Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

Do you love Sweet and Sour Chicken? You really can make this classic dish just like Chinese restaurants do. It is easier than you might think it is. This homemade version features juicy chicken fried until golden brown and served with a wonderful tangy sauce. 

A plate of sweet and sour chicken.


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What makes Sweet and Sour Chicken so good? 

Sweet and sour chicken has chicken that has a delightful crispy exterior with juicy chicken on the inside. The sauce is a wonderful combination of flavors. The citrus gives it a bit of a sour flavor, but this is balanced out perfectly with the sweet sauce. You can create your Chinese takeout at home. 

Why you should try this recipe 

Don’t be intimidated to try making restaurant-style Chinese food from scratch. You can do it, and your everyday grocery store should have everything you need for this recipe. The basics are chicken, cornstarch, flour, white pepper, oranges, lemons, ketchup, and some rice-cooking wine or dry sherry. When you prepare this at home, you can save money, simply prepare some fluffy white rice, and you will have a complete meal. 

I know you won’t forget the number of your local Chinese take out restaurant, but now you can follow my recipe and make a delicious CopyKat sweet and sour chicken right in your kitchen. 

Benefits of Cooking Sweet n Sour Chicken at Home

One of the benefits of making restaurant-style recipes from scratch is that you know exactly what’s in your food. In this recipe, you can be sure that the ingredients are precisely how you like them.

For instance, if you try to eat as much organic food as possible, you can use all-organic ingredients including free-range chicken that hasn’t been dosed with antibiotics. And, if you make Chinese food at home, it will not contain any MSG.

Sweet and Sour Sauce – Homemade vs Store-Bought

You could buy ready-made sweet and sour sauce in a jar, but this homemade recipe tastes much better. This sweet and sour sauce is made with real fruit, which gives it a depth of flavor that you’ll love.

Also, by making your own sweet and sour sauce, you can eliminate the artificial coloring usually found in a store-bought product. After all, not everyone wants to eat food containing dyes. If you try this recipe once, this will be the on you grab the next time you want sweet and sour chicken. The sauce is an easy recipe, so you can make just the sauce if you like. This way you never have to grab extra packages of sauce, when you can make it at home, you always have extra sauce. 

What is Chinese sweet and sour chicken made of?

This dish is filled with rich and flavorful ingredients. Orange and lemon give it a fruity aspect, vinegar and ketchup provide tang, garlic and white pepper give earthy flavor, and chicken is the star of the dish.

Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce Ingredients

  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Fresh ginger
  • Sugar
  • White vinegar
  • Ketchup
  • Red food coloring (optional)
  • Cornstarch
  • Water

Chinese Style Fried Chicken Ingredients

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Eggs
  • Ground white pepper
  • Granulated garlic
  • Salt
  • Rice cooking wine
  • Cornstarch
  • Self-rising flour
  • Ground white pepper
  • Granulated garlic
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil

​Be sure to click on the recipe card so you get the exact amounts and the printable instructions for the recipe. 

Sweet and sour chicken ingredients in bowls on a marble surface.

How to Make Sweet and Sour Chicken

There are two components to this recipe; the sauce and the chicken. You will first make the sauce and then the chicken. You’ll serve the chicken with the sauce either on the side or poured over it.

How to Make Sweet and Sour Sauce

  1. Slice the orange, lemon, and ginger and place the slices in a medium pot with water. Bring it a boil and then simmer it for 30 minutes.
  2. Drain the water through a strainer into a large bowl. Press the fruit and ginger to release the juices into the water. Place the water back into the pot over medium heat. Add sugar, vinegar, ketchup, and food coloring. Whisk until well blended.
  3. Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Slowly stream the liquid into the sauce, stirring constantly. When the sauce thickens, remove it from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Collage of making sweet and sour sauce.

