Sweet and Sour Chicken

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Sweet and Sour Chicken with crispy chicken, pineapple and bell peppers just like your favorite takeout place without the food coloring.

Sweet and Sour Chicken with crispy chicken, pineapple and bell peppers.

Sweet and Sour Chicken, A Classic

Sweet and Sour Chicken is a classic Chinese takeout option most of us are too afraid to make at home. Something about woks and cooking with pineapple make it intimidating for most, but it is so much easier to make than you would think.

Of the classic Chinese Recipes that most people ask for on my blog the one I hear about the absolute most is sweet and sour chicken. I totally get it, it isn’t even just the recipe, but THAT SAUCE. When I was a teenager and I made this sauce for the first time I also actually started learning how to use chopsticks. So for a solid month (I kid you not, my mom was not thrilled with this), I used chopsticks for every meal and had a tiny little bowl of Sweet and Sour Chicken Sauce to dip everything into it.

Sweet and Sour Chicken sauce with sesame seeds

How to make Sweet and Sour Chicken

When it comes to making a good Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe there are a few tips I love to give out.

  • Keep the breading super crispy and light. I have experimented with this recipe both in a tempura batter and a straight cornstarch coating. I prefer cornstarch for ease of use, but either way, you don’t want something doughy that will absorb your sauce like a sponge.
  • Make sure you’re using GOOD pineapple chunks. I like either a super sweet fresh pineapple or the frozen chunks you get at Costco. They always have high quality frozen pineapple I’ve never been disappointed with.
  • Don’t skip the onions. I know people may have aversions to them, but the onions and the bell peppers play an important role in balancing the flavors of the dish. Without them, you would have a completely sweet entree with only a sour punch from the pineapple. Adding a bit of bitter from the peppers and onions helps cut through the sweetness. Trust me, you’ll be trying to snag extra onion pieces (assuming you don’t already really hate onions).

How to make Sweet and Sour Chicken like your favorite takeout place

Want more Chinese Food Recipes?

Sweet and Sour Chicken tossed in sweet and sour chicken sauce

Tools used in this Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe:

  • Wok: Great for high heat, quick cooking. This wok is a great addition to your kitchen if you love cooking Chinese food or stir fries in general.
  • Large Frying Pan: I use this Cuisinart for most of my non cast iron cooking unless I am going with a stainless steel option, then I choose my All Clad.
  • Low Sodium Soy Sauce: I find regular soy sauce much too salty, remember you can always add salt but you can’t subtract it. Starting with low sodium allows you to alter to your tastes if necessary.
  • Frying Spider Strainer: This frying spider strainer is the quickest and easiest way to scoop out items that are fried without wasting too much time or getting too much oil out of the pan. You won’t have pieces burning like you would with a smaller strainer, plus it is SO inexpensive. I use it for almost all of my small fried items.

 

Recipe

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Sweet and Sour Chicken

4.93 from 129 votes
  • Yield: 4
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder
Sweet and Sour Chicken with crispy chicken, pineapple and bell peppers that tastes just like your favorite takeout place without the food coloring.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts cut into 1” chunks
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • canola oil for frying
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into 1” chunks
  • 1 green bell pepper cut into 1” chunks
  • 1/2 yellow onion cut into 1” chunks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 4 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic minced

Instructions

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

  1. To make the sauce, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce and garlic into a small bowl.
  2. Pour enough canola oil into a dutch oven or frying pan that is comes up from the bottom about an inch to an inch and a half.
  3. Heat the oil on medium high to high heat, you’re looking for the chicken to cook and brown in about 2-3 minutes.

  4. Add the cornstarch to a large ziplock bag.
  5. Add the chicken pieces to the large ziplock bag and shake until all the pieces are well coated.
  6. Dip the pieces into the egg, then into the flour before adding to the hot oil.
  7. Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes, until cooked through and crispy.

  8. Remove to a cookie sheet (no paper towels!) and continue cooking all the chicken pieces.
  9. When done cooking remove all but a tablespoon of the oil.
  10. Add the bell peppers, onion and pineapple and cook for 1-2 minutes, until crisp-tender.

