This sweet and sour chicken is a recipe everyone in the family will love. The chicken is coated in a delicious batter and then pan-fried to perfection. This is a healthy alternative to the restaurant-style deep-fried version of sweet and sour chicken.
Sweet and sour chicken is a common Chinese food dish that has become very popular in Asian restaurants and for Chinese takeout. It consists of bite-size pieces of chicken that are deep-fried and then coated with a sweet and sour sauce.
The flavor of sweet and sour, with a hint of spicy, is what makes this dish so special. And you can even use this sauce on its own as a dipping sauce with spring rolls.
This dish is very easy to make at home with just a few ingredients. And with my recipe, you won’t even need to deep fry the chicken!
Why make this chicken?
- This is the healthier version of the deep-fried chicken found in most restaurants.
- And most of the ingredients in this recipe are simple pantry staples or easy to find.
- Best of all, it takes 15 to 20 minutes to make this dish. And you can serve it over rice or noodles and a side of veggies for a complete meal.
- In addition, leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. In fact, it is a great recipe to freeze in the freezer for a few months.
- The process is just 3 easy steps –
- Marinate chicken – 5 mins
- Pan-fry chicken (not deep fry) – 10 mins
- Make the sauce – 5 mins
- And to make this vegetarian you can use baked cauliflower florets as well.
Ingredients and substitutes
- Chicken – I am using boneless skinless chicken thighs. But it is best to use skinless chicken breast for quick and easy Asian cooking like this. Thighs usually take about 4 to 5 minutes to a crisp, while bite-size chicken breast pieces take only 2 to 3 minutes.
- Veggies – I am using fresh chopped shallots, fresh garlic cloves, and freshly grated ginger. However, for the marinade, you can also use garlic powder.
- Flour – I have used a combination of rice flour and corn starch. The rice flour gives the chicken a crispy coating while the cornstarch helps thicken the sauce.
- Oil – It is important to use oil with a high smoking point when cooking Asian dishes like this. You can use vegetable oil such as canola oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed, or even coconut oil. Avoid olive oil as it is not meant for high-heat cooking.
- Soy – I used light low-sodium soy sauce because it is less salty and healthier.
- Spicy – Sriracha and hot paprika give the sauce its spiciness. You can also use chili sauce instead.
- Sweet – The ketchup and brown sugar give the sauce its color and sweetness.
- Sour – The tomato paste and vinegar both contribute to the sourness in the sauce.
- Optional ingredients – Often, you will see some restaurants that serve this dish sauteed with red or green bell peppers, pineapple chunks/pineapple juice, green onions, or other similar vegetables. You can also sprinkle some sesame seeds on top for garnishment.
Sweet and sour chicken recipe
- Marinate – In a large bowl, marinate the chicken will all the marinade ingredients. Set aside.
Pro tip – You can leave the chicken to marinate for a few hours. And if you leave it overnight, I suggest you add the egg and flour just before pan frying.
- Pan fry – In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil.
- Then, half the chicken pieces, one at a time, with a tong.
- Wait for two minutes, then flip each piece over and cook another minute.
- Continue to cook the chicken pieces until crisp on both sides.
- This should take about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Then, remove them from the pan and set them aside while you do the next batch.
Pro tip – Cook the chicken in batches so you do not crowd the pan and make sure the pieces do not get stuck to each other.
- Sauce – To the same pan, over medium heat, add the remaining oil and saute the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Then, add all the sauce ingredients and bring it to a boil.
- Combine – Return the chicken pieces back to the pan and coat them with the sauce.
Pro tip – If necessary, add 1 to 2 tbsp of water to prevent it from becoming too thick.
- Garnish – Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.
Tips for success
Remember to adjust the seasonings and ingredients according to your taste preferences. And feel free to experiment and add your own twist to the recipe. Enjoy your homemade sweet and sour chicken!
- Choose the right chicken: Opt for boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs for tender and juicy results. Cut them into bite-sized pieces.
