuisine is one of the eight major cuisines of China, originating from Sichuan and Chongqing in Southwest China. 

Sichuan cuisine is the most widely served cuisine in China. Sichuan dishes with their bold and spicy flavors are also very popular in the country.  

Sichuan Cuisine Characteristics

Spicy Sichuan hot pot

Sichuan cuisine is the most distinctive cuisine in China with its hot and spicy flavors, although Sichuan dishes may also have sour and sweet flavors. 

Cooks in Sichuan use a variety of seasonings to create dishes with distinctive flavors such as strong pepper, chilies, garlic, thick bean sauce, and other uniquely Sichuan ingredients such as ginger, and mustard.

The Variety of Ingredients

Sichuan's complex topography has shaped its cuisine with a variety of ingredients. Located in southwest China, the region features plains, mountains, hills, and rivers. 

Pork, beef, chicken, and fish are  more widely used in Sichuan cuisine

Sichuan cuisine also uses organs such as its major ingredients such as liver, tongue, and intestine.

Preserved vegetables are very commonly used in Sichuan cuisine to add fragrant and sour flavor to the dishes. 


Sichuan food seasonings at local market

Sichuan cuisine can't have its unique flavors without its variety of seasonings such as Sichuan pepper, black pepper, chili, broad bean chili paste, shallots, ginger, and garlic. They are used in almost every Sichuan dish. 

The most used cooking methods are quick-frying, stir-frying, dry-braising, and dry-stewing, the latter two are techniques special to Sichuan cuisine.

Cooking sichuan food

Famous Sichuan Food You Should Try

Sichuan dishes are very popular all over China, and even in some countries outside China. There are a lot of dishes worth trying. Below are the most famous ones: 

1. Kung Pao Chicken

Sichuan chicken

Kung Pao Chicken is the most famous Sichuan food in the West. The dish contains diced chicken, dried chilies, and peanuts. The chicken is tender, and the peanuts taste crisp. 

In Western countries, Kung Pao Chicken is widespread and has become the representative sample of “Chinese food”, just like what pasta is for Italian cuisine.

2. Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu is actually sautéed tofu in hot and spicy sauce. It is named after the lady Chen Mapo, who created its cooking method. The ingredients of Mapo Tofu include tofu, minced beef or pork, chilies, and Sichuan pepper, which highlight the characteristics of Sichuan cuisine - hot and spicy.

4. Sichuan Hotpot

Sichuan hot pot

Hotpot is very famous in the winter season in China. A hotpot is a stew of meat and vegetables cooked in a simmering pot of soup stock. Hot pots can be roughly divided into two types, spicy and clear (not spicy). But with dozens of condiments, it also has hundreds of different flavors.

In fact, Sichuan people believe hotpots should be “the spicier, the better”, so the spices of Sichuan hotpots feature all kinds of chilies and peppers.

4. Sichuan Chicken

Sichuan Chicken, also known as Spicy Chicken with Chilies, is a dish made by cooking chicken with red chilies. Typically, the chicken is cut into small pieces and fried first. The dish looks beautiful and the chicken tastes crispy. 

5. Dan Dan Noodles

Dan Dan noodles are a popular Sichuan street food that can be found in almost all restaurants specializing in Sichuan cuisine. They are a type of soup noodle dish that features diced pork and a spicy, numbing soup.

Continue to read: the 18 most famous Sichuan foods you must love. 

Best Places to Try Sichuan Dishes

Although you can find Sichuan food in other cities in China even outside China, the only place where you can have the most authentic flavors is in Sichuan province such as Chengdu.  Find below the best places to eat Sichuan food: 

1. Jinli Street

Street food, chengdu

This popular street is filled with food stalls and shops selling traditional Sichuan snacks and souvenirs. 

You can take a walk around the street and explore the different food stalls and shops to see what catches your eye. Many vendors will offer samples or have photos of their dishes displayed to attract you.

2. Wide and Narrow Alley

This ancient alley is home to many traditional teahouses and restaurants, offering classic Sichuan dishes such as mapo tofu and kung pao chicken. 

3. Chen Mapo Tofu Restaurant

Chen Mapo Tofu Restaurant

4. Huang Cheng Lao Ma Hotpot

5. Long Chao Shou Restaurant

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Experience a Food Tour in Chengdu

Eating in Chengdu

The food in Chengdu is a representative sample of Sichuan cuisine. It is a brilliant idea to plan a Chengdu tour combining culinary delicacies with visiting giant pandas:

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