This Easy Sesame Chicken recipe is seriously so easy that you’ll be tempted to toss those take-out menus. The deliciously sweet and savory sauce takes only a few ingredients, all of which you can keep on hand indefinitely (keep your ginger in the freezer). You know, just in case you need some sesame chicken like, now. Oh, and this take-out fake-out sesame chicken works great for your weekly meal prep, too!
What is Sesame Chicken?
If you’re unfamiliar with this Chinese-American fast food classic, sesame chicken is small pieces of tender chicken that have been coated in an egg and cornstarch, deep-fried until crispy, and then coated in a deliciously sweet, salty, and tangy sauce. The sauce also has a light but toasty flavor thanks to sesame seeds. You’ll find this dish at most Chinese-inspired takeout restaurants across America.
Ingredients for Sesame Chicken
Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy sesame chicken recipe:
- Chicken Thighs: We use chicken thighs for this recipe because they stay juicy and super tender without fear of drying out, and they’re very budget-friendly. You can use chicken breast, if preferred, just be careful to not overcook the chicken.
- Cornstarch and Egg: The combination of cornstarch and egg coats the chicken, keeping it tender and providing something for the sauce to grab onto. This technique of coating meat in a cornstarch mixture is called “velveting.”
- Soy Sauce: The base for the sauce is soy sauce, which provides plenty of salt and umami flavor.
- Toasted Sesame Oil: Toasted sesame oil gives the sauce a deliciously nutty flavor. Make sure to get toasted oil, which has a deep amber color and a much more pronounced flavor.
- Brown Sugar: Brown sugar provides sweetness to balance the salt of the soy sauce and the acidity of the vinegar. Brown sugar has a deep flavor, compared to the more one-dimensional flavor of white sugar. You can also use honey in place of the brown sugar.
- Rice Vinegar: Rice vinegar gives the sauce a nice tangy flavor. Rice vinegar is milder than other vinegar types, which keeps the sauce in balance and not too harsh.
- Fresh Ginger: Ginger gives the sauce zing! Be sure to use fresh ginger, not dried ginger, as it has a much more peppery flavor. Keep fresh ginger in your freezer to always have it on hand without it going bad.
- Garlic: Garlic provides a nice savory base flavor for the sauce.
- Sesame Seeds: Sesame seeds add even more sesame flavor to the sauce and a delicious visual appeal.
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch thickens the sauce into a nice glaze with a translucent, glossy finish.
- Rice and Green Onions: Serve your sesame chicken over a bed of rice with sliced green onions on top for a well rounded meal.
No Deep Frying Required
I specifically wrote this recipe for those of you out there who hate deep frying as much as I do. This recipe uses a very small amount of oil to cook the chicken and because of that, you don’t get super crispy edges as you would with a deep fry, but the trade-off is well worth it in my opinion. No leftover oil to deal with, no cooking oil smell filling your house, and no splattering oil trying to kill you. So worth sacrificing crispy edges.
What to Serve with Sesame Chicken
I like to pair my Easy Sesame Chicken with jasmine rice and a little steamed broccoli. It’s a super simple meal that is very satisfying, and stores well for meal prep! It also goes great with Crunchy Cabbage Salad, Sesame Cucumber Salad, Easy Egg Drop Soup, Savory Coconut Rice.
Easy Sesame Chicken
- 1 large egg ($0.23)
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch ($0.06)
- 1 pinch each salt and pepper ($0.05)
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs ($3.23)
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.08)
- 4 cups cooked jasmine rice ($0.70)
- 2 whole green onions ($0.22)
- First, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl stir together the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, brown sugar, rice vinegar, fresh ginger, minced garlic, cornstarch, and sesame seeds. (Grate the ginger with a small-holed cheese grater). Set the sauce aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, 2 Tbsp cornstarch, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs, then cut them into small 1 inch pieces. Toss the chicken in the egg and cornstarch mixture.
- Add the cooking oil to a large skillet and heat it over medium flame. Wait until the skillet is very hot, then swirl the skillet to make sure the oil coats the entire surface. Add the batter coated chicken and spread it out into a single layer over the surface of the skillet.
- Allow the chicken pieces to cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on the bottom. Then, carefully flip the chicken, breaking up the pieces into smaller clumps as you flip. Continue to cook the chicken until golden brown on the other side. Stir the chicken as little as possible to avoid breaking the egg coating from the surface of the chicken.
- Once the chicken is cooked through and golden brown on all sides, pour the sauce over top. Toss the chicken to coat in the sauce. As the sauce comes up to a simmer, it will begin to thicken. Continue to gently stir the chicken in the sauce until it has thickened, then turn off the heat.
- Serve the chicken over a bed of rice and sprinkle the sliced green onions over top.
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
How to Make Sesame Chicken
Make the sauce first, so it’s ready to go when you need it. In a bowl, stir together 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp grated fresh ginger, 2 minced cloves of garlic, ½ Tbsp cornstarch, and 1 Tbsp sesame seeds.
Let’s just talk about this toasted sesame oil for a second. You must get the kind that is toasted to get the super vibrant nutty flavor that you want in your sesame chicken. Not all brands actually say “toasted” on the bottle, but you can recognize the toasted variety by its deep brown color. Regular sesame oil will be the color of straw, like vegetable oil. You want the brown stuff. ;) It’s usually in the international foods aisle, instead of the baking aisle with the other oils.
Next, trim any extra fat off of one pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, then cut them into small one inch cubes. One pound for me was about three chicken thighs.
Add 1 large egg, 2 Tbsp cornstarch, and a pinch of salt and pepper to a medium bowl.
Whisk the egg and cornstarch together until it is light and frothy. It may seem thick at first, but as the cornstarch dissolves in the egg, it will thin out and get nice and frothy.
Add the cubed chicken thighs and stir them to coat in the egg mixture.
Add 2 Tbsp cooking oil to a large skillet and heat it over medium. Wait until it is very hot. This is VERY important. The skillet must be very hot! Once very hot, swirl the skillet to make sure the oil coats the entire surface, add the chicken, and make sure it’s spread out into a single layer. Let the chicken cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on the bottom. It will kind of cook into a single round pancake, but don’t worry, we’ll break up the pieces next.
Then carefully flip the chicken pieces, breaking up them up slightly into smaller pieces as you flip. Cook on the other side until browned and cooked through. Make sure to not stir them too much, or you can cause the egg to come off the chicken. You can see that some of the chicken pieces are still kind of stuck together at this point. That’s okay. Just do not over stir.
Finally, add the prepared sauce and stir to coat. Continue to carefully stir the chicken as the sauce beings to simmer and thicken. Once it’s thickened, turn off the heat.
Sprinkle some sliced green onions over top and serve with warm rice. :) Doesn’t get better than this.
Easy Sesame Chicken – done in about 30 minutes, and NO DELIVERY FEE! :D