- Marinate the chicken: Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator to enhance the flavor and tenderness.
- Prepare the sweet and sour sauce: A well-balanced sauce is key to an excellent sweet and sour chicken. You’ll need a combination of sweet and tangy flavors. Measure all the ingredients correctly so you have a balanced sauce. Adjust the sweetness and tanginess according to your taste preferences.
- Low sodium – Add less salt to the dish as some sauces are already salty. But remember to taste and adjust the seasoning at the end.
- Pre-cook the chicken: Before stir-frying, it’s best to pre-cook the marinated chicken. You can either lightly pan-fry as we did today or bake it until it’s cooked. This helps seal the flavors and ensures the chicken remains tender during stir-frying. Also, do not add too many chicken pieces to the pan to prevent them from sticking to each other.
- Add the sauce: Once the chicken is cooked, pour the sweet and sour sauce into the wok. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.
- Garnish and serve: Sprinkle some sliced green onions or sesame seeds on top for added flavor and presentation. Serve your sweet and sour chicken over steamed rice or noodles for a complete meal.
Ideas for serving sweet & sour chicken
Sweet and sour chicken can be served in various ways to suit different preferences and dietary needs. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Over steamed rice: The classic and most common way to serve sweet and sour chicken is over steamed rice. The rice acts as a neutral base that complements the flavors of the chicken and sauce.
- With fried rice: If you want to add more depth and variety to your meal, serve the sweet and sour chicken alongside some fried rice. For example, you can make a simple vegetable fried rice or even pineapple fried rice to complement the flavors of the dish.
- With noodles: Instead of rice, serve the sweet and sour chicken with noodles. You can use thin rice noodles, lo mein noodles, or even egg noodles. Toss the noodles with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce before adding the chicken and sauce on top.
- In lettuce wraps: For a lighter and more interactive option, serve the sweet and sour chicken in lettuce wraps. Fill crisp lettuce leaves with the chicken, sauce, and some crunchy vegetables like shredded carrots and cucumber. It creates a refreshing and flavorful handheld option.
- As a filling for sandwiches: Get creative and use the sweet and sour chicken as a filling for sandwiches or sliders. For example, toast some buns, add the chicken, and top it with some coleslaw or pickles for a tangy twist.
- With roasted vegetables: Serve the sweet and sour chicken alongside a medley of roasted vegetables. Roast vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots until they are tender and slightly caramelized. The combination of the sweet and sour chicken with the roasted flavors creates a delicious contrast.
- As a topping for salads: Transform your sweet and sour chicken into a protein-packed topping for salads. Slice the chicken into thin strips and place it on a bed of mixed greens or your favorite salad greens. Drizzle some extra sweet and sour sauce or a light dressing over the top.
Remember to garnish your dish with fresh herbs like cilantro or green onions for added freshness and color. These ideas offer a range of options to suit different tastes and occasions. Choose the serving style that appeals to you the most and enjoy your sweet and sour chicken!
While the name suggests that the chicken should be sweet and sour the truth is that all the ingredients are so perfectly balanced that the dish is absolutely delicious – neither too sweet nor too sour! Just perfect!
They are similar. Sweet and sour is made with vinegar while orange chicken uses orange juice in the marinade and sauce. Also, the appearance of the first is redder from the tomato sauce while the latter is more orange from the orange juice glaze.
Kung pau chicken is very also known as Chinese spicy chicken. Even if you choose a less spicy version it will still contain a fair amount of spiciness. And sweet and sour is not necessarily very spicy but can be made spicy.
Yes, you can use this sauce ingredient to make a dipping sauce too.
– In a saucepan, over low heat, combine all the sauce ingredients.
– In another small bowl, combine with a whisk 1 tsp cornstarch with 1/2 cup water, orange juice, or pineapple juice.
– Then, add to the sauce in the saucepan and cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil and becomes thick and glossy.
