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Chinese Sweet and Spicy Chicken Recipe (Sesame Chicken)

I have always loved a great Chinese sweet and spicy chicken recipe and this sesame chicken is one of my faves. Better than take-out, this chicken recipe with its spicy sweet sauce is one I eat over and over!

Many years ago, before kids, there was a Chinese restaurant in Denver that made one of the best Chinese sweet and spicy chicken recipes I know of.

It became craveworthy, especially while I was pregnant.

I’d often ask Manservant to pick up Chinese food on the way home just so I could order this dish.

He would get Mongolian beef and I would get sesame chicken with its sweet and spicy sauce.

Truth is though it wasn’t very good by the time he got it home because the fried chicken nuggets that it was made with would get soggy while covered with the delicious sauce.

There are lots of ways to make this sesame chicken otherwise known as sweet and spicy chicken.

I happened to find this recipe a very long time ago in the Denver Post claiming to be the long lost recipe I’ve been searching for.

All I know is that it does taste just like I remembered.

With its sticky sauce and its blackened red peppers, this sweet and spicy Asian chicken recipe is better than the Chinese restaurants serve today.

Now I’m not going to tell you that this is an authentic Chinese recipe.

I’ve never seen it in any Chinese cookbook listed as a recipe originating in China.

I have seen chicken with sesame seeds and such, but not with this sweet and spicy sauce.

However if anyone wants to send me back, I’d be happy to do more research on this!

In any case this sweet and spicy chicken recipe, made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts is a real treat for me.

Chinese Sweet and Spicy Chicken Recipe in Asian bowl with chopsticks

Different than orange chicken which is made with orange juice and different than General Tso’s chicken which is more spicy, this American Chinese chicken dish utilizes chili peppers and sugar to achieve its flavor.

Never had crispy sesame chicken?

You don’t know what you are missing!

Basically a fried chicken nugget, the secret to this easy chicken recipe is all in the sauce.

This sweet and spicy sesame chicken is meant to be consumed in one sitting.

And if you are like me that is no problem.

Feel free to increase the spiciness or decrease the sweetness, however I think the secret is the balance of the two.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

Craving the bold flavors of Sweet and Spicy Chinese Chicken, but want to skip the takeout?

This easy homemade recipe promises succulent chicken, crispy bites, and a delectable sauce that strikes the perfect balance between sweet and spicy. 

Ingredients for Homemade Chinese Sweet and Spicy Chicken Recipe:

Chicken Marinade:

  • Skinless chicken thighs or breasts 
  • Corn starch for coating
  • Egg White
  • Vegetable oil for frying (Canola or Peanut)
  • Light and Dark soy sauce
  • Salt
  • Chinese rice wine or sherry


  • Dark soy sauce 
  • Light soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar or White vinegar
  • Cider vinegar
  • Chili Sauce with Garlic
  • Sugar
  • Chicken broth
  • Rice Wine or Sherry


  • Canola oil
  • Garlic (3 cloves, minced)
  • Dried Red Peppers (I use Arbol peppers because they are easy to find.)
  • Green onions (2, chopped)
  • Sesame seeds for garnish

Chinese Sweet and Spicy Chicken Recipe (Sesame Chicken in Asian bowl with chopsticks)

Step-by-Step Instructions To Make This Chinese Sweet and Spicy Chicken Recipe (Sesame Chicken)

  1. Prepare the Chicken:
    • Cut chicken pieces into generous chunks.
    • Marinate in soy sauces, salt and rice wine for 30 minutes to add flavor.
    • Add egg white and mix well. Stir in cornstarch.
    • Fry chicken on medium heat until golden brown and crispy. Place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
    • Pour off hot oil from wok or large skillet and reserve 2 tablespoons.
  2. Make the Sauce:
    • In a bowl, combine all sauce ingredients. Adjust sweetness and spiciness according to your taste.
  3. Stir-Fry:
    • In the same skillet or wok, heat the reserved oil over medium heat.
    • Add minced garlic and dried peppers, stir-frying for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and until the peppers have turned dark red.
    • Add sauce and cook until thickened, about 5 – 8 minutes. This will bubble and simmer and you want this to thicken, but do not overcook or it will turn into sticky caramel. It should still be pourable and the liquid should decrease by about 1/3.
  4. Combine Chicken and Sauce:
    • Add the crispy chicken to the skillet, tossing it in the savory sauce until each piece is well coated.
    • Stir in the sesame seeds to coat the chicken.
  5. Garnish and Serve:
    • Sprinkle chopped green onions and sesame seeds over the dish.
    • Serve this Chinese Sweet and Spicy Chicken recipe over white rice or cauliflower rice for a lighter option.

Chinese Sweet and Spicy Chicken (Sesame Chicken in Asian bowl with orange chopsticks

Why I Love This Homemade Sweet and Spicy Chinese Chicken:

  1. Depth of Flavor:
    • The combination of soy sauces,vinegars and chili garlic sauce creates a savory sauce with a perfect balance of umami and sweetness.
  2. Versatility:
    • Customize the spice level by adjusting the chili garlic sauce or sriracha and red pepper flakes, to make it suitable for your taste buds!
  3. Crispy Chicken Bites:
    • The secret to the dish’s texture is the crispy chicken and the sticky sauce.
  4. Family-Friendly:
    • This Sweet and Spicy Chinese Chicken is a family favorite, at least in our family.
    • Though I have never tried this, I am guessing you could use a good quality frozen chicken nuggets and skip the frying porocess.
  5. Quick and Easy:
    • With easy steps and simple ingredients, this recipe is perfect for busy weeknights when you crave a homemade Chinese delight.

