General Tso’s Chicken (Crispy Chicken Without Deep-Frying)

An easy General Tso’s chicken recipe that yields crispy chicken without deep-frying. It also uses much less sugar while maintaining a great bold taste. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll skip takeout next time because it’s so easy to make in your own kitchen. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

General Tso’s Chicken in a pan

The first time I heard about General Tso’s Chicken was right after I started blogging in 2013. I thought it was an American Chinese dish that was invented by the early immigrants. A few years later I watched In Search of General Tso. The story is more complicated – the signature Chinese dish reflects the journey of the spread of Chinese food in the US. And to be honest, it’s quite amazing.

Here are some fun facts about General Tso’s Chicken:

  • The dish doesn’t exist in China.
  • General Tso was a real person in Chinese history but has nothing to do with this dish.
  • The dish was originally introduced to the US by a Chinese chef from Taiwan.
  • The techniques and flavors of the dish were inspired by those of Hunan cuisine.

I used to stay away from American Chinese food because it’s not a part of the food culture I grew up with. But gradually I started to embrace it more after living in the US for a few years. After all, American Chinese food did help spread Chinese food culture in the US, which is awesome. Plus, the food tastes really good!

General Tso’s Chicken served with broccoli

Why this recipe

Today I want to share my interpretation of General Tso’s Chicken that yields a great taste like the restaurant version, but is more practical for any cook to make in their home kitchen. The greatest things about this recipe are:

  • You will use much less oil to cook the chicken. No deep-frying required. The chicken will end up super crispy and stay that way, even after it’s been tossed in the sauce.
  • The tangy sauce is well balanced, rich, and sticky. It also uses less sugar than the mainstream recipes out there.
  • No wok required! You can use a regular skillet to make this dish taste great.

General Tso’s Chicken Cooking notes

1. How to make crispy chicken without deep frying

Now here is the trick to creating crispy chicken with a crunchy coating that is like the takeout you’d get from Chinese restaurants, without making a mess.

Simply use the formula: oil + salt + egg + cornstarch

This combination creates a dry batter that is suitable for pan-frying. Normally, deep frying requires at least a few cups of oil. For this recipe, you only need a regular skillet and 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of oil to pan-fry the chicken. Not only does it yield an extra crispy exterior and juicy, flavorful meat, but the chicken also stays crispy even after you coat it with sauce.

2. Use any cut of chicken you like

Although I always prefer chicken thighs, you can use chicken breast and create awesome results, as well.

Just remember to cut the chicken into 1-inch to 1 and 1/4-inch pieces. The size of the chicken pieces matters because you want the surface to turn crispy with the inside just cooked through at the same time. It doesn’t matter if you use breasts or thighs. I’ve tried both and they both turned out awesome.

Homemade General Tso’s Chicken in a pan

3. Key ingredient

Many General Tso’s chicken recipes call for rice vinegar. But if you really want the rich tangy taste like the restaurant version, you should use Chinkiang vinegar instead.

Chinkiang vinegar (Zhenjiang vinegar, 镇江香醋) is a type of Chinese black vinegar. It is made from various grains and is aged until the color turns dark brown or inky black. It has a rich, pungent, and tart flavor, sometimes with a hint of sweetness. It has a fermented malty taste and a woody character that distinguish it from the light-colored and fruity rice vinegar.

These days it’s quite easy to find it in an Asian market and even at regular grocery stores. You can also shop for it on Amazon.

4. Workflow

Before you start cooking, your countertop should have:

  • Marinated chicken that’s coated with cornstarch
  • A bowl of chopped ginger and garlic
  • Dried chili peppers
  • Mixed sauce

Homemade General Tso’s Chicken ingredients

To cook General Tso’s chicken, you need to:

  • Pan-fry the chicken, then transfer the cooked chicken onto a plate.
  • Saute the aromatics, then add the sauce.
  • Once the sauce thickens, add back the chicken and toss everything together.

That’s it! Sounds super easy doesn’t it?

Note, it’s very important to remove the chicken from the pan. Letting the chicken cool off a bit before adding it back into the skillet is a crucial step for keeping the coating crispy. Plus, your pan will become very hot after you fry the chicken. I usually remove the pan from the heat for a few seconds before adding the aromatics, so it won’t burn the ingredients.

General Tso’s Chicken cooking step-by-step

Perfect party food

This General Tso’s chicken makes a great party food. The batter holds up really well and the chicken will remain crispy even if you let the dish sit for a while after cooking. If you’re hosting a dinner party and have multiple stir-fried dishes, you can make this one in advance and keep it in the oven on low heat until you’re ready to serve it.

