This easy sesame chicken tastes just like, if not better than takeout! The chicken is crispy and the sauce is sweet with a slight tang. It's actually very easy to make and takes only 30 minutes! Now you can make one of the most popular Chinese takeout dishes right in your home kitchen.
Are you team sesame chicken or team General Tso's chicken? Kyong absolutely LOVES sesame chicken. His favorite way to enjoy it is mixing a bite of sesame chicken with some fried rice for a savory sweet combo. It's pretty darn good.
So if you're looking for a solid but easy sesame chicken recipe, ours will guide you to make this popular Chinese takeout dish at home with ease. Chicken thigh pieces are lightly battered and deep fried so the sesame chicken is extra crispy on the outside and super juicy on the inside.
What to eat with sesame chicken
Here are some popular sides to enjoy with sesame chicken:
- Fried rice or white rice. Kyong loves to eat his sesame chicken over egg fried rice and shrimp fried rice.
- Any kind of veggies, but personally my favorite is steamed broccoli. Although some quick garlic green beans are great too!
- Appetizers like crab rangoons or egg rolls.
- Any noodle dishes, like our shrimp lo mein and shrimp yaki udon.
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
For the chicken:
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs - Chicken thighs will always give you the juiciest and most flavorful chicken dishes.
- Water - Water is mixed with the chicken so that the chicken pieces stays extra juicy even after frying.
- Baking soda - Only a small amount of baking soda is needed. This is to slightly tenderize the chicken and help the chicken absorb and retain moisture better.
- Salt - For marinating/ seasoning the chicken. We used kosher salt, but you can use fine salt as well. Just use a little less if using fine salt.
- Egg - This makes up part of the batter for the chicken. Not only will bind the batter, it also makes the fried batter taste better and give it a nice color.
- Cornstarch - This will make the chicken extra crispy. Plus, the fried chicken pieces will be gluten free! If you are allergic to cornstarch you can substitute with potato starch.
- Oil - Just a small amount of oil is needed. This is to help separate the chicken pieces and create a thin layer of protection to prevent your fried chicken pieces from being greasy.
For the sesame chicken sauce:
- Ketchup - This is the base of General Tso's sauce to give it that beautiful red color and the sweet and tangy flavor.
- Water - For diluting the flavor a little.
- Sugar - For sweetening. You can use a little more or less depending on your preference, but it's definitely recommended or the sauce will be too tangy.
- White vinegar - To give the sauce extra tanginess. If you prefer, you could use a little less white vinegar if you don't like the sauce as tangy.
- Soy sauce - This adds a bit more savoriness to the sauce and some color. We used low sodium soy sauce.
- Dark soy sauce - This is to give the sauce a deeper color, which gives sesame chicken that beautiful deep red color. You can omit the dark soy sauce if the color isn't your concern.
- Cornstarch - For thickening the sauce. Besides thickening, cornstarch will also give the sauce a beautiful glossiness.
- Green onion - The whites of the green onion will be stir fried to add more flavor to the sauce, and the green parts can be used for garnish.
- Toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)
How to make sesame chicken
For the chicken:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the prepared chicken thighs, water, baking soda, and salt. Vigorously mix until the water is mostly absorbed by the chicken.
2. Once the chicken has mostly absorbed the water, add the eggs and mix until well combined. Following, add the cornstarch and mix until evenly combined and no more dry cornstarch is visible. Finish by adding the oil and mixing until evenly combined.
🌟 Pro tip: If you have time, marinate the chicken over night or for a few hours. This will ensure the chicken is well marinated and that the batter doesn't come off. But even if you fry it immediately, the chicken will be just as tasty!
3. In a wok or tall pan, add about 2 to 3 inches of oil. Heat and try your best to maintain the temperature of the the oil around 375°F.
4. With your hand or your gloved hand, gently place the marinated chicken pieces into the hot oil, one at a time until the there's an even layer. Don't overcrowd the pan and fry in batches if needed!
5. Fry the chicken pieces for about 4 to 5 minutes, then remove the chicken out of the oil and let drain for about 2 to 3 minutes. While frying, occasionally stir the chicken pieces and try to break up any pieces that are stuck together.
