Quick and easy pineapple chicken stir-fry, ready in just 30-minutes! Tender pieces of lean meat, colorful fruit, and healthy vegetables are tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce.
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I love making grilled Hawaiian chicken skewers during the summer, but it’s easier to grab my wok and fire up the stove when preparing a weeknight meal. The key is to have all components ready to toss into the pot and fry. The stir-frying method quickly cooks the protein and vegetables.
Adding in juicy ripe pieces of pineapple provides a sweet and tangy element to each serving. The sauce used here was inspired by my sweet and sour chicken recipe. Instead of citrus, tangy pineapple juice adds tropical flavor. Pair with a comforting bowl of steamed rice and chow mein.
If pineapple is in season, grab one from the grocery store. They should smell fragrant and have a golden hue with green lines. To test, pluck one leaf from the center. If it comes out quickly, it’s ripe.
Check out my step-by-step tips if you want to learn how to cut a pineapple. Cut them into pieces, about ¾-inch in size, to yield hearty bites. For convenience, canned pineapple chunks can be used.
Make the stir-fry sauce
To make a savory, sweet, and tangy sauce, I use a variety of Asian pantry staples. Pineapple juice is delightful and tart, which is the base seasoning. Chicken broth, hoisin, and soy sauce add a salty, umami taste. Rice vinegar and honey balance the savory ingredients.
Other sweeteners can be used, like pure maple syrup, brown sugar, or granulated sugar. Cornstarch is added to the liquid mixture to create a glossy, sticky consistency that clings to the meat. Makes sure that no white clumps are visible. Whisk it in until it’s fully hydrated.
You can use either boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs for the recipe. Choose white meat for a lean option, but keep an eye on doneness as it can dry out more quickly. Dark meat has more fat, which keeps the meat moist., but make sure to trim off the excess fat to prevent greasy pieces. I recommend cutting the chicken into about 1-inch cubes, as the protein will shrink down as it cooks.
Season the chicken
I keep the chicken seasoning simple with salt, pepper, and some sesame oil. The toasted, nutty flavor and aroma enhance the savory taste of the meat. If you have at least 15 minutes to marinate the chicken, add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce to deepen the umami flavor.
Searing the meat
When making stir-fry, a wok is my top choice. The curved shape gives more surface area on the sides and bottom of the pan to fry the meat. However, a large nonstick or stainless steel pan also works well.
Use medium-high heat to sear the chicken in hot vegetable oil. Let it sit without moving to allow a golden crust to form. This process takes about 1-minute. Stir-fry the meat to cook the poultry thoroughly. This process will happen fast, in about 3 to 4 minutes.
Cook the vegetable and aromatics
Add crunchy pieces of red bell pepper straight to the pan. You want to stir-fry until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 1 minute. The pineapple chunks cook until you can smell the fruit to warm but not dry out the pieces. Freshly minced garlic and ginger add a spicy bite to the dish. Just cook until fragrant. You don’t want a burnt and bitter flavor transferred to the dish.
Other vegetables can be added, like blanched broccoli florets, green beans, sugar snap peas, or zucchini for extra fiber.
Thicken the sauce
Add the pineapple sauce mixture straight to the pan, then stir. You want the liquid to bubble, so the cornstarch reaches its boiling point and swells, thickening the sauce. The agitation will help to disperse the heat and the starches for quick thickening. The process will only take about 1-minute.
The sauce will lightly coat the ingredients. Add red chili flakes, sriracha, or chili oil if you want a spicier taste. Add the green onions with the white parts to infuse a delicate allium taste into the dish without tasting sulfurous. The heat from the sauce will gently wilt the onions.
Serving the stir-fry
I like to garnish the pineapple chicken with thinly sliced green onion and sesame seeds to make the dish pop visually. If you cut a fresh pineapple, save the outer flesh and leaves to create a boat similar to my pineapple fried rice.
Simply cut the pineapple in half down the center lengthwise, and remove the flesh and core. Serve the stir-fry in the hollowed pineapple with rice. It makes for a fun, fancy presentation!
Serve this with
A stir-fried dish consisting of chopped pieces of chicken thighs or breasts, pineapple chucks, red bell peppers, and green onions. The dish is served with a sweet and tangy sauce made from pineapple juice, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, chicken broth, and cornstarch for thickening. Ginger and garlic add wonderful aromatics to the dish. Serve it in a pineapple boat for a festive presentation.
To add heat to the pineapple chicken, start with ⅛ teaspoon of red chili flakes, chili oil, chili paste, or sriracha. Increase to desired spice level. Add the spicy ingredient after thickening the sauce.
Yes! For extra crunch, stir in ½ cup of roasted cashews or peanuts with the green onions. This will add a pleasant nutty taste to the sweet and tangy chicken.
Does pineapple tenderize chicken?
Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which breaks down protein. Combined with the marinade, it can help tenderize tough pieces of meat like chicken thighs containing more connective tissues. It will also soften chicken breasts, but don’t let them sit too long, or the meat will contract, causing moisture loss. Since the pieces in the stir-fry are small and cook fast, there is no need for extra tenderizing time with an acidic marinade.
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Pineapple Stir-Fry Sauce
Pineapple Chicken Stir-Fry
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, or breast, 1" pieces
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup red bell pepper, ¾" dice
- 1 ½ cup diced pineapple, fresh or canned, ¾" pieces
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- ½ cup sliced green onions, white and green parts, divided
- ½ teaspoon sesame seeds
- Make the Stir-fry Sauce – In a medium bowl, whisk together the pineapple juice, chicken broth, honey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and cornstarch until no lumps remain. Set aside.
- Season the Chicken – In a medium bowl, combine diced chicken, sesame oil, salt, and pepper.
- Cook the Chicken – Heat a wok, nonstick pan, or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil. Once hot and shimmering, carefully add the chicken in a single layer. Sear without moving until browned, about 1 minute. Stir-fry until no longer pink, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Cook the Vegetables – Add the bell peppers, stir-fry until crisp-tender, 1 minute. Add the pineapple, stir-fry until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook until aromatic, 30 seconds.
- Thicken the Sauce – Add the stir-fry sauce and bring it to a boil. Stir and cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and stir in ¼ cup of green onions.
- Plate & Serve – Garnish with the remaining green onions and sesame seeds. Serve with steamed rice, desired side dishes, or in a pineapple boat.
- Wok Spatula
- Recipe Yield: About 4 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Storing: Cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave on high heat in 15 to 30-second intervals until hot.
- Make it Spicy: Stir in red chili flakes, sriracha, or chili oil. Add ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon at a time until the desired heat level is reached.
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