How to Make the Easiest General Tso’s Chicken (No Deep Frying Required)

updated Feb 4, 2020
General Tso’s Chicken
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Your Chinese take-out night is incomplete without an order of crispy, bite-sized nuggets of chicken coated in a sticky, spicy-sweet sauce. Yes, I’m talking about General Tso’s chicken.

Here, we’ll walk you through the easiest way to make the cult-favorite takeout dish at home — which starts by skipping the deep-frying. Thanks to a pantry ingredient and a smart technique, we figured out how to achieve all the crispiness without the frying, which not only makes this dish easier, but a bit healthier, too!

In just 30 minutes, you’ll be piling your saucy chicken over a bowl of steamy white rice for a restaurant-worthy meal straight from your stovetop. Let’s get started.

What Is General Tso’s Chicken, and How Did It Get Its Name?

The original General Tso’s chicken recipe was invented by the late chef Peng Chang-kuei. The Hunan-style dish with its spicy-sour flavor was named after a war hero named Zuo Zongtang (or Tso Tsung-t’ang) in the mid-1950s. By the 1970s, the dish became a hit thanks two New York restauranteurs, David Keh and chef TT Wang who made chef Peng’s dish sweeter for the American palate.

When you order General Tso’s from your neighborhood Chinese restaurant, you can expect to be served batter-coated and deep-fried boneless chicken pieces tossed in a thick sweet-and-spicy sauce (broccoli and scallions are sometimes added as well). General Tso’s spicy kick is what sets it apart from sesame chicken — which has a mild, sweet sauce that’s better-suited for kids.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

How to Make General Tso’s Chicken in Just 30 Minutes

To make this Chinese classic weeknight-friendly, we skipped the hot pot of oil and opted for a dusting of cornstarch instead. You’ll toss cubed chicken in cornstarch until it’s completely coated, then sear it in a hot skillet. Be patient here, and don’t flip the chicken until the crust turns golden brown, which will ensure you achieve that classic crispy texture. You can use either a nonstick or stainless skillet, but I usually reach for nonstick as extra insurance against sticking.

A note about the chicken: When you order General Tso’s from your favorite takeout joint you’re likely to be served dark meat chicken — and I’m here for that! Dark meat stays juicy and has a rich, meaty flavor (plus it’s less expensive). But the great thing about making restaurant favorites at home is that you can customize them to your tastes and your grocery list. If you’ve got a pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts waiting in your fridge, there’s no reason not to use it.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

What’s in General Tso’s Special Sauce?

The spicy-sweet sauce is what sets General Tso’s apart from its Chinese chicken counterparts. The best part about it is that it’s made with ingredients you probably already keep in your pantry.

You’ll start with chicken broth and soy sauce (I keep low-sodium on hand, so if you’re using regular, start with a little less and taste for saltiness as you go), then whisk in hoisin, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and nutty toasted sesame oil. Finish the sauce with earthy ground ginger, spicy red pepper flakes, and cornstarch, which thickens the sauce until it’s glossy and clings to the crispy browned chicken. Here, we finish the dish with blistered scallions and pass on the dried red chiles you usually see in your takeout box — they’re more for looks than flavor.

Credit: Kitchn
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn
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General Tso’s Chicken

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1/4 cup

    low-sodium chicken broth or water

  • 2 tablespoons

    low-sodium soy sauce, or 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons

    hoisin sauce

  • 1 tablespoon

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    rice vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon

    toasted sesame oil

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 3 tablespoons

    vegetable oil, divided

  • 3

    medium scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

  • Cooked white rice, for serving (optional)


  • Whisk

  • Mixing bowls

  • Chef’s knife

  • Cutting board

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Large nonstick or cast iron frying pan

  • Tongs

  • Wooden spoon or spatula


  1. Make the sauce. Whisk the broth or water, soy sauce, hoisin, brown sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, ginger, and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl; set aside.

  2. Season and coat the chicken in cornstarch. Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season with the salt. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cornstarch over the chicken and toss with your hands until evenly coated, separating any pieces that are stuck together.

  3. Sear the chicken in 2 batches. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick or cast iron frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the chicken and spread into an even layer. Cook undisturbed until golden brown on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook undisturbed until the chicken is browned on the second side and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and repeat cooking the remaining chicken.Transfer to the plate.

  4. Cook the scallions. Add the scallions to the skillet and cook until fragrant and beginning to char, about 30 seconds.

  5. Add the sauce. Return the chicken and any accuulated juices to the pan. Rewhisk, then pour the sauce into the pan. Cook, tossing constantly, until the sauce thickens, is glossy, and coats the chicken, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Serve over rice, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Gluten-free: To make this gluten-free, use tamari and a gluten-free hoisin sauce.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.