There are some dishes that are true representations of what is eaten in any of the hundreds of provinces of China, and there are some dishes that have really come to be in American Chinese restaurants. This dish is the latter, but no inarguably delicious and certainly adored in the U.S. and beyond.
General Tso’s Chicken is one of those dishes that graces many an American Chinese food restaurant, and one of those dishes it’s hard not to order. Often it’s deep fried, and — while irresistible — not the kind of thing you can justify eating too often. This version incorporates all of the flavors that make this dish so seductive, but it shouldn’t leave you wondering why you treated your family to this dinner.
Cooking the Chicken
I use chicken thighs, which is what is usually used in restaurants; it’s moister and more flavorful than chicken breasts, but you can use chicken breasts if that’s what you prefer. The cooking time will be slightly shorter for white meat (breasts) vs dark meat (thighs), so keep that in mind.
The chicken is tossed with cornstarch before being cooked which allows it to form a nice crispy crust on the outside. It also helps to thicken the sauce when it is added at the end, so two advantages for the price of one ingredient.
You’ll want to cook the chicken in two batches so as not to crowd the chicken in the pan. Make sure the pieces are separated from one another, and while you don’t have to brown all of the sides, do brown the chicken as much as possible without overcooking it.
General Tso’s Chicken: In this homemade version of a Chinese restaurant favorite crispy nuggets of moist chicken are glazed in a slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and immensely flavorful sauce.Tweet This
Sauce for General Tso’s Chicken
The sauce that coats the chunks of lightly pan-fried chicken is a bit sweet, a bit spicy, and immensely flavorful. Garlic, ginger, sesame oil mingle with the soy sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar to create a glazey sauces that clings nicely to the chicken. The short cooking time needed to thicken up and heat the sauce allows the nuggets of chicken to remain crispy, which is part of the appeal of this dish.
What is the Difference Between Sesame Chicken and General Tso’s Chicken?
General Tso’s chicken tends to be a bit sweeter and a bit hotter than sesame chicken, which as the name suggests, has a pronounced sesame flavor. I use a bit of sesame oil and suggest garnishing with toasted sesame seeds in this General Tso’s chicken recipe, so there is still sesame going on, but it’s not the predominant flavor. If you want your sauce a bit spicier you can bump up the amount of red pepper flakes, or even add a squirt of hot sauce, like Sriracha, to the sauce.
How to Pronounce General Tso
SO, how do you spell and pronounce General Tso?
I can only imagine that the waitstaff in a Chinese restaurant that serves this dish has heard it all. First, the spelling. General Tso’s Chicken is the most common way you’ll see it spelled, but Tsao, Tsau, and even Gau are not uncommon.
The short answer from a spin around the internet and a confab with my friend Katie Chin who is Chinese AND a chef is that you pronounce it like “so” (silent t), but as I write this I am sure others will disagree.
What to Serve with General Tso’s Chicken:
- Braised Asian Baby Bok Choy
- Clean and Spicy Asian Greens
- Japanese Cucumber Salad
- Sesame Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms
- Mixed Green Salad with Creamy Sesame Dressing
- Cauliflower with Sesame Drizzle
Other Chicken Stir Fry Recipes:
- Stir Fried Chicken with Scallions
- Stir Fried Chicken with Pea Shoots
- Chicken and Cabbage Stir Fry with Miso Sauce
- Chicken Stir Fry with Peanuts
- Chicken, Broccoli and Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry
- Chicken and Spinach Stir-Fry with Ginger and Oyster Sauce
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Easy General Tso’s Chicken
- ¼ cup chicken broth , preferably cup less sodium
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce , preferably less-sodium
- 3 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice or cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs , cut into 1-inch pieces (see Note)
- 4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil , divided
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 4 scallions , white and green parts, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- Hot cooked rice to serve (optional)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, ginger and red pepper flakes. Set aside
- Place the cornstarch in a large bowl and stir in the salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat well.
- Heat half of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add half the chicken, making sure it is in a single layer and cook without stirring for 3 minutes, until the bottom is browned. Turn the chicken (tongs are best for this) and let sit in the pan so that another side browns. Repeat until the chicken is cooked through and browned on as many sides as possible; not all of the sides need to brown, about 10 minutes in all. Transfer to a plate. Add the rest of the oil and cook the rest of the chicken the same way. Add the second batch of the chicken to the first batch on the plate, pour off any excess oil from the pan.
- Return the cooked chicken to the pan and stir in the garlic and the scallions. Whisk the sauce again to blend and pour it into the pan. Cook, stirring frequently until the sauce thickens and coasts all of the chicken, about 1 minute. Serve the chicken over the rice sprinkled with sesame seeds if desired.
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