Sweet and sour chicken is one of those classic Chinese-American dishes. But all too often what you get in your takeout order from your local Chinese restaurant is an oddly colored, too sweet dish with soggy vegetables and more breading than chicken. But there is no reason to despair since making your own sweet and sour chicken at home is easy–and much healthier as well.
My version of this dish leaves the chicken unbreaded. Dusted with spices then quickly cooked in sesame oil, the chicken is juicy and flavorful without the added breading. The vegetables are cooked separately leaving them tender crisp to the bite. I omit the traditional food coloring which gives the dish a pinkish hue. If you prefer the more colorful option, simply add a couple of drops of red coloring into your sugar and water mixture before mixing in the cornstarch. The recipe does make a lot of sauce meaning I always have extra which I serve on the side so diners can add more if they like.
SWEET & SOUR CHICKEN
8 ounces canned pineapple chunks, drained and juices reserved
1 3/4 cups water, divided
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large white onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
- In a medium sized heavy saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of the water, sugar, vinegar and reserved pineapple juice. Bring to a boil then turn off the heat.
- Combine 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup water then slowly stir into saucepan. Continue stirring until mixture thickens.
- Keep warm over low heat.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil in a large wok set over medium-high heat.
- Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the salt, pepper, garlic powder and ground ginger.
- Add the chicken to the wok and cook, tossing regularly, until the chicken is cooked on all sides, about 3-4 minutes. Move the chicken to a plate.
- Add the remaining oil to the wok. When it shimmers, add the onion and cook for 1 minute.
- Add all of the peppers and cook for an additional minute then stir in the pineapple chunks.
- Return the chicken to the wok and toss to combine.
- Gradually stir in the reserved sweet and sour sauce and toss to combine. Depending upon your preferences you may not need to use all of the sauce.
- Cook to heat through then serve immediately over noodles or rice.