This Sweet and Sour Chicken is an easy, 25-minute Chinese-inspired stir fry recipe with pineapple, bell pepper, and the most delicious sweet and tangy sauce! It’s gluten-free and so much better and cheaper than take-out – serve it with cooked rice, noodles, or on lettuce wraps.
Making your favorite Chinese-inspired take-out food from home is so much easier than you’d think! And this easy sweet and sour chicken with pineapple recipe is no exception.
The chicken is seasoned with soy sauce and spices, then coated in cornstarch and pan-fried until crispy. Then, it’s mixed with sautéed peppers, onions, and pineapple, along with the most delicious sweet and sour sauce made with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.
You can serve it over rice or noodles, eat it plain, or eat it on cool, refreshing lettuce wraps.
This recipe is inspired by Jessica in the Kitchen’s Vegan Sweet and Sour Tofu. Check out her blog for more vegetarian and vegan recipe inspiration!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Chicken Breasts – you can use thighs if you prefer, or a mixture.
- Soy sauce – or liquid aminos, or gluten-free soy sauce if needed.
- Cornstarch – for coating the chicken to make it crispy. Flour will also work, or arrowroot powder or almond flour for a grain-free version. You can also just omit it and sauté the chicken without it, though it won’t have a crispy coating.
- Garlic powder – minced fresh garlic will also work.
- Bell pepper and red onion – I used green bell pepper (because it’s the least sweet and the sauce is already sweet), but you can use any color you want. And yellow, white, or the light and white parts of scallions can be used instead of red onion.
- Pineapple – fresh or canned, and the juice can also be used (see recipe notes)
- Canola oil – for frying, or another neutral tasting oil. You can also use olive oil if you prefer, but it may add a different flavor.
- Brown sugar, honey, ketchup, rice vinegar, and Sriracha – for the sauce. You can sub the brown sugar and/or honey with other sugars or maple syrup, and you can use white or apple cider vinegar instead of rice. Another Asian-style hot sauce, like chili garlic paste, can be used instead of Sriracha, or omitted for a mild version.
How to Make Sweet and Sour Chicken
- First, marinate the chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, black pepper, salt, and garlic powder. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes while you prep other ingredients, such as chop the peppers and onions and mix the sauce.
- Mix the sweet and sour sauce in a small bowl of glass measuring cup- brown sugar, honey, rice vinegar, water (or pineapple juice), Sriracha, ketchup, soy sauce, and garlic powder.
- Sprinkle cornstarch on the chicken and stir to coat every piece thoroughly.
- Cook the chicken until crispy in canola oil in a large skillet or wok. I prefer nonstick. Then, remove it to a plate.
- Add the peppers, pineapple, and onions to the skillet and cook until they are softened and starting to brown.
- Pour in the sauce and simmer it until thickened a bit.
- Finally, add the chicken back into the skillet and stir to coat. Now you’re ready to serve! I like to garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onions.
Can I reduce the amount of sugar?
Yes, you can! This recipe is absolutely DELICIOUS, but it does have more sugar than most of my recipes.
If you want to reduce the amount of sugar, I recommend 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of honey. The granulated sugar does help thicken the sauce, but 100% honey can also be used if you prefer natural sweeteners.
Other Chinese-Inspired Stir Fry Recipes
- Hunan Pork and Tofu Stir Fry (from The Woks of Life)
- Mushroom Chicken Stir Fry (from Omnivore’s Cookbook)
- Skinny Orange Chicken
- Pineapple Chicken
- Beef and Broccoli
- Sesame Chicken
- Chicken and Cashew Lettuce Wraps
- Shrimp Stir Fry
Browse all gluten-free recipes here.
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Sweet and Sour Chicken
For the sweet and sour chicken:
- 1 lb. chicken breast meat cut into 1" pieces (about 2 breasts)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup cornstarch more if needed
- 1/4 cup canola oil or other neutral tasting oil (for frying)
- 1 bell pepper diced (any color is fine)
- 1/2 cup diced pineapple canned or fresh
- 1/2 cup diced red onion from about 1 small or 1/2 large onion
- sesame seeds and green onion for garnish, optional
- cooked rice or noodles for serving, optional
- In a medium bowl, mix together the soy sauce (1 tablespoon), garlic powder (1/2 teaspoon), kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon), and black pepper (1/4 teaspoon). Add the diced chicken to the bowl and toss to coat. Allow to marinate for at least 5 minutes.
- While the chicken is marinating, mix together all the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce in a small bowl or glass measuring cup (1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon Sriracha, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder). This is also a good time to dice the pepper and onion, if you haven't already.
- Sprinkle the cornstarch (1/4 cup) on top of the chicken and toss to coat each piece evenly. Use a couple tablespoons more if there isn't enough to coat each piece.
- Heat the canola oil (1/4 cup) in a large skillet or wok (I prefer nonstick) over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and fry until crispy and fully cooked, flipping occasionally, about 5-8 minutes. Once fully cooked, remove to a plate.
- Add the diced bell pepper, diced red onion (1/2 cup), and diced pineapple (1/2 cup) to the skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until browned and softened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and pour the sauce into the skillet. Stir and simmer until sauce has thickened a bit, about 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken back into the skillet and stir to coat in the sauce and veggies.
- Serve over cooked rice or noodles, or in lettuce wraps for a low-carb version, garnished with sesame seeds and sliced green onions (optional).
- Looking for a vegan version? This recipe was inspired by the vegan Sweet and Sour Tofu Recipe from Jessica in the Kitchen.
- For a lighter, lower fat version, you can reduce the oil to 1-2 tablespoons, which will work best with a nonstick skillet.
- For a lower-sugar version, reduce brown sugar and honey to 2 tablespoons each.
- For 100% gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce.
- If you have pineapple juice from dicing the pineapple or from canned pineapple, you can use it in the sauce in place of the water and reduce the sugar by a little bit so it’s not wasted.
- Ingredient substitutions: chicken thighs may be substituted for breasts; liquid aminos may be substituted for soy sauce; flour, arrowroot powder, or almond flour may be substituted for the cornstarch, yellow, white, or light green and white scallion parts may be substituted for the red onion; fresh minced garlic may be substituted for garlic powder; other Asian-style hot sauce or chili garlic paste may be substituted for Sriracha; white or apple cider vinegar may be substituted for rice vinegar.