The most authentic sweet and sour chicken – crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. So simple, flavorful and healthier than Chinese takeout. Homemade. Gluten-free.
Certainly, sweet and sour chicken is a fan favorite.
But, most people think that it’s too complicated to make at home. Contrarily, I am here to tell you that it’s super simple and easy to prepare.
Instead of deep frying, I double-sear the chicken to get the outside crispy and keep the inside juicy and moist.
If you’re a fan of this recipe, you’ll also probably like my Healthy Chinese Garlic Chicken.
What is the difference between sweet and sour chicken and Hong Kong style?
The sweet and sour dish most of us are familiar with originates from a Shanghainese recipe that utilizes black vinegar. However, over time, the modernization of the dish created a variety of versions.
One of these versions added ketchup to the dish, which changed the color of the sauce entirely. This became a part of what we now understand to be the Hong Kong style. This sweet and sour sauce recipe grew to be more popular in westernized versions.
Additionally, Hong Kong-style differs in the way the chicken is prepared. As opposed to the original thick batter chicken balls, the chicken in Hong Kong style is typically deep fried in a thin layer of batter before cooking.
If you are interested in the importance of understanding anthropology and culture in the modernization of certain cultural dishes, I read an interesting article highlighting the origins of Hong Kong-style chicken.
Is sweet and sour chicken the same as orange chicken?
Orange chicken and sweet and sour chicken may look similar, but they are different!
Similarly, they are both made using chicken breast or thighs and are typically battered or deep-fried.
However, the main differences are in the sauces’ ingredients.
Typical Orange chicken sauce ingredientS
Spices: ginger, garlic, red chili flakes, and extra orange zest for flavor
Typical Sweet and sour sauce Ingredients
Apple cider vinegar
Salt and garlic
The sweet and sour sauce is more balanced with the sugary ingredients cutting the acidity of the vinegar.
Orange chicken, on the other hand, is more citrusy.
Ingredients in Sweet and Sour Chicken
This recipe is fairly simple and full of yummy ingredients:
Chicken thighs or chicken breast
Liao jiu/Shao xing wine (cooking wine)
Batter for sweet and sour Chicken
Cornstarch or arrowroot starch
Sweet and sour sauce
Cane sugar or brown/coconut sugar
Cornstarch or arrowroot starch
Red bell pepper
How to make sweet and sour chicken
Firstly, cut the chicken into small pieces.
Then, in a bowl marinate with Shaoxing wine or cooking wine, and salt for 10 – 15 minutes.
After, prepare a thick layer of oil in a pot.
Then, add the batter ingredients to the chicken. Combine well and make sure all the chicken pieces are coated.
Once the oil is heated to a simmer, add the chicken and fry one layer at a time.
Then, remove the chicken from the pot onto a plate. If you prefer more crispy chicken, you can double fry the chicken.
To doubly fry, let the chicken rest for 5 minutes and fry them again until crispy golden brown. You’ll need to add more oil to the pan.
After, place all the cooked chicken pieces on a paper towel.
Then, leave a little bit of oil in the pot and add the bell peppers and onion (if desired).
Finally, stir fry for 2 – 3 minutes, then remove from the pot and add in the sauce ingredients.
Cook on medium to low heat until slightly thickened. Add the chicken and vegetables and pineapple back in and combine well.
Garnish with sesame seeds and you’re done!
Substitution to make healthy sweet and sour chicken
With these a few simple ingredient swaps, you can make this dish healthier, paleo, and/or gluten-free:
Sugar: you can use coconut sugar to make this sweet and sour chicken paleo-friendly.
Starch: I used arrowroot starch here which is naturally gluten-free and paleo.
Ketchup: I love Primal Kitchen Sugar Free (whole30 friendly) ketchup
So simple and JUST as delicious!
Tips for making sweet and sour chicken
I’ve experimented with this recipe and found the following tips make for the best-tasting dish:
- Make sure to add veggies – they add texture, freshness, and balance the sweet and sour flavors
- Use ripe pineapple – I LOVE their sweet contrast to the vinegar
- You want your chicken crispy – that way it doesn’t absorb all the sauce
- Add brown sugar instead of white for a deeper flavor
- Steam some veggies on the side for a balanced meal
What goes with sweet and sour chicken?
Sweet and sour chicken is a great entrée to your sides.
Traditionally, it tastes amazing with some rice and veggies, but feel free to customize to your liking.
If you’re looking for a light, grain-free option, I recommend my Cauliflower Rice.
How to store sweet and sour chicken
This dish stores well in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days.
However, sweet and sour chicken does not reheat as well. It’s best served straight off the pan. That’s when it’s most delicious!
OTHER DELICIOUS Chinese RECIPES:
What other recipes would you like to see? Leave a comment below.
- 1.5 lb chicken thighs (or chicken breast)
- Liao jiu/Shao xing wine (cooking wine)*
- 1.5 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 egg
- 1 cup cornstarch or arrowroot starch
Sweet and Sour Sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup cane sugar (or brown/coconut sugar)
- 2 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot starch
Additional Ingredients (optional)
- 1/2 red bell pepper (cut into chunks)
- 1/2 green pepper (cut into chunks)
- 1/2 small yellow onion (chunks)
- 1 cup pineapple chunks
1. Cut the chicken into small pieces.
2. In a bowl marinate with Shaoxing wine, and salt for 10 – 15 minutes.
3. Prepare a thick layer of oil in a pot.
4. Add the batter ingredients to the chicken. Combine well. Make sure all the chicken pieces are coated.
5. Once the oil is heated to a simmer, add the chicken to fry (one layer at a time).
6. Remove the chicken from the pot onto a plate. If you prefer more crispy chicken, you can double fry the chicken.
7. To double fry: move the chicken onto a paper towel and let them rest for 5 minutes, and fry them again until crispy golden brown.**
8. Place all the cooked chicken pieces on a piece of paper towel.
9. Leave a little bit of oil in the pot and add the bell peppers, and onion (if using any). Stir fry for a few 2 – 3 minutes, then remove from the pot.
10. Add in the sauce ingredients.
11. Cook on medium to low heat until slightly thickened.
12. Add the chicken and vegetables and pineapple back in. Combine and coat well.
13. Garnish with sesame seeds and enjoy!
*You can use Mirin if the Shaoxing wine is unavailable to you. I’ve also tried a dark liquor like whisky for marinating and it works well.
**You may need to add more oil if double frying, otherwise, the chicken could be a bit tough on the outside. Allow the oil to heat back up to temperature before adding another batch.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 482Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 176mgSodium: 386mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 1gSugar: 14gProtein: 30g
The Nutrition Facts above are specific to the ingredients I chose to use for this recipe, which may vary.