Easily the most popular recipe on my blog, this baked sweet and sour chicken is a miracle of a dish. Baked, not fried, it has been a family favorite for over a decade!

Invented on a college budget almost 20 years ago, this baked sweet and sour chicken is the most popular recipe on my blog. And even better, it still remains one of our family favorites.

Scoop of baked sweet and sour chicken from the pan.

You may have seen this recipe floating around the internet; it’s everywhere! And for good reason. It’s crazy delicious.

I’m happy (and yes, a little proud) to acknowledge that the delectable sweet and sour chicken recipe originated here (posted way back in 2008, it was one of the first recipes I ever shared on my blog!).

With over 800 comments, 50+ 5-star reviews, and almost half a million pins/shares, that quick glance will tell you there is something special about this recipe.

Baked sweet and sour chicken pieces over white rice with steamed broccoli.

How to Make Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken

The chicken for this recipe is flash-fried in a little bit of oil before going into a pan and into the oven to be baked fully.

There’s a good reason for this process:

  1. It gives a delicious browned “crust” on the chicken pieces
  2. The sweet and sour sauce is poured onto the par-baked chicken and everything bakes together in the oven – this fully cooks the chicken AND thickens and develops the flavors of the sauce

I have streamlined the chicken coating-and-cooking process to make it ultra-simple.

First, place the chicken pieces in a ziploc-style bag and toss with a bit of salt and pepper.

Chicken pieces in ziploc bag with salt and pepper.

Second, add the cornstarch, seal the bag, and shake until the chicken pieces are evenly coated.

It might seem strange to coat the chicken pieces in cornstarch before dipping in egg, but it’s the preferred method here, and it works – I promise!

Chicken pieces coated in cornstarch in ziploc bag.

Dip the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces into the egg mixture.

Instead of doing this one little piece at a time, I dump several pieces of chicken in at once, toss around with a fork until the egg mixture fully coats the chicken and then replenish with more chicken as they go into the hot pan.

Chicken pieces coated in cornstarch sitting in a whisked egg mixture.

A Key to Making Sweet and Sour Chicken

Remember that the chicken pieces are just getting a quick minute in the hot pan so they are golden on the outside.

You don’t need very much oil, but you DO need to make sure the pan is hot and rippling before adding the chicken.

Here are a few things that will help:

  • Use a nonstick pan – this means you can use less oil and still get beautifully golden chicken pieces.
  • Heat the oil in the pan until it is hot enough that the chicken sizzles immediately when added to the pan.
  • Cook for just a few seconds on each side until the “crust” is golden brown – you don’t want to cook the chicken completely in this step!
Chicken pieces coated in cornstarch and egg frying in a skillet.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

The sauce for this baked sweet and sour chicken consists of:

  • sugar
  • ketchup
  • vinegar
  • soy sauce
  • garlic powder

There is just the right amount of sauce for the breaded chicken pieces to bake in without becoming saturated and soggy. As the sauce simmers in the oven with the chicken, it thickens and coats the chicken with a caramelized sweet and sour glaze.

If you like extra sauce, simply whisk together another batch of sauce and simmer it on the stovetop for 8 to 10 minutes to serve alongside the baked sweet and chicken.

Whisked mixture of ketchup, vinegar, sugar, and garlic powder in glass bowl.
Side by side pans of unbaked and baked sweet and sour chicken.

There are over 500 5-star reviews for this amazing recipe; I’ll highlight just a few:

Stephanie: Amazing! My whole family loved this recipe! Tasted like it was from a restaurant and it was SO easy to make! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Erin: First time poster – this was FANTASTIC. I doubled the sauce, threw in a can of pineapple chunks and used rice vinegar. Thank you – this is going in the rotation. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Kimberly: I was worried about the one hour cooking time drying out the chicken but every bite was tender. Will make again. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Vicki: Oh my- officially a fav in our house.  It’s been requested 3 times in as many weeks.  I add peppers and onion to mine over rice. So good! Thanks for sharing it!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions for this recipe – and if you scroll through the comments, you can see many, many variations!

Baked sweet and sour chicken over rice on white plate being drizzled with sweet and sour sauce.
Top down view of baked sweet and sour chicken over rice on white plate.

Sweet and Sour FAQ:

Can I cut down the sugar?

Many people have commented that they have reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup and I’ve done the same (if not more) over the years, too.

The vinegar smell is really overpowering when I bake this. Is that normal?

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.

Can I cut down on the amount of vinegar because of the aforementioned question?

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 sweet and sour chicken 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).

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?

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.

Can I sub something for the cornstarch? Flour?

All-purpose flour will not give the same light coating as the cornstarch. The only decent substitute I’ve found is tapioca flour/starch. Works great!

Surely there is a misprint in baking time. An hour for small chicken pieces? What’s the deal?

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.

Are you sure I’m supposed to put the chicken in the cornstarch mixture before the egg? That just seems wrong.

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.

Can I add pineapple or other veggies to this while baking?

I don’t see why not! Many commenters have tried that with good results.

What kind of ketchup do you use?

I prefer the Heinz Natural brand (without HCFS) but when I can’t find it, I go with regular Heinz.

What to Serve With This:

Baked Brown Rice
Steamed Broccoli
Creamy 5-Cup Fruit Salad or fresh, seasonal fruit

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Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken

4.77 stars (761 ratings)

Ingredients

Chicken:

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup canola, vegetable or coconut oil

Sauce:

  • ½ to ¾ cup granulated sugar, depending on how sweet you want the sauce
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch or slightly larger pieces. Season lightly 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Notes

FAQ’s: see the recipe post for a ton of FAQ’s about this recipe (substitutions, etc).
Sauce: 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.
Vinegar: often I’ll sub in rice vinegar for the apple cider vinegar for a milder/slightly sweeter flavor.
Serving: 1 serving, Calories: 391kcal, Carbohydrates: 39g, Protein: 26g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 127mg, Sodium: 801mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 19g
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Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe original recipe
Recipe originally published July 2008; updated Sept 2018 with new pictures, recipe notes, etc.

Homemade sweet and sour chicken on rice with a side of broccoli.