The Best Sesame Chicken (芝麻雞)

Recreate this classic Chinese takeout dish with tips from an professional chef!

flodesk gif
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
45 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

Sesame chicken was one of the top dishes at my parents restaurant alongside other Chinese classics like General Tso's chicken, lemon chicken and orange chicken. It has a nutty sesame aroma, sticky sauce and crunchy chicken that all go together nicely.

Today, we're finally sharing my dad's sesame chicken recipe and his tips for recreating the sweet, sour and spicy dish at home. Watch our video to see how he manages to make each piece of chicken crispy without sacrificing its juicy bite.

What is sesame chicken?

Sesame chicken is found on nearly early Chinese restaurant menu. The takeout favorite is made by battering and frying chicken pieces, then tossing them all in a sesame chicken sauce.

Every recipe will differ slightly, but the sauce generally includes umami components such as soy sauce and oyster sauce, a sweetener like sugar or honey and a spicy element (my dad uses a combination of fresh red chili pepper and dried chili peppers).

Sesame chicken vs General Tso

Both sesame chicken and General Tso's chicken are popular Chinese chicken entrees that feature fried chicken stir fried in a sticky sauce. There are slight differences between the two. Sesame chicken features toasted sesame seeds and is milder when it comes to spice. General Tso's chicken has a stronger kick and sweeter flavor thanks to the addition of ketchup in the sauce.

An expert chef's tip for the crispiest, juiciest sesame chicken

If you've been wondering how to make sesame chicken that's crispy and juicy at the same time, you're in the right place! The key to the best fried chicken is two-fold. First, you need a batter that will help achieve a light and crunchy crust (more details on that below). Next, you need the right cooking technique. My dad uses the double frying method to get the perfect texture.

Check out a quick story summary of our recipe!

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4

Main Ingredients

  • 3 oz red bell pepper
  • 1 small red chili pepper (

    such as red serrano

    )
  • 3 clove garlic
  • 3 small dried chili pepper (

    such Tianjin pepper, also known as Chao Tian Jiao or Facing Heaven pepper

    )
  • 1 oz white sesame seeds
  • 3 cups corn oil

Frying Batter Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.50 tsp salt
  • 6.5 tbsp water
  • 1 large egg (

    divided

    )
  • 1 tsp oil

Chicken Marinade Ingredients

  • 12 oz chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp water

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 0.50 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Slurry Ingredients

  • 1 tsp potato starch
  • 3 tbsp water

Broccoli Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 oz broccoli

On flour and cornstarch

According to my dad, if you only use flour, the crust will be too soft. On the other hand, using just cornstarch will make it too hard. By combining the two, you create the perfect crispy crust that makes sesame chicken so irresistible.

On baking powder

This common baking ingredient has an important job! It helps the crust puff up during the frying process and helps the fried chicken maintain its light texture.

On egg

The final key ingredient to my dad's perfect sesame chicken batter is egg. The egg loosens up the batter so it's not too thick and dense and also gives the crust a beautiful golden color.

On Tianjin Peppers

To add a mild heat, my dad uses dried Tianjin chili peppers (also spelled Tien Tsin). These small red peppers, known as Chao Tian Jiao or Facing Heaven pepper, are native to China and are used in many recipes.

Supplies and Tools

You'll need a good wok, which provides a ton of versatility for the classic Chinese cooking methods, including deep frying.

You may want an instant read thermometer to help check the temperature of your frying oil. Here are two great options:

Slice off 1/5 of a large red bell pepper (3 oz) (use the remainder to make our other recipes, such as Sweet and Sour Pork or Rainbow Chicken Stir Fry!). Lay the pepper flat cut-side-down on the cutting board and with the shorter side facing your knife, slice into thin strips.

Cut off the stem off the red chili pepper (1 small) and slice it in half. Remove the pith and seeds from inside the pepper. Then with the pepper laying flat cut-side-down, slice into thin strips.

Chef's Tip: Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling spicy peppers and keep away from delicate body parts, such as your eyes!

Smash and peel the garlic (3 clove). Trim and discard the ends. Smash again, then ince.

Cut the stems off of the dried chili peppers (3 small).

In a medium bowl, mix together the all-purpose flour (4 tbsp) and cornstarch (3 tbsp). Add the baking powder (2 tsp) and salt (0.50 tsp) and stir to combine.

Add the water (6.5 tbsp). Do this slowly and gradually a few tablespoons at a time, then stir to combine. Add a bit more and mix again, until all of the water has been added to the batter. The batter should be loose, but not too thin.

Crack and beat the egg (1 large), adding half of it to the batter. Reserve the rest of the egg for later use.

Finally, add the oil (1 tsp) and mix thoroughly to combine.

Cut the chicken breast (12 oz) into smaller pieces, approximately 1-inch thick by splitting it open horizontally. Next, cut these pieces in half, then into roughly 1-inch thick strips. Rotate, then cut into cubes.