This dish is so addictive that I can finish one pound of chicken in one sitting. I highly doubt you’ll have any leftovers when you cook it. But just in case you do need to heat up the dish, here is a good way. You can preheat your oven to 350 F and spread the chicken onto a baking dish. Once the chicken is heated through, it will be pretty crispy again.

General Tso’s Chicken close up

More Chinese takeout recipes

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

General Tso’s Chicken - An easy General Tso's chicken recipe that yields crispy chicken without deep-frying, served with a sticky, tangy, and sweet sauce. It also uses much less sugar while maintaining a great bold taste. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll skip takeout next time because it’s so easy to make in your own kitchen. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

General Tso’s Chicken (Crispy Chicken Without Deep-Frying)

An easy General Tso's chicken recipe that yields crispy chicken without deep-frying. It also uses much less sugar while maintaining a great bold taste. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll skip takeout next time because it’s so easy to make in your own kitchen. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}
To make this dish gluten-free, use tamari or coconut aminos instead of light soy sauce and dark soy sauce, use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine, and use rice vinegar to replace Chinkiang vinegar.
4.95 from 17 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: takeout
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 411kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450 grams) boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts , cut into 1" (2 cm) pieces
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 egg , beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch

Sauce (or pre-made General Tso’s Sauce)

Stir fry

  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 7 to 8 Chinese chili peppers , dried (*Footnote)
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced

Instructions

  • Mix all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set it aside.
  • Combine the chicken pieces, vegetable oil, and salt in a big bowl. Mix well and let it marinate for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Add the beaten egg into the bowl with the chicken. Stir to mix well. Add the cornstarch. Stir to coat the chicken until it forms an uneven coating with a little dry cornstarch left unattached.
  • Heat the stir-fry oil in a heavy-duty skillet until hot, until it just starts to smoke. Add the chicken all at once and spread it out into a single layer in the skillet. Separate the chicken pieces with a pair of tongs or chopsticks.
  • Cook without touching the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bottom turns golden. Flip to brown the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a big plate and remove the pan from the stove. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Place the pan back onto the stove and turn to medium heat. You should still have 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Add the dried chili pepper, garlic, and ginger. Cook and stir a few times until it releases its fragrance.
  • Stir the sauce again to dissolve the cornstarch completely. Pour it into the pan. Stir and cook until it thickens, when you can draw a line on the bottom with a spatula without the sauce running back immediately.
  • Add back the chicken pieces. Stir to coat the chicken with sauce, 30 seconds. Transfer everything to a plate immediately.
  • Serve hot as main over steamed rice with blanched broccoli.

Notes

  1. You can use dried Chinese or Korean chili peppers in the dish. They add aroma to the sauce but don’t really add spiciness. If you want the sauce to be spicy, you should cut the peppers in half to release the seeds. Or you can add a small pinch of cayenne pepper to the sauce mixture.

Nutrition

Serving: 4g | Calories: 411kcal | Carbohydrates: 29.5g | Protein: 25.2g | Fat: 20.6g | Saturated Fat: 4.3g | Cholesterol: 112mg | Sodium: 891mg | Potassium: 251mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 12.8g | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 2mg

The recipe is published on Sep 13, 2016 and updated by Aug 2, 2019. Please note, the recipe has changed from the previous version.

General Tso’s Chicken - An easy General Tso's chicken recipe that yields crispy chicken without deep-frying, served with a sticky, tangy, and sweet sauce. It also uses much less sugar while maintaining a great bold taste. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll skip takeout next time because it’s so easy to make in your own kitchen. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Disclosure

Omnivore's Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

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39 thoughts on “General Tso’s Chicken (Crispy Chicken Without Deep-Frying)

  1. Pingback: Szechuan Style Stir-Fried Cauliflower - Vitamin Sunshine

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Ravi, I shared an old video of sweet sour chicken that I’ve made before just to show the techniques. The two recipes do use slightly different ingredients, but I thought the video will be helpful since the general workflow is the same.