Tips for Success:

  1. Control the Heat:
    • Adjust the spice level by adding or reducing sriracha sauce, chili garlic sauce and red pepper flakes, ensuring it suits your preference.
  2. Sauce:
    • It’s very important to not let this sauce over thicken or it will turn to caramel. 
  3. Serve Immediately:
    • To enjoy the crispy texture of the chicken, serve immediately after tossing in the sauce.
  4. Garnish for Flavor:
    • Fresh green onions and sesame seeds not only add a burst of color, and texture, but also enhance the overall flavor of the dish.

Why Choose Homemade:

  1. Control Over Ingredients:
    • Crafting this dish at home allows you to control the quality of ingredients, ensuring a fresh and wholesome meal. I love Chinese takeout but have often found this dish to be overly sweet. I also prefer it made with boneless chicken breasts and many restaurants make it with boneless chicken thighs.
    • The primary reason I choose homemade is that I find it much more relaxing to eat at home. And also because I don’t know of a restaurant that makes Sesame Chicken as good as this recipe!

Chinese Sweet and Spicy Chicken Recipe

I’ve seen many recipes for this sweet and spicy sesame chicken and they all are a little but different.

Some contain ketchup or brown sugar.

Others contain honey. Some add in sweet chili sauce.

I am sure they must all achieve the same result, but this is the recipe I am used to.

Serve this dish with some steamed broccoli or peapods or even stir-fried red bell peppers. 

This way you can say you are getting your vegetables in!

Truly I think this Chinese sweet and spicy chicken recipe is one the whole family will enjoy, if you haven’t already discovered it.

Now teach everyone to eat with chopsticks so you can make it last a little longer!

And oh yeah-don’t eat the peppers!

Sesame Chicken in Asian bowl with orange chopsticks (Chinese Sweet and SPicy Chicken Recipe)

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Sesame Chicken in Asian bowl with orange chopsticks (Chinese Sweet and SPicy Chicken Recipe)

Chinese Sweet and Spicy Sesame Chicken Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 Minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 3-4 Servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Asian


I have been eating this sweet and spicy chicken recipe, I call sesame chicken, since before my kids were born. Truly addictive, I love these crispy chicken nuggets smothered with this sticky, spicy sweet sauce!


Units Scale

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into good-sized pieces for frying

1 t light soy sauce

1 t dark soy sauce

1/2 t salt

2 t rice wine or sherry

1 lightly beaten egg white

4 T cornstarch

Oil for Frying

1 t minced garlic

6 dried red peppers

2 to 4 T sesame seeds


1/2 c granulated sugar

3/4 T light soy sauce

1 T dark soy sauce

1 1/4 T white vinegar

3/4 T cider vinegar

2 1/2 t rice wine or sherry

11/2 t chili with garlic sauce

1/2 c chicken broth


Cut chicken into generous bite-sized chunks.

Combine soy sauces, salt and wine. Add chicken, toss well and marinate about 30 minutes.

Make sauce by whisking all the ingredients together in a large measuring cup. Taste for heat. You may want more chili garlic sauce.

Add lightly beaten egg white to chicken mixture, mixing well. Stir in cornstarch. If cornstarch is not sticking, lightly dip in 1 more T of cornstarch that has been mixed with 1 T of flour.

Heat about 1/2 c of oil in wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces, being sure not to overcrowd or they will steam and not get crispy. You may have to do this in batches. Cook until golden brown and crispy but do not let the chicken get overcooked. Remove chicken and drain on paper towels. Pour oil out into a glass measuring cup. Wipe wok clean and add back 2 T of oil and return to medium heat.

Add 6 small dried red peppers and cook until peppers are blackened, stirring frequently. When peppers are almost blackened-turning a deep red color-add the garlic, stirring frequently.

Add sauce and cook uncovered  until thickened. Mixture will simmer and it will be hard to tell that it has thickened. It should cook down by about a third. Do not let this overcook or it will turn into caramel.

Add back the cooked chicken and stir until well coated with sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onion before serving.


This is delicious served with white rice to soak up the sauce.

Make just before serving to retain the crispy chicken.

Chicken pieces can be made ahead and kept warm in the oven until you are ready to add to the sauce.

Leftover chicken can be reheated in an airfryer. However if you think you are going to have leftovers the best bet is to keep the sauce and the chicken separate. Then heat each separately and the mix together.

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star


Tuesday 20th of February 2024

Wow, this also looks delicious. I am SO GLAD I found your recipes. Everything actually looks delicious so I'll be back for more. And the pictures of the food makes me "have to make them" because they look so beautiful and delicious. Thank you.


Tuesday 20th of February 2024

Thanks so much Sharon! Enjoy and let me know if there is anything in particular you'd like to see!


Thursday 8th of February 2024

This is really "must do"; ready within 35 minutes, with rice and greens made while it's cooking, we're both in! Thank you so much!


Thursday 8th of February 2024

I really love this recipe and hope you do, too!