Sweet and Sour Chicken

Update 6/2012: Easily the most popular recipe on my blog, this sweet and sour chicken is a miracle of a dish. My husband, Brian, requests it for his birthday, Father’s Day and any other day he has the craving (which seriously would be every day if I was willing to make it that often). Invented on a college budget more than ten years ago, it is absolutely divine and remains one of our family favorites. A million percent better than any takeout, the chicken bakes up tender with a beautiful crust and is coated perfectly with the sweet and tangy flavors of the sauce. Over the years, I’ve barely changed the recipe – but thanks to your comments, I have added a few tidbits to help make the whole coating-and-cooking chicken thing a bit less messy. Make this! You’ll love it, I promise.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and Sour FAQ: Here are a few commonly asked questions about this recipe (so you don’t have to read through all 660+ comments to find the answer you are looking for!
Question: Can I cut down the sugar?
Answer: Many people have commented that they have reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup.

Question: The vinegar smell is really overpowering when I bake this. Is that normal?
Answer: Yes. Vinegar, while baking, gives off a strong aroma, but the strong aroma/taste bakes off during the recommended time in the recipe leaving a delicious sweet and sour taste.

Question: Can I cut down on the amount of vinegar because of the aforementioned question?
Answer: That’s up to you. Many people in the comments have adapted the recipe ingredients; however, other than sometimes reducing the sugar to 1/2 cup and using a different type of vinegar (see the question below), I make the recipe as written and can’t vouch for results for other adaptations. I have made this recipe at least 50 times (probably more) and even though the vinegar seems overpowering, the recipe works. Promise. If you are determined to adapt the vinegar, several others have used half vinegar and half pineapple juice for a milder taste (but you’ll lose a bit of the sweet and sour punch).

Question: I don’t have apple cider vinegar OR I hate apple cider vinegar OR {insert a reason you don’t want to use apple cider vinegar}, can I substitute another type of vinegar?
Answer: Why yes! I often substitute rice vinegar which has a slightly milder/sweeter taste and many others in the comments have substituted the same or even used white vinegar. Feel free to experiment.

Question: Surely there is a misprint in baking time. An hour for small chicken pieces? What’s the deal?
Answer: I encourage you to make the recipe as written. Like I said above, I’ve made this recipe many times and the hour baking time is not a typo. Keep in mind that you don’t want to cook the chicken through while browning it. That step should be a quick flash in the pan in hot oil in order to give the chicken a crispy outer layer, but the pieces should still be raw in the center. Many have commented that they have cut the baking time down to 30 minutes. You can try that; the sauce won’t thicken as much as if baking for the full hour.

Question: Are you sure I’m supposed to put the chicken in the cornstarch mixture before the egg? That just seems wrong.
Answer: I’m not often right, but in the case of cornstarch and egg, I am. The chicken is coated with cornstarch and then dipped in egg.

Question: Can I add pineapple or other veggies to this while baking?
Answer: I don’t see why not! Many commenters have tried that with good results.

Question: Can I prep this ahead of time? Can it be made into a freezer meal?
Answer: I have not tried either but feel free to experiment! Someone commented in the 500’s about freezing it if you want to look up specifics.

Question: What kind of ketchup do you use?
Answer: I always try and use the Heinz Natural brand (without HCFS) but when I can’t find it, I go with regular Heinz.

What To ServeBaked Brown Rice
Steamed Broccoli
Creamy 5-Cup Fruit Salad or fresh, seasonal fruit

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Yield: Serves 4-6

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Note: if you like extra sauce, double the sauce ingredients – pour half over the chicken and follow the recipe instructions; pour the other half in a small saucepan and cook the sauce on the stovetop at a simmer for 8-10 minutes until it reduces and thickens. Serve it on the side of the chicken.