– Serve immediately.
General Tso’s chicken: General Tso’s chicken is known for its bold and spicy flavors. The sauce is typically sweet, tangy, and spicy, with a savory undertone. And it often includes ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, vinegar, and dried red chili peppers.
Sweet and sour chicken: Sweet and sour chicken has a contrasting sweet and tangy flavor profile. And the sauce is typically a combination of sweet and sour tastes, achieved through ingredients such as pineapple juice, ketchup, vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce.
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- 1 lb (0.5 kg) Chicken breast (cut into 2-inch cubes)
- 1 small Onion (finely dinced)
- 1 large Garlic (minced )
- 2 tbsp Cilantro or Chinese parsley (chopped)
- 2 – 4 tbsp Cooking oil
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ½ tsp Black pepper
- 2 tbsp Soy sauce (low sodium)
- 2 large Garlic cloves (grated)
- 3 inch (8 cm) Fresh ginger (grated)
- 2 tbsp Cornstarch
- 2 tbs Rice flour (or more cornstarch)
- 1 large Egg white
- 1 tsp Paprika (I used sweet smoked )
Sweet sour sauce
- 2 tbsp Ketchup
- 2 tbsp Tomato paste
- 1 tbsp Sriracha (or chili paste)
- 2 tbsp Soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Vinegar (white)
- ¼ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Black pepper
- Marinate – In a large bowl, marinate the chicken will all the marinade ingredients. Set aside. Pro tip – You can leave the chicken to marinate for a few hours. If you leave it overnight, I suggest you add the egg and flour just before pan frying.1 lb Chicken breast, 2 – 4 tbsp Cooking oil
- Pan fry – In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, add the oil. Then, half the chicken pieces one at a time with a tong. Wait for two minutes, then flip each piece over and cook another minute. Continue to cook the chicken pieces until crisp on both sides. This should take about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set them aside while you do the next batch. Pro tip – Cook the chicken in batches so you do not crowd the pan and make sure the pieces do not get stuck to each other.½ tsp Kosher salt, ½ tsp Black pepper, 2 tbsp Soy sauce, 2 large Garlic cloves, 3 inch Fresh ginger, 2 tbsp Cornstarch, 2 tbs Rice flour, 1 large Egg white, 1 tsp Paprika
- Sauce – To the same pan, over medium heat, add the remaining oil and saute the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Then, add all the sauce ingredients and bring it to a boil.1 small Onion, 1 large Garlic, 2 tbsp Ketchup, 2 tbsp Tomato paste, 2 tbsp Soy sauce, 2 tbsp Brown sugar, 2 tbsp Vinegar, ¼ tsp Salt, ½ tsp Black pepper, 1 tbsp Sriracha
- Combine – Return the chicken pieces back to the pan and coat them with the sauce. Pro tip – If necessary add 1 to 2 tbsp of water to prevent it from becoming too thick.
- Garnish – Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.2 tbsp Cilantro or Chinese parsley
Recipe Notes & Tips
- Measure all the ingredients correctly so you have a balanced sauce
- Add less salt to the dish as some of the sauces are already salty. But, remember to taste and adjust the seasoning at the end.
- Do not add too many pieces of chicken to the pan to prevent them from sticking to each other.
- Cook the chicken on high heat but cook the sauce on a low simmer to prevent the sugars from burning.
- You can add more chilly sauce to make it spicier. You can even add whole red dry chilies
- If you don’t have rice wine vinegar – apple cider vinegar is a better choice than lemon juice.
- This chicken can be served over steamed rice or noodles. You can even add boiled, drained noodles directly to the wok to make sweet and sour chicken noodles.
1 lb = 453 grams, 1 cup = 240 ml, 1 stick = 113g, 1 tbsp= 15 ml, 1 tsp= 5 ml,
The nutrition information and metric conversion are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee its accuracy. If this data is important to you please verify with your trusted nutrition calculator. Thank you