Place the chicken in a large bowl and move the pieces to one side. On the other side of the same bowl, add the cornstarch (1 tbsp), salt (0.25 tsp), chicken bouillon powder (1 tsp), white pepper (1 tsp), oyster sauce (1 tbsp) and water (1 tbsp). Mix the chicken and marinade ingredients together thoroughly.

Chef's Tip: My dad prefers to mix in the marinade ingredients by hand since this allows him to thoroughly massage them into the chicken .

Add half of the reserved beaten egg into the chicken (so you use 0.25 of the large egg).

In a small bowl, combine the light soy sauce (1 tbsp), oyster sauce (1 tbsp), dark soy sauce (0.50 tsp), rice vinegar (2 tbsp), sugar (3 tbsp) and water (3 tbsp) and mix thoroughly.

Taste the sauce and adjust to your preference. It should be a balance of sweet and sour.

Make slurry

In another small bowl, combine the potato starch (1 tsp) and water (3 tbsp) and stir to combine. Set aside.

Bring the water (4 cups) to a boil. Add the oil (1 tsp) and salt (1 tsp).

Add broccoli, lower the heat and cook for 30 to 40 seconds. Remove from pot and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. This will help the broccoli maintain its vivid green color.

Heat up a wok to 200°F. Pour in the white sesame seeds (1 oz) and lower the heat. Stir around constantly using a spatula . After 30 seconds, turn off the heat and stir for another 30 seconds. Once the seeds are golden brown, transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.

Chef's Tip: When toasting sesame seeds, make sure your wok isn't overly hot or they'll burn and become bitter.

Return the wok to the stovetop and heat on high. Add the corn oil (3 cups) to the wok and heat to 325°F.

As we wait for the wok to heat up, pour the batter into the marinated chicken and mix to combine. Make sure every piece is coated thoroughly.

Once the oil reaches 325°F, lower the heat slightly to make sure the chicken doesn't burn.

(Chef's Tip: To check if the oil is hot enough without a thermometer, follow my dad's trick. Dip a wooden chopstick into the oil and if small bubbles start coming out of the end, you're good to go!)

Add the chicken into the hot oil one piece at a time. Drop them in gently close to the oil and not from high above, which will cause the oil to splash. Once the wok is full, set aside the remaining chicken for a second batch.

After 1.5 minutes, stir the chicken around to ensure they don't stick together (Don't be tempted to do this sooner or else the crust may fall off!). After 1 more minute (for a total frying time of 2.5 minutes), remove the pieces from the wok. Set aside. Repeat the frying with the remaining batch of chicken.

Now it's time to fry the chicken a second time. This not only forces the oil out of the chicken so it's less greasy, but also adds to the crispiness. Increase the heat and bring the oil to 370°F. Again, working one batch at a time, fry the chicken for 40 to 50 seconds, then set aside. Make sure to bring the oil back up to 370°F before frying the second batch.

Turn off the heat, pour out the hot oil in a heat-resistant bowl and wipe down the wok if reusing.

Add oil (1 tsp) to the wok (you can reuse frying oil if you'd like) and heat on medium for 10 to 20 seconds.

Add the minced garlic and dried chili peppers, stir frying for 30 to 40 seconds until aromatic.

Pour in the sauce and stir constantly for 30 to 40 seconds. Taste and adjust if needed.

Turn heat to low, give the slurry a quick stir and add slowly a bit at a time, while constantly mixing the sauce. Cook for about 1 minute. Check consistency, adding more slurry or water if needed to thin or thicken consistency. Turn the heat off, add the sesame oil (1 tsp) and mix.

With the heat off, add the fried chicken, bell peppers, red chili pepper and mix well. Sprinkle in a bit of the sesame seeds and mix them in, then add some more on top, saving some for garnish.

Transfer the sesame chicken to a large plate. Sprinkle the reserved toasted sesame seeds on top. Place broccoli on the side of the plate and serve!

FAQ

Is sesame chicken always spicy?

  • Yes! Classic sesame chicken has a kick to it, but my dad's recipe is on the milder side. Depending on your preferences, you can either remove the peppers or add more.

What's in sesame chicken sauce?

  • Sesame chicken sauce is a balanced combination of sweet, sour and spicy that comes from light soy sauce, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar.

What's sesame chicken batter made out of?

  • All the ingredients in this sesame chicken batter help create a light, yet crispy crust. This includes all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder and egg.

