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Sweet and sour chicken- easy Chinese takeout recipe

Which Chinese restaurant serves the best takeout sweet and sour chicken?

Unfortunately, you probably won’t find any store.

This is because the best time to eat the sweet and sour chicken is when it is fresh from the wok immediately after deep frying. This moment is when the chicken is crispy, and chicken juice is oozing out each bite, with light and crunchy skin coated with the sweet and sour sauce.

The chicken will become soggy when you reach home from the takeout, losing all the zingy taste you expect.

It turns out the best sweet and sour chicken is right in your kitchen. Freshly made, it is insanely delicious.

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sweet and sour ku lo chicken

A quick and simple dish for the whole family

If you like Chinese food, this sweet and sour chicken recipe is ideal for a quick and delicious meal for your family. You can serve it with steamed rice, like most Asians, with noodles, bread, or salads. It tastes just as good as food directly from Chinese restaurants.

The best of all is that this is a foolproof recipe. You can adjust the amount of chili sauce, plum sauce, and sugar in the recipe to what you prefer.

Why is Chinese sweet and sour chicken special?

Sweet and sour chicken originated in the 18th century or earlier in China. It spread to the United States in the early 20th century after the Chinese migrant gold miners and railroad workers turned to food and drink as trades. In some countries, the dish is known as Ku lo yuk 咕噜肉. Traditionally, pork is used, but I use boneless chicken breasts in this popular recipe as it is more popular and acceptable to everyone. You can also use chicken thighs meat if it is more tender and juicy.

This dish consists of chicken with cornstarch batter, sliced into bite-sized pieces and subsequently coated with sweet and sour sauce consisting of ketchup, chili sauce, plum sauce, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Some versions of Ku lo sauce contain vinegar (e.g., apple cider vinegar) instead of plum sauce. The sauce is stir-fried in a large skillet with vegetables such as tomato, cucumber, pineapple, and onion. The deep-fried chicken pieces are then added to the vegetables to stir-fry over medium-high heat briefly to preserve the crispiness.

Our quick and easy sweet and sour chicken recipe

Want to impress your friends and family members? This authentic Sweet and Sour Chicken is the answer! Authentic and delectable Chinese take-out standard dish made right in your home kitchen. You can prepare this recipe in just twenty minutes.

1. Marinate the chicken

  • Cut the meat into small pieces, preferably about 1 inch, and keep dry by putting on a kitchen towel in a single layer. The shape does not matter, but small pieces will enable the flavor of the marinade and the sweet and sour sauce to penetrate right into the meat. Besides chicken breasts, boneless chicken thigh meat is a good choice as it contains more fat and is more tender.
  • It is best to marinate the meat for at least half an hour. The soy sauce will add flavor to the meat, and the cornstarch will give the meat a velvety texture.

2. Deep-fry the chicken

  • Coat the meat with cornstarch for deep frying, ensuring you get crispy chicken even after it is doused in the sauce. However, the meat will be less crisp (soggy) after coating with the sauce if wheat flour (i.e., regular cake flour/pastry flour) is used.
  • The meat pieces will stick together as cornstarch is quite sticky and gooey. You can use a pair of chopsticks or a wooden spatula to separate the meat pieces in the deep fryer for the first minute of deep-frying. You can also use a large skillet or wok to deep-fry if you do not have an electric deep-fryer.
  • Vegetables such as peanut oil, palm oil, and corn oil are all suitable for deep-frying. Place the chicken pieces in the hot oil and stir lightly in the first minute. This step helps to prevent the chicken pieces from sticking together.
  • Remove from the hot oil with a slotted spoon when the chicken turns golden.

Note: If you are concerned that too much oil is required to deep-fry the chicken, you can use the air fryer to fry them instead.

Sweet sour 5

3. Prepare Other ingredients besides the chicken

  • Vegetables: cucumber, green bell peppers, red bell peppers, onion, and fresh pineapple chunks are not only multicolor but also provide a variety of tastes and textures to the dish. It also makes this dish balanced from a nutritional point, as it has protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Cutting the cucumber, capsicum (green peppers), onion, and pineapple into different shapes will significantly enhance the dish’s presentation.
  • If you use canned pineapple, please include some pineapple juice while cooking to improve the flavor.
  • If you use canned pineapple, check the sweetness of the pineapple. Some canned pineapples are sweetened, so you need to reduce the sugar you use. You can also use brown sugar for a more caramelized flavor if you use fresh pineapple.
  • You can also add some green onions (scallion) to the dish during the final part of stir-frying. Another item you can use is to add some sesame oil after switching off the heat and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top to serve.

4. Made the sweet and sour sauce

a. The ingredients for the sauce

  • The three main constituents of the sweet and sour sauce are chili sauce, tomato ketchup (or tomato paste), and plum sauce. You may find that the flavors of these ingredients can vary from brand to brand. The brand I use is below, but by all means, use any brands you can find where you live. You may need to adjust the amount to suit your taste buds to the desired sourness, spiciness, and sweetness you wish to achieve. Let me know the outcome by putting your comment in the comment box at the bottom of this post.
  • You may also use lime juice instead of lemon juice. There is no fixed formula for this recipe.
  • Cornstarch slurry is unnecessary as this sticky sauce coats the chicken piece.

b. The process of making the sweet and sour sauce

The method is straightforward. I make it in bulk, and you can reduce each ingredient by following the same proportion should you need less.