6. For the second fry, make sure the oil is back at 375°F. Add the fried chicken pieces into the oil and fry for another 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oil and let the fried chicken drain on paper towels or a rack. Again, fry in batches if necessary.
For the sesame chicken sauce:
1. Combine the ketchup, water, sugar, vinegar, cornstarch, soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Mix well.
2. In a wok or large pan over medium heat, add a small amount of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the white parts of the sliced green onions and stir fry for 10 to 15 seconds or until fragrant.
3. Give the prepared sauce a mix and pour it into the wok. Increase the heat to medium high and let the sauce heat until hot and bubbles. Make sure to stir the sauce frequently, especially when the sauce is getting hot so the cornstarch can thicken the sauce evenly.
4. Once the sauce has thickened and looks glossy, add the fried chicken pieces and stir and toss until the chicken is evenly and well coated.
5. Serve immediately with white rice or fried rice and garnish the sesame chicken with sesame seeds and the green part of the sliced green onion if you wish. Enjoy!
How to make this recipe gluten free
You can easily make this sesame chicken gluten free by substituting the soy sauce and dark soy sauce for a generous pinch of salt. You could even omit both of the soy sauces altogether if you wish. The soy sauce is for adding a bit more savoriness to the sauce and to give sesame chicken that beautiful deep red color.
- Marinate the chicken overnight or for a few hours if you have the time. This will ensure the chicken is well seasoned and that the batter stays intact on the chicken.
- Try your best to cut the chicken thighs into same size pieces to ensure even cooking.
- Keep the oil temperature around 375°F so that the chicken is fried properly. If the oil temperature is too low, the chicken will be greasy. Too hot, and the chicken may overcook and become dry.
- Break up any chicken pieces that may have become stuck together during the initial frying.
Sesame chicken is best enjoyed soon after making. If you have any leftover, let the chicken cool completely before storing it in an airtight container. It'll stay good in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days.
If you plan on making extra, fry the chicken pieces for a couple extra minutes during the first fry. Let them cool completely and skip the second fry. Freezing them on a tray or plate, and once frozen, you can store them in freezer bags or airtight containers. They will be good for up to 2 to 3 months.
Leftover sesame chicken that's already coated with sauce is best reheated in the microwave until hot. Do note that it will not be crispy like when it was just made.
If you made extra fried chicken pieces that are not coated in sauce and froze it, you can defrost it completely to fry or air fry. Frozen chicken pieces can be air fried as well.
To fry, defrosted chicken pieces can be fried at 375°F for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. We DO NOT recommend deep frying frozen chicken pieces.
For air frying, both defrosted and frozen ones can be air fried at 400°F. Defrosted chicken takes about 5 to 10 minutes and frozen ones take about 15 to 20 minutes.
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!
Both sesame chicken and General Tso's chicken are one of the most popular dishes at Chinese restaurants. They are quite similar, except sesame chicken is sweeter and without spice. General Tso's chicken is usually a bit tangier, not as sweet, and a little spicy.
No, sesame chicken is not spicy. Although, if you want to make it spicy, you can. Just add some red pepper flakes to the pan when you are stir frying the green onions.
If you're allergic to cornstarch, potato starch is a suitable substitution for both the frying and for thickening the sauce.
If you’ve made this recipe or any recipes from our blog, please tag us on Instagram using #twoplaidaprons! You can also tag us in your Instagram stories using @two_plaid_aprons. We would love to see your creations! It absolutely makes our day! 🥰
Easy Sesame Chicken
For the chicken:
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt (if using fine salt, use a little less)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 large egg
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon oil any neutral oil is fine
- Toasted sesame seed (for garnish)
For the sesame chicken sauce:
- ½ cup ketchup
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce light sodium
- ½ teaspoon dark soy sauce (optional to give the sauce a darker color)
- 1 stalk green onion cut into thin slices (greens and whites separated)
- Oil as needed for cooking and frying
- Marinate the chicken thighs:In a large mixing bowl, combine the prepared chicken thighs, water, baking soda, and salt. Vigorously mix until the water is mostly absorbed by the chicken.