Summary

The Best Sesame Chicken (芝麻雞)
Recreate this classic Chinese takeout dish with tips from an professional chef!
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Total Time: 45 min
  • Yield: 4 servings

Main Ingredients

  • 3 oz red bell pepper
  • 1 small red chili pepper (

    such as red serrano

    )
  • 3 clove garlic
  • 3 small dried chili pepper (

    such Tianjin pepper, also known as Chao Tian Jiao or Facing Heaven pepper

    )
  • 1 oz white sesame seeds
  • 3 cups corn oil

Frying Batter Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.50 tsp salt
  • 6.5 tbsp water
  • 1 large egg (

    divided

    )
  • 1 tsp oil

Chicken Marinade Ingredients

  • 12 oz chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp water

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 0.50 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Slurry Ingredients

  • 1 tsp potato starch
  • 3 tbsp water

Broccoli Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 oz broccoli

Step 1 - Prepare veggies & aromatics

↑ Jump to details

Cut the red bell pepper (3 oz) into thin strips.

Cut the stem off the red chili pepper (1 small), divide in half, then slice into thin strips.

Peel and mince the garlic (3 clove).

Cut off stems of dried chili peppers (3 small).

Step 2 - Make batter

↑ Jump to details

In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour (4 tbsp), cornstarch (3 tbsp), baking powder (2 tsp) and salt (0.50 tsp). Mix to thoroughly combine.

Slowly add in the water a few tablespoons at a time and stir to combine. Add a bit more and mix again, until all of the water has been added to the batter.

Crack and beat the egg (1 large), adding half of it to the batter. Reserve the rest of the egg for later use.

Finally, add the oil (1 tsp) and mix thoroughly to combine. The perfect consistency should be runnier than pancake batter.

Step 3 - Prep & marinade chicken

↑ Jump to details

Cut the chicken breast (12 oz) into cubes.

Place in a large bowl, making space for the rest of the marinade ingredients. Add the cornstarch (1 tbsp), salt (0.25 tsp), chicken bouillon powder (1 tsp), white pepper (1 tsp), oyster sauce (1 tbsp) and water (1 tbsp). Mix together thoroughly with your hands, massaging the marinade ingredients into the chicken.

Add half of the reserved beaten egg into the chicken (so you use 0.25 of the large egg).

Step 4 - Make sauce

↑ Jump to details

In a small bowl, combine the light soy sauce (1 tbsp), oyster sauce (1 tbsp), dark soy sauce (0.50 tsp), rice vinegar (2 tbsp), sugar (3 tbsp) and water (3 tbsp) and mix thoroughly. Taste the sauce and adjust to your preference.

Make slurry

In another small bowl, combine the potato starch (1 tsp) and water (3 tbsp) and stir to combine. Set aside.

Step 5 - Blanch broccoli

↑ Jump to details

Bring the water (4 cups) to a boil. Add the oil (1 tsp) and salt (1 tsp).

Add broccoli, lower the heat and cook for 30 to 40 seconds. Remove from pot and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.

Step 6 - Toast sesame seeds

↑ Jump to details

Heat up a wok to 200°F. Pour in the white sesame seeds (1 oz) and lower the heat. Stir around constantly using a spatula . After 30 seconds, turn off the heat and stir for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.

Step 7 - Fry chicken

↑ Jump to details

Return the wok to the stovetop and heat on high. Add the corn oil (3 cups) and heat to 325°F.

Pour the batter into the marinated chicken and mix , making sure each piece if thorouhgly coated.

Once the oil reaches 325°F, lower the heat slightly. Add the chicken one piece at a time, dropping them gently close to the surface of the oil. Once the wok is full, set aside the remaining chicken for a second batch.

After 1.5 minutes, stir the chicken around. After 1 more minute (for a total frying time of 2.5 minutes), remove the pieces from the wok. Set aside. Repeat with the remaining batch of chicken.

Fry the chicken a second time. Increase the heat and bring the oil to 370°F. Again, working one batch at a time, fry the chicken for 40 to 50 seconds, then set aside. Make sure to bring the oil back up to 370°F before frying the second batch.

Turn off the heat, pour out the hot oil in a heat-resistant bowl and wipe down the wok if reusing.

Step 8 - Cook sauce

↑ Jump to details

Add oil (1 tsp) to the wok (you can reuse frying oil if you'd like) and heat on medium for 10 to 20 seconds.

Add the minced garlic and dried chili peppers, stir frying for 30 to 40 seconds until aromatic.

Pour in the sauce and stir constantly for 30 to 40 seconds. Taste and adjust if needed.

Turn heat to low, stir the slurry and add slowly a bit at a time, while constantly mixing the sauce. Cook for about 1 minute. Check consistency, adding more slurry or water if needed to thin or thicken consistency. Turn the heat off, add the sesame oil (1 tsp) and mix.

Step 9 - Mix in ingredients

↑ Jump to details

With the heat off, add the fried chicken, bell peppers, red chili pepper and mix well. Sprinkle in a bit of the sesame seeds and mix them in, then add some more on top, saving some for garnish.

Step 10 - Plate & garnish

↑ Jump to details

Transfer the sesame chicken to a large plate. Sprinkle the reserved toasted sesame seeds on top. Place broccoli on the side of the plate and serve!

Step 11 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 12 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

We have many, many happy memories of enjoying this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and my family.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.