Sweet and Sour Chicken

Make your favorite takeaway Chinese at home with this sweet and sour chicken recipe. It’s the perfect, easy weeknight main dish.

Sweet Sour Chicken
Jaden Hair

We don't deep fry for this Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe. Instead, we use a method for creating a delicate, smooth and succulent chicken that goes perfectly with a lighter, sweet and sour sauce.

Secrets to Standout Sweet and Sour Chicken

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

Just like our Shrimp Fried Rice recipe, 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 you keep the chicken in a single layer and do not overcrowd the pieces. If you crowd the chicken bits, they will just steam and not sear in the pan.

Sweet and Sour chicken on a plate
Jaden Hair

Have Your Stir Fry Ingredients Ready

Another important tip to stir-fry is to have your meat at close to room temperature as possible before cooking. This means leaving the chicken out to rest 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.

Customizing Your Sweet and Sour Sauce

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.


Watch This Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

Other Ingredients to Use in this Recipe

We include the standard add-ins, like pineapple and colorful bell peppers, in our sweet and sour chicken. But this recipe is versatile enough for whatever else you'd like to toss in. Here are some ideas:

  • Snow peas
  • Onions
  • Chopped carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli florets
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Peanuts
  • Sliced almonds
  • Spicy chile flakes

Ketchup in Sweet and Sour Sauce? Yes!

You may be wondering why ketchup is included in the sweet and sour sauce. Ketchup itself is sweet and sour, which makes it a good addition to the sauce. It has a certain savory umami flavor that adds depth and color to the sauce.

Five Dishes to Serve with Sweet and Sour Chicken

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks

  • 1 large egg white

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • 1 (10-ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved

  • 1/4 cup juice from the canned pineapple

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

  • 1/4 cup ketchup

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 4 teaspoons 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


  1. Coat the chicken with egg white:

    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 the sweet and sour sauce:

    Whisk together the pineapple juice, vinegar, ketchup, salt, and brown sugar.

  3. Stir-fry the chicken over high heat:

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

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

    Flip and fry the other side 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 the bell pepper and ginger:

    Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of cooking oil. Let the oil heat up before adding the bell pepper chunks and ginger. Fry for 1 minute.

  5. Add the pineapple, sauce, and then, the chicken:

    Add the pineapple chunks and the sweet and sour sauce. Turn up the heat to high. When the sauce is simmering, add the chicken pieces back in.

    Let simmer for 1 to 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.

  6. Adjust the seasoning and serve:

    Taste the sauce and add more brown sugar or vinegar to suit your tastes, if you’d like.

    Serve hot with steamed white or brown rice.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
374 Calories
15g Fat
32g Carbs
30g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 374
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 3g 17%
Cholesterol 185mg 62%
Sodium 675mg 29%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 12%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 24g
Protein 30g
Vitamin C 148mg 741%
Calcium 53mg 4%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 645mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.