- Once the chicken has mostly absorbed the water, add the eggs and mix until well combined. Following, add the cornstarch and mix until evenly combined and no more dry cornstarch is visible. Finish by adding the oil and mixing until evenly combined.
- Heat the oil:In a wok or tall pan, add about 2 to 3 inches of oil. Heat the oil until it reaches 375°F.
- Prepare the sauce:While the oil is heating up, prepare the sesame chicken sauce. In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine the ketchup, water, sugar, vinegar, cornstarch, soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Mix well and set aside. You can also make the sauce ahead of time.
- Fry the chicken:When the oil is heated, maintain the heat around 375°F. With your hand or your gloved hand, gently place the marinated chicken pieces into the hot oil, one at a time until the there's an even layer. Don't overcrowd the pan and fry in batches if needed! Fry the chicken pieces for about 4 to 5 minutes, then remove the chicken out of the oil and let drain for about 2 to 3 minutes. While frying, occasionally stir the chicken pieces and try to break up any pieces that are stuck together.
- Make sure the oil is back at 375°F and add the fried chicken pieces into the oil for a second fry. Let the chicken pieces fry for another 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oil and let the fried chicken drain on paper towels or a rack.
- Make the sauce:In a wok or large pan over medium heat, add a small amount of oil. Add the white parts of the sliced green onions and stir fry for 10 to 15 seconds or until fragrant.
- Give the prepared sauce a mix and pour it into the wok. Increase the heat to medium high and let the sauce heat until hot and bubbles. Make sure to stir the sauce frequently, especially when the sauce is getting hot so the cornstarch can thicken the sauce evenly.
- Toss the chicken and serve:Once the sauce has thickened and looks glossy, add the fried chicken pieces and stir and toss until the chicken is evenly and well coated.
- Serve immediately with white rice or fried rice and garnish the sesame chicken with sesame seeds and the green part of the sliced green onion if you wish. Enjoy!
- Try to keep the chicken pieces as similar in size as possible. This ensures that the chicken pieces are all evenly cooked.
- If you have time, you can marinated the chicken ahead of time and let it marinated overnight for even more flavor and to help the batter bind better. But if not, the chicken will still taste just as good!
- Gluten free option - You can easily make this recipe gluten free by substituting the soy sauce and dark soy sauce with a generous pinch of salt. You can also omit it all together or use gluten free soy sauce. The soy sauce is mostly so the sauce is redder and has a deeper color.
April Stroud says
Oh my goodness!! This is the best fried chicken I’ve ever made!!
I was skeptical about the salt bicarb marinade, but it’s soooo light and tender. I could eat this without the sauce. Genuinely amazed!
So happy to hear that you enjoyed our sesame chicken! We love to snack on the fried chicken nuggets too! They are so addicting.
Kelly Fick says
A wonderful recipe and it is easy to follow. I will definitely be making this again.
Thank you, Kelly! So glad you enjoyed it!
Let me showcase my results from Shrimp Fried Rice with Sesame Chicken. Would love to add my photo but I have no way to post. It came out delicious.
We are so happy to hear that you enjoyed the shrimp fried rice and sesame chicken! Unfortunately, we don't have the functions to allow photo uploads, but we'd love to see you end product! You can tag us on Instagram and we would love share it!
Rivkah Hatanian says
Hi Excited to try out this recipe Thanks so much for sharing:) Just wondering how come this sesame chicken recipe doesn’t have any sesame oil is it unnecessary or can I add it?
Chinese takeout sesame chicken doesn't usually use sesame oil. It's usually only garnished with sesame seeds. However, feel free to add some sesame oil if you'd like =) We hope you enjoy it!
Christine Aranha says
Love your recipes particularly the Karaage chicken! I wanted to ask if I don’t use the granulated sugar would it make a difference to the sauce ? Look forward to your response
Thank you for your kind words! For the sesame chicken sauce, we highly recommend using granulated sugar to achieve the right sweetness without altering the flavor of the sauce. Although, if you prefer, you could use raw brown sugar, like sugar in the raw. Not light or dark brown sugar. Those would change the flavor of the sauce. Hope this answered your question!