The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (2024)

  • Recipes
  • Recipes By Method
  • Stir-Fry
  • Chicken Stir-Fry

Classic Chinese take-out, made in your own kitchen.


J. Kenji López-Alt

The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (1)

J. Kenji López-Alt

Culinary Consultant

Kenji is the former culinary director for Serious Eats and a current culinary consultant for the site. He is also a New York Times food columnist and the author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.

Learn about Serious Eats'Editorial Process

Updated December 06, 2022



Trending Videos

The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (2)

Why It Works

  • A balanced sauce has plenty of vinegary kick to balance out the cloying sweetness that most restaurant versions have.
  • Cooking the aromatics for the sauce at a lower temperature lets their flavors develop without having to superheat your wok or skillet.
  • Adding vodka to the chicken coating inhibits gluten formation and leaves you with a crisper crust.
  • Adding some of the marinade to the dry coating mixture makes more surface area which results in extra crunch.

I developed a great technique for perfecting General Tso’s crispy, battered chicken, which is easily transferred to make an amazing orange chicken, or this sesame chicken. Once you start with the General Tso's base, sesame chicken is even easier than orange chicken. The main difference is that sesame chicken tends to be a little sweeter (if you can imagine that) than General Tso's, with no heat, and a good shower of toasted sesame seeds is added to the sauce.

The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (3)

I make the sauce almost the exact same way I make my General Tso's sauce: sautéed garlic, ginger, and scallions deglazed with a sweet-tart mixture of soy, wine, vinegar, chicken stock, and sugar. I add a little extra sugar and sesame oil to the mix in this case, but otherwise, it's pretty much identical.

The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (4)

Once the chicken is tossed with the sauce, I pile it up in the authentic manner: with steamed broccoli florets and a shower of toasted sesame seeds.

The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (5)

This story was originally published under the column name "The Food Lab Redux."

July 2014

Recipe Details

The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe

Prep10 mins

Cook20 mins

Active45 mins

Total30 mins

Serves4to 6 servings


For the Marinade:

  • 1 egg white

  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (see notes)

  • 2 tablespoons 80-proof vodka

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks (see notes)

For the Dry Coating:

  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (see notes)

  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock

  • 5 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seed oil

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 2 teaspoons peanut, vegetable, or canola oil

  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (about one 1-inch piece)

  • 2 teaspoons minced scallion bottoms (about 1 scallion)

  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

To Finish:

  • 2 quarts peanut, canola, or vegetable oil for deep frying

  • Steamed white rice and steamed broccoli for serving


  1. For the Marinade: Beat egg whites in a large bowl until broken down and lightly foamy. Add soy sauce, wine, and vodka and whisk to combine. Set aside half of marinade in a small bowl. Add baking soda and cornstarch to the large bowl and whisk to combine. Add chicken to large bowl and turn with fingers to coat thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

    The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (6)

  2. For the Dry Coat: Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Whisk until hom*ogenous. Add reserved marinade and whisk until mixture has coarse, mealy clumps. Set aside.

    The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (7)

  3. For the Sauce: Combine soy sauce, wine, vinegar, chicken stock, sugar, sesame seed oil, and cornstarch in a small bowl and stir with a fork until cornstarch is dissolved and no lumps remain. Set aside.

    The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (8)

  4. Combine oil, garlic, ginger, and minced scallions in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are aromatic and soft, but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir sauce mixture and add to skillet, making sure to scrape up any sugar or starch that has sunk to the bottom. Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute. Add half of sesame seeds. Transfer sauce to a bowl to stop cooking, but don't wipe out skillet.

    The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (9)

  5. To Finish: Heat 1 1/2 quarts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil in a large wok or Dutch oven to 350°F (177°C) and adjust flame to maintain temperature.

  6. Working one piece at a time, transfer chicken from marinade to dry coat mixture, tossing in between each addition to coat chicken. When all chicken is added to dry coat, toss with hands, pressing dry mixture onto chicken so it adheres, and making sure that every piece is coated thoroughly.

    The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (10)

  7. Lift chicken one piece at a time, shake off excess coating, and carefully lower into hot oil (do not drop it). Once all chicken is added, cook, agitating with long chopsticks or a metal spider, and adjusting flame to maintain a temperature of 325 to 375°F (163-190°C), until chicken is cooked through and very crispy, about 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain.

    The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (11)

  8. Add chicken to empty skillet and return sauce to skillet. Toss chicken, folding it with a rubber spatula until all pieces are thoroughly coated. Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds and serve immediately with white rice and steamed broccoli.

    The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (12)

Special Equipment

Wok or Dutch oven for deep frying


Shaoxing wine can be found in most Asian markets. If unavailable, dry sherry can be used in its place.

If you can't find boneless skinless chicken thighs, you can debone them yourself using this guide.

Read More

  • Chinese-American Orange Chicken
  • The Best General Tso's Chicken
  • Chicken Stir-Fry
  • Chinese-American
  • Fried Chicken
  • Chicken Thighs
  • Chicken Mains
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
20g Fat
54g Carbs
24g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4to 6
Amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g26%
Saturated Fat 3g16%
Cholesterol 108mg36%
Sodium 962mg42%
Total Carbohydrate 54g20%
Dietary Fiber 1g4%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 24g
Vitamin C 0mg2%
Calcium 78mg6%
Iron 2mg11%
Potassium 331mg7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken Recipe (2024)


What is the sauce made of in sesame chicken? ›

In a separate bowl, create your sauce by combining light soy sauce, ketchup, chicken stock, sugar, honey, and sesame oil. Mix until well combined and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, kosher salt, white pepper, and baking powder.

