Homemade crispy sweet and sour chicken with a better-than-takeout sauce made from store cupboard ingredients!

Close up of sweet and sour chicken in a bowl
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What ingredients could possibly give sweet and sour chicken that tangy, sweet and well, sour flavour?

Actually quick a bizarre combination:

  • Ketchup – and plenty of it – for a tanginess and colour. I don’t eat a lot of ketchup, but it’s a must for this dish.
  • Malt vinegar – it’s the best type of vinegar I’ve found for getting the ‘right’ touch of sourness.
  • Brown sugar – for rounded sweetness, and to counteract any bitterness in the vinegar.
  • Pineapple chunks in pineapple juice – yep, rather than chopping up a fresh pineapple, I find pineapple chunks actually work better, and the juice is an all-important element to the sweet–tangy flavour of the sauce.

And of course we’re doing this sweet and sour chicken Hong Kong style – which means the chicken is chopped into bite-sized pieces, dredged in a flavourful coating then fried to crisp perfection, before being coated in that sweet and sour sauce.

Here’s a quick rundown of the recipe. You can get the detailed steps and quantities in the recipe card below.
We start by coating the chicken in cornflour (cornstarch), then egg and then seasoned flour. Then fry in oil until crispy. You can do this in two batches if your pan is on the small side. I can just about do it in one batch in my wok. Then remove the crispy chicken from the wok.

Collage showing steps for making crispy chicken for sweet and sour chicken

Check the chicken is fully cooked:

If you want to ensure the chicken is fully cooked, slice open one of the larger pieces you can find, and make sure it’s no longer pink in the middle. If it’s white with no pink areas, it’s cooked.

Pice of crispy chicken sliced in half


Now onto the sauce. We fry onions and peppers in a wok until very lightly softened (just a couple of minutes), then add garlic and ginger, followed by those all-important bizarre ingredients: ketchup, malt vinegar, brown sugar and tinned pineapple (including the juice). Bring it to the boil.

Collage of steps fro making sweet and sour chicken

Let the sauce bubble for a few minutes, so it thickens slightly like this (it will thicken a little more when you add the chicken back in).

Sweet and sour sauce with vegetables bubbling in a wok

Then add in that crispy chicken and carefully toss in the sauce. So tasty!!

Close up image of sweet and sour chicken in a wok

I love sweet and sour chicken from the takeaway, but there are a couple of things I don’t love:

  • The sauce is too bright orange – like glow in the dark orange. I’ve heard they use food colouring to get it that vivid (does anyone know for sure? let me know in the comments). Mine’s very red (from the ketchup) but the colour is toned down by the addition of dark brown sugar.
  • The crisp coating is often flavourless. It’s more there for crunch, rather than to add additional flavour. I add extra seasoning and spices into my coating, so even without the sauce, it tastes delicious.

Can bake the chicken instead of frying it?

Yep! I have a recipe for baked sweet and sour chicken on the blog too.

I have a full section dedicated to Asian food, but here are some of my favourite Chinese picks:

  • Sesame Chicken – A reader top favourite and top-rated recipe
  • Spicy Ginger Beef Sir Fry – with lovely shredded and crispy fried ginger on top
  • Sticky Chinese Pork Belly – melt in the mouth sticky deliciousness
  • Crispy Chilli Beef with Broccoli – Chris’s number one favourite dish that I make
  • Honey Garlic Chicken – so juicy and moreish
  • Pulled Crispy Duck (with homemade plum sauce) – an easy method to get shredded crispy duck at home
  • Sticky, Slow-Cooked Pork Ribs – hands down the best ribs I’ve ever tasted

Sweet and sour chicken in a bowl with rice

What to serve with sweet and sour chicken:

  • Boiled rice – check out my full post on how to boil rice (the method I ALWAYS use)
  • Special Fried Rice – masterclass post on getting it perfect!
  • Just leave the chicken out of my Lo Mein recipe for a lovely noodle side dish.
  • Maybe add a side of spare ribs? These are Asian style ribs topped with crispy onions, inspired by a restaurant we went to in China town in London.

