Chinese 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!
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.
The flavor profile reminds me of Slow Cooker Hawaiian Chicken with Pineapple and Sweet and Sour Asian Noodles. Serve it with rice and you’re set.
Ingredients in Sweet and Sour Chicken
For both the chicken and the homemade sweet and sour sauce, you’ll need:
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Low-sodium soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Chicken breasts
- Olive oil
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!
Can I Prep This Recipe in Advance?
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.
Can I Add Pineapple Chunks?
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.
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.
Tips for the Best Sweet and Sour Chicken
Adding veggies: 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.
Chicken breasts vs. thighs: 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.
Reheating leftovers: 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
Pin This Recipe
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!
- 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!
Slow Cooker Orange Chicken – The easiest orange chicken ever because your slow cooker does all the work! Super juicy, tender, and coated with a sweet-yet-tangy orange glaze that’s irresistible!
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!!
Originally posted on January 18, 2017 and reposted on August 12, 2022 with updated text.
I tried this recipe, I added in some bell peppers and onion, and it was absolutely delicious. However, I found it too sweet for my liking and I think I’ll reduce the sugar to a quarter cup next time.
I am glad you enjoyed it!
Just a tip – it could be possible that either/both the bell peppers or the onion caramelized a bit, which could have caused the dish to read sweeter than it would have been without them. Or not… Hard to say.
But just throwing that out there. But yes of course, reduce the sugar to your liking next time. Glad you will make it again!
Our daughter (12 yo) loves to cook this dish. We found this recipe and she felt in love with it. Now it’s one of her specialty dishes. Thank you!😊
Thanks for the 5 star review and great story about your 12 year old making this and that it’s one of her specialty dishes! Wish I could say the same for my teen daughter that she was cooking for me but she’s not haha!
Would you use the same recipe if substituting pork for chicken?
Probably but I haven’t tested it so cannot say for sure. You will need to experiment and see how it goes.
Do you think I could substitute flour (or arrowroot powder) for the cornstarch in both sections? We have a corn allergy in our family. Thank you!
You could give it a try and see how it goes. I can’t say one way or the other if it will work or not so all you can do is try and see.
Made this for 2nd time last night. Had 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2.4 lb) so doubled sauce for serving over rice ( made generous sauce serving). My family loved it. No adjustments needed.
Thanks for the 5 star review and I am glad your family loves it and that you have made it twice already!
I didn’t want dinner to end! This was the very best Sweet and Sour Chicken I have ever made! I added pineapple, chopped broccoli, orange pepper and onion. Definitely will be making this again and again!
Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad this is the best sweet-and-sour chicken you have ever made and that you will be making it again and again!
Your recipes are the best grandson ate alll of it whren we all had ours dished up
Thanks for the 5 star review and I’m glad your grandson is loving my recipes, too!
We love this recipe. I often make it in the crockpot (on low, cook 2-3 hours) and it’s good that way, too.
Thanks for the 5 star review and good to know that you love this recipe and make it often in your Crock Pot. Thanks for sharing what you do!
I made this recipe today. I was a little nervous because I had never made sweet and sour chicken before. It turned out SO DELICIOUS!!! Thank you for sharing this recipe!!! It’s one that I will definitely be making for many years to come!!! DELICIOUS!!!
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad that you will be making this for years to come! That’s wonderful!
This recipe is very tasty. Our family loved it and said it is better than any restaurant version. The minor changes I made were using boneless, skinless thigh meat and half the vinegar. I’d never used cornstarch as a coating before. I am amazed at how crispy the chicken turned out.Thank you for a really yummy recipe!
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad that your family loved it better than any restaurant version!
Thanks for a great recipe. This was SO good! I was out of apple cider vinegar so substituted with unseasoned rice vinegar. I was a little skeptical about all the sugar but went ahead with the full amount and I was not disappointed. I added steamed fresh stir fry veggies and served over rice to complete the meal. YuM !
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this turned out great for you!
Tasty recipe but I had to add approximately 1/4 c extra of brown sugar to the sauce as it was simmering as I found the vinegar element overpowering.
That’s fine, everyone’s tastes are different. And all vinegars vary in potency. Glad it was tasty overall!
We loved this so much I wanted to print it out for my recipe binder. However, there is a problem with your print button – I only get the ingredients and not the instructions. I guess I’ll scribble them down by hand because I definitely don’t want to lose this one – just wanted to let you know there’s a problem.
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you loved it!
To print, look for the PRINT button within the recipe card (it’s aqua green), click that, recipe will open in a separate printable window. Everything is there, nothing missing.
Loved this recipe! So quick to make and it’s absolutely delicious. Thank you.
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad it was delish and quick!
Love this recipe! I’ve made it several times. The last two times I have bought the frozen stir fry veggies packages from the market and just added the frozen veggies straight to the skillet. Family favorite!
Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad this is a family favorite and that you’ve made it several times!
The sweet and sour chicken is so yummy!!! Thanks so much for the recipe😍
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad it turned out great for you!