      Reply
  2. Nicholas Ng

    As a Malaysian Chinese, the first thing I thought to myself was, this is definitely not a Chinese dish and to learn to cook this classic dish the Chinese way was going to baffle me. But after reading it, I felt much more comfortable. Cuisines change and adapt to locality. This I know as a Malaysian Chinese. This dish looks good, no arguing there and uses very traditional Chinese flavours so I believe if anything you’re helping understand our culture a little more.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Nicolas, I totally understand and I shared the same feeling too. The idea bothered me a bit because it is not a real Chinese dish that I’ve known. But I started to view it differently since I watched the documentary. There are quite a few sweet and sour dishes in China do use the same method and very similar sauce. Only we cooked with pork and shrimp, even fish, most of the time. But I’d give General Tso’s chicken credit if it made Chinese food more popular in the US 🙂

      Reply
  3. Jiwlts

    Thank you for this recipe. It was always one of my husband’s favorites. We don’t eat Chinese takeout any more, and this will give me an opportunity to make his favorite dish. Now, I just need to run to the local Asian store to pick up the two ingredients that I am missing.

    Reply
  4. Bam's Kitchen

    5 stars
    I have not had General Tso’s chicken before either. As you said you cannot find this dish in China. I love your helpful hints to prepare this dish. I know my boys would love this but I might try to make the dish without frying..maybe just stir fry the chicken, .just because I am not real keen on the cleanup… LOL

    Reply
  5. James Ng

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie.this evening is my third time I cook this dish. It turned very well! Much better than the first two times.
    Thank you very much for this recipe . Makes my dinner preparation very much simple!

    Reply
  6. Sara Price

    5 stars
    This is an incredible recipe. Definitely worth doing. The method makes the breading and pan frying really quick and easy compared to other methods. I strongly recommend this recipe. We are a gluten free family and it’s been amazing having gluten free Chinese food recipes we can make at home.

    Reply
  7. Arusha Zulfiqar

    5 stars
    Turned out great in my cast iron skillet!
    I used around 4tsp chili flakes cause I didnt have dried chilis. I also substituted sugar for 1/4 cup honey

    Great recipe 🙂

    Reply
  8. Valerie

    5 stars
    So crunchy, sweet, tangy, and like you said–highly addictive. And not a ton of oil. The other person at the table is lucky if they even get a morsel. I also made your char sui a while back and used a pork butt. Honestly Maggie, every recipe I’ve made has been delicious, and there are more to try!

    Reply
  9. Herman Gersten

    5 stars
    Until now, Maggie, i never paid much attention to General Tso’s Chicken. Those days are over, thanks to your delicious and easy to prepare recipe. We couldn’t stop reaching for more. Thank you for posting this great rendition of a well-known dish. I will proudly serve it often.

    Reply
  10. Emily

    I love that this is adaptable to make gluten-free. It is so delicious. This is a definite comfort food during this self-isolation.

    Reply
  11. Lisa

    5 stars
    I made this last night, I crowded the pan (on the list to get a larger frying pan) with the chicken pieces they still came out DELICIOUS. The sauce was so good. This recipe will be on the rotation. Next time I am going to try the Tofu version. Great instructions and photographs.

    Reply
  12. Yegor Timofeyenko

    5 stars
    This version of General Tso’s Chicken is the exact flavor of General Tso’s Chicken you will get at the best Chinese restaurants.

    I have been cooking Chinese cuisine for over 15 years now and only recently made General Tso’s Chicken for the first time, using Maggie’s recipe. I normally don’t order it at Chinese restaurants, but will steal a bite if my wife orders it. Among restaurants there are a million different versions of this recipe, but if you go to an authentic restaurant that also has a Sichuan chef, you will most likely be served the version Maggie described here. I personally have only liked this version of General Tso’s chicken. After making this recipe I see why. If you compare the General Tso sauce here to Maggie’s version of Sichuan beef sauce in the Real-Deal Szechuan Beef Stir Fry recipe, this General Tso’s sauce is the same as the Maggie’s Sichuan sauce, but with slightly less vinegar, slightly more sugar, and without homemade chili oil or Doubanjiang (it also uses chicken stock instead of beef stock).

    If you end up liking this recipe, I strongly encourage you to also try out other recipes on the website such as the Real-Deal Kung Pao Chicken and the Real-Deal Szechuan Beef Stir Fry. The three recipes, including the current one, have the distinct rich bold flavor imparted by similar ratio of Chinkiang vinegar to the salty ingredients (light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and Doubanjiang) with some sugar.

    Also, something interesting my wife pointed out: if you add corn starch to the meat-oil-egg-salt mixture, then stir to evenly coat the chicken before frying – the fried chicken tastes exactly like chicken nuggets. If you coat the meat-oil-egg-salt pieces individually in corn starch, then fry it, the result doesn’t taste like chicken nuggets. So if you cook for a party with different flavor preferences, you can knock out chicken nuggets and General Tso’s chicken in a single recipe 🙂

    When I made this recipe, I decreased the starch amount and increased the heat level by adding a ground dried Thai pepper purely based on personal preference. This recipe is truly perfect, Maggie! Thank you very much!