How to Make Chinese Style Fried Chicken

  1. Use a fork to whip an egg in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Cut chicken into small bite-sized pieces and add the chicken to the beaten egg mixture. Add white pepper, granulated garlic, salt, rice cooking wine, and cornstarch.
  3. Marinate the chicken for 15 minutes before continuing the recipe.
  4. Make the batter: In a medium bowl, combine self-rising flour, white pepper, granulated garlic, salt, water, egg, and vegetable oil. Stir until this batter has a uniform consistency.
  5. Add enough oil to a pot to be 4 inches deep. Heat oil to 350 degrees.
  6. Use a skewer to dip the pieces of chicken into the batter and the hot oil. Fry the chicken until it becomes light brown.
  7. Remove the chicken from the oil for a minute, and then place the chicken back in and fry it for the second time, but just an additional minute for the second time. Drain the chicken on a wire rack.  Don’t drain the chicken on a paper towel, it will steam that way and make your chicken less crisp. 

Serve the chicken with sweet and sour sauce.

Sweet and sour chicken on a plate and chopsticks next to it.

What are some other uses for Sweet & Sour Chicken batter?

This recipe can be slightly flexible – you don’t have to stick with chicken. If you like, you could swap the chicken out for pork. Everyone loves sweet and sour pork. Heck, if you have a little batter left over, you could easily slice up some onions and make onion rings – it’s up to you.

Top your Sweet and Sour Chicken if you desire 

You can top your sweet and sour chicken with canned sweet pineapple chunks. Some people like to top theirs with some chopped red bell pepper, or green bell pepper. You can keep it simple and slice some green scallions on top. 

What goes well with Sweet and Sour Chicken?

Sweet and sour chicken is delicious, but it can accompany several dishes to make it a complete meal. Here are a few suggestions for you.

What else can you eat Sweet and Sour Sauce with?

Sweet and sour sauce is one of those condiments that is perfect for so many dishes. Should you have some leftover, save it in an airtight container in your refrigerator, and you can use it for the following.

How to Store this Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe and Sweet and Sour Sauce

Should you have leftovers, I recommend that you place the sauce and the cooked chicken in different containers. Don’t pour the sauce over the chicken and put it in the refrigerator because the breading will get soggy.

The sauce and the chicken will last in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

How to Reheat Sweet and Sour Chicken

I like to reheat the chicken in an air fryer or a convection oven. I will reheat it for 7 to 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Heating the chicken in an air fryer really helps to crisp up like the first time. You can reheat it in the oven at 350 degrees, but it will take about 10 to 12 minutes.

Reheat the sauce on low heat on the stovetop until just warm.

Sweet and sour chicken on a platter.

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Be sure to check out more of my Chinese recipes and copycat restaurant chicken dishes.

A plate of sweet and sour chicken.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and Sour chicken can be made at home. 
4.91 from 10 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Sweet and Sour Chicken
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 555kcal

Ingredients

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1 orange sliced
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 2 or 3 slices fresh ginger
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • red food coloring optional

Chinese-Style Fried Chicken

  • 2 eggs beaten, divided use
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper divided use
  • 3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic divided use
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt divided use
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch divided use
  • 2 tablespoons rice cooking wine
  • 2 1/4 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for frying

Instructions

  • To make the sweet and sour sauce, place the orange, lemon, and ginger into a medium pot with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Drain the water through a sieve into another pot, pressing the fruit into the sieve to release all the water and juice. Discard the solids.
  • Add the sugar, vinegar, and ketchup to the pot with the water and juice and whisk until well blended. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.
  • Combine the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Slowly pour the cornstarch slurry into the sauce, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and store any unused sauce in an airtight container.
  • To make the fried chicken, place the chicken in a medium bowl along with 1 egg, 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of granulated garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and the rice cooking wine. Mix well. Allow the mixture to marinate for about 15 minutes.
  • In another medium-sized bowl, combine the self-rising flour, 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of granulated garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1 egg, and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and stir until the batter has a uniform texture.
  • Add the vegetable oil to a pot until it reaches a depth of 4 inches. Heat the oil to 350°F.
  • Batter the chicken by taking a piece from the marinade and using a skewer to dip it into the batter.
  • Carefully lay the battered chicken into the oil and fry until lightly golden brown. Remove the chicken from the oil for about 1 minute. Return the chicken to the oil and fry for an additional minute to make it extra crispy.
  • Drain the chicken on a wire rack and serve with sweet and sour sauce.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 555kcal | Carbohydrates: 93g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 822mg | Potassium: 537mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 45g | Vitamin A: 355IU | Vitamin C: 23.7mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 1.2mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home, and CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. JWelch