I doubled the recipe (family of 6) and serve it over white rice and some sautéed zuchinni and corn. It was a hit! I was nervous about the amount of sugar so we reduced it. Thanks!
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this was a hit with your family!
OMG!!! So glad I found this recipe, so easy, absolutely loved it. Very tasty and very authentic tasting in my opinion. The only thing I did was throw in a small can of pineapple chunks once the chicken was cooked through and then poured the sauce over. That turned out good. My son loved it so much he wanted me to just make the sauce and pour over the leftover rice as I always cook too much rice. So what I did was cook up approximately half a cauliflower cut into small flowerettes and a carrot finely sliced, tossed in a finely chopped spring onion and a sprinkle of sesame seeds, then poured some of the sauce over that and the rest on my son’s rice. Very tasty. I’ve been browsing through your recipes and I’m sure I’ll be making most of them.
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this was a winner and that you even were able to customize something, too, for your son. Glad you’ll be making other recipes of mine as well!
This recipe for sweet and sour chicken was so yummy! The leftovers even tasted good!
Thank you for the 5 star review and glad that even the leftovers were great!
Yum. The sweet and sour chicken turned out soooo good. We served it over rice noodles. Will keep this recipe, thanks
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this turned out so well for you!
I have made this many times and my parents and siblings LOVE it!!!!! I’m so glad I found your recipe!!!!!!!
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this is a family favorite!
OMG ! This is the best delicious meal . Better than take out . My kids love it and I make it two time in a week! I will try all your recipe! Thank you so much !!
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad it is the best delicious meal and you make it twice a week!
I haven’t made this yet but I intend to and soon. I’m tasting it just from reading the copycat . Thank you for all your work for us, the home cook. Please keep them coming.
You’re welcome and enjoy!
I used 1/4 cup sugar and it tasted just fine and still had a reasonable consistency, no need for that much sugar!
Ok great to hear that it worked fine for you with less!
Hi, this is a great recipe. However, I had a hard time with the cornstarch. I have never worked with cornstarch and I was not sure what the consistency should look like. The cornstarch did not stick to the chicken. Any advice?
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad it turned out great for you!
If you add the ingredients to a ziplock baggie, ie. chicken, cornstarch, salt and pepper, the cornstarch (powdery fine texture like baby powder in a way) it really should stick to the chicken. You may have to help ‘pack it on’ a little bit by pressing from the outside of the baggie but it’s not much and should easily stick to the moist raw chicken. Maybe next time be a little more assertive in squishing it around in the baggie with your fingers from the outside to help it stick more.
I. Made. This recipe while naked however I had to put a shirt on while frying chicken. Was very good. I added red bell peppers and pineapple chunks along with Mandarin oranges. Exceptional
Anytime I cook chicken, there is always a bit of splatter. Glad it was exceptional for you.
Delicious, pulled back on the sugar to 1/2 cup.
Thanks for the five star review and glad it was delicious with the reduced sugar!
I made the sweet and sour chicken, it came out awesome! Thank you for this recipe!!!
Glad to hear it was awesome!
This was delicious and tasted exactly like takeout! Made a half-batch as there are only 2 of us. Cut up some carrots & green peppers and lightly sauted-steamed them on their own & added to chicken at end, otherwise made exactly as directed. A winner which I will make again – may even try it with pork or shrimp next time.
Glad it turned out great for you and you’ll make it again!
Where is the measurements? I went to the store bought all the ingredients. Now I’m ready to start cooking for my family and just realized, I don’t see how much corn starch I need or soy sauce?
All is listed, keep scrolling.
loved this recipe averie! but it has a very strong vinegar taste. should I just cut on vinegar next time??
Yes I would say halve it then; or change vinegars. I use Bragg’s brand apple cider vinegar and have never had that issue but everyone’s tastes are different.
Glad you loved the recipe overall!
Great recipe. Made this today. Turned out delicious.
Thanks for the 5 star review and it turned out delicious!
This was really good! I couldn’t wait for leftovers today! If you have time to comment, do you recommend I cut back on the vinegar, or add more sugar to make it a little sweeter? I’ll def make this again! :)
The sweet and sour chicken was amazing. It was easy to cook and tasted delicious. My family loved it and gave it a high mark for the taste. It’s healthier than the original. I definitely be making this again for my family and company. Thank you so much for such a great recipe.
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad it was amazing and you’ll make it again!
We just found some gluten-free Asian noodles we can use in these recipes! I love Chinese food and this is no exception! Keep the great recipes coming!
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you love the recipes!
Averie, this was really good, my husband, and kids liked it! thank you for saving my thursday night !:)
Glad this was really good and that it saved your Thursday night dinner :)
Can you bread and cook this chicken then freeze? If so would you need to fry again when thawed?
I really haven’t experimented with any of those things so cannot give concrete feedback. You’d have to try and see what works and what doesn’t.
This is a delicious recipe! I added orange juice to the sauce. I also removed the chicken from the pan and sauteed red and yellow pepper, returned the chicken to the pan and then added the sauce. It is definitely a keeper!!!
