Grilled Sweet and Sour Chicken

A healthier take on the popular classic, this grilled sweet and sour chicken is fantastic! Thanks to a quick brine, the chicken is ultra tender, and that homemade sweet and sour sauce is divine (as always).

White platter of grilled sweet and sour chicken pieces drizzled with sauce.

Disclaimer: Traeger Grills sent me a pellet grill to test out, but as always, all opinions and thoughts I share here are 100% my own. 

It’s no secret we are huge sweet and sour fans here in the remote wilderness of Idaho.

This baked sweet and sour chicken is one of the most popular recipes on my site (with almost 1,000 comments and tons of 5-star reviews), and it is still Brian’s favorite meal of all time after all these years.

I was making it long before I ever had a blog. And it’s the recipe most other “baked sweet and sour chicken recipes” around the internet hail from.

I’ll never stop making it, but I’m not going to lie, I’ve been wanting to make a quicker, grilled version for years – not only to eliminate the somewhat messy breading step but also for a healthier take on the popular classic.

White plate with grilled sweet and sour chicken, zucchini and biscuits.

This grilled sweet and sour chicken is crazy delicious.

It might look as simple as slapping some chicken pieces on the grill, slathering in sweet and sour sauce and calling it good. But you know me better than that, right?

There’s always a back story. A philosophy. A reason for the deliciousness.

First of all, the chicken gets a quick brining action that adds a ton of flavor and ensures super juicy and tender chicken. Brining is basically a water + salt + sugar bath for the chicken, and you don’t want to skip it for this recipe. Trust me.

Flavor! Juiciness! Love! Happiness! It’s all yours if you brine that chicken.

Second of all, while you could totally opt for a store bought sweet and sour sauce, I’ve learned not to mess with a good thing, so I brought in that insanelypopular (and super simple) sweet and sour sauce to use for this grilled version, and it’s definitely a match made in sweet and sour heaven.

Chicken on grill brushed with sweet and sour sauce.

The sauce gets a quick simmer on the stovetop to reduce and thicken just a little. And then it’s ready to get brushed on the chicken during the last few minutes of grilling…and drizzled liberally over the cooked chicken.

So, so yummy.

Even though some may wonder about alternative cooking methods, I highly encourage the grilling action for this recipe (although, fine, you could experiment with cooking in a skillet or broiler).

As I’ve mentioned many times over the years, I use my pellet grill/smoker for grilling. Traeger Grills recently sent me a new pellet grill to try out (it’s what I used for this recipe!), and it again confirmed to me that pellet grills are my jam. I love them – the flavor, ease of use, everything.

As a sidenote, I’ll be posting an (unsponsored) Camp Chef vs Traeger pellet grill side-by-side comparison soon since I get so, so many questions about it (and requests for a recommendation). {Similar to these popular, and hopefully helpful, comparison posts: Kitchenaid vs. Bosch and Blendtec vs. Vitamix}

In the meantime, make this grilled sweet and sour chicken! It is a delicious summer meal that takes regular ol’ grilled chicken to a place where you may want to be eating it every single day.

White platter of grilled sweet and sour chicken pieces.

Skillet Zucchini and Squash
Drop Biscuits
Hot, cooked brown or white rice

Grilled Sweet and Sour Chicken

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Ingredients:

Brine:

  • 2 quarts water (room temperature or cool water, not warm or hot)
  • 1/3 cup (2.5 ounces) coarse, kosher salt (use half the amount for table salt)
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 6 thin cut chicken breasts, about 2 pounds (or use 3-4 thicker chicken breasts and cut them in half lengthwise or pound thin)

Sweet and Sour Sauce:

  • 1 cup (7.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

  1. For the chicken, prepare the brine by whisking together the water, salt, brown sugar and soy sauce in a large bowl until the sugar and salt are mostly dissolved.
  2. Cut each chicken breast into 2-inch strips (so about two strips per chicken breasts, depending on the size of the chicken breasts) and submerge all the chicken pieces fully in the brine mixture. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours (or up to four hours). Any longer than four hours and the chicken may be too salty.
  3. For the sauce, whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat. Let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce and thicken slightly (can simmer longer for a thicker sauce), stirring occasionally. There may be a strong vinegar smell as the sauce simmers and the vinegar evaporates – that’s completely normal (and the sauce will not taste overly vinegary).
  4. Preheat grill to medium heat (on my pellet grill, I preheat to 350 degrees for this recipe). Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brine.
  5. Grill the chicken, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F (exact cooking time will depend on what type of grill you have; it takes about 15 minutes total on my pellet grill for thin cut chicken at this temperature). During the last two minutes of grilling brush the chicken liberally with the prepared sweet and sour sauce.
  6. Remove the chicken from the grill to a serving platter and drizzle with remaining sauce OR serve the sweet and sour sauce on the side.

Notes:

You can use up to four pounds of chicken using the same amount of brine. 

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Recipe Source: brine recipe adapted from Traeger’s Everyday Cookbook, sweet and sour sauce recipe from this baked sweet and sour chicken post