Sweet and Sour Chicken

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A classic Chinese sweet and sour chicken recipe made in only 30 minutes! Tender stir-fried chicken tossed in a delicious tangy sauce with crisp vegetables.

Two servings of sweet and sour chicken

Do you want to know my secret for creating fast meals with big taste? It’s all about turning up the heat and combining some naturally tasty ingredients all together for an incredible flavor hit! With the Lunar New Year just days away, I’m sharing a classic Chinese sweet a sour chicken recipe that will be sure to please your family.

You’ll also learn my go-to cooking and sauce techniques for maximum flavor infusion. This dish will certainly be a recipe you can enjoy any time of the week, so drop those takeout menus and grab a pan. Let’s fire up the stove!

Ingredients portioned out on a table

Key Ingredients for Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and sour chicken is undeniably a favorite dish at Chinese restaurants for many good reasons. It’s a combination of the elements; super tender wok-fired chicken, crisp vegetables, and an irresistible sweet and tangy sauce. I created a wholesome homemade version with all the bursting flavors that you love!

For me, what makes this dish so unique is the sauce. The tomato-based sauce is just sticky enough to coat each piece of browned chicken entirely. To keep the sauce simple and tasty, I use rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, tomato paste, pineapple juice, garlic, and onion powder. That’s it! The balance of rich sweetness from the honey with the vibrant tartness of the rice vinegar is key.

Sweet and sour chicken cooking in a skillet

The ingredients are stir-fried over high heat in either a large pan or wok which makes this meal cook in a flash. Lean chicken breast is cut into small pieces of a consistent size to keep the chicken moist and tender. This helps the protein evenly cook in lightening speed.

The chicken is also tossed in a delicate coating of cornstarch to add some texture to the surface and give the sauce more opportunity to stick to the meat. The more sauce in each bite, the better!

Top down view of two bowls of chicken served on top of white rice

Grab a bowl so you can dig in! Serve this Chinese sweet and sour chicken over rice, or if you are looking for a low carb option try cauliflower rice or quinoa for excellent substitutions. If you have any extra sauce, make sure to serve it on the side for those who want to dip!

Close up view of sweet and sour chicken in a bowl with white rice

This delightful combination of white meat chicken and tangy sauce is nicely complemented with big chunks of crisp bell peppers, onions, and pineapple. You get a hearty serving of protein, vegetables, and fruit all in one bowl!

Since this dish is so easy, it’s perfect for those hectic weekdays or served as part of a leisurely feast with your loved ones. What is your favorite Chinese dish? I can’t wait to hear about your favorite recipes and cooking adventures!

How does Cornstarch thicken sauces?

One handy ingredient to use as a quick thickener for sauces is cornstarch. With just a small amount, mixed with water to create a slurry, the thickening power of the polysaccharides in the cornstarch is incredible. For this sweet and sour chicken recipe, the sauce ingredients are heated to a boil, the cold cornstarch slurry is added to the pot and whisked in. With continuous stirring and heat, the starch molecules amylose and amylopectin absorb the water, form bonds, and swells. This is called starch gelatinization. It turns any runny liquid into a thickened sauce, perfect to add to your dishes!

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Sweet and Sour Chicken

A quick and easy sweet and sour chicken recipe made in only 30 minutes! Tender stir-fried chicken tossed in a luscious tangy sauce with crisp vegetables.
Pin Print Review
5 from 11 votes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Chinese

Ingredients

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • ½ cup honey, plus 2 teaspoons
  • 6 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce, low sodium
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons pineapple juice, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Chicken

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 1 cup white onion, ¾-inch dice
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks, canned, reserve juice for sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, optional

Instructions 

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • In a medium-sized bowl whisk together honey, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, tomato paste, and 1 tablespoon pineapple juice (from pineapple chunks).
  • In a separate small bowl whisk together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 2 tablespoons pineapple juice. Water can be substituted for pineapple juice if desired.
  • In a small pot add sauce mixture, heat over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add the cornstarch mixture. Whisk constantly until sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Turn off heat and leave on the stovetop.

Chicken

  • In a large bowl, add chicken, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup cornstarch, stir to coat.
  • Heat a large saute pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
  • Once the oil is hot add the chicken in a single layer. Cook until light golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip the pieces to cook the other side, about 3 additional minutes or until no longer pink.
  • Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic, red and green bell peppers, and onions to the pan. Saute until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
  • Add pineapple and saute for 1 minute. Add the sauce, stir to coat and cook another 2 minutes or until sauce is warmed through.
  • Serve sweet and sour chicken over rice.

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Nutrition Facts
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 377 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 99mg33%
Sodium 515mg21%
Potassium 150mg4%
Carbohydrates 42g14%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 27g30%
Protein 37g74%
Vitamin A 2050IU41%
Vitamin C 131.2mg159%
Calcium 10mg1%
Iron 1.8mg10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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10 Comments Leave a comment or review

    • Toni says

      Can you make this without the soy sauce and tomato paste? I completely forgot to get them at the store and I have to make it tonight! No time to run to the store!

      • Jessica Gavin says

        Hi Toni- Do you have some ketchup, tamari, braggs amino acids, or coconut aminos? I don’t think it will taste the same without the soy and tomato paste.

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