Homemade crispy sweet and sour chicken with a better-than-takeout sauce made from store cupboard ingredients!
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.
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.
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.
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).
Then add in that crispy chicken and carefully toss in the sauce. So tasty!!
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
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:
Sweet and Sour Chicken
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 3 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- ¾ cup (90g) 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
- ⅔ cup (150ml) tomato ketchup
- 2 tbsp malt vinegar
- 6 tbsp dark brown muscovado sugar
- 17 oz (475g) canned of pineapple chunks in juice
- Egg Fried Rice
- or Boiled Rice
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan until very hot.
- 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.
- Dredge the chicken in the cornflour, then dip 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.
- 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.
- Add the peppers and cook for a further minute.
- 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 juicand stir. Bring to the boil, and then turn down the heat and let it bubble (stirring every so ofteuntil slightly thickened.
- 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.
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.
Hi yes my parents run a Chinese takeaway and they do add colouring into it. But a proper sweet and sour sauce takeaway style actually have a lot of ingredients in it which at home it might be harder to replicate the exact taste. My parents put in celery, lemon, lots of sugar and a lot of other ingredients. If I make it at home I use ketchup and vinegar also as it is the easiest way. But takeaway sweet and sour sauce really has a bigger ingredient list they usually make a very very big pot of it.
Alison Smith says
Absolutely gorgeous, best sweet and sour chicken I've tasted, better than any takeaway!
Made this several times and we absolutely LOVE it!
Edward Hay says
Tried several different Sweet and Sour chicken recipes and several of my own.
This is definitely the best one so far!
Jacqui Reeves says
The best sweet and sour, always a winner in my house, super tasty
Anne Hinchliffe says
I have mad this recipe so many times since I found it before Xmas ,everyone in my famyabd friends love it so much ,I did it for 4 of us a few weeks ago ,far to much , but my friends couldn’t stop eating it ,what a compliment it’s delicious,abd we never tire of it ,I often do it in batches abd freeze it ,befit dies take a whirlevti prepare ,do i defrost it dip it back in hot oil for a couple of minutes abd it tastes just as good as the day o made it ,thank you we all love it 😍
Brilliant recipe, a firm fav with my family
I cooked this meal for my Chinese student this evening and she came back for seconds! She is very fussy about food so for her to ask for more puts this in the “amazing” bracket for me
A really tasty recipe. Very easy to make. I used about half the sugar and it was perfect.
Is it possible not to use the egg as there are a lot of people with allergies and replace the egg with something different
Really loved this - definitely the best homemade sweet & sour I’ve eaten ☺️
Steve Jubb says
Amazing recipe, simple straight forward instructions , added some chilli flakes as I love a bit of heat. Big winner in my house.
My whole family absolutely loves this recipe. My only suggestion to you though would be to swap dark muscovado sugar for soft light brown sugar, it still gives a lovely flavour while also lightenthe colour a little.
Amanda Corbett says
I made this for my family tonight. We have 5 kids, all very fussy eaters.
I was astonished when I saw their empty plates at the end.
This is a victory for me. it was absolutely delicious. Thank you so much ☺️