Chinese Lemon Chicken is the classic Chinese takeout recipe cooked with coated chicken breast in a sweet and sour lemon sauce in just 30 minutes.
We love Lemon Chicken (Orange Chicken‘s less popular cousin, haha), paired with Chicken Lo Mein or Classic Chinese Chow Mein. Add Crab Rangoon as an appetizer and this makes for an easy Chinese takeout meal at home!
Chinese Lemon Chicken
Chinese Lemon Chicken is a close match to the super popular Orange chicken in flavor but not presentation. The classic orange chicken is made with chunks of dark meat chicken that are tossed in a sweet, tangy and spicy sauce which lemon chicken is a fried chicken cutlet that is sliced and covered in a freshly made lemon sauce.
Though they may have similar flavors many people have very strong feelings about which dish is better. Many love that lemon chicken is the healthier version of orange chicken because of the use of white meat chicken, similar to Sweet and Sour Chicken.
If you’d like to make the sauce more yellow (some restaurants have it looking incredibly neon yellow), you can add 2-3 drops of yellow food coloring. I don’t suggest it, but if you’re looking to match the colors that would be the way to do it.
Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Recipe:
Much like in my Orange Chicken recipe, I used to actually make this recipe in the slow cooker when Tyson made raw chicken tenders. I’d just put the tenders in the slow cooker with the sauce, cook on low for 3 hours, then add in a bit of cornstarch/water slurry and cook an additional hour. If you have any other raw chicken tenders or nuggets you can do the same, in fact Trader Joes has great breaded chicken tenders that are raw inside so you don’t overcook the chicken.
Chinese Lemon Chicken Batter:
You can make a wet batter for Chinese Lemon Chicken but this recipe calls for a standard wet and dry breading station which will lead to crispy batter similar to that of Orange Chicken.
If you’d like to try to make this Chinese lemon chicken recipe healthy you can skip the breading stage and just sear the chicken in chunks before adding the sauce. You can cut the sauce down by at least a third and also add in a number of vegetables like carrots and broccoli to make a Chinese lemon chicken stir fry recipe.
How do you make lemon sauce?
Orange Sauce is a mixture of lemon juice, cornstarch, sugar and water that thickens in a pan that is poured over.
Want more Chinese Food Recipes?
- Crispy Sesame Chicken
- Chinese Honey Chicken
- Easy Mongolian Beef
- Panda Express Recipes… every single one in fact: Panda Express Recipes Index
- Many more Chinese food options…
Tools used in the making of this Chinese Lemon Chicken:
Wok: The best way to cook quickly and over high heat for Asian dishes, this wok is the perfect stir fry pan.
Citrus Juicer: This juices your citrus perfectly without hurting your hands or covering them in lemon oils.
- 3 chicken breasts boneless skinless
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon cornstarch divided
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- Slice the chicken breasts in half butterflied into two thinner pieces each.
- To coat the chicken add the egg, salt, pepper and oil into a bowl and whisk together in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, add ½ cup corn starch and ¼ cup flour and mix well.
- In a large frying pan or a wok, heat more canola oil in a wok 375 degrees (medium high heat).
- Dip chicken pieces in the egg mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture.
- Fry the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden and crisp.
- Remove the chicken from the pan, then drain the oil.
- Add the lemon juice, sugar, water and remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch to the pan and whisk to combine.
- Cook until thickened and smooth.
- Slice the chicken into thin strips then serve with lemon sauce poured over.
The lemon chicken I had in Victoria BC was served over chopped lettuce. So good.
Can thighs be used instead of breasts?
Delicious, thank you!
Followed the recipe to a T and worked very well. The sauce was nice and tart and the chicken crispy. Will use the flour/cornflour combo in other recipes as it was so light.
I made a lovely authentic fried rice as an accompaniment.
Very delicious. I make a similar recipe all the time but come back here for the sugar ratio on the sauce. Lol.
The sauce is a bit one dimensional in flavor, but I’ve found adding chicken (or vegetable) broth instead of water adds the needed flavor while keeping the sauce clarity. Otherwise, adding onion, garlic, poultry seasoning, and mushroom umami (or msg) with a tiny 1/4 teaspoon of soy sauce adds dimension too.