Watch how to make it:

YouTube video
4.95 from 127 votes

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Homemade crispy sweet and sour chicken with a better-than-takeout sauce made from store cupboard ingredients! Ready in 25 minutes.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese


  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 90 g (3/4 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 3 chicken breast fillets chopped into bite-size chunks


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion peeled and chopped into large chunks
  • 1 red pepper chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 green pepper chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped/crushed
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 150 ml (2/3 cup) tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp malt vinegar
  • 6 tbsp dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 475 g (17 oz) canned pineapple chunks in juice

To Serve:

  • egg fried rice or boiled rice
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
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  • Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan until very hot.
    5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Whilst the oil is heating, place the egg in one shallow bowl and the cornflour in another shallow bowl. Add the flour, salt, pepper, garlic salt and paprika to another shallow bowl and mix together.
    2 eggs lightly beaten, 3 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch), 90 g (3/4 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, ½ tsp garlic salt, 2 tsp paprika
  • Dredge the chicken in the cornflour, then dip it in the egg (make sure all of the chicken is covered in egg wash), and finally dredge it in the seasoned flour. Add to the wok and cook on a high heat for 6-7 minutes, turning two or three times during cooking, until well browned. You may need to cook in two batches (I find I can do it in one batch so long as it's no more than 3 chicken breasts). Remove from the pan and place in a bowl lined with kitchen towels.
    3 chicken breast fillets
  • Whilst the chicken is cooking, you can start on your sauce.
  • Add the oil to a large frying pan/skillet, heat it up on a medium-to-high heat and add in the onions. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the onions start to go translucent.
    1 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 large onion
  • Add the peppers and cook for a further minute.
    1 red pepper, 1 green pepper
  • Add in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Add the tomato ketchup, vinegar, dark brown sugar, and the tinned pineapple (including the juice and stir. Bring to the boil, and then turn down the heat and let it bubble (stirring every so often until slightly thickened.
    2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp minced ginger, 150 ml (2/3 cup) tomato ketchup, 2 tbsp malt vinegar, 6 tbsp dark brown muscovado sugar, 475 g (17 oz) canned pineapple chunks in juice
  • Transfer the cooked crispy chicken to the pan with the sauce and toss to coat.
  • Serve with boiled or fried rice and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
    egg fried rice or boiled rice, 1 tsp sesame seeds


YouTube video


Nutritional Information is per serving including sesame seeds, but not rice (I don’t know how much rice you’re going to serve this with :-))


Calories: 634kcal | Carbohydrates: 78g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 1086mg | Potassium: 850mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 47g | Vitamin A: 2018IU | Vitamin C: 78mg | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links – which means if you buy the product I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). If you do buy, then thank you! That’s what helps us to keep Kitchen Sanctuary running. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors. For more information please see our Terms & Conditions.

Welcome to Kitchen Sanctuary

Hi, I'm Nicky and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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  1. Elizabeth Paterson says:

    5 stars
    This is a keeper! My husband asked when had I popped out to the local take-away as he said ‘I didn’t hear you going out’. Praise indeed, so thank you for this easy to follow recipe.
    Is it ok to reheat leftovers the next day?
    Thank you, I love your Kitchen Sanctuary x

  2. Cheryl says:

    Any idea how this would freeze?

  3. Claire Ross says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is so good and beats any Chinese takeaway ! Will be making again for sure.

  4. Pearl says:

    Nicky if I was to double the sauce would you recommend doubling every single ingredient used?
    Thanks in advance!

  5. Kate says:

    5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious better than any take away. I have made sweet and sour many times but this was most definitely the best.

  6. Cheryl says:

    5 stars
    Wonderful recipe- everyone loves this when I make it- I serve with egg fried rice

  7. Andrew Graham says:

    5 stars
    Goddamn this is good😋