This sweet and sour chicken is made with a sticky and tangy sauce that’s simply irresistible. You’ll be coming back for seconds.
If you’re a huge fan of getting Chinese takeout, you’ve just stumbled upon the right corner of the internet. The benefits? We can double or triple the batch to have on hand for leftovers. To this day, our version of sweet and sour chicken has been some of our best work.
What Exactly is Sweet and Sour Chicken?
Sweet and sour chicken is a Chinese dish typically made of deep-fried chicken or pork that’s covered in a simple batter of cornstarch. It’s then tossed and finished with a sweet, vinegary sauce. Sometimes, you’ll find it served with pineapple chunks or bell pepper. A true takeout go-to that tastes like heaven on earth!
Preparing Sweet and Sour Chicken from Scratch
To kick off the process, slice the chicken breasts into evenly sized bite-sized pieces (about 1-inch chunks are perfect).
- Coat the Chicken: Next, place the chicken pieces in a large bowl with cornstarch, cornstarch, black pepper, salt, and pressed garlic cloves. Toss to combine.
- Fry the Chicken: Whisk a large egg in a shallow bowl and dip each battered piece of chicken into it. Then, transfer the chicken to a skillet preheated with oil and fry each side until golden brown. Place the chicken in a single layer in a baking dish.
- Mix the Sauce Ingredients: In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and pour it over the chicken.
- Bake the Chicken: Finally, bake the chicken at 350°F for 30 minutes (flip it every 10 minutes to build the coating). Enjoy!
Tips to Help You Make the Best Sweet and Sour Chicken
Making authentic sweet and sour chicken is easier than you think, but a few tips will help you nail it.
- Swap in skinless chicken thighs. If you love dark meat, use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts.
- Fry the chicken over medium heat. You’re not looking to cook the chicken all the way through, but to get a nice crisp on the breading. Keep in mind it will cook the rest of the way through in the oven.
- Add red pepper flakes for some heat. If you like it on the spicier side, add in as many shakes of red pepper flakes as you can handle.
- Use brown sugar versus white for a deeper flavor. If you want a more full-bodied sweetness, swap the white sugar for brown sugar. Or, add a bit more fruity sweetness by mixing some of the canned pineapple juice into the sauce mixture.
- Bake the chicken with vegetables for a more well-rounded meal. Add broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and/or onions to the baking dish for a quick serving of veggies.
What Goes Well With Sweet and Sour Chicken
Serve sweet and sour chicken over a bowl of steamed white rice or alongside any of your favorite stir fries. Veggie lo mein, beef lo mein, or shrimp lo mein are all great options. Or, if you’re whipping up an appetizer tray, pierce each chicken with a toothpick for easy snacking.
Storing and Reheating Chicken
Whether you have some leftovers to store or you’d like to have a batch on hand in the freezer, find all the storing and reheating tips you need here.
- Refrigerator: To keep sweet and sour chicken on hand for up to three days, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. This will keep the breading from turning soggy quicker. To reheat it, place it back in the oven or pop it in an air fryer if you have one.
- Freezer: The best way to freeze sweet and sour chicken is after breading and frying it. Assemble the pan-fried chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pop it into the freezer uncovered. Once completely frozen, transfer the chicken to a freezer-safe bag. If you really want to prep ahead, you can even freeze the sauce. When you’re ready, allow the sauce to thaw on the counter and bake the chicken as directed.
Is sweet and sour chicken the same as orange chicken?
While sweet and sour chicken and orange chicken have similar tangy profiles, they are made with slightly different sauces.
What can you use leftover sweet and sour sauce for?
You can use leftover sweet and sour sauce for veggies, stir fry, and meat marinades.
Can you use a different type of vinegar than apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar works best, as it’s much tangier and contains a subtle sweetness. Other types of vinegar simply won’t work the same.
How do you prevent hot splattering oil?
Prevent the oil from splattering during pan-frying by ensuring the heat stays at medium.
Can you bake the chicken instead of frying it?
Skipping the pan-frying step won’t yield the same crispy result. While you can bake the chicken from start to finish, it’s not recommended.