    5 stars
    I don’t really comment on things very often, but this recipe is… interesting enough that I thought I should. The chicken is great. One of the best Chinese American chicken recipes I’ve had. Five stars.

    The sweet and sour sauce gets one star, which is not reflected in my review. It was gross. It tasted of bitter ketchup; nothing like what you get in restaurants. I understand a previous comment that wondered why it tasted like ketchup was the main ingredient. Yes, ketchup belongs in sweet and sour sauce. Not that much ketchup, though. The worst part was the bitter from the lemon and orange. And I mean BITTER. Were they supposed to be peeled? If so, that really should be specified. If not, then do yourself a favor and use the standard recipe that calls for pineapple juice in the place of boiled citrus.

    • Stephanie

      Thank you for your review. I am sorry the sauce turned out worse than awful for you. It sounds like the citrus peels cooked for too long and became bitter. I am very sorry about this. I will look at adjusting my instructions to make sure that doesn’t happen in the future. I am sure the ketchup ratio was adversely impacted by the bitterness of the citrus you experienced.

      The intent was to leach out the flavorful oils of the orange and the lemon and have that give your sauce a little something extra. The something extra wasn’t a punch of bitterness.

  2. Michael M

    I’m going to make this now using the exact ingredients and directions in the recipe. I wish all the ingredient amounts were specific like “2 or 3” slices of ginger, and “red food coloring”. Grams would be nice for the ginger and how many drops of food coloring. I’ll post results shortly!

    • Michael M

      Perfect. Follow this recipe exactly and everyone will think it was just delivered from your favorite restaurant. I am amazed. The sauce is perfect, too; don’t change anything!

  3. billy clemons

    Where are, what are the vegetales. this is the first serrt snd sour chicken receipe that i have seen that does not include the peppers, onions. it is almonst like bacon and eggs without the bacon?????

  4. Bess

    The chicken came out great!! I didn’t try the sauce because I wanted to make sure I was focused on the chicken. Plus, I had some premature sauce already. The tempura batter was perfect. I wish I had some zucchini or cauliflower to dip in the leftover! Thanks for the recipe.

  5. Tim

    Don’t know where Stephanie ate her Chinese, but I’ve had lots, and never before encountered sweet and sour that tasted like ketchup was the main ingredient – awful. Recipe yields 1 1/2 quarts – enough to last a lifetime, and then some.

    • Stephanie

      Tim, I bet like you I have had Chinese food at many places. Most likely we both together could list out at least 100. I did a lot of study on the recipe, and many Chinese cooks add in Ketchup. I know, it’s pretty crazy. I believe there is a great documentary about Chinese food, or we should call it American Chinese food it’s called The Search for General Tso, and their website is http://www.thesearchforgeneraltso.com/. Most food we eat and call “Chinese Food”, isn’t really Chinese. It is Americanized food, that many Chinese immigrants adapted for the west. I believe Sweet and Sour would be one of them.

      While I understand you don’t like my recipe, it makes very good Sweet and Sour sauce.

  6. Chanise

    I am cooking this recipe now and it tastes exactly like the restaurant. I told my husband I’m never ordering take out again!!! Followed the recipe exactly as stated. I’m trying not to eat them all while I cook. Thank you for this recipe. This is one for the books.

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