Sweet and Sour Chicken. Crispy juicy chicken coated in a sweet, tangy, sticky sauce. A popular Chinese dish ready in 30 minutes. Great as a main dish.
What is Sweet and Sour Chicken made of?
Sweet and Sour Chicken stir fry is a common Chinese takeout dish. Usually it is tender chicken coated in a batter then deep-fried and covered in a sweet, tangy sauce with pineapple chunks and bell peppers. This dish is found at many Chinese restaurants and it's iconic to Chinese cuisine. Many Chinese households also have their own way of cooking this dish.
My version is shallow fried in a small amount of oil, compared to deep frying. Also, there's no heavy batter - just cornstarch to make the chicken crispy. The sauce is also simple to make. I love to enjoy this as a main course with steamed white rice or brown rice and vegetables.
Please scroll down to the below recipe card for full measurements.
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs: or substitute with boneless skinless chicken breasts. If you use breast, please reduce the cooking time to 3-5 minutes until juices run clear or until an internal temperature of 165F.
- Red Bell Peppers: or substitute with any color
- Pineapple (optional): You may use canned or fresh pineapple.
- Cornstarch or potato starch
- Neutral oil: such as avocado oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil. Avoid coconut oil, olive oil or sesame oil as they are all too overpowering in scent and do not contain a high smoke point.
- Garlic powder
Sweet and sour chicken sauce:
- Brown sugar: or substitute with white sugar or cane sugar
- Regular soy sauce: or 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.
- White vinegar: or substitute with rice vinegar
- Cold Water
- Cornstarch or potato starch
- toasted sesame seeds
- green onion
How to make Sweet and Sour Chicken
In a small bowl combine sauce ingredients. Note: if you want extra sauce, I suggest doubling the Sauce ingredients. Set aside.
Dice & Season Chicken
Cut chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces, about 1.5 x 1.5-inch pieces. Transfer into a large bowl. Set aside.
Season the amount of chicken with salt and garlic powder and mix well.
Then add cornstarch and mix until each piece is coated in starch. If you choose to use an air fryer to fry your chicken, please see the FAQ section below and skip steps 5-7.
In a large skillet on medium heat, add oil. Once oil is hot enough (test with wooden chopstick and look for bubbles), add coated chicken. Fry on each side for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy on both sides.
Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack or plate lined with paper towels. Cooked chicken should have an internal temperature of 165 F or until juices run clear. If the chicken isn't crispy, increase to medium-high heat.
Discard excess oil from pan, reserving 1 teaspoon of the oil in the pan.
Cook Veggies & Pineapple
Into the same pan on medium heat, fry onions, red bell pepper and pineapples for 30 – 45 seconds.
Pour in sauce. Let it simmer to thicken and reduce, a couple minutes.
Toss in Fried Chicken
Once thick, add back in fried chicken and mix to coat evenly. Remove off heat.
Optional: Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Storage & Reheating
Sweet and sour chicken will last up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes or reheat in pan on medium heat on the stovetop until hot.
- Dice chicken into equal size pieces. This will allow for an even cooking time. I usually cut each thigh if they’re the same size into 6-8 pieces. If it’s a smaller thigh, about 4 bite size pieces.
- Do not constantly move chicken as your fry! This prevents your chicken from becoming crispy as the exterior doesn't get enough time to fry. Instead, allow the chicken and fry in the pan for a 4-5 minutes per side, in a non-stick pan or 3-4 minutes per side, in a carbon steel wok.
Can I cook Sweet and Sour Chicken in the air fryer?
Yes, follow my instructions below in the recipe card.
Other Chinese Recipes you may like!
- Sweet & Sour Battered Mushrooms
- Orange Chicken
- General Tso Chicken
- Mongolian Chicken
- Lemon Chicken
- Ginger Chicken
Quick & Easy Sweet and Sour Chicken
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 red bell pepper diced (or sub with green, orange or yellow bell peppers)
- ½ cup pineapple diced
- ½ yellow onion sliced
- ¼ cup cornstarch or sub with potato starch
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil or any neutral oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon sesame seeds toasted
- 1 stalk green onion finely chopped
- Cut chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces, about 1.5 x 1.5-inch pieces. Transfer into a large bowl. Season chicken with salt and garlic powder and mix well. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine sauce ingredients. Set aside.
- Then add cornstarch to the chicken and toss in the starch until each piece is evenly coated.
- Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Once oil is hot enough (test with wooden chopstick and look for bubbles), add coated chicken.
- Fry on each side for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown on both sides. Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate or a cooling rack. Cooked chicken should have an internal temperature of 165 F or until juices run clear.
- Discard excess oil from pan, reserving 1 teaspoon of the oil.
- Into the same pan on medium heat, fry onions, red bell pepper and pineapples for 30 – 45 seconds.
- Pour in sauce and let it simmer to thicken and reduce, a couple minutes.
- Once thick, add back in fried chicken and mix to coat evenly. Remove off heat.
- Optional: Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Air Frying Instructions for Chicken:1. Lightly spray air fryer basket with oil. 2. Lay coated chicken into air fryer basket in a single layer giving each piece enough space. You may need to air fry in batches if needed. Lightly spray coated chicken with oil. 3. Air fry at 400 degrees F for 12-14 minutes until golden crispy brown. The amount of time depends on your air fryer. I have a Philips Air Fryer and I air fried mine at 400 degrees at 14 minutes for a crispy texture. If you’re using a different machine, check your chicken at 12 minutes and if it needs more crispiness, air fry for another couple minutes until you reach your desired texture. 4. Resume steps 8 onwards.
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