This 20-Minute Sesame Chicken is a cinch to make with NO DEEP FRYING required! Serve it with steamed rice or quinoa and broccoli or green beans for a complete, delicious weeknight meal.
The benefits to living a small town are numerous: wide open spaces, familiar faces wherever you go, minimal traffic…
But a glaring downside where I live is not having good Chinese takeout options within a 45 minute drive. And sometimes, I just want Chinese food NOW.
One of my favorite Chinese restaurant recipes is sesame chicken. It’s sticky, salty, sweet, crunchy, and absolutely addictive.
Usually, sesame chicken is deep fried, then coated in a sweet, soy sauce and sesame oil based sauce.
Don’t get me wrong: I love me some fried chicken. But when I’m cooking at home, I’m not usually one to deep fry things from scratch. There’s too much mess, too much oil, too much terrifying splatter, and it makes your house smell like oil.
So here’s a fun way to make a crunchy coating on the chicken without deep frying!
Just coat the chicken in a thick batter consisting of: egg, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. The batter sticks to the chicken and crisps up in just a couple of tablespoons of oil in a non-stick or cast-iron skillet.
My other complaint about sesame chicken is that sometimes it’s just TOO sweet. Like, WAY too sweet. I do love a little bit of sweetness in stir-fry sauces, and I think it’s absolutely necessary to get that well-rounded flavor balance of sweet, acidic, salty, umami that makes some Chinese recipes so addictive!
If you search the internet for “sesame chicken recipes,” you’re sure to find a lot that use a half cup or MORE of sugar in the sauce.
In my opinion, that’s WAY TOO MUCH sugar! Not only is it less healthy, but it overwhelms the balance of the rest of the flavors.
For this sesame sauce, I used 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup to get a well-balanced sweetness that wasn’t too sweet and had a deeper flavor than just adding plain white sugar.
You can also use honey instead of the maple syrup, if you prefer.
More on the sauce: please don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. I didn’t have to shop for anything new for it since I already had all of it in my pantry or fridge, and I bet you have a lot of it too.
I added a little sriracha hot sauce in there for some spiciness, but feel free to leave it out if you prefer.
And the addition of sesame seeds directly in the sauce adds to the delicious crunchy texture of this sesame chicken stir fry recipe.
I served this sesame chicken with steamed rice and green beans, and topped everything with some more toasted sesame seeds. It would be great garnished with green onions or cilantro, or even with cauliflower rice, zoodles, or in a lettuce wrap for a lower carb version.
And make sure you check out this awesome list of the 7 Best Chinese Stir Fry Sauces so you can up your Chinese food game from the comfort of your own home!
Here’s the printable recipe :-)
20-Minute Sesame Chicken
For the Chicken:
For the Sesame Sauce:
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
- 1 clove garlic grated on a microplane zester (about 1/2 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated on a microplane zester (about a 1 inch piece)
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce or more, if you want
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Cooked quinoa or rice, steamed broccoli or green beans, sliced green onions or cilantro, and more sesame seeds optional
- To make the batter, whisk together the egg, cornstarch (1/4 cup), kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon), and black pepper (1/4 teaspoon) in a medium bowl until it's smooth. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat.
- Heat the canola oil (2 tablespoons) in a nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add all of the batter coated chicken and spread out in a single layer.
- Cook the chicken for 2 minutes until browned without moving it. Flip it over and cook for another 2 minutes without moving it.
- Continue cooking for another 10 minutes (or until fully cooked and browned), breaking it up as you go and stirring/flipping it occasionally.
- While the chicken is cooking, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce.
- Once the chicken is done, add the sauce to the skillet and stir to coat the chicken. Continue heating and stirring until the sauce is thickened and coats all of the chicken.
- Serve the chicken over cooked rice or quinoa with steamed broccoli or green beans on the side, sprinkled with extra sesame seeds and garnished with sliced green onions or cilantro.
- Money Saving Tip: Dark meat is cheaper than white meat, so if you're trying to save some money, use chicken thighs instead of breasts!
- Time Saving Tip: You can mix up the sauce ingredients a few days in advance to save on prep time, and you can probably find already cooked rice in the freezer section of your grocery store.
- If some of the batter falls off the chicken while you're cooking it, don't stress. It happened to me! The pieces of batter create little crunchy bites throughout and are delicious, even unattached to the chicken pieces.
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.