Chicken karaage, or Japanese fried chicken, is super crispy, juicy, flavorful and undeniably addictive, just like Korean fried chicken and Taiwanese fried chicken! Enjoy these bite size crispy fried chicken with a squeeze of lemon for some zing and a dip of kewpie mayo with togarashi for some kick.
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What is karaage?
Karaage (唐揚げ) - pronounced like kah-rah-ah-geh) is a Japanese cooking technique that deep fries the protein or vegetable after dredging it in flour or starch. This is a common Japanese dish found in bento boxes, street food stalls, and restaurants.
What to eat with chicken karaage
- Enjoy on its own - with bed of mixed greens, a squeeze of lemon, and with or without some kewpie mayo topped with togarashi
- Complete the meal - with steamed white rice, a bowl of miso soup, and some edamame
- As a protein - for salads, rice bowls, or this yaki udon stir fry
- With refreshing pickled vegetables - like this Chinese smashed cucumber salad or this quick cucumber kimchi
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
For the chicken karaage:
- Chicken thigh - We recommend getting skinless, boneless chicken thighs for chicken karaage. It's juicier and tastier than chicken breast and will yield a better karaage.
- Sake - This is the secret to eliminating any unwanted chicken flavor and making sure that the chicken thighs stay juicy after frying. You can purchase sake at most Asian markets or liquor store, and it does not need to be expensive.
- Soy sauce - Soy sauce adds an extra layer of flavor along with umami and color.
- Ginger - Some freshly grated ginger not only freshens up the flavors of chicken karaage, it also makes the chicken taste aromatic.
- Salt and sugar - Just a little bit of salt and sugar to help round out the flavor of the marinade and making sure the chicken is well seasoned.
- Potato starch - This allows the chicken karaage to develop a light and crispy exterior. We do not recommend cornstarch as a substitute, as it will make the karaage too crunchy instead of crispy.
- Oil (for frying) - Any high smoke point frying oil is fine. We recommend canola, soybean, and peanut oil (if no allergies).
- Kewpie mayo - This is a Japanese style mayo, made with only egg yolks and used in dishes like tamago sando and takoyaki. We recommend kewpie mayo because it's more flavorful compared to regular mayo.
- Togarashi - Also known as shichimi togarashi. It's a blend of spices and pepper powder that is perfect for adding a kick to the rich, kewpie mayo and karaage chicken.
- Lemon - It is common to serve karaage with a couple wedges of lemon. A squeeze of lemon helps to balance out the heaviness of fried food and keep it refreshing.
- Mixed greens - Not only will mixed greens add color to a plate of karaage, you can enjoy the karaage with some greens to help keep each bite light.
How to make chicken karaage
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe and instructions!
1. Marinate the chicken. Combine the chicken thigh, sake, soy sauce, ginger, salt, and sugar into a glass mixing bowl and mix well. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, best overnight.
2. Batter the chicken. Place the potato starch into a large bowl and add the marinated chicken. Pack the starch onto the chicken pieces and coat well. Shake off excess starch.
🌟 Pro tip: Make sure to allow the excess marinate to drip off! This way the starch won't become excessively clumpy.
3. First fry. Heat up 2 to 3 inches of oil to 325°F and add the battered chicken. Fry the chicken karaage for about 3 to 4 minutes, until the outside is golden and the chicken is just cooked. Remove from oil and allow the chicken to rest for about 5 minutes.
4. Second fry. Increase the oil temperature to 375°F. After 5 minutes of resting, gently place the chicken karaage into the hot oil and fry for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the outside is golden brown and super crispy.
5. Enjoy! Serve the chicken karaage on a bed of mixed greens, along with a wedge of lemon. Enjoy it on it's own or with a side of kewpie mayo topped with some togarashi for a kick.
- Cut the chicken into similar size pieces. This is essential for even cooking.
- Marinate the chicken overnight for best flavor. This ensures that the marinade thoroughly penetrates the chicken.
- Pack the starch onto the chicken to ensure the chicken karaage is crispy and has good crust. However do shake off any excess starch to prevent the frying oil from becoming murky.
- Don't skip the double fry! Double frying helps to ensure that the chicken karaage is super crispy.
Allow leftover chicken karaage to cool completely before covering or storing in an airtight container. It will be good for up to 3 to 4 days refrigerated.
The best way to reheat leftover chicken karaage is by frying, heating in an air fryer, or the oven.
Fryer: Place the leftover chicken karaage into 350°F oil and fry for about 1 to 2 minutes, until the chicken is heated through and crispy.
Air fryer: Place the leftover chicken karaage into the air fryer and allow it to air fry at 400°F for about 5 minutes or until the chicken is heated through. The outside will become crispy again, but may not be as crispy as freshly made karaage.
Oven: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the leftover chicken karaage onto a rack with a sheet pan underneath. Once the oven is hot, bake the karaage for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken is hot. Note that the outside may not become as crispy as freshly fried karaage.
What to do with leftover oil
Leftover oil can be reused for cooking or more frying. Transfer the leftover oil into a heatproof bowl, jar, or container. Let the oil cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap or a lid. If you're uncomfortable with handling hot oil, set the oil aside to cool first!
If you plan on reusing the oil again, make sure to strain it through a fine mesh strainer or a couple layers or cheesecloth to remove any debris. Keep the oil in a cool, dark place and use within a couple of weeks.
If you're disposing oil, pour it into a jar or a container that can be sealed. Dispose of it in your trashcan. DO NOT pour it down your drain! It may damage your pipes and also cause damage to the environment!
Chicken karaage is super crispy because it is coated in potato starch and because it is double fried.
Chicken karaage can be enjoyed on its own, with a squeeze of lemon, and with or without a side of kewpie mayo topped with togarashi.
The biggest differences between karaage and katsu is that karaage is simply a protein or vegetable dredged in flour or starch and deep fried. Whereas katsu, is a vegetable or protein cutlet that's batter then coated in panko and deep fried.
There's no perfect substitution for sake, however, you could use a 1 to 3 ratio of Chinese Shaoxing rice wine and water in this recipe. For example, use 1 tablespoon of shaoxing rice wine and 3 tablespoon of water for ¼ cup of sake.
For a non-alcoholic substitute, simply use water instead of sake. The flavor will not be the same, but the chicken karaage will still be super juicy and tasty!
Chicken Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)
For the karaage chicken:
- Prepare the chicken:Place the chicken thigh, sake, soy sauce, grated ginger, salt, and sugar into a glass mixing bowl and mix well. Cover and allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, but best overnight.
- Once the marinated chicken is ready for frying, remove it from the fridge. Also, place the potato starch in wide mixing bowl.
- Transfer the marinated chicken into the bowl of potato starch, making sure to allow the excess marinate to drip off. Pack the starch onto the chicken pieces and gently shake off the excess.
- Prepare fry station:Fill a pot with about 2 inches of oil and heat it to 325°F. Also prepare a plate of sheet pan lined with paper towels.*You can prepare a fryer instead, if you prefer.*
- 1st fry:Once the oil is hot, maintain it at 325°F. Add the battered chicken and fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until the chicken pieces golden. Remove the chicken karaage and allow it rest on the prepared sheet pan or plate for about 5 minutes.*DO NOT overcrowd the oil . Fry in batches if needed.*
- 2nd fry:Increase the oil to 375°F. After resting, add the fried chicken back into the hot oil and fry for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the chicken karaage is golden brown and super crispy. Remove from oil and let the chicken drain on the paper towels.
- Serve:Serve the crispy chicken karaage on a bed of mixed greens with a wedge of lemon. Enjoy the karaage by itself or with a side of kewpie mayo topped with a dash of togarashi.