Ingredients

    Chicken:
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola, vegetable or coconut oil
  • Sauce:
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Place the cornstarch in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Put the chicken into the bag with the cornstarch and seal, tossing to coat the chicken.
  3. Whisk the eggs together in a shallow pie plate. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until very hot and rippling. Dip the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces in the egg and place them carefully in a single layer in the hot skillet.
  4. Cook for 20-30 seconds on each side until the crust is golden but the chicken is not all the way cooked through (this is where it's really important to have a hot skillet/oil). Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in a 9X13-inch baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
  5. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour over the chicken. Bake for one hour, turning the chicken once or twice while cooking to coat evenly with sauce. Serve over hot, steamed rice.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/sweet-and-sour-chicken-updated/

Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe original recipe

757 Responses to Sweet and Sour Chicken

  1. Lien says:

    Braggs Liquid Aminos would probably work, and here’s a recipe for soy sauce substitute.
    1 cup homemade or low sodium or no-salt-added store-bought beef stock

    2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

    2 tsp cider vinegar

    1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp cooking molasses

    pinches white pepper, garlic powder and ground ginger

    salt to taste (optional)

    Place all ingredients, except salt, in a small pot. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface), and simmer until reduced to about 2 cup. Sea-/3 son with salt, if desired, or leave as a low-salt condiment. Pour into a tight-sealing jar and keep refrigerated.

    • Anna says:

      Thanks for this reduced sodium option!

      I’ve sometimes used coconut aminos, but I’m not really all that familiar with them, so I am not sure how to sub them in a recipe.

      • Diane says:

        Hi Anna . I use Coconut Aminos in all my recipes that call for soy sauce . My husband actually makes a yummy Pineapple Teriyaki Sauce using them . The same people that make the coconut aminos make a bottled teriyaki sauce . I found it at my local co op . I am making Mel’s Sweet and Sour Chicken tonight using Pork and the coconut aminos …. Is it dinner time yet ??? :0)

  2. liz says:

    made this and my husband loved it! this is a keeper. made the recipe exactly as shown but one thing I should have done was double the sauce since my husband loved it so much. thanks for sharing this recipe…I’m looking forward to trying some more of your recipes… :-)

  3. Amna says:

    This recipe turned out fabulous! I used slightly less sugar (1/2 cup) and also seasoned the cornstarch with some salt and white pepper. Otherwise followed the recipe as is, the flavors were perfectly balanced. Melanie sure knows what she’s talking about when it comes to Sweet and Sour Chicken :) Thanks for sharing a great and simple recipe!

  4. Tia says:

    I’ve made this recipe several times and LOVE it!!! I am currently in weight watchers and am wondering if you know the points plus and serving size?

    • Mel says:

      Tia – I don’t know that information, sorry! It might be worth reading through the comments in the recipe thread to see if another reader has calculated that out.

    • Molly says:

      Tia
      If the recipe makes 6 servings, it is 14 points per serving without rice. Yikes :( I reduced the sugar to ½ cup and used egg whites and low sodium soy sauce and it came out to 10 without rice.

  5. Christi says:

    This dish sounds great and I’d like to make it. After reading the recipe, I have one question…does the chicken get covered while cooking in the oven? Thanks for your time!

  6. Ariel says:

    This is AMAZING! My husband took one bite and said “WOW” for about 5 minutes. AND, that is saying a lot because I only had less than 1/4 a cup of cornstarch! I substituted whole wheat flour for the rest. This is my first ‘Asian’ meal success! Will make these again and again!

  7. Angie says:

    I’ve never liked sweet and sour chicken. But, my husband loves it, so I thought I would give this recipe a try. It was absolutely delicious!!!! Thank you!

  8. Doe says:

    I made this the first time a few nights ago for myself and my mum. It was meant to be enough for two days but it was so amazing the whole lot went. I can’t even describe how much we enjoyed it, so much we couldn’t stop talking about it for hours afterwards. Yesterday I made it again, double quantities. Both times, even for the double quantities, I only used one small egg. I didn’t dip though, I tossed the chunks of chicken in a bowl with enough cornflour to cover them, then poured the one beaten egg on top and mixed that in with my fingers, works beautifully. I had no cider vinegar so both times used a mixture of about 1/2 white wine vinegar and 1/2 balsamic vinegar. It comes out dark using balsamic, but it is so, so beautiful. Thank you so much! I am handing this recipe out to my entire family; we are never cooking sweet and sour chicken any other way ever again.

