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This homemade sesame chicken recipe takes advantage of store-bought shortcuts for an easy dinner that’s better than Chinese takeout! Toss the crispy sesame chicken in a thick, sweet, and savory sauce, serve it over rice, and pair it with a side of steamed broccoli, ramen noodle salad, or baked egg rolls. It’s a fun, flavorful, family-friendly meal that’s ready in less than 30 minutes!

Close overhead shot of sesame chicken in a bowl over rice

Honey Sesame Chicken

My boys love Chinese food, and their orders always include either honey chicken, sesame chicken, or General Tso chicken. After all, what’s not to love about crispy fried chicken tossed in a thick, rich, sweet sauce?! Serve it over a bowl of sticky white rice and you’ve got a family-friendly dinner that will make everyone at the table very happy.

Easy sesame chicken recipes are hard to come by, since they often involve odd or hard-to-find ingredients, as well as the time-consuming task of breading and deep-frying individual chicken bites at the stove. That’s why you’ll love that my simple homemade sesame chicken recipe takes advantage of a handful of store-bought shortcuts to get your meal on the table quickly and easily. No breading and deep-frying necessary, so it’s perfect for busy weeknights!

Side shot of two bowls of sesame chicken with rice and a side of broccoli

What is sesame chicken sauce made of?

Sesame chicken is one of those classic dishes that you’ll find in almost any American Chinese restaurant. The meal consists of bite-size pieces of boneless chicken that are battered and deep-fried, and then tossed in a fairly thick, reddish-brown sauce. The sesame chicken sauce is typically made from corn starch, vinegar, wine or sake, chicken broth, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar or other sweeteners. A sprinkling of sesame seeds just before serving gives the dish its name — and a flavorful taste and crunch!

Whisking together sesame chicken sauce in a glass measuring cup

What’s the difference between sesame chicken and General Tso’s chicken?

There is very little difference between sesame chicken, General Tso’s chicken, and honey chicken (or honey sesame chicken). These are different names that basically describe the same meal, with perhaps a few minor distinctions. While General Tso chicken is a combination of both sweet and slightly spicy flavors, sesame chicken is just a sweet, mild dish — without the heat.

…and orange chicken?

Orange chicken is another Chinese-American twist on the combination of deep-fried chicken tossed in a sweet sauce. As its name suggests, the orange chicken sauce includes orange juice and/or orange zest to give it that classic citrus flavor (which you won’t find in sesame chicken).

Is sesame chicken healthy?

No, not particularly! Any time you toss fried chicken in a sweet sauce, you’re looking at an indulgent meal that’s full of fat, sodium, and sugar. That said, preparing the dish at home allows you to control the ingredients in your dinner, so you can decide just how sweet you like the sauce, how much sauce you use to coat your chicken, and how much chicken you serve on each plate. We’re all about enjoying our favorite foods in moderation, and making them at home gives us the opportunity to make them just a little bit more nutritious — without sacrificing flavor!

Baking frozen popcorn chicken on a baking sheet

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pan of crispy sesame chicken. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Frozen popcorn chicken: our favorite shortcut for crispy chicken that you can quickly bake in the oven, without the mess of deep-frying, breading, or standing at the stovetop while you cook the chicken in batches. I use this Tyson variety, but any similar small breaded chicken bites will work.
  • Soy sauce: gives the sesame chicken sauce a salty, umami flavor that nicely balances the sweetness. I use the less-sodium variety, but any soy sauce will work.
  • Ketchup, brown sugar, and honey: different sweeteners that provide a more complex flavor profile and help to thicken the sauce.
  • Thai sweet chili sauce: many different companies make a version of this sweet red chili sauce, which you can find in the international foods aisle at almost any grocery store (close to the soy sauce). It’s sweet and savory, with mild chili notes made from sun-ripened whole chili peppers and garlic. It provides great flavor and color to the sauce! You can also use this for dipping with egg rolls.
  • Sesame oil: a key ingredient in this sesame chicken, so don’t substitute with a different type of oil. The sesame oil has a unique toasted, nutty, rich flavor that adds a classic taste to so many Asian dishes — including this one! You can find this in stores like Walmart and Target, and in almost any grocery store.
  • Rice vinegar (or rice wine vinegar): gives the sauce a tangy, acidic, slightly sweet flavor that brightens up the dish.
  • Cornstarch: thickens the sauce and helps it coat the chicken.
  • Garlic powder: for even more great flavor.
  • Sesame seeds and sliced green onion: for garnishing the finished dish!
Tossing fried chicken pieces with sesame sauce in a skillet

How to Make Sesame Chicken

What makes this sesame chicken recipe easy? It’s the shortcut popcorn chicken, which you can bake in the oven without any prep or hands-on time. Really, we’re just making the homemade sesame chicken sauce, which you’ll toss with the chicken and serve. Perfect for your busy weeknights!

