General Tso Chicken. Crispy juicy chicken smothered in a tangy, sweet, savory sauce with a spicy kick! It serves deliciously for dinner, lunch or leftovers. Ready in just 25 minutes!
This general tso chicken from scratch is easy to make at home and will make your taste buds sing!
What is General Tso Chicken?
General Tso Chicken is one of the most popular Chinese dishes in Asian food to date! It's a tasty chicken dish made of crispy chicken pieces coated in a sweet, savory, flavorful sauce with spicy flavors! The sweet sauce is thanks to the hoisin and brown sugar complimented with delicious aromatics! It has easily become one of my favorite recipes.
Where did General Tso Chicken come from?
This is a popular Chinese takeout dish served at many take away style restaurants or Chinese restaurants. It was first invented by a Hunan cuisine chef named Peng Chang-kuei from the Hunan province of China.
Peng created the dish in the 1950's. The name of this dish was dedicated to TsoTsung-t'ang (Zuo Zongtang), who was a 19th century military leader or General who enjoyed this popular Chinese-American dish.
What does General Tso Chicken taste like?
Imagine crispy fried chicken bites covered in a thick glossy sauce that tastes sweet, salty, spicy and tangy all at the same time! There are also notes of sesame and ginger that enhance the flavour profile of this dish.
Easy to make!
My original recipe is simple to make at home and can be made in under 25 minutes! All the ingredients are accessible, and I share substitutes where possible and applicable. If it's your first time making General Tso Chicken, good news, I share step-by-step pictures, detailed instructions and a video to quickly explain the process.
This will be the best ever general tso chicken recipe made at home and I’m very excited to share it with you!
No batter and no deep frying!
There is no deep frying in this recipe! We are simply shallow frying this chicken in little oil. You can of course use your air fryer and I will share instructions on how to do that in the below recipe card.
However, if you prefer deep-fried chicken pieces, feel free to do so and deep fry the chicken pieces for 4-5 minutes until they're golden brown in hot oil at 350 degrees F. Then remove and set aside the fried chicken on a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.
There's also no batter just cornstarch! This is enough to create a crispy golden brown chicken if you follow my instructions properly.
For this recipe you’ll need the below simple ingredients (see recipe card for full measurements).
Note: Most Asian grocers will carry these ingredients. You may find some at your select grocery store or online, like on Amazon.
- Skinless boneless chicken thighs: or substitute with chicken breast if you prefer white meat.
- Corn starch: or substitute with potato starch. This helps to make our juice chicken crispy.
- Fresh ginger: a key aromatic that offers a sharp zingy flavor to our tangy sauce.
- Green onion: giving our delicious General Tso's chicken recipe color and flavor!
- Neutral oil: like avocado oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil or canola oil. Avoid olive oil, coconut oil or any heavy scented oils.
- Sesame seeds: an optional garnish that lends a nutty flavor to our cooked chicken.
General Tso Sauce:
- Hoisin sauce: the key ingredient to our sweet sauce. This is like a dark, thick, Asian BBQ sauce. It's used in cooking Chinese food to offer a sweet molasses flavor. Do not confuse this with oyster sauce which has a similar texture.
- Regular soy sauce: to create the perfect balance between sweet and savory flavors. This is different from dark soy sauce as it's not as dark or thick in color. You may also substitute with low sodium soy sauce or light soy sauce. If you’re gluten-free, substitute with tamari sauce, coconut aminos or a gluten-free soy sauce of your choice.
- Brown sugar: This makes the stir fry sauce sweeter and is another key ingredient to my homemade version of General Tso chicken.
- Rice wine vinegar or rice vinegar: you may also substitute with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. If you have Shoaxing wine, this is also another great substitute.
- Garlic: this brings that garlicky flavor.
- Sesame oil: to give our chicken dish a nutty flavor.
- Red pepper flakes or red chili flakes: to give our homemade General Tso's chicken a spicy kick! You may also omit this ingredient if you wish.
- Cornstarch and water: to make our cornstarch slurry which helps to thicken the spicy sauce. If you want more flavor, you can substitute the water with chicken broth or chicken stock.
How to make General Tso Chicken
In a small bowl, combine sauce ingredients and set aside.
Cut each thigh into bite size pieces, about 6-8 pieces per thigh depending on size. Do not pat chicken thighs dry, some moisture is needed for the next step. If you plan to air fry your chicken, see below on how to do that.
In a large bowl, add chicken pieces followed by cornstarch. Mix to coat each piece of chicken evenly.