  9. Mollie says:

    Sorry if this is a repeat question but I couldn’t scroll through any more comments to see if the question was previously addressed. Following the cornstarch coating phase, is everybody dipping individual pieces of chicken in the egg and adding them one by one immediately directly to hot pan? It was kinda taking a while so the first pieces had a lot longer than 30 seconds in the pan ;). I love the finished result but I was just curious if there was a better way so you could add them all at same time!

    • Mel says:

      Mollie – I throw several handfuls of the chicken into the egg mixture at once, toss them around with my fingers, grab them all and kind of shake off the excess egg and then toss it into the pan so lots of chicken pieces are cooking at the same time. It’s not a scientific method but it works. I haven’t noticed in the comments if anyone has suggested anything else.

  10. pamela says:

    Made this tonight for the first time, and it is quite possibly my favorite chicken dish EVER. I am not a fan of pan-frying, but it was well worth it for this dish! So, so, so, SO good!!! Thanks, Mel!!

  11. Shellice M says:

    DeLish!
    Absolutely LOVE this. I don’t usually alter recipes on my first go, but I did add pineapple bits and sliced green bell pepper to the extra sauce I prepared, and it was lovely. I am definitely reci-peating this one!

  12. Laura says:

    This is a great recipe. I’ve made it with pork, sautéed shrimp and made the saucepan the stove top, made extra sauce in the microwave and heck I’ve had the sauce with rice. Thanks Mel

  13. […] This was one of our favorites. I was a little skeptical of the sauce, because I think they can be either a hit or miss. This one was definitely a hit and it turned out perfectly in my opinion.Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe […]

  14. Julie says:

    Really fabulous dish! I followed your directions and it came out great. I did substitute the apple cider vinegar for rice vinegar but, the flavor was not affected. My picky boys enjoyed it too. A win-win!

  15. Bam says:

    I make this fairly often and love it, tonight I decided to switch things up and use lean pork and it was as equally delicious!!! 150 more calories per serving but a nice change

  16. […] Sweet & Spicy Tilapia (new recipe to us), asparagus, rice Sausage, Pepper, & Onion Pizza Sweet & Sour Chicken, rice, steamed broccoli Dinner with our Small Group (not sure what we’re taking […]

  17. Hailey says:

    I made this recipe this weekend. I decided to follow the exact directions. It turned out SO dry and both my husband and I thought it was too sweet. If I make this again I will definitely half the cooking time and reduce the sugar like the notes say.

  18. jacque says:

    I want to try this for my family, but my kids are allergic to eggs. Is there anything else I could dip the chicken in that would have a similar effect you think? It looks delicious, and I think my kids would love it.

  19. Mydeerbambie says:

    Is it possibe that i replace the chicken with pork because i dont have chicken at home? I tried several of your recipes and all of them are a hit to my family. Later i’ll be trying your rocky mountain cookies too. :)

  20. Sandy Layman says:

    Thank you so much for one of my families new favorite meals! I loved it and your recipe and tips were amazing! My tip, lol…. wait for it to cool- it looked so yummy I burnt my lip.

  21. […] Saturday – Sweet and Sour Chicken […]

  22. […] Sweet and Sour Chicken – Next to Mexican, I really enjoy some good Chinese take-out. But that stuff’s a calorie […]

  23. Mydeerbambie says:

    I tried this recipe using pork ( since i dont have any chicken last night) and yes it’s still DELICIOUS! The meat was so tender. I stir fry some available veggies from the fridge (carrots cucumber bellpeppers onion) to add color and crunch and toss them 10 minutes before the baking is done and still turns out great. Thank you for this wonderful recipe Mel :)

  24. Hi Mel!

    Love this recipe! Clearly a Pinterest favorite, that’s how I found you. Look forward to following your blog and finding new favorite to add to my menu.