What is the difference between TSO and sesame chicken? ›

General Tso's chicken is a spicy and tangy dish made with a mix of chicken breast and thighs, while sesame chicken is a sweeter option made with succulent chicken thighs. Whether you're in the mood for something spicy or sweet, both dishes offer a delicious and crispy meal that's sure to satisfy your cravings."

What is sesame chicken from a Chinese restaurant? ›

The dish involves chicken (usually thigh) pieces that are de-boned, battered and Chinese deep-fried, then dressed with a translucent, reddish-brown, semi-thick, somewhat sweet sauce made from corn starch, vinegar, wine or sake, chicken broth and sugar, the last of which is a major contributor to sesame chicken's ...

Is sesame chicken Chinese food healthy? ›

Sesame chicken is one of the more egregiously unhealthy options on the Chinese menu. And it's more addictive than crack. The combination of deep fried chicken coated with a sauce that is 75 percent sugar, basically gives your saliva glands a pleasure-induced panic attack.

What is in Chinese sauce? ›

Chinese Sauces – FAQs

Hoisin sauce is made from fermented soybeans mixed with garlic, chilli, sesame, Chinese spices and vinegar. Char siu sauce is a condiment made from hoisin sauce, sugar, Chinese five spice powder, Chinese cooking wine, soy sauce, garlic and often also food colouring.

Is General Tso and sesame chicken the same sauce? ›

The difference is in the sauce in which fried chicken is coated with. General Tso chicken has Sichuan pepper corns, vingear, shiloxing wine, little sugar while sesame chicken sauce has honey, soya sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, sesame oil.

Why is sesame chicken so good? ›

The chicken is breaded with sesame seeds for an elegant flavor, and it's served with colorful veggies on the side. Depending on your tolerance for spice, you can order it moderate or spicy. The sauce itself has a bite to it and will please anyone who enjoys their meal spicy.

What's better orange chicken or sesame chicken? ›

They are both alike, the only difference is with the sauces. Orange Chicken does not typically included any sesame seeds. Sauce is made from orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, ginger, soy sauce. Sesame Chicken, the sauce is also sweet but it does not included any of the orange flavoring.

What is better Szechuan chicken or General Tso's? ›

Szechuan has more of a bitter taste, general tso has a spicy taste. Both are good, try them see which you like. At a basic level one is stir fried and the other is deep fried. The preparation is different in terms of sauce but depending who is making it can taste similar (the sauce that is).

What is sesame chicken supposed to taste like? ›

Sesame Chicken is typically salty with a hint of sweetness, served with sesame seeds. General Tsos is typically sweeter with a little more heat and served with broccoli and carrots. The sauce is usually more red in color than the brown sauce served with sesame chicken.

Is sesame chicken Americanized? ›

While Sesame Chicken is certainly not a traditional Chinese dish, it always comes to mind when I think of Chinese food. Sesame Chicken is an Asian-American dish that was invented in North America and still appears on Chinese take-out menus to this day.

Is General Tso Chicken sesame chicken? ›

The main difference is that sesame chicken tends to be a little sweeter (if you can imagine that) than General Tso's, with no heat, and a good shower of toasted sesame seeds is added to the sauce.

What is the healthiest thing to order at a Chinese restaurant? ›

Steamed fish or seafood with ginger, scallions and soy sauce. Steamed fish and veggies are packed with fiber and protein. One of the healthiest places you can choose an entree on a Chinese restaurant menu from is the seafood section, according to Amy Yiu, RD, a registered dietitian with Health Stand Nutrition.

What is the healthiest dish at a Chinese restaurant? ›

10 Healthy Chinese Food Options to Order
  • Steamed Fish or Seafood. Steamed seafood is one of the healthiest options you could choose from a Chinese restaurant menu. ...
  • Steamed Buns. ...
  • Miso Soup. ...
  • Rainbow Stir Fry. ...
  • Cucumber and Mushroom Salad. ...
  • Chinese Steamed Scallops and Glass Noodles.
Jul 9, 2023

Does sesame chicken contain soy sauce? ›

Sesame chicken sauce is a balanced combination of sweet, sour and spicy that comes from light soy sauce, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar.

What is Chinese sesame paste made of? ›

Chinese sesame paste (zhī ma jiàng, 芝麻酱) is a richly flavored, thick paste made from toasted white sesame seeds. While you may have heard of tahini, which is a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean paste made from sesame seeds, it is different from Chinese sesame paste in that it contains hulled, raw sesame seeds.

Is tahini sauce the same as sesame sauce? ›

Tahini is sometimes listed as a substitute for sesame paste, but in my mind, the two aren't interchangeable. Though tahini is also made from white sesame seeds, those seeds are usually untoasted or lightly toasted. By comparison, toasted sesame paste is more assertive and aromatic and also thicker in texture.

What does Chinese sesame sauce taste like? ›

Chinese sesame paste is made with hulled seeds that are roasted before they're ground into a thick, coarse paste that takes on a dark tanned hue. On its own, its flavor is similar to unsalted peanut butter with the intensity of fresh-pressed sesame oil.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Chrissy Homenick

Last Updated:

Views: 5941

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Chrissy Homenick

Birthday: 2001-10-22

Address: 611 Kuhn Oval, Feltonbury, NY 02783-3818

Phone: +96619177651654

Job: Mining Representative

Hobby: amateur radio, Sculling, Knife making, Gardening, Watching movies, Gunsmithing, Video gaming

Introduction: My name is Chrissy Homenick, I am a tender, funny, determined, tender, glorious, fancy, enthusiastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.