An easy and delicious Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe. Sticky sweet and sour sauce tossed with lightly pan fried chicken tender pieces. This sweet and tangy Chinese chicken is quick to make in a skillet for lunch or dinner.
Sweet and Sour Chicken is a Chinese classic. Of course, American’s like a much sweeter version. If you’ve been searching for a real restaurant style sweet and sour chicken recipe to make at home, I have you covered. After many fails, I’ve finally nailed the iconic sauce. It features a secret (and easily readily available) ingredient that will make you say “now why didn’t I think of that.”
If you’re looking to try this traditional recipe from scratch and in the comfort of your own home, you’ll need a few common Asian ingredients that are available at the grocery store. Skip the bottle sauces and glazes and try this better than take out sweet and sour chicken.
This homemade version is inspired by PF Chang’s Sweet and Sour Chicken. This is so easy to make at home and can be prepared and ready in under 25 minutes. Everyone raves how delicious my sweet and sour sauce is with chicken, shrimp, beef, and pork. It’s a family favorite to make dinner with on a busy weeknight.
How to Make Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Cut chicken tenders into bite size pieces.
- Mix together flour, pepper, onion powder, and red pepper flakes.
- Coat chicken in dry ingredients.
- Heat oil in frying pan.
- Lightly pan fry chicken on each side until lightly golden brown.
- Make the sweet and sour sauce.
- Pour sauce into pan.
- Simmer sauce and allow to reduce and thicken.
- Garnish chicken with sesame seeds, and green onions.
- Serve with steamed white rice, or rice noodles.
Sweet and Sour Chicken Ingredients
Chicken: I use chicken tenders and cut them into bite size pieces. Feel free to use chicken breasts, too. In addition, you’ll want to make sure the flour seasoning mix coats the chicken well before searing it in the hot oil.
Flour: I like to lightly pan fry my chicken. It allows the sauce to stick to the chicken and the breading has enough flavor. Although it is not as thick of a wet or dry dredge, it does just enough to still have that great breading crunch. All-purpose flour works best here. Seasoning it with onion powder, red pepper flakes, and pepper gives it additional flavor as well.
Oil: Vegetable oil works great here. Make sure the oil is hot before adding the chicken to the pan. I use just a minimal amount of oil. The chicken is not deep fried but rather lightly pan fried or seared in oil.
Seasoning: Just the basics. Dried seasoning like onion powder, pepper, and red pepper flakes add just the right amount of flavor to the fried chicken.
Orange Juice: Freshly squeezed is best. It contains a higher amount of citrus juice without all the added sugar. Just 1/4 cup is needed so it shouldn’t be too many navel oranges. Orange juice is the secret ingredient that makes this dish. While a lot of people assume pineapple juice is the main star because of the dish may contain pineapple or have chunks of it in the sauce, it’s actually not in the recipe at all. In the beginning recipes I tried to recreate, I made this mistake.
Chicken Broth: Chinese cooking is full of broth bases. It’s found in many restaurant recipes. Simply buy it from the grocery store of use your own.
Soy Sauce: A little goes a long way. Too much soy sauce in this recipe will change the flavor to something more savory. Use regular soy sauce or low sodium. I like to use Kikkoman soy sauce in all my Asian American inspired recipes.
Vinegar: Part of the sour tang in this recipe is from the vinegar. Again, it’s another common staple in restaurants. I use it in equal parts to the orange juice, and chicken broth. Use regular distilled vinegar and not apple cider or rice vinegar for the best, most authentic results.
Reader Tips and Questions
This sauce beats any sweet and sour sauce out of a bottle. Bottled sauces can contain a lot of extra ingredients that make it shelf stable without actually achieving the flavor profile. I’d skip the grocery store sauce for this recipe.
This Asian condiment is sold in almost any general grocery store. Don’t waste you’re time visiting an Asian supermarket for the ingredient. Find is near the soy sauce. We have an international section in our store where a lot of Asian and Chinese condiments, and sauces are sold. It should be pretty easy to find.
Onions, green or red bell peppers, cauliflower rice, pineapple chunks, broccoli florets, green onions, snow peas, green beans, or spicy chili peppers all pair wonderfully with this Asian dish. In addition, my grocery store sells stir fry packs in the produce area as well as all ready cooked stir fried vegetables in the freezer section as well. Both are good sources of vegetables.
Yes, it can be doubled. It may need to be cooked in batches as the pan should not be crowded with chicken or else it will steam and not fry.
Remove the chicken from the sauce and bring the sauce to a boil. Allow it to reduce and thicken. Another trick is to add just a 1/2 teaspoon more of cornstarch to the mixture, but it will need to be mixed into a slurry with an equal part of cold water before adding to the saucepan.
The chicken may be overcrowded in the pan. To fix this, simply cook it in batches without the chicken touching. The chicken should fry, not steam. A quick fix to this issue is to drain the liquid or simply use a paper towel blotted in the pan to reduce the amount of chicken juices.
Other Asian Dishes You’ll Love
- Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups
- Sticky Garlic Sesame Chicken
- Korean Fried Chicken
- King Pao Chicken
- Pepper Steak Stir Fry
- Teriyaki Pork Stir Fry
- Air Fryer Asian Salmon
Sweet and Sour Chicken
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp ground black pepper (⅛)
- ⅛ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1½ pounds chicken tenders (cut into pieces)
- 2 tbsp oil
Sweet and Sour Sauce
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- ¼ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- In a bowl or ziplock bag, whisk or shake together flour, onion powder, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Add cut up chicken pieces to bag or bowl and coat well with dry mixture.
- Heat oil in pan over medium heat.
- Place chicken pieces in skillet once oil is hot. Careful not to overcrowd the pan with chicken or it will steam instead of pan fry.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweet and sour ingredients.
- Flip chicken over halfway through cooking; until it's golden brown.
- Cook other side.
- Stir in sauce.
- Allow sauce to reduce and thicken, stirring occasionally.
- Sauce should coat chicken and stick.
- Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Serve with rice or noodles if desired.