This Chinese General Tso Chicken recipe is a sweet and spicy Americanized Chinese dish that definitely ranks high above when it comes to producing a mouth-watering copycat dish from scratch in the comfort of your home!
This much-loved Chinese takeout is spicy and sweet with rich, smooth flavors, combining ultra-crispy chicken pieces with a sticky sauce – perfect to serve with Instant Pot Jasmine Rice and stir fry vegetables.
If you love Asian and Chinese cuisine, be sure to try Chinese Chicken Salad, Panda Express Beef and Broccoli, and Instant Pot Teriyaki Chicken. Ginger beef and teriyaki steak bites are other favorites.
What do I Need for Chinese General Tso Chicken Recipe?
- Chicken breast – Cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Seasoning – Paprika, coarse black pepper, and coarse sea salt. You can also use red pepper flakes or chili flakes for delicious spicy flavors.
- All-purpose flour
- Sriracha – You can increase this spicy sauce for a greater kick of heat.
- Vegetable Oil – For frying. You can use another neutral-tasting oil for this stir fry but I don’t recommend olive oil as this has a low smoke point.
- Glaze – This is a combination of sesame oil, minced fresh ginger, minced garlic cloves, light soy sauce, water (or chicken broth), rice vinegar (or mirin), hoisin, sweet chili sauce, light brown sugar, cornstarch, sesame seeds, green onions.
Top with extra Chinese General Tso sauce, chopped green onions, and sesame seeds.
You’ll need a Dutch oven or a large skillet, bowls for the batter and seasoning, and a small saucepan.
Variations and Substitutions:
- Adapt the seasoning in this General Tso’s chicken recipe to suit the flavor and level of spice you enjoy in food.
- For gluten-free batter, use gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose flour.
- For spicy chicken, use chili paste and spicy seasonings in this homemade General Tso’s chicken.
- Use chicken thigh pieces instead of chicken breast. Each piece of chicken must be the same size to cook evenly for crispy chicken pieces.
PREP: Heat the Dutch oven for 10-15 minutes until it’s hot.
Step 1: Cut the chicken and place it in a large bowl. Combine the spices with the flour in another bowl and whisk the buttermilk, egg, and sriracha in another bowl.
Step 2: Batter the chicken by first rolling the pieces in the flour, followed by the buttermilk, and then the flour again. Place the battered chicken on a separate plate.
Step 3: Fry the battered chicken in the Dutch oven once the oil has reached the correct temperature. The chicken can be cooked in batches for 2-3 minutes. Place the fried chicken pieces on a plate with a paper towel to soak up excess oil.
Step 4: Cook the garlic and ginger in a saucepan with sesame oil until golden and fragrant.
Step 5: Add the rest of the glaze ingredients to make the sticky sauce. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken. The sauce can be thickened even more by whisking cornstarch into the sauce and stirring until the desired consistency is reached.
Step 6: Add the fried chicken to a bowl and pour in the sauce mixture, tossing the chicken to coat evenly.
GARNISH/SLICE/SERVE: Top the dish with chopped green onions and sesame seeds.
- Always aim to keep the oil temperature as even as possible (between 350-375°F). For this reason, I make use of a food thermometer when deep frying food – this helps to ensure that the oil is at the right temperature consistently throughout the frying time.
- A dutch oven tends to work well for stovetop deep frying since it maintains the temperature more evenly than lightweight pots and pans. The temperature of the oil will naturally drop when you add the chicken so you should avoid adding too many chicken pieces at once which can lead to a more dramatic shift in oil temperature.
- You can use any type of frying oil which should have a high-smoking point such as vegetable oil, shortening, and peanut oil.
- It’s good practice to taste the glaze as it’s simmering so that you can adjust the flavors as needed. You’ll find that the Sriracha adds a lovely spice to the dish while the sweet chili sauce, hoisin sauce, and brown sugar provide notes of sweetness. Thanks to the use of soy sauce and rice vinegar, you’ll also get a touch of saltiness and zing – the perfect balance of flavors for a mouth-watering homemade meal that’ll certainly live up to the quality expected from your favorite Chinese restaurants!
