Sticky, crunchy, and irresistible, General Tso’s Chicken is a family-pleasing fried chicken dish that’s fun to make. A sweet and savory takeout classic you can create at home!
A Homemade Version of the Takeout Classic!
Sometimes, takeout is all about crisp-tender vegetables in savory sauces. Sometimes, it’s that craving for a crispy egg roll or some soul-warming soup. But, when the yearning for General Tso’s chicken hits you, it’s a whole different feeling! General Tso’s is a finger-licking, crispy-crunchy, deep-fried favorite that comes smothered in a beautiful sticky sauce. It’s a mouthwatering dish that’ll really fill you up!
If you’ve ever tried making your own Chinese takeout at home, you’ll know it can sometimes be a little tricky. For one thing, most home kitchens don’t have a commercial-grade wok to get that perfect wok-hei – i.e. the ultra-high-heat, perfectly stir-fried flavor and texture we all love. But with General Tso’s chicken, you really don’t need any special equipment or know-how to create a great dish. All you have to do is fry the chicken, and mix up the sauce in a skillet. This recipe will tell you just how to do it.
What Does General Tso’s Taste Like?
The taste of General Tso’s chicken can vary a bit from restaurant to restaurant, but it’s known for having a well-balanced, sweet, and spicy flavor. There’s a hearty meatiness to the dish, thanks to the juicy chicken that’s well-battered and deep-fried. So if you love traditional fried chicken, and sweet, barbecue-like sauces, you’ll love this dish!
There are basically three components to this dish: the chicken with its marinade, the batter for frying, and the sauce. Here are the ingredients you will need for each one:
For the Chicken Marinade
- Chicken Breast: Cut the chicken breast into bite-sized chunks.
- Egg: Beat an egg, and use half for the marinade. (You can save the other half in the fridge to add to a breakfast scramble!)
- Water and Cornstarch: Water and cornstarch give the chicken a pleasantly silky texture and help the batter stick.
For the Chicken Batter
- Egg: You can use a whole egg, or egg whites.
- Flour and Cornstarch: A combination of flour and cornstarch makes a full-bodied, yet light batter.
- Baking Powder: For lightness.
- Olive Oil: You’ll need a small amount of oil to thin the sauce to the right consistency.
For the General Tso’s Sauce
- Tamari: You can also use soy sauce or coconut aminos.
- Molasses: To sweeten the sauce and give it a warm, deep taste. If you prefer, substitute barley malt syrup.
- Brown Sugar: Just a spoonful. Honey or maple syrup would also be fine.
- Cornstarch: To give the sauce some thickness.
- Ketchup: A little bit of your favorite ketchup adds plenty of flavor.
- Ginger: I like minced fresh ginger, but powdered would also be fine.
- Garlic: Similar to the ginger, you’ll get the most flavor from freshly minced garlic – but powdered would do as well.
- Chili Powder: To add some earthy sweetness.
- Bell Pepper: I like to use red bell peppers, but any color is fine.
- Rice Vinegar: Feel free to substitute white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc.
- Salt and Pepper
- Vegetable Oil: Enough for deep-frying.
How to Make General Tso’s Chicken
Just how do you make this lip-smackin’ chicken dish? It’s actually not difficult at all, although there are a few steps to remember. I recommend reading these a couple of times before you start cooking, so you’re familiar with the process right from the start.
- Marinate the Chicken. Take your chicken breast, and if it’s not already cut into chunks, cut it up. Toss the chicken with the marinade ingredients, and set aside for 10 to 20 minutes while you make the deep-frying batter.
- Make the Batter and Coat the Chicken. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together all of the ingredients for the batter except olive oil (egg, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and water). Use a whisk or a fork to mix these ingredients well so there are no lumps. The batter should be very thick, but still drippy. Next, mix in the olive oil a spoonful at a time, to thin the batter slightly. It should still be pretty thick. Finally, toss the marinated chicken pieces in the batter to coat.
- Heat the Vegetable Oil. Heat up the vegetable oil in a heavy pot, or a deep-sided frying pan. We’ll be double-frying the chicken so that it gets really crispy. For the first frying session, you want the oil at about about 300°F. For the second frying session, it should be hotter – around 375°F. (Test the oil’s temperature with a candy thermometer, or by dropping a small amount of batter into it. The batter should sizzle and float immediately, but it should not immediately begin to brown.)
- Fry the Chicken, Round 1! When the batter is the correct temperature, carefully lower the battered chicken pieces into the hot oil, working in batches so that the pieces don’t crowd together. Crowding the chicken will cause it to cook unevenly and get soggy. Let the chicken cook until it is a light golden color, but not golden-brown. Then pull it out using a slotted spoon and place on a paper-towel lined plate or baking sheet to drain.
- Fry the Chicken, Round 2! Reserve two tablespoons of the frying oil in a separate small bowl or measuring cup, to use for later. Then turn up the heat so that the oil temperature comes up to about 375°F. (At this temperature, a drop of batter should immediately sizzle and turn brown faster than before, but it should not sizzle furiously or scorch.) Re-fry the chicken pieces again, still working in batches. Once the chicken is very crisp and a medium golden-brown color, pull it out and drain it again on clean paper towels.