  1. Place all the ingredients (Tomato sauce 420g, Chilli sauce 270g, Plum sauce 250g, Sugar 170g, Lemon juice 60g, Salt 25g) in a small pot over low heat and wait until they boil. Then, remove it from heat and let it return to room temperature.
  2. Transfer the sauce to airtight, freezer-safe containers. This sweet and sour chicken recipe is enough to fill up eight containers. Each portion is meant for cooking one pound of chicken/fish/pork.


  • I normally make the sweet and sour sauce in advance, usually in a larger batch. Then, I portion it and keep it in separate containers, so I only need to take one portion from the freezer when required.
  • The amount of sauce you need is a very personal choice. You can generally use any amount from 25g to 35g of sauce for every 100g of meat you intend to cook.
  • The sweet and sour sauce is also suitable for other Chinese foods. For example, we also use it for sweet and sour pork, sweet and sour tofu, and sweet and sour fish. These recipes have minor differences but are prepared with the same sauce. Therefore, it is helpful to make a large batch and prepare another dish next time.

Note: Some recipes use rice vinegar to make the sauce. However, I prefer adding the acidic taste with lemon juice, which adds more flavor to the chicken.

5. The cooking process

  1. Marinate the chicken with cornstarch, soy sauce, and egg white in a large bowl for 30 minutes.
  2. Dip the meat into the egg wash and then cornstarch.
  3. Remove the excess cornstarch and deep-fried the meat until it is crispy and golden brown. Remove the extra oil with paper towels.
  4. Heat some vegetable oil in a wok. Briefly stir-fry the capsicum, pineapple, and onion for a minute.
  5. Add the ingredients of the sweet and sour sauce to the vegetables. Turn to high heat and stir-fry quickly until the sauce is thickened.
  6. Turn off the heat. Add the chicken to the vegetables. Coat the meat with the sauce and serve.


  • Turn off the heat before coating the meat with the sauce to help preserve the crispiness of the meat. Also, it is best not to continue stir-frying the meat with the sauce, as it will lose its crispness rapidly.
  • If you do not want to make the sauce but still prefer to prepare the chicken yourself, head to the Asin grocery store to get the store-bought sweet and sour sauce!
Chinese sweet and sour chicken

Lastly, serve immediately while the deep-fried meat is still crispy. Serve with white rice is better than flavored rice or fried rice as homemade Sweet And Sour Chicken is so flavorful! Better than Chinese takeout,

Sweet And Sour Chicken - Authentic Chinese Style

Sweet And Sour Chicken - Authentic Chinese Style

Yield: 3 portions
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Authentic South East Asia recipe


Ingredients A- to marinate

Ingredients B- the vegetables

  • 100 g cucumber
  • 60 g red capsicum
  • 60 g green capsicum
  • 60 g pineapple
  • 100 g onion

Ingredients C- The sweet and sour sauce


  1. Marinate the chicken with cornstarch, soy sauce, and egg white for about 30 minutes.
  2. Deep the meat into egg wash and then cornstarch.
  3. Remove the excess cornstarch and deep-fried the meat until it is crispy and golden brown.
  4. Heat up some vegetable oil in a wok. Briefly stir-fry the capsicum, pineapple and onion for a minute.
  5. Add the ingredients of the sweet and sour sauce to the vegetables. Turn to high heat and stir-fry quickly until the sauce is thickened.
  6. Turn off the heat. Add the chicken to the vegetables. Coat the meat with the sauce and serve.


If you encounter any audio / visual problem of viewing this video, you can view it from YouTube by clicking this link, which will open in a new tab.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 2 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 734Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 255mgSodium: 3262mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 3gSugar: 31gProtein: 100g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 4/21/2019


Saturday 5th of November 2022

Dip the chicken in whole egg wash or just the egg whites?

KP Kwan

Sunday 6th of November 2022

Most Chinese chefs use egg white only. However, in reality, the difference in the result is insignificant, either using egg white only or a whole egg.

Paleo Sweet and Sour Chicken Stir Fry – The Defined Dish

Friday 14th of December 2018

[…] workers turned to cookery as trades. In some countries, the dish is known as Ku lo yuk. (Source: Taste Asian Food) Traditionally, pork is used, but to keep things more simple I’ve used chicken here. […]

Lim Kian Hin

Sunday 11th of June 2017

Thank You Mr Kwan for your Direction.

KP Kwan

Saturday 17th of June 2017

You are welcome.

Lim Kian Hin

Monday 5th of June 2017

Mr Kwan.

If we prefer to have the sweet sour sauce as a dipping one separate.

As it is way too thick . Is there a formula recipe for dipping sauce. Please advise.

THANKS. Sunny.

KP Kwan

Wednesday 7th of June 2017

Hi Sunny, The sauce is supposed to use it to coat the chicken during cooking and hence is so thick. You can add some water to it and bring it to a boil to use it as a dipping sauce.


KP Kwan

Lim Kian Hin

Monday 10th of April 2017

Dear Mr Kwan.

Thus is Sunny Lim. I had tried this dish and had encountered this matter.

I did dusted the flour after I had dip into the egg but after deep fried there are quite a fair share on White spots of flour on my chicken after frying.

I did make effort to remove dusted flour before frying. What can be the reasons.

I do not has a cooking termometer but I had make effort to observe that my oil was hot too. And my duration of frying was monitored too.

Need your direction on above.

Thanks Mr Kwan.

KP Kwan

Monday 10th of April 2017

Hi Sunny, I am trying to visualize how the problem is. Try to dip into the egg, then flour then shakes off the excess. Deep fry immediately before the surface is getting wet again due to the flour being absorbed by the eggs. Hope this is the reason, and this works.


KP Kwan

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