Make this delicious lighter General Tso’s Chicken at home in only 30 minutes. Just follow these easy step by step photo instructions.
Editor's Note: Originally Published October 17, 2012. Updated with expanded details and options along with updated photos.
Want to skip "the story"? Jump to Pro Tips/Recipe Discussion/Options
Quick, easy, and tasty. My absolute favorite Chinese dish. This is now a weeknight 30-minute recipe. And as a bonus, this version is much healthier.
I have worked on this recipe for almost a month. Most recipes are easy, but the workflow and the taste of model recipes just didn't work for me.
I started with an American Test Kitchen version that was an absolute disaster. Yes, I do have those. Over an hour of hard cooking, and I created the biggest mess I have ever made in the kitchen.
Plus we hated it, way too much vinegar and poor results overall. With that much work, it needs to be great. I was very disappointed. My wife was likewise unimpressed. It went to the garbage.
Several more recipes trials and it was starting to get really old. What others thought was great and wonderful just wasn't. All had too much vinegar and too many unusual ingredients. Plus, they all took too much work for my "cooking for two" world.
Ultimately, I used a Martha Stewart recipe which was the inspiration for Lighter General Tso's Chicken from Tracey's Culinary Adventure. I used a little of both and simplified.
Pro Tips: Recipe Notes for Easy General Tso's Chicken
What is General Tso's Chicken?
General Tso's chicken is generally a sweet and somewhat spicy deep-fried chicken dish that is served in most North American Chinese restaurants.
It is not a traditional Chinese dish, although it is probably some basis in traditional Chinese fare. Most likely what we now know as General Tso’s Chicken originated in New York City in the 1970s, but there are lots of conflicting claims about who and where.
Wherever it started, it is now standard fare on almost every North American Chinese restaurant. And always one of the most popular dishes.
What Chicken to Use?
This is a "lighter" version so skinless boneless chicken breasts are my choice here but thighs will work fine.
If you use thighs, the cooking temperature should be to 180-185 instead of 165. This is a texture suggestion. Thighs are safe at 165, but you will like the texture much better at 180.
Coating and Cooking the Chicken
The chicken is coated with some egg white and corn starch than pan-fried. So healthier than deep-frying and easier at home
The Martha method of cooking the chicken is a little fussy with turning each little piece to brown over and over. Plus doing it in two batches. This involves standing there continuously for about 20 minutes.
I put it all in at once and stirred occasionally. A little of the coating came off (some even came off in the Martha method also), but most stayed on, and your sin is hidden by the sauce anyways.
I don't usually cook with things you may not have in your kitchen, but I did use Hoisin sauce which is commonly available and good to have around. It is worth buying just for this recipe but has many uses.
Ultimately, I took the vinegar out completely of the recipe. There is some vinegar in the Hoisin sauce, and that was enough.
I left in some dry ginger, but many recipes call for fresh ginger which I don't usually have and we don't really like. Adjust if you want.
A heat note. The red pepper is "to taste". 1/4 teaspoon has minimal heat (1/10) but some nice taste. 1/2 teaspoon is about what you would normally have in a restaurant (3/10) but 1 teaspoon is more for the heat lover (7/10).
I have more brown sugar in this than may be needed, and I will be cutting that down some in futures cookings. I really think it can cut in half without much effect.
Great Chinese Dishes
The only "special" thing is Hoisin sauce. I'm now going to stock it in my refrigerator.
Start by patting dry and trimming two skinless boneless chicken breast. Then cube into about 1-inch pieces.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet or a wok. Whisk together 2 egg whites or one whole egg, corn starch, salt, and pepper.
Add chicken to the egg mixture and stir to coat.
Shake excess coating off the chicken and add one piece at a time to the hot oil. You can be a perfectionist and do half turning them nicely for 8 to 10 minutes and repeat. OR put them all in and occasionally stir like lazy me for about 12-14 minutes. Be sure the internal temp gets to 165 by checking multiple pieces. Use 180 degrees as your endpoint if using thighs.
While the chicken is cooking, start the sauce — Whisk corn starch into 1/2 cup water. Then add brown sugar, Hoisin sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, dry ginger and crushed red pepper.
When the chicken is done, transfer to a bowl and decrease the heat to medium-low. Add the sauce and whisk continuously while boiling until well thickened 2-3 minutes.
Add the chicken back in and stir to coat.
Easy General Tso Chicken
- 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts - about 10-12 oz. each.
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 egg whites - or one egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoons pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar - or less
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 1/4 teaspoon dry ginger
- ¼ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper - See recipe notes below
- cooked rice
- toasted sesame seeds
- Start by patting dry and trimming two skinless boneless chicken breast. Then cube into about 1-inch pieces.
- Heat 2 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet or a wok.
- Whisk together 2 egg whites, 3 tablespoon corn starch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Add chicken to the egg mixture and stir to coat. Shake excess coating off the chicken and add one piece at a time to the hot oil.
- You can be a perfectionist and do half turning them nicely for 8 to 10 minutes and repeat. OR put them all in and occasionally stir like lazy me for about 12-14 minutes. Be sure the internal temp gets to 165 by checking multiple pieces. Use 180 degrees as your endpoint if using thighs.While the chicken is cooking, start the sauce — Whisk 1 tablespoon corn starch into 1/2 cup water. Then add 1/2 cup brown sugar (decrease if you want). 3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce, 3 tablespoons ketchup, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon dry ginger and crushed red pepper. The red pepper is more to taste. 1/2 teaspoon is a mild heat (3/10), and 1 teaspoon is what I think of in Tso's chicken (7/10).
- The chicken is done at 165 then transfer to a bowl and decrease the heat to medium-low.
- Add the sauce and whisk continuously while boiling until well thickened 2-3 minutes.
- Add the chicken back in and stir to coat.
- Transfer to serving dish and top with toasted sesame seeds you wish.
- You can use chicken thighs. I feel you should cook to 180 for thighs for better texture. They are safe at 165.
- The Hoisin sauce is needed, and I would not skip it.
- The sweetness is on the high side. Decrease the brown sugar if you want.
- I used two egg whites to make this "lighter" but use one whole egg if you want.
- The red pepper is "to taste". 1/4 teaspoon has minimal heat (1/10) but some nice taste. 1/2 teaspoon is about what you would normally have in a restaurant (3/10), but 1 teaspoon is more for the heat lover (7/10).
- Good refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. I don't see this freezing well.
ADJUST THE RECIPE SIZE:You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
Nutrition is generally for one serving. Number of servings is stated above and is my estimate of normal serving size for this recipe.
All nutritional information are estimates and may vary from your actual results. This is home cooking, and there are many variables. To taste ingredients such as salt will be my estimate of the average used.
Originally Published October 17, 2012.