Easy Sweet and Sour Chicken — This sweet and sour chicken recipe takes just 15 minutes to make and tastes way better than takeout. Perfect for a weeknight dinner!
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Easy Recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken
I’m all about a 15-minute dinner. Especially when it tastes better than what I’d get in a restaurant, it’s healthier, less expensive, and faster than calling for takeout. Score on all fronts.
This recipe features a simple sweet and sour sauce that’s packed with the perfect balance of sweet yet sour Asian flavors. Soy, sesame, garlic, and more.
The homemade sweet and sour sauce coats the chicken beautifully and really makes this dish what it is. You’ll likely have extra, which I could eat by the spoonful. It’s great over rice or veggies.
Before cooking the chicken it’s tossed with cornstarch, which helps keep it moist, tender, juicy, and provides a very lightly ‘breaded’ exterior without actually breading it.
Sweet and Sour Chicken Ingredients
For both the chicken and the homemade sweet and sour sauce, you’ll need the following:
Sweet and Sour Sauce
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Low-sodium soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Chicken breasts
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Green onions (optional, for serving)
- Sesame seeds (optional, for serving)
Note: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for the ingredients with amounts included and for more complete directions.
How to Make Sweet and Sour Chicken
Making homemade sweet and sour chicken is so much easier than you may think! If serving with rice, be sure to get it started first so it’s done by the time the chicken is ready to eat.
- Make the sweet and sour sauce: It consists of sugar, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, corn starch, and water. Add everything but the water and cornstarch to a saucepan.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, then combine the water and cornstarch in a separate bowl before adding it to the homemade sweet and sour sauce.
- Let that bubble away for a few minutes until it thickens up.
- Make the chicken: Add the diced chicken into a baggie with the cornstarch, salt, and pepper and give it a good shake to coat the chicken pieces fully.
- Fry the chicken in a skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil (no need to deep fry!).
- Once the chicken is cooked, stir in the sweet and sour sauce and continue cooking until the chicken is coated in sauce and heated through.
I like to serve my homemade sweet and sour chicken with rice and sprinkle chopped scallions and sesame seeds on top. I adore the contrasting textures!
If desired, you could dice the chicken a day or two ahead of time and you can also whisk together the sweet and sour sauce beforehand. That way, all you have to do is quickly throw everything in a pan the day you plan on making the recipe.
I bet you could, although I prefer my chicken without pineapple.
If using canned pineapple, make sure it’s packed in water and not syrup. Drain well before adding to the skillet at the very end of the cook time.
If using fresh pineapple, add to the skillet just before stirring in the sauce. You want the pineapple to heat through, but still retain some bite.
If you want to make this Chinese sweet and sour chicken with veggies, like broccoli or sugar snap peas, add them after you add the sauce to the chicken and let them simmer in the sauce for a few minutes until they’re crisp tender.
This recipe calls for chicken breasts, but you could use thighs as well. You want boneless, skinless thighs though. I don’t recommend using bone-in chicken for this Chinese sweet and sour chicken recipe.
This chicken is best enjoyed right away, but it’ll last up to five days in the fridge. For the best leftovers, reheat the chicken in a skillet with a little oil instead of microwaving it.
What to Serve with Sweet and Sour Chicken
Now that you know how easy this recipe for sweet and sour chicken is to make, it’s time to dish it up! Here are some great sides for sweet and sour chicken:
- White or brown rice
- Cauliflower rice (omit the chicken in this recipe)
- Fried rice (omit the chicken in this recipe)
- Steamed broccoli
- Fresh spring rolls
The chicken will last up to five days in the fridge, but it’s best enjoyed fresh. I recommend storing the chicken and rice (if using) in separate containers so that the rice doesn’t become soggy.
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- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, packed
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- about 1.25 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if necessary
- 2 green onions, sliced into thin rounds, optional for garnishing
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, optional for garnishing
Make the Sauce
- To a medium saucepan, add all ingredients except water and cornstarch, whisk to combine, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- To a small bowl, add the water, cornstarch, and stir to combine.
- Add the water and cornstarch mixture to saucepan, reduce heat to low, and allow sauce to simmer for about 5 minutes while you make the chicken; whisk intermittently.
Make the Chicken
- To a large ziptop bag, add the chicken, cornstarch, salt and pepper to taste, seal, and shake to coat chicken evenly.
- To a large skillet, add 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil, chicken, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until chicken has cooked through. Stir and flip intermittently to ensure even cooking. If skillet seems dry while cooking, add an additional tablespoon or two of oil as necessary.
- After chicken has cooked though, reduce heat to low, add the sauce, stir to coat evenly, and allow it to simmer for a minute or two.
- Optionally garnish with green onions, sesame seeds, and serve immediately.
- Chicken is best warm and fresh but will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 612Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 120mgSodium: 582mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 1gSugar: 44gProtein: 45g
More Chinese Chicken Recipes:
Better-Than-Takeout Cashew Chicken – Juicy chicken, crisp-tender vegetables, and crunchy cashews coated with the best garlicky soy sauce! Skip takeout and make your own restaurant-quality meal that’s easy, ready in 20 minutes, and healthier!
Easy Better-Than-Takeout Chicken Fried Rice – One-skillet, ready in 20 minutes, and you’ll never want takeout again after tasting how good homemade is! Way more flavor, not greasy, and loads of juicy chicken!
Healthy Sesame Chicken and Broccoli — Skip takeout and make this Asian favorite at home in just minutes!! So EASY and HEALTHIER than what you’d get in a restaurant but tastes just as AWESOME!!
Kung Pao Chicken Recipe — An easy, BETTER-THAN-TAKEOUT recipe with juicy chicken and such a flavorful sauce!! Don’t call for takeout when you can make this HEALTHIER version at home in 20 minutes!
Better-Than-Takeout Sticky Chicken — Stop calling for takeout or going to the mall food court and make this AMAZING sticky chicken at home in 15 minutes!! So EASY with the perfect balance of sweet and spicy with plenty of sticky sauce!!
Healthier Orange Chicken — Stop calling for takeout or going to the mall food court and make this HEALTHIER orange chicken at home in less than 10 minutes!! EASY, authentic, and so INCREDIBLE that you’ll never miss the fat and calories!!
Chicken Chow Mein — Chewy chow mein noodles, crisp-tender veggies, and juicy chicken are stir-fried in a sesame-soy sauce! It’s a SIMPLE and FAST recipe that anyone can make.
Originally posted on January 18, 2017 and reposted on August 12, 2022 with updated text.