    Reply
  13. Shannon

    5 stars
    This was wonderful! My husband has been craving this and it fit the bill! Also, our two boys ate it for the first time and loved it! Thanks! Didn’t change one thing to the recipe. Will be making again. All three of them said we should have this again! Thanks!

    Reply
  14. Lulu

    Due to reasons what can I substitute the shaoshing wine for so I don’t lose the effect of the recipe ? Thank you

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      The best alternative is dry sherry, but if you have Japanese sake it will work beautifully too. If you do not want to use alcohol, you can use chicken stock to replace it.

      Reply
  15. Cowshill

    I’m very much looking forward to trying your General Tso’s Chicken, but one thing confuses me. Every photo looks to me as if the dish contains sesame seeds, but there are none in the recipe. Am I missing something or is the recipe missing something?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Sorry about the confusion! I used some sesame seeds for garnish but it’s not a must-have ingredient for the dish. You can either use it or skip it.

      Reply
  16. Bunny

    5 stars
    So delicious! I love the very clever and effective method of cooking the chicken so that it somehow remains at least as crispy as deep fried. Genius!

    I had to make these subs: rice vinegar instead of chinkiang; dry sherry instead of shaoxing wine; reg soy + a glug (maybe TBS) of molasses instead of dark soy. I’m guessing I would’ve had a darker sauce like yours with the called-for ingredients, but the lighter color didn’t affect the flavor. Heavenly!

    I used 1.5 lbs b/s chicken thighs and stir-fried a plateful of veggies (bell pepper, onions, celery, mushrooms, water chestnuts). Because I had extra meat and the veggies, I made 2 times the sauce. I think I could actually have used 3x since it left us wanting a bit more sauce for the rice. Next time I’ll adjust.

    Thank you so very much for sharing your method and recipe. It was out of this world fantastic! Can’t wait to try more!

    Reply
  17. Frank Hochman

    Hi Maggie. This time I tried your General Tso without frying. Since my wife has problems with garlic, I used lots of ginger and for Chinkiang vinegar*, which I don’t have, substituted with Balsamic vinegar + 2 tsp of soy sauce. Also, since she does not like broccoli (but does well with gai lan), I used the bok choi from my garden (lots and lots). Dish came out really good. Thanks again.**

    * there are several “Asian” markets near me, but nothing like 99 Ranch -there were TWO near my former home,
    so I am quite spoiled. You do know about 99 Ranch?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Frank, glad to hear you like this recipe!
      I love 99 Ranch. When I lived in Austin and the H Mart hasn’t opened, we used to drive to Houston to shop at 99 Ranch. It’s very good!

      Reply
  18. Aimee Garcia

    5 stars
    Excellent recipe. My husband and kids loved it! Very easy to make, especially when prep work is done. I am looking forward to trying your other recipes.

    Reply
  19. Quinn

    5 stars
    Another really great recipe. I doubled it and stirred some Thai basil into the sauce after it had cooled a bit. I was concerned that the sauce might be a bit overpowering for one of my family members, so rather than coat the chicken with the sauce at the end, I put the sauce on a serving platter and put layer of Thai basil on top of that, then added the chicken on top and drizzled a little reserved sauce on the chicken. Sprinkled diced scallions and sesame seeds on top.

    We had a little leftover and my son requested it for breakfast the next morning. I reheated the chicken in a skillet and fried an egg on top. He loved it!

    Thanks again Maggie!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Quinn, so happy to hear you like the recipe and thanks for the thorough review! Thai basil sounds so delicious and so does the fried egg chicken bowl 🙂 Can’t wait to hear what you’ll be cooking the next!

      Reply
  20. Natasha

    4 stars
    This was delicious, but not at all crunchy for me. I don’t know what I did wrong, as I followed the directions exactly. It was really tasty, though, so I plan to try it again this week using egg white only and potato starch, frying the chicken in an inch or two of oil, then cooling the meat before frying again. Then moving the food to a wok and continuing with the stir fry. I’ve had good success with a double deep fry, egg white only and potato starch in the past. Do you have any insights as to what went wrong? I cooked 3 minutes each side and did pull the meat and cool the pan for 3 minutes before continuing to the stir fry. The sauce was rich and definitely a keeper for me.

    Reply