    I do a weekly meal plan also on my blog and made this last week. I link to your blog for your recipe.

    Here’s the link if you’d like to look: http://thegraffitiedgardenia.blogspot.com/2014/04/meal-plan-number-two.html

    Thank you!
    Jolleen

  25. Heidi says:

    I think I’ve royally screwed this up because I was cooking while the kids were going nuts. Used more chicken than called for, probably two cups of cornstarch, but ended up throwing out at least a 1/2 cup…so it evens out?? Twice the eggs, doubled the sauce ingredients… annnnnd nothing is in a single layer! Sure smells good, so I’m hoping for a great outcome ;)

  26. Trina says:

    Mel, I am curious if I could skip the frying, and just pour the sauce over raw chicken pieces and then bake as normal to cut down a bit on time. Have you tried it this way, or know of anyone who has?

    • Mel says:

      Trina – I haven’t tried this myself, but I am pretty sure others have in the comment thread. It might be worth reading through some of the comments to see the details. Good luck!

  27. Trina says:

    I did search and couldn’t find anything (might be using the wrong keywords). :(

    If I try it myself I will try and remember to post here with the results.

  28. Haley Mefferd says:

    After having tried numerous recipes by Mel and loving all of them, I couldn’t decide what I liked best… until I made this. This is absolutely amazing!! Thank you!!!!! It is absolutely delicious just the way you prepare it- I followed your instructions exactly and it couldn’t have been any better. Wow!! My husband was beyond impressed.

  29. Tiffany says:

    This recipe deserved yet another comment, fantastic! Used 1/2 cup sugar and it was fabulous!

  30. Victor says:

    Has anyone tried this recipe with sugar substitue with any luck? Sort of “diabetic friendly”?

    • Mel says:

      Victor – Someone commented on Facebook that they tried Splenda and it was awful (in fact her words were “don’t do it, just don’t do it”). I wish there were a good substitute to suggest. Sorry!

  31. Trina says:

    I thought I would report back for anyone else who was searching the comments for a no-fry method without luck. If you want to skip coating the chicken in cornstarch, egg, and frying it, it works! I made this tonight and did half of the chicken exactly as the recipe describes (which I’ve made many times), and half where I just put the cubed chicken into a baking dish raw and unseasoned, then poured the sauce (made as directed) over it and baked the same way as stated in the recipe. The chicken tasted the same cooked both ways, though there is of course a slight texture difference. As the sauce thickened and browned it browned the raw chicken and gave it a slight crust. I couldn’t decide which version I liked better, they were both delicious! But if time is a concern I would definitely do the simply baked version again. Just wanted to post in case it was helpful to anyone!

    • Mel says:

      Trina – thanks so much for reporting back on this! I’m going to use your suggestion with pork tonight to save a little time.

  32. KatDE says:

    My daughter and I made this for the first time last night. It turned out amazing! I baked some of them without the sauce in a separate pan for my “picky” son. He loved it, too! Even without the sauce, the chicken stayed moist, but with a lovely crisp on the outside. This would be a great dish for a gathering as well. So good, I could not stop eating it! This is a keeper. I followed the recipe exactly. Thank you.

  33. Jill says:

    This was DELICIOUS!!! Thank you!

  34. Michelle C says:

    I found this recipe when my friend posted this on her FB page…I made the chicken recipe tonight following the directions exactly. It was delicious!! Served it with rice, sauteed onions and carrots, and steamed broccoli. Will definitely make again.

  35. April B Foster says:

    Made this recipe tonight, as is with no changes & I must say it was great!! So delicious & I’ll definitely be making this again. Thanks Melanie

  36. Heather says:

    This recipe was sooo delicious!! Im pretty sure that my boyfriend was still drooling the next day..We both loved them!! Thanks Mel!

