You usually order sweet and sour chicken when you want something quick and low maintenance. Maybe you had a late night, maybe you want to stay in, or maybe a craving hit and you couldn’t let go of the idea of sinking your teeth into some fried chicken goodness. Whatever the reason, some part of you thought, “I can’t make it better than takeout.” But what if you could?

What Is Sweet and Sour Chicken?

Sweet and sour chicken comes from China. The name comes from the combination of sugar and vinegar in the sauce. However, unlike the Westernized version of the dish that made it to the States, typically sweet and sour sauce is just used as a dip for various meats. While the sauce still has that same sweet and sour base, the food that has made its way into our hearts is a fried chicken and rice dish.

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Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

This sweet and sour chicken recipe from Lori Burtenshaw of Terreton, Idaho makes 4 servings.



1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup cornstarch, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil


1 can (20 ounces) unsweetened pineapple chunks
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups hot cooked rice
Optional: bell pepper


Step 1: Season the chicken

In a large shallow dish, combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sherry, salt, garlic powder and ginger. Add the chicken. Turn the chicken to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Step 2: Make the sauce

Drain the pineapple chunks, reserving the juice and setting the pineapple aside. Add enough water to the juice to measure 1 cup. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch, sugar and pineapple juice mixture until smooth. Stir in vinegar, ketchup and remaining soy sauce. Set aside.

Step 3: Cook the chicken

Drain the chicken, discarding the marinade. Place the remaining cornstarch in a large shallow dish. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, and turn to coat.

In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken. Cook and stir until no longer pink. Remove and keep warm.

Step 4: Finish the sauce

Stir pineapple juice mixture and add it to the pan. Bring to a boil and cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add the chicken and reserved pineapple and make sure it’s heated through. Serve with rice.

Tips for Making Sweet and Sour Chicken

How can you add heat to sweet and sour chicken?

Do you want a little less sweet in your sweet and sour sauce? You can add red pepper flakes for spice. Or you can even chop some red peppers into the dish.

How can you thicken the sauce?

The sauce thickens even more as it cools. But if your sauce is still watery, adding equal parts cornstarch and water will thicken the sauce. If the reverse problem occurs, and your sauce becomes too thick, add water to thin it out.

What else can you put in sweet and sour chicken?

The meal is already delicious on its own, but you can add veggies like green peppers and onion to your sweet and sour chicken. These enhance the flavor and add a bit of kick. Even more unconventional choices like mushrooms, carrots and baby corn can take well to the sauce.

How should you store leftover sweet and sour chicken?

Sweet and sour chicken is best served fresh, so it doesn’t lose any crispiness. But if you have leftovers, they should be stored in an airtight container. They’ll last 3-4 days in the refrigerator. You can freeze the chicken up to 3 months.

Reheat leftover sweet and sour chicken in the oven at 350° for 15-20 minutes or in the air fryer at 350° for 3-4 minutes.

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