Homemade General Tso’s Chicken with crispy pan-fried chicken in a sweet, sticky sauce featuring ginger, garlic, soy sauce, dried red chilies and rice wine vinegar. It’s the perfect healthier takeout alternative, kid-friendly, and easy to make.
Some other take-out favorites to imitate include Thai Basil Chicken, Mongolian Beef, and Kung Pao Chicken. is one of my favorites, and so are these PF Chang’s lettuce wraps.
General Tso’s Chicken is one of the most popular Chinese restaurant recipes in the US. It’s super easy to make as it’s just battered, fried chicken, served in a yummy sauce. As always, homemade is healthier, fresher and cheaper than takeout. Plus there’s the pride and joy of knowing you can do it just as well!
The recipe for General Tso’s Chicken was invented in Taiwan for some visiting American Navy SEALs in the 1950s. The chef, who had fled there with the republican forces of Chiang Kai-shek during the communist revolution, named the dish after Zuo Zongtang, a famous general from his home province of Hunan. The chef eventually moved to the US and opened a Chinese restaurant that popularized the recipe.
It’s typical of Hunan cuisine in that it derives its flavor from ginger, garlic, soy sauce, dried red chilies and rice wine vinegar. Also hoisin sauce which incorporates fennel and fermented soybean paste. Brown sugar was added to adapt the dish to the American palate.
How to make General Tso’s Chicken:
Note: If cooking for kids, leave out red pepper flakes and add at end for adults.
- Prepare the sauce: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and cornstarch.
- Prep the breading: In a large ziplock bag, combine cornstarch, flour, salt and pepper. Shake, shake, shake. In a small bowl, whisk egg whites.
- Bread the chicken: Coat chicken pieces in egg whites, lift and allow to drip off, then drop into breading bag. Shake till coated.
- Fry the chicken: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half a cup of oil. Once oil is hot, fry the chicken in batches (don’t crowd), 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through. Remove to a plate.
- Add sauce to same pan and simmer until warm and thickened. Toss the chicken in the sauce just before serving.
- Serve with white or brown rice (or for some Pan-Asian fusion, Kimchi Fried Rice) garnished with green onions and/or sesame seeds.
Vegetarian: Sub extra-firm tofu for chicken. Press excess moisture out of the tofu by putting it between paper towels and putting something heavy like a cast-iron skillet on top, leaving it for a few minutes. Proceed as with the chicken.
Air-Fryer: This recipe is PERFECT for your air fryer! Just preheat to 400 degrees and, after breading, spread chicken pieces evenly so they don’t touch, spray with olive oil, and cook for 15 minutes.
Slow Cooker: Mix the sauce ingredients together. Prepare the chicken the same, but cook on very high heat for only 1 minute on each side, to brown the coating but not cook the chicken through. Spray slow cooker with non stick cooking spray and add chicken, then pour half of the sauce on top. Cook on LOW for 2-3 hours. Stir in the remaining sauce. Garnish with chopped green onions.
Other Popular Asian Inspired Dishes to Explore:
- Hibachi Chicken
- Pho Vietnamese Noodle Soup
- Fresh Spring Rolls
- Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Kung Pao Chicken
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General Tso’s Chicken
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup oil (vegetable or canola oil)
For the sauce:
- 2/3 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar , packed
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger , or 1 Tablespoon fresh minced ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more, to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Add the sauce ingredients to bowl and whisk well to combine. Set aside.
- Add cornstarch, flour, and salt and pepper to a large ziplock bag and shake to combine. Whisk egg whites in a separate bowl.
- Add chicken pieces to the egg whites and toss to coat. Spoon coated chicken pieces into the ziplock bag, allowing excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Shake the bag to coat chicken evenly in the cornstarch mixture.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil. Once oil is hot and some of the chicken (it's best to cook the chicken in 2 or 3 batches, so it browns better). Cook the chicken 2-3 minutes on each side, until the coating is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. Remove to a plate. Repeat until all of the chicken has cooked, and set aside on a plate.
- Add the sauce to the pan and simmer until warm and thickened. Toss the chicken in the sauce just before serving.
- Serve with hot cooked white or brown rice. Garnish with chopped green onions.
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I originally shared this recipe February 2016. Updated August 2020.
Really good sauce. Cooking the chicken is a pain. I couldn’t figure out how to keep the flour from browning in the cooking batches.
Find a different recipe, folks! This sauce tastes terrible and completely ruined the meal. It was too thick (WAY too much hoisin sauce?) and did not taste or look anything like General Tso’s. Nobody was able to eat more than a few bites. I wish I had noticed and read the multiple negative comments warning people about this recipe before wasting time and money on it. We ended up throwing it all in the garbage and getting fast food instead.
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