According to the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, a Chinese chef (Chef Peng) working within the Chinese National Government went on to create this famous chicken dish in the 1950s, post the Chinese Civil War, after fleeing to Taiwan. The chef named his new creation after a well-known Hunanese military General, Tso Tsung-t’ang (or Zuo Zongtang). The original version of this recipe was true to Hunanese cuisine – being salty, sour, hot, and heavy. It was only later on in the 1970s that Chef Peng went on to modify his recipe to better suit westernized cuisine, at which point the sweet elements were added to this dish.
General Tso chicken is a wonderful dish that’s fairly hot and slightly sweet with rich, smooth flavors thanks to some of the seasonings used – leveling out the heat so that anyone can enjoy it.
The sweetness of the chicken breast pieces or chicken thighs (whichever you opt to use) is something that most people first comment on when trying this as a new dish, often being described as rich, sweet, and nutty. It also has a slight saltiness to it and a bit of a zing thanks to the use of rice vinegar and soy sauce.
While most chicken dishes can last in the refrigerator for 1-2 days when stored correctly, I always suggest eating fried chicken freshly made to really appreciate the crisp texture you get from the frying process.
This crispy and indulgent fried texture will most certainly decrease over time while in storage. You can reheat refrigerated General Tso chicken in the oven or even for a few minutes in your air fryer to re-crisp the flour batter coating.
I don’t recommend storing any leftovers in the freezer. The freezing and thawing process can seriously compromise fried foods and this General Tso Chicken dish is no exception!
Like many Chinese-American dishes, General Tso Chicken is usually served with a side of steamed rice or noodles, and chopped green onions with sesame seeds as garnish.
Other than that, sautéed/roasted broccoli or a side of mixed vegetables also pair well with this meal.
Yes, you can! Prepare your chicken breast pieces as you would to fry the conventional way but instead of dropping your chicken into a heated pot of oil, place them on your Air Fryer rack and set to cook for about 2-3 minutes at 350℉.
If you do cook your chicken breast pieces using an air fryer, make sure that you allow enough space between them for sufficient air flow in the air fryer which will ensure adequate frying. This will most likely mean that you’ll need to cook your chicken pieces in batches but it’s well worth it and not much more effort or time than what is required when frying in a Dutch oven. “Frying” in the air fryer, however, will not produce the same crispy crunch as traditional frying.
Chinese General Tso Chicken Recipe
- 1 ½ pounds chicken breast cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons sriracha
- Vegetable Oil for frying
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ cup light soy sauce
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or mirin
- 2 tablespoons hoisin
- ½ cup sweet chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
- Sesame seeds for garnish
- Green onions for garnish
- Heat at least 3” of oil in a Dutch oven until it reaches 370°F. It takes 10-15 minutes to heat the oil.
- Prepare the chicken while the oil is heating. In one bowl, mix together paprika, black pepper, sea salt, and flour
- While the oil is heating, batter the chicken. Mix together the paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper, and flour in a bowl.
- In a second bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and sriracha.
- Batter the chicken pieces by dipping them first into the flour mixture, then into the buttermilk mixture, and one more time into the flour mixture. Set the battered chicken on a separate plate.
- When the oil has reached 370°F, place several pieces of battered chicken into the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the batter is golden brown. Lift the chicken from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on several sheets of paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Continue cooking the chicken in batches until you have cooked all the chicken.
- In a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Saute the ginger and garlic for 1-2 minutes until very fragrant and beginning to brown just a bit.
- Add soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, hoisin, chili sauce, and brown sugar to the saucepan and whisk until smooth. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken the sauce.
- To thicken the sauce more, whisk some or all of the cornstarch mixture into the sauce and simmer while stirring until desired consistency is reached.
- Place cooked chicken into a large mixing bowl. Pour the glaze over the chicken and toss until all of the chicken is nicely coated with the glaze.
- Top with green onions and sesame seeds and serve immediately.