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

4.94 from 151 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. I just recently started liking Chinese food. I ran across this recipe to make one of my favorite dishes at home. I made this and it was delicious!!!! Ive never made a Chinese dish in my life and it was perfect on the first try. The only thing I had to do was substitute white vinegar for the Apple cider vinegar because I didn’t have it and it was great Thank you for sharing this!

  2. I had a “plethora” of whole RIPE pineapples that needed used… so we juiced some of them. Had a TON of Leftover “PINEAPPLE PULP”… in search of a sweet and sour recipe that maybe i could change up a little…. Found this one and tried it. Substituted the 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup Pineapple Pulp in the sauce. The chicken was messy to make (always when dredging with kids) … but i was amazed at how crispy it was!! I also left the chicken and sauce separate at the end and let everyone put their own sauce on their “rice & chicken” bowl. I actually used 5 lbs of chicken, doubled the sauce recipe and the ratio was fine.

  3. Loved this, although it will probably taste better with breaded chicken, I cooked the chicken without coating, added salt & pepper, then the veggies, pineapple, and sauce. You can do a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce, too. Added over cooked rice and topped with green onions. My husband and I really loved this! Thank you so much for a great recipe! I’m gluten free and I could have used a different flour, I thought this was a lot easier and cut down on time and it tasted great!

  4. Added some fresh crushed ginger, orange juice and red pepper flake to the sauce. Amazing. Thanks! I have a health condition where I can’t consume oil. I cooked chicken breast cubes on a skillet seasoned with fresh ground pepper (key ingredient go a tad heavy), garlic and onion powder and salt and Ancho chili pepper with some baking powder. Grilled with onions and added in the pineapple. I forgot to add the scallions I bought at the end. ? I can’t ever order Chinese because of my condition, but so happy to have this great recipe to modify at home. Loved building on this. Thanks!

  5. It is so tasty, I made it again but replaced the apple cider vinegar with rice vinegar and juice of half an orange… and it is even better!

  6. Very easy recipe, but very bland. Chicken especially was very good, but definitely needed salt. Sauce needed some spice. How about some peppers

    1. True! I added the salt in the flour coating the chicken and that was perfect. Second time I cooked it I used a spicy ketchup (available in Turkey) that made it so good, not too spicy but a hint 🙂

  7. This recipe is absolutely incredible! It was easy to follow and so delicious. It definitely impressed my family who were over for dinner. Thank you for making me look like an amazing cook ? will most certainly be making this again!

  8. Hello Sabrina,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! I have a question: I am inviting some friends over and will not be able to serve immediately. I’ll at least have to prepare two hours prior. I am thinking of adding the chicken at the very end after heating the sauce. What do you think? What is the best way to keep the chicken crispy for this long? Or is that impossible?

    Many thanks!

    1. Unfortunately, this recipe just won’t work made ahead of time. I’d suggest making the PF Chang’s Orange Chicken recipe instead. It’s delicious and will stay longer. Good luck!

  9. This is the best sweet and sour chicken recipe on the market! I always make more sauce, because it is so authentic tasting.

    Making it tonight with half chicken and half tofu.

    Thanks so much!

  10. I just made this delicious easy meal for dinner. Absolutely better than Chinese sweet and sour chicken. I added a dash of scotch bonnet pepper, enhancing its savory taste.
    Do you have an orange chicken recipe?
    Thanks!

    1. Yes, I actually a few different versions. You can use the search bar at the top right of the corner of the website and it’ll show you all the options. Enjoy!

  11. This was delicious! Even my daughter who is not a fan of peppers and isn’t sure about pineapple liked it. This one’s definitely a keeper.

  12. We LOVE this recipe! I discovered it this summer, and have made 3 times since then. I am about to make it again tonight for dinner 🙂 . It’s a seriously tasty and easy recipe to follow. Thank you Sabrina!

  13. AWESOME recipe!! I usually screw up recipes but this one came out so good. I was concerned that there was no salt or pepper because I never make a dish without those, but I followed the recipe anyway and it had so much flavor my two picky eaters finished their entire bowl! And my husband who complains that my cooking is too bland liked this better than the Chinese food restaurant! Thank you!

  14. WAS ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!! When I make Chinese chicken I try a different recipe every time…..not anymore!! This will be my go-to Chinese dish—bravo!!! You nailed this dish!! Tastes just like take-out!

  15. Hi Sabrina, when I saw your recipe for Sweet & Sour Chicken, I was desperate to try it, however, my wife and I are not big eaters. I decided to halve the amount of chicken and reduce the other ingredients proportionally. The result was brilliant, we were not disappointed. Thank you. ?

  16. Was delicious follwing the recipe to a T, except that I used Thomas Kellar Cup 4 Cup GF flour. That said, it took me about an hour start to finish, incorporating the fresh pineapple. Will make again, but not a quick weekday dinner.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m sure it’ll take you less time the next time you make it, at least that’s how it is for me. Whenever I get more comfortable with a recipe, it takes less time.