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad it’s a keeper and was delicious!
Really tasty and impressed my teenagers!! Who are always hard to please.
Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad this evening impressed your teenagers!
This is hardly a 15 minute and done but it is well worth the time and effort. One of my top 5 recipes.
Thanks for the 5 star review and I’m glad it’s one of your top 5 recipes!
This was so good!!! Thank you for sharing this recipe, it was like eating restaurant chinese. Hmmmmmm!
Glad it was like eating at a Chinese restaurant, but at home!
This was delicious! I added some carrot, onion, and green bell pepper. And served with white rice. My husband and finicky girls all gave it thumbs up! Question. (If I want to cut back a little on the sugar, what would you suggest?)
Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad this was a winner!
I have never tried to cut back on the sugar because there’s a fair amount of vinegar in it and I feel like it could be too pungent without the sugar. But you can play around with it and see what you can get away with.
I absolutely loved this recipe, I am really picky when it comes to “at home” recipes. I am also quite inexperienced in cooking and I was able to successfully and easily do this! I would add less apple cider vinegar and garlic next time. I could almost taste the apple cider vinegar. I also didn’t have olive oil so I used vegetable oil and it tasted fine! But such an amazing and yummy recipe! Definitely worth trying!
Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad you enjoyed this!
So fast so easy and my wife and 1 year old loved it!
Thanks for the 5 star review and it was a hit with everyone!
Great and easy gluten free recipe. I followed the recipe but I added cut up fresh pineapple chunks and bell pepper slices. Tasted better than the Chinese restaurant
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you think this tastes even better than from a Chinese restaurant!
Love this recipe! My family won’t even order this in restaurants anymore because this is better. Thanks, Averie!
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad my version beats the restaurant version!
I need a good white rice recipe. I know at P. F. Changs they serve 2 white rices. One taste normal nothing added the other just woke up taste buds in my mouth I didn’t even know I had. Prior to P. F. Chang’s I never ate Chinese food because in my opinion they all stunk to high heaven. I cannot eat something that doesn’t look smell and taste good. Just walking near all Chinese food doors, nit going in made me nausious. My niece had her gradution dinner @ P. F. Changs, I told her babe I will try to enter the restaurant. But OMG P. F. Changs is the only Chinese restaurant that I walked into first of all and secondly it was like bring on the menu, the aromas inside were oh so delicious smelling. Now I am more inept at trying to make these things myself. Thank you for any help you may have.
Honestly white rice is one of those things that I don’t think much about and just make it.
If you’re looking for a great rice recipe I would suggest either of these https://www.averiecooks.com/2016/02/easy-better-takeout-chicken-fried-rice.html https://www.averiecooks.com/2017/04/easy-better-takeout-shrimp-fried-rice.html
And this is THE BEST PF Chang’s copycat recipe you’ll ever taste https://www.averiecooks.com/2017/04/p-f-changs-chicken-lettuce-wraps-copycat-recipe.html
You knocked this one out of the park, Averie. My daughter said it was like going to a Chinese restaurant right in our own home. I did have some problems with the chicken sticking–I pre-heated the skillet so I’m not sure why this was an issue. I’ve never used corn starch as a breading before (I’ve used a flour mixture) so wondering if that had something to do with it? My pan is a Cuisinart.
Glad you guys loved it and I love your daughter’s quote :) As for the sticking…cornstarch can cause chicken to stick a bit (it will for me too) but you can always just add a bit more oil next time to the skillet as necessary to help prevent the sticking. Or maybe a nonstick skillet? But honestly unless I’m cooking eggs I don’t use nonstick skillets much!
I totally have to make this. My mom used to make a pork version but I’d like chicken SO MUCH better.
This was so good and easy! The sauce…mmmm….loved it!
*Throws away all takeout menus*. This looks stinking amazing- and I cannot believe how easy it is! Total life saver!
Anytime you can throw away a takeout menu, that’s a step in the right direction :)
Hey girl- this looks so amazing!
Oh how I love sweet n sour chicken! But this version is healthier and even faster than takeout! What’s not to love?
This looks so good! We love sweet and sour chicken… and the 15 minutes part is a total win in my books!
This is your kinda food! And the 15 min part is always a win :)
This looks so good Averie!! Can’t wait to give it a try!! :)
You must have read my mind. I was thinking about making your cashew chicken later this week but I’m not sure I have cashews on hand. But I have everything needed to make this!
Awesome! Keep me posted if you make it!
I’ve made many different asian flavored dishes but haven’t done a sweet and sour chicken in ages. I like that this isn’t fully breaded and fried like most takeout versions. A15 minute recipe that looks this good is always a winner!
I loved that this wasn’t breaded and was quick and easy!
I was anxious to try this and it was wonderful! The sauce is amazing–I haven’t had sweet and sour in a while and it was a delicious “re-introduction”, so to speak! I also steamed some broccoli and was glad I had enough to coat it as well.
I’m so glad you loved it and yes the sauce…so good! Glad you added broccoli, too! Perfect for soaking up the sauce!