  37. Melanie says:

    Wow this was amazing!!! My 7yr old is THE pickiest eater & I was shocked to look over & see her plate empty!! I saw a lot of comments of people changing or cutting back. I made it exactly as your recipe called for… PERFECT! Wouldn’t change a thing!!! Thanks!

  38. Bryanna says:

    I really liked this recipe the only thing I would change is fully cooking it in the oil. The chicken cooked in the oven made it kind of soft and not crunchy. I’m used to crunchy Chinese chicken. Also I would like to try it with an egg substitute as well since I’m allergic to eggs as well but when it’s cooked as a batter it doesn’t seem to bother me as much but I would still like to try an egg substitute.

  39. rebecca says:

    Can I substitute any kind of flour for the cornstarch? I am not sure I can buy cornstarch where I am currently living!

    • Mel says:

      Rebecca – I am not really sure since I haven’t tried it. Someone may have tried it in the comments if you feel like reading through them. It is worth a try I just don’t have a good recommendation. Good luck. Sorry I am not more help!

  40. Vicky W says:

    This recipe is just brilliant! Who would have thought that ketchup could be the base for such a fabulous sauce. Before this, I did not even like ketchup. I cubed chicken pieces and put them directly in the sauce without breading (I saw Trina’s comment after) and the chicken was wonderfully caramelized and succulent. I have made the recipe exactly as stated several times and it is just great, but didn’t really have the cooking bug tonight. The only changes I make are to use white vinegar and put in some sliced green onions. Thank you so much for this recipe!

  41. spedrunr says:

    AMAZING! I’m Chinese and generally don’t bother ordering this at a Chinese restaurant. This will be my go to dish for family potlucks (and I know my family will turn up their noses when I present it) but I predict we won’t have any leftovers at the end of the evening.

  42. Angela says:

    Huge fan of this dish! I make this often, and I’m wondering if anyone has tried it in a slow cooker? I would love to know if it has worked for anyone!

  43. Paula says:

    When I made this, it was so dry we could barely eat it. The flavor was good though. I think I should try again.

  44. Tracey says:

    This turned out perfect. Deee-lish!!!!!
    It’s a keeper!! Thank you for the recipe.

  45. Tisha says:

    I made this tonight. I followed the recipe exactly except I used rice vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar. It was a hit. My teenager says it’s better than Chinese takeout. I think it is more like Sesame Chicken than Sweet and Sour Chicken, but this recipe is a winner!!

  46. Jennifer says:

    Made this last night. Loved it! This was my first recipe from this site. I have 10 more recipes printed and ready to go for the next two weeks. Can’t wait to trythem!

  47. Nicole H says:

    Ok, so I must confess that this is actually my third time commenting on this recipe. Sorry for the overkill… I just can’t get over how delicious your sweet and sour chicken is and had to say thanks again! I’m making it for dinner tonight and my husband is PUMPED!!!

  48. Yvonne says:

    Made it
    Loved it
    Will be making again
    Looked awesome
    My husband said it was like a proper chinese
    Thankyou so much

  49. Christine says:

    This is absolutely one of our favourite family meals. I make this on average once ever 7-10 days. I have been trying to fiddle around with the ingredients to try and reduce the sugar content without compromising on the taste of it. Last night I think that I hit it: my husband said “this is by far the best sweet and sour chicken I’ve ever had” which coming from my hubby is huge. I cut the sugar by half – but then I put 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in my 1/2 cup measure and filled up with rice vinegar. It was still sweet enough…and perfectly tangy!

