Crispy Sweet and Sour Chicken
Skip the takeout and make this sweet and sour chicken at home! Pan-fried chicken pieces are coated in a homemade sweet and sour sauce and baked to perfection in this easy recipe. Pair it with steamed rice, stir fry vegetables, or a homemade fried rice for a filling dinner you will want to make again and again.
Confession: I was a serious late bloomer when it came to eating Chinese food.
I went to college, lived in a dorm, lived in an apartment, and yet never did a morsel of Chinese food touch my lips. I’m not exactly sure how this happened – we did our fair share of take-out, but it seemed to always be pizza or the leftovers from a friend’s shift at Kentucky Fried Chicken. We were partial to the potato wedges and chocolate cake, naturally.
It wasn’t until I started dating my husband that I gave it a try – he suggested ordering it one night when I was visiting him, and he was (of course) stunned when I told him I had never had it, so I’d just get whatever he was having. That day, we had General Tso’s and egg rolls, and I was in love. Since then, I’ve eaten Chinese takeout countless times, have tried tons of different dishes, and have made many of them in my own kitchen.
This oven-baked recipe is my favorite riff on sweet and sour chicken!
Sweet and Sour Chicken
The hallmark of a good sweet and sour chicken comes down to two things. Crispy, well-fried chicken, and a sticky sweet and sour sauce. Oh, the sauce… It’s the absolute perfect balance between sweet and tangy and the way it clings to the chicken is just glorious!
How to make Sweet and Sour Chicken
Do not let the longer-than-usual bake time worry you, this sweet and sour chicken recipe is really easy to make and worth the extra time it takes to cook in the oven.
Sweet and Sour Chicken Ingredients
- Chicken – I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts in this recipe. You can also use a combination of chicken breasts and thighs, or all thighs if you’d prefer.
- Salt + Pepper – Seasons the chicken to taste before pan-frying.
- Cornstarch – Helps to keep the outside of the chicken slightly crisp, while the egg will give the exterior a bit of a puffy texture.
- Eggs – Slightly beaten for dipping the cornstarch coated chicken.
- Oil – Vegetable or canola oil is used for pan-frying the chicken.
- Sweet and Sour Sauce- This homemade sauce is made from a mixture of sugar, ketchup, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic powder.
Now that you have your ingredients let’s break it down into pan-frying the chicken and baking the sweet and sour chicken to perfection.
Batter + Fry the Chicken
- Preheat the oven: Set the oven to 325°F.
- Season the chicken: Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks and season with salt and pepper.
- Prep the batter: In a shallow bowl or pie plate, place the cornstarch. Beat the eggs slightly in a separate shallow bowl.
- Batter the chicken: Working in two batches, toss the chicken pieces in the cornstarch and then coat with the egg.
- Pan-fry the chicken: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Again working in two batches, brown the chicken, turning it so that all sides are browned.
Sauce + Bake
- Transfer chicken: Place the chicken in a single layer in a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Make the sweet and sour sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients and pour evenly over the chicken. Turn the chicken to ensure each piece is coated in sauce.
- Bake the chicken: Bake for 1 hour, turning the chicken every 15 minutes.
I usually serve this baked sweet and sour chicken with steamed rice and broccoli. Some other ways you can serve this dish include:
- Brown rice, cauliflower rice, or fried rice.
- Stir-fried vegetables such as carrots, snow peas, bell peppers, onion, etc.
- Switch it up with pineapple chunks and diced red and green peppers mixed in with the chicken.
- The recipe calls for rice vinegar (an Asian pantry staple), but you can substitute white vinegar or apple cider vinegar if necessary.
- For a slightly different flavor, use pineapple juice instead of vinegar in the sauce.
Tips for Doubling the Sauce
The amount of sauce is enough to coat the chicken, so if you prefer a much saucier dish (enough to coat the rice, too) then you will want to double the sauce for sure. To double the sauce:
- Double the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce.
- Pour half of the sauce over the chicken, and stir to coat.
- Reserve the other half of the sauce and cook on the stove-top for 8-10 minutes until reduced.
- Drizzle over the baked sweet and sour chicken and rice.
Alternate Cooking Methods
- Instead of pan-frying the chicken, air fry the chicken pieces in batches for 7-9 minutes, flipping halfway.
- Then place air-fried chicken in the baking dish and coat with the sauce.
- Cook 1 hr tossing every 15 minutes.
- For this method, begin by pan-frying the chicken.
- Line a slow cooker with a slow cooker liner and place chicken in.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken and stir to coat.
- Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours.
It’s important to note the sauce won’t reduce and thicken as much as it would in the oven, so take that into consideration.
Storing, Reheating, Meal Prepping
- Storing – The sweet and sour chicken can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Reheating – I suggest baking the sweet and sour chicken to reheat. Bake in an oven-safe dish for 10-20 minutes at 325°F. It can also be microwaved to warm up, as well.
- Meal Prepping – I love this sweet and sour chicken for an easy lunch meal prep recipe. Divide the cooked sweet and sour chicken into 4 meal-prep containers with rice and stir-fried vegetables and you are ready for better than takeout lunches!
If You Like This Sweet and Sour Chicken, Try These Next:
- Sesame Chicken
- Chinese Beef and Broccoli
- Scallion Pancakes with Ginger Dipping Sauce
- Crab Rangoon Recipe
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Get take-out quality sweet and sour chicken from the comfort of your own home! Crispy, pan-fried chicken beautifully coated in a homemade sweet and sour sauce are so good you’d think you ordered this dish from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant.
If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️
Sweet and Sour Chicken
For the Chicken
- 1½ pounds (680.39 g) boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup (128 g) cornstarch
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- ¼ cup (54.5 ml) canola or vegetable oil
For the Sauce
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (60 g) ketchup
- ½ cup (127.5 ml) rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper.
- Place the cornstarch in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Place the eggs in a separate shallow bowl. Working in two batches, toss the chicken pieces in cornstarch and then coat with the egg.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Again working in two batches, brown the chicken, turning it so that all sides are browned.
- Place the chicken in a single layer in a 9x13-inch baking dish.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients and pour evenly over the chicken. Turn the chicken to ensure each piece is coated.
- Bake for 1 hour, turning the chicken every 15 minutes. Serve with rice and steamed broccoli, if desired.
- Chicken: You can substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the breasts.
- Vinegar: You can substitute white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. You can also use pineapple juice for a different flavor!
- Pineapple and Bell Pepper: Add chunks of pineapple and red/green bell pepper to the chicken mixture in the pan before baking for even more flavor.
- Extra Sauce: If you like a super saucy dish, I recommend doubling the sauce, using half as directed, and simmer the other half in a small saucepan while the dish is baking, then toss with the baked chicken when it comes out of the oven.
- Serving Suggestions: Steamed rice, cauliflower rice, or fried rice, along with steamed or stir-fried vegetables (broccoli, carrots, snow peas, etc.).
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Air Fryer: Air fry the chicken pieces in batches for 7-9 minutes, flipping halfway. Then place air-fried chicken in the baking dish, coat with the sauce, and proceed with baking as directed.
- Slow Cooker: Pan-fry the chicken, then line a slow cooker with a slow cooker liner and place chicken in. Pour the sauce over the chicken and stir to coat. Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Important Note: The sauce won't reduce and thicken in the slow cooker the way it will in the oven, so you may want to transfer it to a saucepan and reduce on the stovetop before serving if you prefer a thicker sauce.
Photography by Lauren Grant.