Chinese Lemon Chicken

6 Servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

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


  • 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.


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
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 cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, 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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    1. How do you get the lemon sauce to be such a rich dark yellow/orange color as in your photograph.

  1. I used chicken thighs and olive oil instead of vegetable oil. Other than that, I did not stray from the directions. It was absolutely delicious. This recipe is very reminiscent of one of my favorite Chinese restaurants I used to frequent. Highly recommended.

  2. I have just made this and yummo! Hubby came back for seconds and thirds ? will definitely make again.
    Thankyou so much.

    1. I love hearing “easy to follow”. Thanks so much Pam, and thank you for the 5 star review 🙂

  3. Super Delish!!! Just added a pinch of red pepper flakes for a heat zip. Added a blop of toasted sesame oil to the fry oil.
    Served it with Basmati rice with fresh shredded carrot peas corn & celery cooked in last 5minutes. Topped it all with sliced green onions. Hubby said it’s better than local Chinese restaurant – Thanks so much!!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!!

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

    1. I don’t think you made it correctly. It does not take an hour to make this recipe….it is a 20 minute or less meal. The sauce, if made correctly is fantastic.!

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

    2. I think you may have mis-followed the recipe…I have made this for MANY… is always the best. I do serve it with Jasmine rice and shredded iceberg lettuce, it’s better than any Chinese restaurant we have in this area…..(which is a lot…we are the in the DC Metro area) .

  12. 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!

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

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

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

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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.