I like it better with seasoning, but it’s not a bad sauce done this way. It gets the job done.
DUUUUUUDDEE!!! This is delicious!! I always get it at my
favorite Chinese restaurant. I’m so happy I can make a big batch at home to eat on everything! I doubled the sauce recipe and added the zest from the lemons. Fried chicken, asparagus, farro and this sauce – chefs kiss!!AH-MA-ZING!!
I’ve only tried the lemon juice sauce as I buy ready made vegetarian lemon chicken escalopes. The sauce is great and any excessive lemons we have at home are turned into that sauce and deep frozen which makes it super easy and handy for a quick meal.
I keep coming back to this recipe to check for the ratio of the sauce so I thought I’d leave a review.
Absolutely love it and my mum now keeps buying veggie chicken escalope because she loves the combo so much! Thank you for sharing!
My kids love lemon chicken, so when my daughter came to me with this recipe asking if she could make it for us, we all got stuck in! Simple and delicious, we enjoyed it with some steamed green veg and rice. Total winner, will definitely make again, thanks for the recipe!
Spent an hour making this and it was the most depressing meal Ive ever cooked. The sauce was sour and bitter beyond edibility. We had to throw the whole batch out. I think the only way this would work is if you used lemon cordial instead of juice. Disappointing.
I am so sorry you didn’t enjoy it Jess.
Thank you for the 5 stars Jessica!
This was SO delicious! I cooked it for dinner last night (served with jasmine rice and steamed broccoli), and we just ate the rest for lunch today. We loved the savory crispy chicken paired with the bright sweetness of the lemon sauce. A new favorite of ours, will make often, I can already tell! Thank you for creating and sharing this!
Hello! Do you think it would be possible to do the chicken in an air fryer please?
I haven’t tried it myself but it should be fine.
No, garlic, no ginger, no sesame seeds, oil. Sounds awfully bland, but it looks pretty.
Sorry Sabrina this seriously didn’t go well for me, the sauce was too tart and the chicken well your timings were off, I had to cook them for 4 minutes a side so I didn’t end up with raw chicken. We’ll stick with our local yummy stuff, so much less work. P.S. Dog loved it.
I am so sorry this recipe didn’t work out for you Gillian. I do hope you come back and try another recipe sometime.
Best Lemon chicken recipe ever! I have made this several times. I really like using chicken tender strips. I also add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the lemon sauce (sweet and spicy) yummy!
Super good! Loved the lemon sauce ..not too sweet. Will make again!
We didn’t enjoy this recipe unfortunately. The sauce tasted like lemon cordial and was just strange. Won’t be making this again.
My mother freaked out she loved it so much. She wants it again thanks for the wonderful recipe
I followed this recipe to a T and I found it to be very acidic. Am confused
I can’t wait to make this Chinese Lemon Chicken! It’s hard to find in restaurants. Thank you!!
I made this recipe for two people. It was PERFECT! The sauce was a little thick, so I added more water. Delicious and easy. Thank you!
I’m so glad you all enjoyed it.
I do not believe the nutritional information is correct. You omitted the additional oil for frying and the amount to use. So how can you justify the nutritional information? It is misleading. The recipe is very good but the information is incorrect for people who are on a low fat, low carb restriction.
If you’re following a strict diet, I would calculate your own nutritional information. This site uses a program that automatically calculates it.
You need to calm down
I am the only one in our house that likes Lemon Chicken so can the sauce be made and frozen in portions ?
I haven’t tested freezing it but my gut says it should work just fine. Would love to know how this works for you.
Delicious and so easy…I will definitely make it again…Thank you for the great recipe…
You’re welcome, Cynthia.
It’s great but I think there’s too much flour and corn starch in the sauce in my opinion. It becomes almost lemon pudding consistency.
Thomas it sounds like you added the flour and cornstarch to the sauce mixture, when it only called for the tablespoon of cornstarch.
Very delicious! Made this tonight for the second time ! I think the people having trouble with the sauce are not bringing it to a boil first. It thickens up beautifully then.
Yes, you definitely need to bring it to a boil to allow it to thicken. I’m so glad you enjoy the recipe so much, Susan.
How much oil do you have to put in the pan ?
You’ll need about 2-3 inches of oil. Enjoy!
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