Chinese Lemon Chicken. Crispy fried chicken coated in a zesty tangy lemon sauce with a hint of garlic. This quick Chinese lemon chicken recipe takes 30 minutes and is simple to make, as we are not deep frying.
This is a popular Chinese dish that is served at many restaurants and takeaway for good reason. The sweet and savoury lemon sauce over that crispy chicken is one to die for! It’s the sister to Orange chicken so to speak. And now instead of heading out and paying $15 for this dish, you can make it from the comfort of your own home.
Easy Chinese Lemon Chicken Recipe
My Chinese lemon chicken recipe is simple to make! The cooking process only takes 10 minutes or less and the preparation time takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on how swift you are in the kitchen.
Ingredients are accessible!
If you have an Asian pantry, you’ll have most of the ingredients at your fingertips already! If you don’t, you’ll find that there are not too many on the list that are “foreign” sounding or hard to find. Why? Because I wanted to make this recipe super accessible even for those living out in the country. I know how frustrating it can be to want to make a recipe but not have all the ingredients for it.
Not deep fried
I know there are several Chinese lemon chicken recipes online. Some that require deep frying, some that require air frying. However, this will be the best Chinese lemon chicken recipe you’ve made at home without deep frying or air frying (although I do provide air frying instructions in my recipe card below).
I wanted to share a version of Chinese lemon chicken not deep fried in a lot of oil for purposes of reducing food waste but also for health reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I love deep fried food but not always. I also realize not everyone has the luxury of owning an air fryer, so I wanted to share a way to shallow fry the chicken to make it crispy and delicious, like takeout.
What you’ll need
For this recipe you’ll need the following Chinese lemon chicken ingredients:
- Chicken thighs
- Vegetable oil
- Black Pepper
- Brown sugar
- Zest of a Lemon
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Regular soy sauce, (not light or dark!)
- Chicken stock, unsalted
- Sesame seeds, garnish
- Lemon slices, decorative
How to make Chinese Lemon Chicken
Below are brief steps with visuals to show you how to make crispy lemon chicken. Please scroll down to the recipe card below to find full instructions and details.
Dice chicken thighs into bite size pieces, about 8 pieces per thigh.
Evenly coat diced chicken in cornstarch. For an even coating, place cornstarch on a plate and dredge each piece into the starch until evenly coated. Alternatively, for a faster method, sprinkle cornstarch over diced chicken and mix to coat. Note: The latter method is faster but results in less crispy chicken so if you have time, opt for first method.
In a hot wok over medium high heat, add oil. Once the oil glistens, quickly add chicken and spread apart quickly to prevent pieces from sticking to each other. Fry chicken for 6-7 minutes in total, flipping over halfway. Remove fried chicken from oil and transfer to a cooling rack or paper towel lined plate.
Remove any excess oil in wok.
Over medium heat, pour in sauce. Keep stirring sauce bubbles and thickens to reduce.
Add back in fried chicken and toss to coat. Garnish with sesame seeds and enjoy!
Below are tips on making Chinese lemon fried chicken:
Chicken thigh for best taste
Since chicken thigh has more fat content, it’ll taste better than using chicken breast. It’s also more forgiving if you happen to over cook it. However, you may use chicken breast for this recipe.
Zest is key! Do not skip
I know it takes more time to zest a lemon but it’s worth it especially for this recipe! This zest is so aromatic that it will take your lemon chicken from a level 8 to a 10!
Prepare ingredients ahead of time
Since the cooking time is less than 10 minutes, it’s super important to prepare your ingredients ahead of time otherwise this could lead to overcooked chicken. You really don’t want to be scrambling in the kitchen trying to find your ingredients as this dish is cooking.
Evenly starch chicken to get it crispy
To get crispy chicken without any bald spots requires an even dusting of cornstarch. If you have time, add the cornstarch to a plate and dredge your chicken pieces a bit at a time and set aside. The method shown in the video still results in crispy chicken, but the first listed method results in even crispier chicken!
Medium high heat is key!
This is the heat level I use (level 7-8 out of 10) for crispy shallow fried chicken. Medium level could work but it won’t be as crispy in my experience but please adjust accordingly to your stove top as all stoves are different.
Sauce needs to bubble to reduce
If you’re simmering your sauce over medium heat, with time it should reduce with consistent stirring and bubbling. If it doesn’t bubble for whatever reason, increase the heat until it does. The bubbling is a sign of evaporation creating for a thick smooth sauce.
Below are frequently asked questions about this authentic Chinese lemon chicken:
May I use chicken breast?
Yes! That will work but please reduce the cooking time as needed and only fry the chicken until about an internal temperature of 160 F and then remove from hot oil. Then toss back into sauce to cook until it reaches 165 F and remove from heat immediately. Chicken breast tends to dry out faster than thigh so that’s why it’s important to pay attention to the cooking time.
Can I make Chinese lemon chicken in the air fryer?
Yes! I share instructions on how to achieve this in my recipe card below so please scroll down for that.
Other recipes you may like!
If you enjoyed this Chinese lemon chicken stir fry recipe, you may enjoy these other recipes:
Well, I hope you give my Chinese Lemon Chicken a try! It always excites me when you make my recipes and I hope this is one you try and most importantly, enjoy.
Sharing is caring
If you enjoyed my Chinese lemon garlic chicken recipe, please share it with your family and friends or on social media! Take a picture of your re-creation and make sure to tag me @ChristieAtHome in your feed or stories as I would love to see it!
Did you enjoy it?
If you genuinely enjoyed my Chinese takeaway lemon chicken recipe, please leave a 5-star review. I would greatly appreciate it 🙂
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Chinese Lemon Chicken (Easy!)
- 1 tsp Sesame seeds garnish
- Dice chicken thighs into bite size pieces, about 8 pieces per thigh.
- In a bowl, pre-mix your sauce ingredients as listed above.
- Evenly coat diced chicken in cornstarch. For an even coating, place cornstarch on a plate and dredge each piece into the starch until evenly coated. Alternatively, for a faster method, sprinkle cornstarch over diced chicken and mix to coat. Note: The latter method is faster but results in less crispy chicken so if you have time, opt for first method.
- In a hot wok over medium-high heat, add oil. Once the oil glistens, quickly add chicken and spread apart quickly to prevent pieces from sticking to each other. Fry chicken for 6-7 minutes in total, flipping over halfway. Remove fried chicken from oil and set aside.
- Remove any excess oil in wok.
- Over medium heat, pour in sauce. Keep stirring sauce bubbles and thickens to reduce.
- Add back in fried chicken and toss to coat. Garnish with sesame seeds and enjoy!
How to Air Fry Chicken:
- Place cornstarch on a plate and in small batches, dredge cubed chicken into starch until evenly coated.
- Transfer to air fryer basket in a single layer giving each piece some space. Depending on the size of your air fryer you may need to do this in a couple batches.
- Spray oil over the chicken.
- Air fry at 400 F for 12-14 minutes until crispy.