Other Asian-Inspired Dishes
- Simple Yakisoba Noodles Recipe – Japanese stir fry noodles
- The Best Beef Stir Fry Recipe – Classic beef stir fry with veggies
- Easy Korean Spicy Noodles – Stir fry sweet potato glass noodles
- Air Fryer Korean Chicken Thighs – Sweet and salty chicken thighs
- 2 lb chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 cup corn starch
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup oil for frying
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp Garlic Parley Salt
- Place the sliced chicken in a large mixing bowl, followed by the cornstarch, pepper, salt, and pressed garlic cloves. Stir until the chicken is evenly coated.
- Preheat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Dip each chicken piece into the eggs.
- Fry the chicken on each side until golden brown. Place the fried chicken in a baking dish in a single layer.
- In a small bowl, whisk the sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and garlic salt together.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake it at 350°F for 30 minutes.
- As the chicken bakes, turn it over every 10 minutes to create a nice coating. Enjoy over steamed white rice or alongside your favorite noodle dish!
It looks simple, fast and delish, will make it
Hey there! I hope you love it as much as we do! Let me know what you think! Enjoy!
I made this tonight and used rice wine vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar (it was all I had). It was delicious. Everyone ate every bite. Next time I may double the sauce because I would like to cover the chicken more and have some for the rice. Thanks for sharing this recipe.
Hi there, I am thrilled that the recipe was a success and you were able to use what you had on hand! Enjoy!
I made this last night and it was absolutely delicious! Thank you for the recipe 🤗
Hi Kim, I am thrilled to hear that you love this recipe. Enjoy!
Natalya , do you think it will work on drumettes ? If I coat them and put them in the oven to bake for 30-40 mins .
Thank you 🙏🏽
Hi Kim, I think it may work, I have not tried that before so I would be very interested in the result. If you do give it a try, would you mind letting me know how it went?
This was good! Super easy to make. Taking the comments about ACV/acidity into consideration, I used 1/3 cup instead of 1/2 (Bragg organic brand). Turned out just right.
Hi Anna, thank you so much for taking the time to leave feedback. I am so glad the adjustment of ACV did the trick! Thank you for sharing. Enjoy!
I just made this tonight and it is delicious! I made chicken fried rice also.
Hi Tammy, I am so thrilled to hear that! Thank you so much for sharing. Enjoy!
I'm going to make this dish this week, but I'll add red and green pepper as well as onion to the dish and serve it with vegetable fried rice and a beef and broccoli dish.
Thanks for the great recipe.
Hi Len- that sounds like the most delicious meal! Enjoy it!
I made this and it was very good. My husband went back for seconds. I served it over a bed of Jasmine rice with sauted red bell pepper bits, fresh green onion from my garden and pineapple bits.
Next time I think I'll make more sweet and sour sauce to drizzle over the rice before serving. I will probably use a more sticky rice and add chicken broth to the rice water for a little more flavor.
Hey there Dayna, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am so delighted to hear this recipe was a success! Enjoy!
Can't wait to make the sweet and sour chicken breast with vegetables and rice and put some pineapple in dish as well.Sounds beautiful the recipe.
You are going to love it, Heather! The added pineapple sounds so good! Good luck and Enjoy!
What would be a good alternative if you have egg allergy?
Hi Mafi, I would recommend either yogurt or buttermilk. It wont be the same exact results as with the eggs. But it will be close and still quite delicious.
I tried this with mixed vinegar. I added ACV with white vinegar and a little bit of water with extra all purpose soy sauce.
Hi Resty, How did it work out for you? I am curious. Thanks for the feedback!
I tried the recipe and it was very good. Was thinking of using a deep fryer instead of a fry pan. Have you tried that? What kind of oil should I use, vegetable, peanut?
Thank you, Yvonne. I haven't tried deep frying it, but generally either of those oils would work, as well as Canola. Enjoy!
I forgot to dip the chicken in the egg!!! 🙁 will it still come out good??
Hi Christina- I think it still will. Let us know though 🙂
Made this for the first time tonight. Followed recipe exactly except didn’t add the garlic to the corn starch. I added fresh minced garlic to the sauce instead. This was delicious. Tasted better than take out IMO. Whole family loved it! I’ll definitely make it again in the future!
I'm so glad your entire family enjoyed this dish! Thank you for commenting, Cait!
This is SO yummy!!! I added Cajun seasoning with the cornflour ingredients and it is delicious!! Air fried for 2x10min (stiring in between) at 180degrees and it was perfect. Thanks so much for this great recipe!!
