Chinese Lemon Chicken

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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 Recipe 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.

Asian Lemon Chicken Breast with Sauce

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?

Bite of Asian Lemon Chicken

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.



Chinese Lemon Chicken

5 from 11 votes
  • Yield: 6 Servings
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder
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.


  • 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


Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Slice the chicken breasts in half butterflied into two thinner pieces each.
  2. To coat the chicken add the egg, salt, pepper and oil into a bowl and whisk together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, add 1/2 cup corn starch and 1/4 cup flour and mix well.
  4. In a large frying pan or a wok, heat more canola oil in a wok 375 degrees (medium high heat).
  5. Dip chicken pieces in the egg mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture.
  6. Fry the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden and crisp.

  7. Remove the chicken from the pan, then drain the oil.
  8. Add the lemon juice, sugar, water and remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch to the pan and whisk to combine.
  9. Cook until thickened and smooth.
  10. Slice the chicken into thin strips then serve with lemon sauce poured over.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 6 Servings, Amount per serving: 256 calories, Calories: 256g, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 26g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 100mg, Sodium: 726mg, Potassium: 449mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 75g, Vitamin C: 9.2g, Calcium: 10g, Iron: 0.8g

All images and text © for Dinner, then Dessert.

Keyword: Chinese Lemon Chicken
Chinese Lemon Chicken
Asian Lemon Chicken

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  1. I love your recipes and I love Chinese lemon chicken!

    However, I found the solution to my problem to how to make the chicken exactly as in the picture. I put all the mixing together in one bowl: Flour, corn starch, Egg, salt, pepper, water, and oil and then dip my chicken in it and put it in either deep fryer or wok for 4 – 5 minutes then it takes it out, it will look exactly as what is in the picture you posted =].

    I follow the lemon sauce in your recipe and <3!

    1. Woohoo, happy you found success with this recipe! Glad you love the site and hope to keep putting out more recipes you love!

  2. Made this Lemon Chicken today and served it with Singapore Noodles. I will definitely be making this again! I have to say I did buy ready to serve chicken tenders (which appealed to my lazy side) and just made the sauce, but it was fabulous.

  3. This was my favorite boneless chicken from china express on ave D in Brooklyn, NY. I always ordered it for years every time I go to that place. None of the other Chinese food making that at all. So now I live in NC I try to make it by using your recipes and failed badly because my chicken looks more of KFC than what is in the picture. I try to figure out if more flour is needed and a deep fryer is needed or if a pancake mix is needed? Because in the picture it looks as if it is thick in flour than thinner. Help?!

    Besides all that failure with the chicken, the sauce cooked nicely and taste good.

    1. I’m so glad you found this recipe. Honestly you couldn’t have failed that badly if you still enjoyed the taste. Did you change any of the ingredients or amounts? We can try and figure it out for next time.

  4. I’m so happy. Lemon Chicken was a must have at the Asian cuisine restaurant in my hometown growing up, the owner decided to retire and shut down the restaurant to keep it from being ran into the ground. While it was a smart choice it also left me wanting lemon chicken that I’ve yet to find at any other restaurant!

    This recipe is the closest I’ve come to it and I can make it at home! Now just to find a replica of their hot and sour soup!

    1. So glad to have helped fill a food void for you! It’s so hard when something we rememeber and love is gone. Thanks for the 5 star rating Ashley.

  5. For diabetic folks, use Splenda or an equivalent sweetener. I’ve made variations of lemon chicken and have made the sauce only for other food. I’ve frozen it and it freezes fine. Shrimp, chicken, fish, pork, and more are better with lemon sauce.

    Make orange chicken sauce and combine for a citrus treat!

  6. I don’t know what I am doing wrong that the sauce doesn’t thicken. Is it because I am using a pot instead of the pan I made the chicken in? ?

  7. Would it be okay to cut up the chicken after 2 or 3 minutes in the pan then add the sauce ingredients to cook into and on the chicken?

  8. As a picky eater with two younger sisters who, through the years, have generally been only slightly less picky than me, lemon chicken is the first thing I look for on the menu of any Chinese restaurant. But while I remember absolutely loving it when I was five and presumably eating at whatever my family’s favorite Chinese place was at that point, we moved soon after that and I most often find myself disappointed by the lemon chicken I’ve had since.
    Recently our lemon tree became so loaded down with lemons that one of the branches broke and others threatened to. After picking and squeezing about two hundred large lemons, we’ve had a practically infinite amount of lemon juice sitting in glass jars in the fridge. So we’ve been making a lot of lemon dishes to use it up, and I decided to try making lemon chicken. This was the first recipe I went for, mainly because of the picture, and while I normally check a few different recipes before deciding which to use, that would have been wasted effort in this case, so I’m glad I didn’t. It’s unlikely that any other recipe would be noticeably simpler than this one, and considering that I found the chicken to be perfect and my dad declared his love of the sauce, the flavor’s about as good as it’s going to get too. In fact, I’m planning to make this again in the future, and probably double the sauce. We didn’t quite use it up this time, but my general impression is that most of us were looking at the amount available and holding ourselves back. (I’ve also resolved to use this particular breading whenever I make any sort of breaded chicken in the future, because it’s the best I’ve ever had and very simple.)

  9. Used to eat this exact dish at my fav Chinese restaurant growing up & haven’t seen it since. Really hope my own family like it too. Thx so much!

    1. The lemon sauce is made in step 8. You’ll be adding those ingredients listed into the pan and whisking to combine. Hope this helps!

  10. I can’t rate it yet but will after I make it this weekend! Looks soooo good and I’m hoping it will be a hit with the family but especially my granddaughter as she loves chicken breast and loves lemon! Can’t wait to make it!!! ?

  11. This is a fabulous dish. Fresh, light and flavoursome. My family loves it and I can whip it up in no time … win win! Thank you.

  12. It looks so good! I want to know can I see this recipe on video? We always see a video on your page but it’s never the recipe’s video
    Thank you

  13. Very nicely thought out directions and pictures. Made this tonight and it is all gone! I like the chicken cutlets – you get just enough breading in each bite without overwhelming the chicken.

  14. Hell yes! I love your indulgent takeout recipes…will make over the weekend. Probably with a side of sticky sushi rice 🙂

    1. Okay I just made it and it was so successful! Restaurant quality. I didn’t use any sugar in the sauce, and even subbed half the lemon juice for orange juice (we only had a tiny lemon).

      I will make this again in a heartbeat.

      1. So how much oil do you need in a frying pan or do you use a deep fryer? If using a fry pan I assume you have to flip at least once?

        1. You’ll want about an inch of oil in your pan and you’ll be flipping it once during the frying process. Hope this clears up any confusion.