Chinese Lemon Chicken

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.

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Chinese Lemon Chicken

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.
Yield 6 Servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 256kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 100mg | Sodium: 726mg | Potassium: 449mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 75IU | Vitamin C: 9.2mg | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 0.8mg
Keyword: Chinese Lemon Chicken
Chinese Lemon Chicken
Asian Lemon Chicken

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the upcoming cookbook: Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients which is being published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!!

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

    1. I am so sorry this recipe didn’t work out for you Gillian. I do hope you come back and try another recipe sometime.

  9. 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!

  10. We didn’t enjoy this recipe unfortunately. The sauce tasted like lemon cordial and was just strange. Won’t be making this again.

  11. My mother freaked out she loved it so much. She wants it again thanks for the wonderful recipe

  12. I can’t wait to make this Chinese Lemon Chicken! It’s hard to find in restaurants. Thank you!!

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

    1. If you’re following a strict diet, I would calculate your own nutritional information. This site uses a program that automatically calculates it.

  15. Hi Sabrina
    I am the only one in our house that likes Lemon Chicken so can the sauce be made and frozen in portions ?

    1. I haven’t tested freezing it but my gut says it should work just fine. Would love to know how this works for you.

  16. Delicious and so easy…I will definitely make it again…Thank you for the great recipe…

  17. 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.

    1. Thomas it sounds like you added the flour and cornstarch to the sauce mixture, when it only called for the tablespoon of cornstarch.

  18. 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.

    1. 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.

  19. Really puzzled by this recipe.
    The photo show a whole chicken breast, sliced and coated with sauce, which is exactly how I would buy it from my Chinese takeaway. Good.
    However the instruction say that the breast should be “butterflied” and cooked.
    I do not see how it can therefore look like the photo after it has been butterflied.
    Please, what am I missing ?

    1. I butterflied each breast into two thinner pieces. Possibly my chicken breasts were thicker than you usually get??

    1. I didn’t but I know that some restaurants add 2-3 drops of yellow food coloring to get it a bright yellow. I hope you enjoyed it.

  20. Delicious! This is a new favorite in our house! My partner said it was better than our local restaurant and I agree! Thanks for sharing!

  21. I really liked our local buffet-style restaurant’s version of lemon chicken; but, they stopped serving the lemon chicken some years ago.

    This recipe is a the perfect substitution. It was so quick and easy to prepare, and my family loves it!

  22. Our local Chinese buffet restaurant stopped serving a very delicious lemon chicken years ago, and I’d thought I’d never get to eat a good lemon chicken dish ever again.

    This recipe was a perfect match! It was easy to follow, quick to whip up, and is a big hit with the family!

  23. In Shanghai lemon chicken is served this way, as a whole chicken breast coated, fried, then sliced with lemon sauce poured over it. Super yummy

  24. Absolutely delicious! Thanks for this recipe. I only used a pinch of salt as many comments said it was too salty. We loved it!

  25. I really wanted this to work but the cornstarch just solidified into solid pieces in the sauce and ruined it….not sure what I did wrong? I’m sure it’s me but I followed it all to the letter, help me!

    1. Oh no! Next time try combining the lemon juice, sugar, water and cornstarch together first and then whisking it into the sauce. That might help avoid that. Hope this helps.

  26. This is a fantastic recipe! My family loved it. Will definitely do it again. The cornstarch and flour gave such a nice crispy texture to the chicken. Love love love!!!!!

  27. I am sooo excited to make this! Was wondering if you can make the chicken in an air fryer instead? Looking forward to making this!

  28. My family, my husband and 13 year old daughter, beg me to make this all the time now. We used to get Lemon chicken from a Chinese restaurant but I never liked the fact that they would put vinegar in their sauce. I hate the smell of vinegar. So when I came across this recipe and saw no vinegar, I was excited. It is very simple to make and tastes great. My only complaint is I can never get the sauce to thicken. I do exactly what the recipe says. Add half a cup of lemon juice, a 4th of a cup of sugar, 2/3 cup of water and the remaining cornstarch which is 1 tablespoon. I could stand there and whisk forever but it won’t thicken unless I turn the heat off. I hope to one day get this because we love this recipe so much .

    1. I’m so glad you love it so much! The only thing I can recommend is to add an additional tablespoon of cornstarch. I’ve never had an issue with it thicken but hopefully this helps for you.

  29. Sounds great – going to give it a try.

    BTW I’ve not heard of orange chicken outside the USA, nor seen it on a menu anywhere in Asia.

    1. FRiends of mine backpacked through China for a month and ordered “orange chicken” off a menu. They said it definitely was not orange chicken. ? They refused to eat it.

  30. Fabulous recipe! Will be making this again!! Very authentic, love the lightness of the batter and very juicy chicken.

  31. My bf always gets lemon chicken when we go out so I tried this recipe and he said it’ll now replace him going out! I didn’t fry the chicken up (grilled)so it was a little different, but the sauce was delicious!

    1. Wow! It’s always awesome to hear that one of my recipes beat out the take-out classics haha! Thanks for the review and so glad you both enjoyed so much!

  32. Wow! This exceeded my expectations. When my husband asked what’s for dinner, I wouldn’t tell him bc I knew it would be a struggle to try to sell it to him. Well he loved it too!! Not too sweet, not too tart. I can’t wait to have it again. Your recipes are extraordinary. I find myself always coming back to your site bc I can count on quality, tasty meals with straight forward instructions. You are making me a good cook! Thank you so much for sharing

    1. I love when my recipes win over picky spouses – even if it has to be a sneak attack haha! I’m so happy to hear that you are enjoying and becoming a great cook! Thank you for sharing with me 🙂

  33. 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!

  34. 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.

    1. No shame in that! We all deserve a little help in the kitchen every once in a while. So glad you enjoyed it.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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!

  38. 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? ?

    1. If the sauce doesn’t thicken, try this – Add the lemon juice, sugar and water to the sauce pan and heat to just boiling…reduce to a simmer, THEN add the corn starch/water combination and simmer – much like you would making turkey gravy for Thanksgiving!

      …if it still doesn’t thicken, try adding just a bit more corn starch (again mixed with water).

      I used a full cup of water with a heaping table spoon of corn start for my sauce…but I was also making a large portion then what’s described here.

      I also used a prepackaged Tempura batter mix (purchased at a local Asian grocery store) instead of the simple flour mix used here….worked GREAT and I would HIGHLY recommend it!

      …I also let the chicken breasts “velvet” over-night…makes for a VERY tender, “Chinese restaurant” chicken! Look for a good “chicken and broccoli” recipe for how to velvet chicken.

  39. 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?

  40. 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.)

  41. Wondering what would be a good side with this? Broccolini maybe> Any suggestions from the lemon chicken gallery?

  42. 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!

  43. So how exactly do I make the Lemon sauce? You pointed out the ingredients but not how to make it. Im a cooking newbie.

    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!

  44. 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!!! ?

  45. 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.

  46. 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

    1. It’s in the process so stay tuned. You can always view all of the videos we do have available on the facebook page too.

  47. 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.

  48. Love this recipe! Family favorite 2 nights in row! Thank you! Very easy to make too served with rice and green beans!?????

  49. 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.