  11. Add the sauce back in and stir to coat the pieces and cook for 30 seconds to help the garlic warm through.

  12. Add the chicken pieces back in and stir until the sauce has thickened and bubbling.
  13. Serve immediately, with optional garnishes of sesame seeds or green onions.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 4 , Amount per serving: 602 calories, Calories: 602g, Carbohydrates: 92g, Protein: 41g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 190mg, Sodium: 588mg, Potassium: 1082mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 65g, Vitamin A: 1385g, Vitamin C: 79.5g, Calcium: 67g, Iron: 2.4g

All images and text © for Dinner, then Dessert.

Keyword: Sweet and Sour Chicken
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Sweet and Sour Chicken dish ready to serve

Sweet and Sour Chicken with crispy chicken, pineapple and bell peppers that tastes just like your favorite takeout place without the food coloring.
Sweet and Sour Chicken with crispy chicken, pineapple and bell peppers that tastes just like your favorite takeout place without the food coloring.

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Comments

  1. This is my absolute favorite dish. Love it, love it. My family totally enjoyed it. I cooked this during quarantine in the Bahamas. We could not go out so I brought the orient to us.

  2. The sweet and sour chicken was the best I’ve ever had! Great recipe, ingredients, directions, etc. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Very good. I used less than a half a cup of vinegar bc i saw people say it was overpowering. Needed some pineapple juice to take the edge off the sauce. Really nice flavor! Will make again!

  4. I looked for use of frozen sweet pepper chunks and received a new recipe with chicken that looks great. To my biggest surprise I also got led to your Honey Orange Firecracker Shrimp recipe. Being a sweet & sour shrimp nut the O/F shrimp
    lead is on my highest step of recipe ladder to be shortly delighted with.
    Other shrimp ideas are on the ladder also.
    Sabrina you are on my “ YOU ARE A LADY AND SCHOLAR “ list. Your 88 year old newest reader, John

  5. The chicken breading turned out perfectly! I think next time I’ll try adding a little cayenne to spice it up a bit.

  6. Thanks for sharing this recipe, will be making this tonight. When you place the chicken on a cookie sheet, should you line it with parchment paper or maybe wax paper or just leave the pan with nothing on it?

    Thanks in advance

    1. I would suggest freezing the chicken and the sauce separately and making the vegetables fresh when you serve it so they don’t get soggy.

  7. I wasn’t sure about how the sauce would taste when I had it all mixed together but WOW!! This was incredibly tasty! Honestly tasted pretty authentic. 10/10 will make again 🙂

  8. There are lots of good sweet and sour recipes out there but this one is hands down the best. I have now made it many times, it’s perfect as is, and, compared to other recipes, it’s not a lot of work. Minimal work and ingredients, great results. Thanks Sabrina!

  9. I loved this recipe but the chicken doesn’t get enough flavor from the sweet sauce any ideas what I can do I had to use regular soy sauce so I used less and use more pineapple and the flavor sauce was the best

  10. Pure perfection!! I needed to change 3 ingredients just bc I didn’t have them at home, still, it came out perfectly. My husband and I tried this meal in so many restaurants all over the world and there was always just one on the top of the others, but after this recipe, I guess only eating it at home from now on. Amazing receipe, BIG THANK YOU!!!!

    1. This was soooo good!!! One of those recipes you keep on-hand forever, my family is obsessed. I added broccoli for some extra veg. Best sweet and sour chicken recipe out there!

  11. Great recipe! I did tweak it a little though. I substituted the pineapple juice reserved from the pineapple chunks for the 1/2 cup of sugar, added some 5-spice (1 tsp) to the flour for the chicken coating, substituted mushroom soy sauce, and added the remaining corn starch after coating the chicken to the sauce mixture. I also served it with some fried rice. Very easy and tastes great!

  12. First time making sweet and sour chicken and this was an excellent start. I may modify the volumes for the ingredients to make the sauce the next time I make this. Found it a bit too vinegary (the ketchup and vinegar made it too sour) and a bit too sweet. Definitely makes enough for 6 too!

    All in all, a good recipe to test out my first foray into home made Chinese takeout.

  13. Am making this tonight. Have my homemade eggrolls in the freezer waiting to have along with this. Can’t wait to try it. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Thanks for such an easy looking recipe!

