This recipe for sweet and sour chicken tastes just like your favorite restaurant, but it's homemade! Skip the takeout and bring this Chinese classic to your own kitchen.
I worked for years to create the perfect Chinese sweet and sour chicken recipe — and no, I'm not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that!
Sweet and sour chicken has a fun, bright colored sauce with perfectly balanced tangy and sweet flavors. Figuring out the ingredient ratios in the sauce required some trial and error, but the end dish was well worth the effort!
Ingredients like hoisin sauce and Worcestershire sauce add so much depth to this dish and truly make it taste like a restaurant copycat.
Keep reading to learn my top tips and tricks for making homemade sweet and sour chicken!
Tip: Love Chinese food? Try my easy cashew chicken recipe next!
Ingredients in This Recipe
Because the chicken is cooked in a skillet rather than deep fried, this recipe is more like a sweet and sour chicken stir-fry. Don't worry, it still tastes like your favorite restaurant takeout!
To help the chicken crisp up in the oiled skillet, I like to toss it with a little cornstarch. I add roughly diced onion and bell peppers to my chicken, as well as fresh pineapple chunks.
The sweet and sour sauce for the chicken was the toughest part of this recipe to nail down. In the end, I used a combination of the following:
- Granulated sugar
- Rice wine vinegar
- Sesame oil
- Hoisin sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Soy sauce
Can the Cornstarch Be Substituted?
You could use a similar thickener, such as arrowroot starch, if you're opposed to using cornstarch.
I don't recommend omitting the starch entirely as it's necessary to thicken the sauce and make it super glossy.
Can the Pineapple Be Omitted or Substituted?
If you don't like pineapple in your chicken, you may omit it. Just note that the sweet and sour flavor won't be as pronounced without it.
If you don't have fresh pineapple or it's not in season, you may use canned pineapple chunks that have been packed in water. Be sure to drain them thoroughly before using!
How to Make Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken
My goal when creating this recipe was to make it as easy as possible. I think I can safely say I achieved that!
This recipe takes less than an hour to prepare, and it's as easy as whisking together a sauce and stir-frying some chicken and vegetables!
- Make the sweet and sour sauce: Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a saucepan.
- Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then cook until the sauce is just thickened and translucent.
- Make the rice and set aside.
- Cut the onions, and bell peppers into 1-inch pieces.
- Cut the pineapple into chunks, or drain a can of pineapple chunks.
- Cut the chicken (or pork) into 1½-inch pieces and season with the kosher salt.
- Toss chicken with the vinegar, salt, and cornstarch.
- In a large, high sided skillet, heat some oil over medium-high heat.
- When hot, carefully add the chicken and cook until it's just turning golden and is cooked through.
- Drain all but 2 tablespoons oil from the skillet and add the onion and bell peppers. Cook until the onion is becoming tender and soft.
- Add the pineapple and sweet and sour sauce.
- Stir in the chicken and serve.
I love serving my Chinese sweet and sour chicken over a bed of steamed rice, garnished with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.
Recipe Substitutions to Try
This is a very straightforward recipe, so feel free to play around with the chicken and veggies to use up whatever you have on hand!
- Chicken: Use diced pork tenderloin to make sweet and sour pork. Or, make it vegetarian by using firm tofu (be sure to adjust the cook time if using tofu).
- Veggies: Substitute the bell peppers for another tender vegetable like bok choy, yellow squash, zucchini, or broccoli.
- Sauce: I don't recommend substituting or omitting any of the sauce ingredients. However, you may use less sugar if you prefer your dish more on the sour side. Try the recipe first as written, though!
Tips for the Best Ever Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Use a neutral-flavored oil, such as canola or avocado oil.
- The oil may splatter as the chicken cooks. Consider using a splatter screen to protect your hands and stovetop. Or cook in a deeper, high-sided pan.
- Be careful not to overcook the vegetables. You want them to be crisp-tender, just like at a restaurant!
Let me know how it went!
Scroll to the bottom of the page to rate ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and comment on this recipe. Leaving comments helps other too!
More Asian-Inspired Dinners:
- Sesame Ginger Beef Salad
- Vegetable Spring Rolls
- Braised Pork Curry
- Sesame Chicken Skewers
- Chinese Cashew Chicken
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Sweet and Sour Sauce
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 1 clove garlic, minced
Chicken and Veggies
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ cup canola or avocado oil
- 1 cup large diced onion
- 1 cup large diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup large diced green bell pepper
- 1½ cups large diced pineapple or canned pineapple chunks
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- Cooked white rice for serving
- Sesame seeds for garnish
- In a medium saucepan combine all of the sauce ingredients. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil and stir, cooking until sauce is just thickened and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- For the chicken: Cut the chicken into 1½-inch pieces and season with the kosher salt. In a bowl, toss chicken with the vinegar, then cornstarch and set aside to heat the oil.
- In a large, high sided skillet, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. When hot, carefully add the chicken and cook, turning as needed, until chicken is just turning golden and is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove chicken to a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Drain all but 2 tablespoons oil from the skillet and over medium heat, add the onion and bell peppers. Cook, stirring, until onion is becoming tender and soft, about 6 minutes. Add the pineapple.
- Add the reserved sweet and sour sauce to the skillet with the vegetables and then stir in the chicken. Heat through, 30 seconds to a minute and then serve over rice garnished with scallions and sesame seeds.