Hey Jackie, this sounds so good! I bet air fryer made it even better. Love how crispy it gets. Thank you for sharing your tips, I need to try your version!
Hey great recipe, instead of oven baking it could I add the sauce to the chicken and finish it in a wok?
Hi Leah- I don't see why not! You could probably just fry the chicken to completion and then finish it off by adding the sauce and stirring until chicken is well coated and sauce is warm. Enjoy!
I haven’t Tryed this recipe yet, but plans to cook it soon. Could I add a small amount of pineapple juice to the sauce? How much would you suggest? Thank you
Hi Patricia- Yes, you can add a few tbsp no problem. Or do 1/4 apple cider vinegar and 1/4 pineapple juice. Please let us know how much you decided to add, and how it turns out! Enjoy! 🙂
I followed the recipe exactly and all I tasted was apple cider vinegar! Next time I think I'll only use 1/4c acv.
Hi, Meagan. Ah, sorry to hear that it was overpowering. Another commenter mentioned that the acidity was different for them depending on which brand of ACV they used, they used a different type the 2 times they made it. The one I used was from Trader Joes I believe and it's not too acidic. Otherwise, decreasing amount of ACV will totally do the trick too. Hope this helps! 🙂
If too acidic could you add more ketchup?
Hey Patsy-I would probably add more sugar to balance the acidity, since ketchup is a bit acidic itself. But the best way really is to just reduce the amount of apple cider vinegar. Depending which brand you use, you may need a bit less (like 1/3 or 1/4 cup instead of the called for 1/2 cup). Enjoy!
Hi there. This looks amazing. Is it possible to air fry the chicken? If so what is your recommendation for temperature and time? Thanks!
Hi Catherine- I have not tried air frying, so I'm not sure about temp or time. Air frying would be a unique option though, instead of pan frying it in step 3. If you give it a try, please let us know how it went!
I was skeptical when the chicken wasnt as crispy as I imagined but I was pleasantly suprised! It's a delicious must try.
Hi Ashley - Yay! So happy you enjoyed this dish. It's one of our favs to pair with a steamed bowl of white rice. 🙂
Can you make this a day ahead, do the baking part next day?
Hi Tanja- that's a great question. I haven't tried making it ahead like this, so I'm not sure! If you give it a go, let us know how it turned out!
Any recommendation adding some heat to the chicken?
Hi Ildi- you can add some red pepper flakes to the sauce to add some heat. Add to taste. Enjoy!
In your narratives you say you can add the pineapple juice to increase the flavor, but I do not see any call for pineapple in the ingredient list.
(Or, add a bit more fruity sweetness by mixing some of the canned pineapple juice into the sauce mixture. )
Hey Catherine- correct. These are just tips or swaps that are suggested, if desired by the reader. Our recipe uses chicken breast and no pineapple juice, but in the post I mention using chicken thigh and a splash of pineapple juice if you prefer, and red pepper flakes for extra heat if desired. Hope this makes sense! 🙂
30 minutes seems a long time to bake after sautéing chicken breast. Anyone find this dry?
Hi Renee- feel free to cut down the baking time if the chicken pieces are smaller or seem ready before 30 minutes are up. Pan frying the chicken is mainly for giving it that beautiful golden color and some crispiness, the baking is to finish off the cooking process. Enjoy!
SO much better than takeout! Even my picky son loved it!
That's a total win, Heather!
LOVE this recipe! Always comes out soo good!
Thanks for the feedback, Jennifer!
this recipe is amazing and I love that I can have chinese food at home! thank you for sharing
You're welcome, Amy! I love popular dishes that can be re-created at home!
Chicken was delicious!! But adding the fresh pressed garlic with the dry ingredients was not the best idea because it created clumps in the corn starch and didn't allow the seasonings to mix well. Next time I'll try using garlic powder.
Thank you for your feedback, Dina! I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe!
I loved this recipe! All the ingredients I already had at home and it was very simple to make. My husband loved it! Thank you!
Gotta love easy recipes right?! I'm happy your family loved the recipe.
Hi, can you please tell me which brand of Apple Cider Vinegar you use?
i made this recipe previously and it was AMAZING, but then i bought a new bottle of ACVinegar and now it turns very acidic, very overpowering taste. thanks
I use the one from trader joes. I think it's organic apple cider.
Have made this two times now! We love it!
Oh wow, so happy you guys love it. Thanks for sharing.