  14. This recipe looks interesting, but I feel like it calls for a lot of sugar. Will the flavor change dramatically if I use less sugar, or more brown sugar instead of white? Is there a healthy substitute I can use? Thanks!

  15. This was the best Chinese food I have ever had!! The first bite my husband and I had we were like “WOW” . Then my son and his wife came over and polished it off and their reaction was the same. Thank you for sharing. This was my first time using the wok that has been in my cabinet for years. I was a little concerned about the ketchup and the apple cider vinegar. I am more used to pineapple juice used instead. I was prepared to not like it. But it was perfect. Thank you for sharing it. This is a game changer.i am thinking no more takeout.

  16. This is the only sweet and sour chicken recipe I use now. My teenager asks for this sweet and sour chicken for all of his special occasion home-cooked dinners (birthdays, end of school, good grades etc.) I double the recipe for my family of four and leave out the pineapple because I am allergic to it, but it is delicious. So much better than take out!

    1. Perhaps substitute to rice wine and use pineapple juice. I make this with pork and its absolutely amazing just a little hint of sour that’s not over powering

    1. No, I just recommend placing the cooked chicken on a cookie sheet in between each batch. Just allows it to have a resting place but make sure not to line it with paper towels. You don’t want to end up with it sticking to them. Hope this clears things up. Enjoy!

  17. Delish! Followed the recipe to a “T” and the memories of Chinese restaurant family dinners came flooding back. It’s a keeper!

  18. Sabrina, thank you SO much for this recipe! I made it for my wife last week. She loved it so much that she asked me to make it again tonight. I have never had much luck with sweet and sour chicken, but your recipe was very easy to follow and came out wonderfully!! One note… my wife is gluten intolerant s I used the Pamela’s artisan blend instead of regular flour. I was a little worried that it may not come out as well, but it crisped up and tasted wonderful. You do have to watch that you don’t over cook it though. It tends to not turn dark as quickly, so I cook it just until it starts to turn slightly darker.

  19. Great recipe! I cooked the Sweet and Sour Chicken last night. Husband said it was a keeper. Just ate more of it for lunch today. I think I may make more sause maybe by a third so plenty to soak into the rice.

  20. This came out smelling and tasting like tomato ketchup, despite me putting in less than what the recipe called for. Disappointing waste of time.

  21. Sabrina

    Can I cook this in advance and take it to my parents to eat after maybe 3 hours? Or it will be soggy?
    Can I have shrimp instead of chicken?

  22. I tried this recipe because the sweet and sour chicken in the photo looked delicious and because my go to recipe for sweet and sour chicken called for pineapple with heavy syrup and I only had pineapple with pineapple juice. Unfortunately, I did not have fresh pineapple but I will use that next time. I also did not have apple cider vinegar so I had to tweak the recipe and use a combination of apple juice, pineapple juice and regular vinegar. It turned out great nonetheless and my husband LOVED it! I will be making this recipe again many times I am sure! I can’t wait to try more of your recipes. PS – My other recipe called for 3 T water and 2 T cornstarch to thicken it up a little bit so I decided to follow this step as well. However, I swapped 2 T of apple juice and 1 T of water for the 3 T water. Please note you may not need to do this if you make the chicken as directed. My other recipe called for plain chicken so since I was trying to duplicate that recipe with help of this recipe, I did not make the crispy chicken bites. (I will definitely try doing that next time.) Anyway, with the help of this recipe, my dinner was a big hit! I am so thankful I found this recipe. 🙂

  23. Dearest Sabrina, I have an urgent query. I don’t have pineapple or bell peppers. Can I make this lovely dish without them? Could I substitute them with anything else at all? Thank you so much for helping me.

  24. My first try was a great success! I was especially pleased with the way the batter fried the chicken pieces. I’ve never been able to duplicate that light, Tempura style before. The next time I make it I’m going to double the sauce recipe. My normal size chicken breasts are larger than 1 1/2 lbs for 2 breasts. I’m very happy I found such a good recipe Thanks!

  25. First time commenting on a recipe…I’ve been sampling Chinese recipes for sooo long and this is by far the easiest and most delicous. Thank you!!