Sesame Chicken Recipe

"Everyone loves Chinese take-out sesame chicken," says chef and food writer Cecilia Ryu. Really, how can you not? "It's fried and sautéed with a sweet and savory sauce [and] it serves perfectly with rice and steamed vegetables," says. Plus, as it's often consumed as take-out food, it's practically effortless. So what to do when you want the flavor of this take-out staple without leaving the house or calling for delivery? Just turn to this simple, classic recipe.

As with so many great meals, sesame chicken seems daunting until the first time you make it yourself. Then, you realize that it's simply about going step-by-step, not about any secrets or serious culinary chops, so to speak. Ryu's sesame chicken recipe will reliably result not only in great flavor but also in a texture that will have people clamoring for seconds and thirds. 

On the off chance that there are any leftovers, you can re-heat the chicken pretty easily. "Use a toaster oven or oven at 350 [degrees Fahrenheit], not a microwave," says Ryu, who adds that "an air fryer is also a good option to reheat." This will be only a matter of minutes and the sesame chicken will taste just as good as it did when it was freshly made. 

So go ahead and make a big batch, because this is a time when you won't mind a bit if tomorrow's lunch is the same as tonight's dinner.

Gather your ingredients for sesame chicken

There are really two separate sets of ingredients here. First, you will assemble the ones used to prep the chicken for frying. Then, you'll manage the set of ingredients used to make the sauce and garnishes that will adorn your finished fried chicken. So let's look at them independently. For the chicken, you'll need a ½ teaspoon of salt, a ½ teaspoon of black pepper, 4 egg whites,¾ cup plus 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, divided, a ½ cup of all purpose flour, and plenty of vegetable oil for frying. Oh, and naturally you'll need 1 ½ pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs.

For the sauce, you'll need 1 ½ tablespoons of soy sauce, a ½ cup of honey, 4 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, 1/3 of a cup of ketchup, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, ¼ teaspoon of grated ginger, a tablespoon of sesame seeds, and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped scallions.

Prep the sesame chicken

Trim any excess fat from the chicken. It's important to remember that the "cleaner" the meat, the better the final dish will be, so take your time here and thoroughly remove the fat. Cut the prepared chicken into 1-inch pieces and set them in a bowl, then season the meat with salt and pepper.

Next, place the egg whites in a shallow bowl and mix to combine them until they get frothy. In another shallow bowl, mix ¾ of a cup each of cornstarch and flour.

Now dip each chicken piece into the egg whites, then into the cornstarch and flour mixture. Place each chicken piece in the mixture. According to Ryu, "When coating the chicken with the corn starch [and] flour mixture, it is really important to press firmly in order to coat all areas of the meat." Set coated chicken pieces aside on a separate plate and repeat the process with all of the chicken pieces.

When the chicken is prepped, get a large pot and pour in the vegetable oil for frying until it comes halfway up the sides of the pot. Heat on medium-high until the oil reaches 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prep the sesame chicken sauce

While the oil is heating, make that sweet and savory sauce that gives this dish its incomparable and iconic flavor. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Mix everything well to combine until the dry ingredients are fully integrated and the color of the sauce is even.

Set the mixture aside, but know that you don't have to refrigerate it. Soon enough, you'll be adding it to hot ingredients and so there's no need to let it chill out in a fridge.

Fry the sesame chicken, then fry it again

Here's the only real "secret" to this recipe: the chicken isn't fried. It's fried twice.

Before you start the frying, take a couple of minutes to prepare, as this will make the whole process much easier. First, place a wire rack on top of a sheet tray lined with paper towels. This is a must to prevent a mess.

Once the oil has come up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, fry the chicken in batches until the pieces are light brown. This process will take approximately three minutes. Remove chicken with a mesh strainer and place the pieces on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Be mindful of how much chicken you add at once. "It's very important to make sure the temperature of the oil comes back up to 375 degrees in between frying each batch of chicken," says Ryu. "If the oil isn't hot enough, the chicken will not come out crispy. Also, if you add too much chicken at one time, it will cause the temperature of the oil to come down which will result in soggy chicken as well." Once all of the chicken has been fried, set it aside to briefly cool.

Once the chicken has slightly cooled, fry the chicken again in batches until it's a deep golden brown, about another 3 minutes per batch. Place the twice-fried chicken back on the wire rack when it's done.

Make the sauce, then toss in the sesame chicken

In a large wok or saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, which should take only about 30 seconds. Now pour in the sauce mixture and heat it until the sauce thickens and comes to a simmer. This will take about 3 minutes. Next, add all the crispy fried chicken and toss or stir to coat it all evenly in the sauce.

Finally, place the cooked and sauced chicken on a serving platter, then garnish it with sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Serve immediately with all your family's favorite sides and perhaps a nicely cooked base of white or jasmine rice. Prepare for a meal that everyone will love!

Sesame Chicken Recipe
4.9 from 31 ratings
Everyone loves sesame chicken. Feel free to make a big batch of this recipe, as you won't mind a bit if tomorrow's lunch is the same as tonight's dinner.
Prep Time
30
minutes
Cook Time
30
minutes
Servings
4
servings
sesame chicken
Total time: 60 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 egg whites
  • ¾ cup & 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • ⅓ cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
Directions
  1. Trim any excess fat from the chicken. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Set aside in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the egg whites in a shallow bowl. Mix to combine until frothy. In another shallow bowl, place ¾ cup of cornstarch and flour. Mix to combine.
  3. Dip each chicken piece into the egg whites, then into the cornstarch mixture. Press each chicken piece firmly into the cornstarch mixture to make sure all areas are coated. Set coated chicken pieces aside on a separate plate. Repeat the process with all of the chicken.
  4. In a large pot, pour the vegetable oil for frying until it comes halfway up the sides of the pot. Heat on medium-high until the oil reaches 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. While the oil is heating, combine the soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in a bowl. Mix well to combine and set aside.
  6. Place a wire rack on top of a sheet tray lined with paper towels. Once the oil has come up to temperature, fry the chicken in batches until light brown, approximately 3 minutes. Remove chicken with a mesh strainer and place on wire rack. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces. Make sure to let the oil come back up to temperature, 375 degrees Fahrenheit in between each batch of chicken frying.
  7. Once all of the chicken has been fried, set aside to briefly cool, approximately 5-10 minutes. During this time, continue to heat the oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the chicken has slightly cooled, fry the chicken again in batches until golden brown, another 3 minutes. Place chicken on the wire rack to drain.
  8. In a large wok or saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds. Add the sauce mixture and heat until it thickens and comes to a simmer, 3 minutes. Add the crispy fried chicken and toss to coat in the sauce.
  9. Place on a serving platter and garnish with the sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Serve immediately.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 942
Total Fat 60.4 g
Saturated Fat 5.7 g
Trans Fat 0.4 g
Cholesterol 159.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 63.4 g
Dietary Fiber 1.1 g
Total Sugars 48.2 g
Sodium 819.2 mg
Protein 39.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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