General Tso’s chicken with a kick of heat! A popular Chinese meal made with lean white meat tossed in a sticky coating consisting of oyster, hoisin, and soy sauce, honey, vinegar, and spicy chili oil.
It’s not a surprise that General Tso’s chicken has amassed a large fan base at places like Panda Express. Tender pieces of chicken are coated and deep fried then tossed in a savory sauce with a hint of sweetness and spice. The sauce hits all taste profiles, salty, sour, sweet, and spicy.
To make a homemade version that’s bursting with flavor, I’m going to show you a few important culinary techniques are used. This recipe first applies a marinade to the chicken before lightly coating the protein in cornstarch and deep frying. The result is flavorful bites throughout. The thin layer of coating creates a nice crust when tossed with the luscious glaze.
How to make General Tso’s Chicken
- Marinate chicken in salt, pepper, soy sauce, and wine.
- Toss chicken to coat in cornstarch.
- Deep-fry chicken in batches, then set aside
- Combine oyster sauce, broth, vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin, chili oil, and cornstarch.
- Stir-fry ginger, garlic, red chilis, and green onions.
- Add the sauce mixture, simmer and stir until thickened.
- Add in chicken and toss to coat in the sauce, top with sesame seeds.
What is the coating made of?
For this recipe, I decided to make a gluten-free coating using cornstarch instead of tempera-style, flour dredging, or bread crumbs to keep the dish on the lighter side. However, those alternate coatings would be very tasty. If you don’t want to deep-fry at all, you can marinate and then stir-fry the chicken in about two tablespoons of vegetable oil until cooked through.
What’s the difference between orange chicken and General Tso’s chicken?
The sauce is what sets the General Tso’s Chicken dish apart. A triple savory bomb of oyster, soy, and hoisin sauce. Chinese black vinegar adds a unique tanginess that is not as sharp as distilled vinegar, similar to Worcestershire sauce.
This dish also tends to be spicier. Orange chicken, on the other hand, is more of sweet and tangy citrus and soy-based sauce. Both dishes can be coated and fried, or simply stir-fried depending on your craving.
Why do they call it General Tso Chicken?
It’s always a mystery how dishes were actually named. Speculation has it that the dished was fancied by a 19th-century Chinese General Tso Tsung-t’ang. Other beliefs are that the dish originated in the 1950s in Taiwan from a celebrated chef named Peng Chang-kuei. When he immigrated to the United States in the ’70s, he adapted the dish to more American tastes to be sweeter.
Want to make it a complete meal?
A big bowl of steamed rice topped with General Tso’s chicken is hard to resist. I also like to serve this meal with egg rolls to start since you’ve already got the oil going, and a side of lo mein noodles.
More Chinese recipes
How to make this spicier
Use whole dried red chilis and chili oil to provide a smoother heat experience that doesn’t overpower the dish. Sriracha or chili paste can be substituted, but use half the amount at first and adjust to your desired heat level. For a hotter sauce, split the whole dried chilis in half to release more of the hot capsaicin in the flesh, and remove the seeds before adding to the pan.
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General Tso's Chicken
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine, optional
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 10 dried red chilis
- ¼ cup green onions, 1 ½-inch long pieces
- ¼ teaspoons sesame seeds
- Combine chicken, salt, pepper, soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine (if using) in a medium bowl.
- Toss seasoned chicken with cornstarch to evenly coat.
- In a wok or large pan, heat 2 cups of oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F (177°C).
- Shake off any excess cornstarch from the chicken and add to the oil, frying until golden brown and cooked through about 2 to 4 minutes. Work in 2 to 3 batches.
- Use a spider strainer or tongs to transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined sheet pan. Repeat with remaining chicken.
- Discard the oil from wok and carefully wipe the inside of the pan with paper towels to clean. Wash the pot if needed and dry completely.
- Whisk together oyster sauce, honey, chicken broth, vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili oil, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Heat wok over medium-high heat and add in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
- Once the oil is hot add the garlic, ginger, dried chilis, and green onions, stir-fry for 30 seconds.
- Add sauce, stir and cook until thickened, 60 to 90 seconds. Taste sauce and add more salt, pepper, or chili oil as desired.
- Add in the fried chicken pieces, stir to combine.
- Garnish with sesame seeds and more green onions if desired.
- Stir-fry Method: If you prefer not to deep fry the chicken, then marinate and stir-fry with no additional cornstarch coating. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and cook chicken until no longer pink, 3 minutes. Proceed with cooking the sauce.
- Rice vinegar can be substituted for Chinese black vinegar.
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