Sweet and Sour Chicken

Chinese-style sweet and sour chicken, stir-fried with bell peppers and pineapple chunks.

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Photography Credit: Jaden Hair

Please welcome guest author Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen who brings us another great Chinese-American classic, Sweet and Sour Chicken. ~Elise

This recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken doesn’t deep fry, but instead uses a method for creating a delicate, smooth and succulent chicken that goes perfectly with a lighter sweet and sour sauce.

The secret is in the chicken marinade, specifically using egg white and cornstarch, which creates a super-light coating all around the chicken. It won’t be a crunchy, deep fried coating, but I think it’s a nice alternative, both texture-wise and weight-wise!

Just like the Shrimp Fried Rice, a very hot pan is essential to making this Sweet and Sour Chicken so that the chicken can sear quickly. Heat your frying pan until a bead of water will sizzle instantly and evaporate on contact.

Just flick a bit of water onto the hot pan and you should hear a “tssszzzaaaaa” as it hits the surface. If you don’t hear it, let it heat up a little longer.

For some stoves, especially electric stoves, it can take as long as 3 minutes to heat up to the right temperature!

Once the pan is hot, then you can add your chicken. But make sure that you keep the chicken in a single layer and do not crowd. If you crowd the chicken, they will just steam and not sear in the pan.

Another important tip to stir-fry is to have your meat at close to room temperature before cooking. This means leaving the chicken out to un-chill for about 15 minutes on the counter, which is the perfect amount of time for a short marinade.

If you add cold chicken to a hot pan, not only will it stick to the pan, but the heat of the pan will be so busy warming up the chicken that it won’t have a chance to actually sear the meat right away.

So how sweet and how sour? The beauty of this dish is that you can adjust at the end. Have a little taste of the sauce. Not sweet enough? Add a spoonful of brown sugar. Not tangy enough? add a teaspoon of vinegar.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of boneless and skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon table salt)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 10-ounce can pineapple chunks (reserve juice)
  • 1/4 cup juice from the canned pineapple
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon table salt)
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cooking oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Method

1 Coat chicken with egg white, salt, and cornstarch: In a bowl, combine the chicken with the egg white, salt and cornstarch. Stir to coat the chicken evenly. Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

2 Make sweet sour sauce: Whisk together the pineapple juice, vinegar, ketchup, salt, and brown sugar.

3 Stir-fry chicken: Heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat until a bead of water instantly sizzles and evaporates. Pour in the 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and swirl to coat. It's important that the pan is very hot.

Add the chicken and spread the chicken out in one layer. Let the chicken fry, untouched for 1 minute, until the bottoms are browned.

Flip and fry the other side the same for 1 minute. The chicken should still be pinkish in the middle. Dish out the chicken onto a clean plate, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.

4 Stir fry bell pepper and ginger: Turn the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of cooking oil. Let the oil heat up and then add the bell pepper chunks and ginger. Fry for 1 minute.

5 Add pineapple, sweet sour sauce, let simmer, add chicken: Add the pineapple chunks and the sweet and sour sauce. Turn the heat to high and when the sauce is simmering, add the chicken pieces back in.

Let simmer for 1-2 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Timing depends on how thick you've cut your chicken. The best way to tell if the chicken is done is to take a piece out and cut into it. If it's pink, add another minute to the cooking.

Taste the sauce and add more brown sugar if you’d like.

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Jaden Hair

Jaden publishes recipes and drool-worthy food photography at Steamy Kitchen. Born in Hong Kong and raised in North Platte, Nebraska, Jaden's specialty is Asian cooking that's fast, fresh, and simple. Jaden's cookbooks are Healthy Asian Favorites and Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

More from Jaden

Showing 4 of 71 Comments

  • Barb Hamilton

    I made the sweet and sour chicken and it was very good. My only problem was the sauce. It definitely needs to be thickened with corn starch and simmered until thick. My sauce had a good flavor but was runny instead of coating the chicken like I expected. I will try this recipe again with thickened sauce.

  • Steve Russell

    A stunning method for keeping it fresh and colourful, in addition to being incredibly tasty!!

    My mods:

    1. Added Spanish “green onions”, rather large not spring onions, to the sweet red pepper. Then their green tops — chopped — at the last minute, after the chicken.

    2. Heavy on the ginger!

    3. Used only thigh and drumstick chicken meat, much more flavourful and moist.

    4. Added a tsp of corn starch to the S & S sauce, and subbed in 1/2: 1/2 Sweet and Hot Thai chili sauce for the ketchup, heated until it thickened, and set aside until needed.

    5. Brown sugar instead of white, refined.

    Amazing base recipe!!!

  • Brenda

    This recipe delivered in expectations. I can see this becoming a family favorite. I would use smaller and less pieces of pineapple and definitely double up on the sweet and sour sauce.

  • Renee

    Can I use apple cider vinegar instead?

  • Deborah D Roberts

    So I made this last week and the whole family gushed over it and asked me to make it again so im having it twice this weekend and it’s so good i dont mind and i even look forward to leftovers! I have to say I’m not a huge pepper fan but this is better with it! Also if you store your rice and sauce in the same dish you’re going to want more sauce with it so make extra! Enjoy! Quick, simple, fresh, and crave worthy!

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