In a wok or large pan, set over medium-high heat, heat vegetable oil or any neutral oil. To test, insert a wooden chopstick into the oil and look for bubbles. If you see bubbles, the oil is hot.
Carefully lower coated chicken into oil and quickly spread apart. Once chicken is spread apart, do not touch or move the pieces around. Allow pieces to sear and form a golden crust, about 5-6 minutes on each side.
Remove and transfer fried chicken to a plate lined with paper towels or a wire rack for excess oil to drip off. Pour out any excess oil from pan.
In the same wok set over medium high heat, add your ginger followed by pre-mixed sauce. Let it come to a boil to thicken and reduce.
Then finally toss in your fried chicken and mix until each piece is coated in sauce. Optionally, garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
How to make Air Fryer General Tso Chicken
You can make this chicken in the air fryer. Please refer to the recipe card below under Notes to find out how or read below:
- Lightly spray air fryer basket with oil. Transfer the coated chicken into your air fryer basket in a single layer, giving each piece enough space. You may need to air fry in two batches depending on the size of your air fryer.
- Spray enough oil over chicken. Air fry at 400 degrees F for 12-14 minutes until crispy and brown, no flipping required.
Prepare ingredients ahead of time!
This is important. The cooking process is quick (about 15 minutes) so you don’t want to be scrambling as the chicken is frying in the pan or it can lead to overcooked chicken.
Heat level is crucial for crispy chicken!
Medium high heat is the key to getting the chicken crispy and golden.
Spread chicken apart after tossing into pan
Once you’ve tossed your chicken into the pan, quickly spread it apart so it doesn’t stick together as it fries making it harder to flip.
Don’t be tempted to move chicken constantly
After you’ve spread the chicken apart, do not move it around constantly. Let it sear and form a crispy crust on both sides. The more you move it around, the chicken will lose its crust.
Below are frequently asked questions about this authentic general tso chicken recipe:
Is General Tso Chicken spicy?
Yes, but if you prefer no spice, you can make this mild by omitting the red pepper flakes or reducing the amount to half.
Where can I buy hoisin sauce?
Hoisin sauce is found at most Asian grocers in the sauce aisle and at many Western grocers. It’s also sold online.
Can I sub hoisin sauce with another ingredient?
I wouldn’t recommend it as there aren’t many great substitutes that really mimic the taste and texture of it. You can make it from scratch by following this recipe by Omnivore’s Cookbook!
Can I sub rice vinegar with white vinegar?
Yes, or feel free to use apple cider vinegar or Shaoxing wine.
Can I use chicken breast instead?
Yes, but be cautious in overcooking this as chicken breast is not as forgiving as thigh since it does not have much fat. I would recommend only cooking it until it reaches in internal temperature of 165 F using to a cooking thermometer.
Why isn’t my chicken crispy?
These are some factors why your chicken couldn’t get crispy:
- The cornstarch didn’t stick to your chicken because the chicken was abnormally dry to the touch. For future, rinse the chicken and let moisture drip off completely, then dice it.
- Chicken pieces did not have time to sear and form a crust.
- Too much movement and tossing of the chicken pieces.
- Low of a heat was used. Make sure to use at least medium heat to medium high heat.
- Chicken did not have enough time to cook to develop a crust.
Other recipes you may like!
If you enjoyed this crunchy general tso chicken, you may enjoy these other recipes:
- Orange Chicken
- Sweet Spicy Gochujang Chicken
- Mongolian Chicken
- Lemon Chicken
- Sweet And Sour Chicken
- Ginger Chicken
- Honey Sesame Chicken
Easy General Tso Chicken
- In a small bowl, combine sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Cut each thigh into bite size pieces, about 6-8 pieces per thigh depending on size. Do not pat chicken thighs dry, some moisture is needed for the next step. If you plan to air fry your chicken, please refer to Notes now.
- In a large bowl, add chicken pieces followed by cornstarch. Mix to coat each piece evenly.
- In a wok or large pan, set over medium high heat, heat vegetable oil or any neutral oil. To test if oil is hot, insert a wooden chopstick into the oil and look for bubbles. If you see bubbles, the oil is hot
- Carefully lower coated chicken into oil and quickly spread apart. Once chicken is spread apart, do not touch or move the pieces around. Allow pieces to sear and form a golden crust, about 5-6 minutes on each side.
- Remove and transfer fried chicken to a paper towel lined plate or wire rack. Pour out any excess oil from pan.
- In the same wok set over medium high heat, add your ginger followed by pre-mixed sauce. Let it come to a boil to thicken and reduce.
- Then finally toss in your fried chicken and mix until each piece is coated in sauce. Optionally, garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
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