- Stir-Fry the Aromatics. To make the sauce, set a clean skillet or saucepan on the stove. Add the two tablespoons of reserved frying oil to the skillet, and once it’s hot, stir-fry the chili powder, garlic, and ginger for about a minute to release the fragrances.
- Stir-Fry the Bell Pepper and Add the Sauce. Add the sliced bell pepper to the skillet, and stir-fry for 2 minutes. While it cooks, quickly whisk together your sauce ingredients, whisking well to remove any lumps. Pour this over the bell peppers, stirring and whisking as it thickens. If you need to thin the sauce a bit, add some water. If you need to thicken the sauce, whisk a little bit of cornstarch with water and add that to the sauce, stirring continuously.
- Coat the Chicken in the Sauce. Finally, add your fried chicken to the skillet, stirring gently to coat each piece completely in the sauce. Take the skillet off of the heat.
- Enjoy! Serve your General Tso’s chicken hot, with a garnish of toasted sesame seeds if desired.
Tips for Success
If you’re up for a few more helpful tips, these are my best pieces of advice for making General Tso’s chicken at home. You’re going to love this easy recipe!
- Deep Fry with Care: When you drop the chicken into the hot oil, make sure to lower it gently. A slotted spoon or wire “spider” works great for this. If you drop it in abruptly or from a height, you risk spattering hot oil, which can burn your skin.
- Chicken Options: While I like to use white meat in this recipe, you could certainly substitute dark meat – just make sure to cook it until it’s done all the way through.
- Add Veggies: If you like, you can add more veggies to the sauce. Thinly sliced celery, onion, or bok choy would be great!
Tasty Serving Suggestions
Serving General Tso’s chicken can be as simple as adding a side of rice or noodles – but you can also do a lot more! All kinds of scrumptious sides go with this sweet, savory chicken. Here are just a few:
- Egg Drop Soup: This light, mild, and healthy starter is the perfect way to kick off an at-home takeout dinner. Plus, Egg Drop Soup is incredibly easy to make! This one is sure to make your meal extra cozy.
- Crab Rangoons: Crispy Crab Rangoon Wontons are a family favorite, with their light and crunchy wrappers filled with cream cheese and crab. But fair warning, they’re addictively delicious – you won’t be able to eat just one!
- Spring Rolls: If you’re working with a generous time budget, these Golden Veggie Spring Rolls can’t be beat! The fresh, savory filling and crisp exterior will keep everyone reaching for more.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
- To store, place your leftover General Tso’s chicken in an airtight container, and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
- To reheat, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread out the saucy chicken pieces on the parchment. Bake at 350°F until heated through.
Can I Freeze This?
- Yes, you can freeze homemade General Tso’s chicken – but it works best if you freeze the sauce separately from the chicken.
- To do this, just follow the recipe as written, except for the step where you toss the chicken in the heated sauce.
- From there, place the fried, drained chicken on a baking sheet or clean platter, and stick it in the freezer until the pieces are frozen solid. Transfer the frozen chicken pieces to a freezer bag, mark with the date, and freeze for up to 3 months. Place the sauce in an airtight container or freezer bag, and freeze it for up to 3 months as well.
- Thaw in the fridge before reheating.
General Tso’s Chicken
For the Chicken Marinade
- 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 small egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Chicken Batter
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 8 tablespoons water
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
For the General Tso’s Sauce
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons molasses or barley malt syrup
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- 3 cups vegetable oil
- Mix the chicken pieces with the chicken marinade ingredients; let rest for 10 to 20 minutes while you make the batter.
- Combine all the ingredients for the batter except olive oil: egg, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and water. Mix well so there are no lumps. The batter should be very thick. Add the olive oil one spoonful at a time, to thin the batter slightly.
- Add the marinated chicken pieces to the batter, stirring to coat.
- Heat up the vegetable oil in a heavy pot or deep-sided frying pan. The chicken will fry twice in order to get a really crispy coating. It will fry once at about 300°F and again at 375°F.
- Test the oil’s temperature with a candy thermometer, or by dropping a small amount of batter into it. The batter should sizzle and float immediately, but it should not turn golden brown right away.
- When the oil reaches a temperature of 300˚F, carefully lower the battered chicken pieces into the hot oil, working in batches to prevent crowding. Let the chicken cook until it is a light golden color, and then place them on a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Measure two tablespoons of the frying oil into a separate small bowl, to use for later.
- Bring the oil up to the higher temperature, about 375˚F. At this stage, a drop of batter should turn golden-brown faster than before, but it should not sizzle furiously or burn.
- Re-fry the chicken pieces, again working in batches. Remove the chicken when it is golden-brown, and let it drain again.
- To make the sauce, set a clean skillet or saucepan on the stove. Heat the reserved oil from the first frying in the skillet. Add the chili powder, garlic, and ginger. Stir-fry for 1 minute to release the fragrances.
- Add the sliced bell peppers and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
- Whisk together the General Tso’s Sauce ingredients. Be sure to whisk until smooth. Pour the sauce over the bell peppers in the skillet, stirring to combine. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with water. If it is too thin, you can thicken it by stirring a small amount of cornstarch in water, and whisking that into the pan.
- Add the fried chicken pieces to the sauce in the skillet, and stir gently to coat.
- Take the skillet off the heat, and arrange the chicken in a serving dish. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, if desired.