  17. Prepared this tonight. It was so easy and delicious. I used flour to which I added salt and pepper no corn starch or egg. I preheated oven to 350 and placed the browned chicken on cookie sheet and let it bake while I combined everything else in a cast iron skillet in which I fried the chicken. I served it over brown rice. Yum!

  18. confused about the oil when done cooking chicken. Do put the ingredients in the oil or do I drain the oil?
    Thank you.
    It looks delicious!!

    1. The oil is used to fry the chicken pieces in. One the chicken is fried, you remove it from the oil. Hope this helps clear things up. Enjoy!

  19. For taste this recipe is excellent. I’ve made it a couple of times and it is delicious. Having said that I need to add that putting it all together is labor intensive, at least for me. Trimming the chicken, cutting it up, putting it in the corn starch, egg and flour, and then frying it took me at least a half hour. And it was messy. With practice hopefully I will get better at it. Chopping the vegetables and cooking them went quire fast.
    Side note; while coating the chicken with corn starch in a bag works well enough, I found that dredging them flour was better than trying to repeat tossing in a bag. The recipe only says to dip chicken into egg and then flour. (This is the messy part)
    I did make one change to the directions. I didn’t put the chicken back in with the vegetables and sauce. Since the idea is to keep the chicken crispy and I am only cooking for 1, it seemed better to put the sauce and vegetables on rice and then add the chicken on top. I tend mix everything together on my plate so it works for me.

  20. Hi Sabrina,
    I have recently discovered your recipes on the website and the Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe looks amazing; I have also read the reviews which are very encouraging. My question is this: I would like to try the recipe, however, 11/2 lbs of chicken is far too much for my wife and I, half the quantity would be more than sufficient. Would you recommend halving all the other ingredients or reduce them by just a certain amount, say 25 or 30%. Would appreciate your advice very much. Ray.

    1. Each recipe has a slider tool (hover over the servings) that allows you to adjust the ingredient amounts to the servings you like to make. Hope you find this helpful.

  21. The whole family loved, thank you! I used pomegranate juice in place of the apple cider vinegar and ketchup due to dietary restrictions, and it all tasted phenomenal. Thanks again 🙂

      1. You can just leave it out. I’ve never tried it with another fruit but possible orange or apricots might work. I’m not sure how they would adjust the flavor though. Good luck!

  22. I followed the recipe to a T so I’m not sure what happened here…but I would say it was just ok. maybe I did something not quite right with this batch? I thought it was lacking in the flavor dept. and S&S is my fave dish…I def didn’t get the feel it was overpowering like some reviews below mention. It wasn’t bad per say but it def wasn’t takeout good.The chicken fried up nicely but IDK that I’d make it again. Always looking to try stuff tho so many thanks!

  23. I made this tonight and it was easy and awesome! Better than a Chinese restaurant. The only thing I did different was I added a teaspoon of baking powder to the flour. I served it on brown rice.

  24. Recipe sequence is a little disjointed so read it twice and plan out your activities in advance. End result fantastic, especially the sauce. Since I’m not traditional when it comes to this dish I seasoned my pan with chopped garlic and onions, and then added mushrooms and peppers. When dusting the chicken I added granulated garlic and onion to the cornstarch. I also added broccoli after adding the sauce, about 5 minutes before serving so the broccoli doesn’t suck up too much sauce. No leftovers at a table of picky eaters.

  25. Made this with x2 quantity sauce as my family likes their chicken completely soaked in sauce. It came out perfectly and we even had a little extra sauce left over. I’m going to freeze it to use later to use with premade nuggies, Thank you!

  26. I’m confused about an instruction in the sweet and sour chicken recipe. #8 says “remove to cookie sheet and continue cooking the chicken.” The previous instruction says “cook until done and crispy.” So if the cooked chicken is now on the cookie sheet, and the pan is empty except for the oil, how do I “continue cooking the chicken?” The only way I would have uncooked chicken would be if the chicken was divided into portions before cooking, but there is no instruction to do so.

    1. I’m not the author of the recipe, but I divided my chicken up into batches that way the chicken doesn’t stick to each other as they cook. I used paper towels just to drain and then put the cooked pieces on the cookie sheet. I think next time I will put the cookie sheet of chicken in the oven on warm so everything is good and warm when it gets put together.

    2. Howard, the chicken should be cooked in batches. If you add all the chicken to the pan at once, it will cause “sweating” which will make the breading somewhat soggy and soft. That’s why it says continue cooking chicken. Hope this helps.

  27. Made this last night for my husband who LOVES sweet and sour chicken. It was a BIG hit! I have to admit I did take a shortcut and used frozen chicken nuggets that I heated in the oven before adding them to the other ingredients as I was short on time.