    • MiisNoel says:

      Christine …
      Thank you for commenting with your experimentation and changes to reduce the sugar without compromising the balance/flavor. I made this for the first time tonight … I doubled the “sauce” portion of the recipe, but reduced it to 1 1/4 Cups Granulated Sugar (vs. 1 1/2 Cups), using half on the chicken and reducing the other half on the stove top as a “side” sauce. It was delicious, but still too sweet. Next time I will give your alternative a try. I might also experiment with using a “no sugar added” ketchup or even a tomato paste, as regular ketchup has quite a bit of sugar in it. Thanx again for the suggestion.

  50. mrs. chiu says:

    This was delicious! I made as directed except only used 1/2 cup cornstarch. Will make again…family loved it.

  51. Jenni K says:

    Just wanted to let you know that we love your recipe so much we have added it to our Family Favorites. I’ve made it bout 6 times now, including this current time (it’s in the oven!). I’m making some homemade Chinese Fried Rice to go with it (I found that recipe on Pinterest so HOPING it is good!).

    Thanks again!

  52. Louise Ancheta says:

    This is the same recipe I have been using since 1976 when I found it in a Minneapolis Newspaper. When I saw this I got my recipe out and it is the same exact recipe. I even posted it in a group recipe book at our reservation office at Northwest Airlines in 1980. Have always loved this recipe and even use the sweet and sour recipe for other dishes.

  53. JP says:

    So many reviews, but I thought my take may be helpful to those wondering how much sugar to put in. I don’t eat anything sweet and sour in restaurants because it’s too sweet. I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup at first, but it was still too sweet. 1/3 cup is about right, with the full amount of vinegar. Next time I’ll try 1/4 cup sugar with pineapple chunks and maybe some of the juice. So if you’re like me and my family and prefer sweets confined to dessert definitely cut way back on the sugar! Otherwise the flavor is good and it’s so easy to make, definitely load it up with veggies too, yum!

  54. mrs.chiu says:

    Made this sgain but reduced sugar by 2 T. Also, to make garlic salt, mix 3 parts salt and 1 part garlic powder.

  55. Cheryl says:

    Just made this today. Did not have an hour for it to cook. I browned the bite-size pieces of chicken for 5 min. per side, then poured on the sauce and cooked about 5 more minutes. Sauce was still “runny” enough to pour over some rice.

  56. MiisNoel says:

    A Google Search for Oatmeal Cookie Recipes led me to your website and your Thin & Crispy Oatmeal Cookies … Then to the polar opposite, Thick and Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies. After reading several comments stating it and your Sweet & Sour Chicken were THE best, I ended up here. I just had to make this dish … So, this evening it.was.on. And it.was.DELICIOUS!!! :] A little more time consuming than I’d like … Which I think may have been due to cutting the four chicken breasts into pieces too small, as I ended up using four eggs and had to replenish the oil twice. But, the ending result was still insanely scrumptious. … I did look at your other Asian Inspired Recipes and next time I will prepare this like your Fabulous Orange Chicken. I think it’ll help with time and fat, but without sacrificing flavor/texture. And out of preference I’ll reduce the sugar. I might try adding in some sliced fresh jalapeños and maybe a couple dried red chili’s too (similar to General Tao’s Chicken). We like it sweet, sour, and spicy! ;) But, it’s definitely going in the rotation. I am SO happy to have discovered your blog/site. I cannot wait to make more … Especially those Thick and Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies!

  57. Viktoriya says:

    Could you possibly make both this recipe and/or the orange chicken and freeze just the prepared meat/chicken a week in advance, and make the sauce when about to bake?

    • Mel says:

      I’ve never tried freezing any part of this recipe so I’m not sure but others in the comments section have, I believe. Definitely worth a try!

  58. Stephanie says:

    Absolutely amazing! I found your recipe after Janetha at mealsandmovesblog.com shared it, and my family LOVED it! My husband and I like things a bit spicier but it was perfect for our two little ones and we added the heat after. Will definitely be added to our rotation!

  59. Viktoriya says:

    How would you rewarm these? In the microwave or the oven (at what temp. And time). I’m having a birthday party and I want the chicken to still be fresh and ready but done a couple or one hour before the guests come.

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