  1. Bake the chicken according to the package instructions.
  2. Prepare the sauce by whisking together the soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, honey, Thai sweet chili sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, cornstarch, and garlic powder.
  3. Simmer the sauce mixture in a large skillet, Dutch oven, or wok for 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat, until it thickens nicely.
  4. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the baked chicken pieces to the pan, and toss to coat the meat with the sauce.
  5. Garnish the coated chicken pieces with the sesame seeds and green onions, then serve!
Overhead shot of hands holding a bowl of homemade sesame chicken with rice

What to Serve with Sesame Chicken

Serve the sweet, sticky, crispy sesame chicken over white rice, brown rice, or quinoa (or over cauliflower rice for a lighter dish), with plenty of extra sauce spooned over top. We love it with steamed broccoli or other steamed vegetables tossed into the mix as well. Additional good options include rice noodles, ramen noodles, sesame peanut noodlesramen noodle saladsesame ginger snap pea salad, or baked store-bought egg rolls. Don’t forget fortune cookies for dessert, too!

Storage

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. As with any fried chicken, it will get soggier as it sits in the sauce in the fridge, so it’s best enjoyed right away. You can also freeze the chicken in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To reheat the sesame chicken, place the meat and the sauce in a skillet or wok and warm over low heat just until it reaches the desired temperature. You can also reheat individual portions in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Square image of a side shot of two bowls of sesame chicken on a dinner table

Recipe Variations

Overhead shot of hands eating sesame chicken with chopsticks

Tips for the Best Sesame Chicken Recipe

  • If the sauce gets too thick while simmering, use water or chicken broth to thin the sauce until it reaches the desired consistency.
  • For a thicker sauce, simmer a little bit longer, or gradually add a little bit more cornstarch.
  • Don’t omit the sesame oil. This particular oil gives the dish its signature Asian flavor, which is toasty, nutty, and very unique. Other oils (such as vegetable oil or canola oil) will not achieve the same taste.
  • Garnish the finished dish with sesame seeds (toasted or untoasted is fine), as well as scallions. These add texture and flavor that make the homemade meal taste like an authentic sesame chicken recipe!
  • The sauce is fairly salty on its own, so wait until you taste it to decide if it needs any additional salt and pepper.
Overhead shot of a bowl of sesame chicken on a table with rice and a side of broccoli

More Chinese Takeout Copycat Recipes to Try at Home

Square overhead shot of a bowl of sesame chicken with rice

Shortcut Sesame Chicken

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings 4 – 6 people
Calories 429 kcal
This sesame chicken recipe takes advantage of store-bought shortcuts for an easy dinner that's better than Chinese takeout – and ready in less than30 minutes!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (24 ounce) bag frozen popcorn chicken (such as Tyson brand)

FOR THE SAUCE:

Instructions

  • Bake the chicken according to the package instructions.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a large measuring cup (or small bowl), whisk together the soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, honey, Thai sweet chili sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, cornstarch, and garlic powder.
  • When there are about 5 minutes left in the chicken’s cooking time, heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the sauce mixture to the skillet; bring to a simmer. Cook, whisking frequently, for 3-4 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat, add the baked chicken to the pan, and toss to coat with the sauce.
  • Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Serve with rice, if desired.

Notes

  • If the sauce gets too thick while simmering, use water or chicken broth to thin the sauce until it reaches the desired consistency.
  • For a thicker sauce, simmer a little bit longer, or gradually add a little bit more cornstarch.
  • Don’t omit the sesame oil. This particular oil gives the dish its signature Asian flavor, which is toasty, nutty, and very unique. Other oils (such as vegetable oil or canola oil) will not achieve the same taste.
  • Garnish the finished dish with sesame seeds (toasted or untoasted is fine), as well as scallions. These add texture and flavor that make the homemade meal taste like an authentic sesame chicken recipe!
  • The sauce is fairly salty on its own, so wait until you taste it to decide if it needs any additional salt and pepper.
  • Instead of using frozen popcorn chicken, try frozen chicken tenders or frozen chicken nuggets. You can dice the larger pieces of chicken into smaller bite-size pieces.
  • If you have the time, you can bread and fry your own boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs from scratch to use in this recipe.
  • For a smaller family, cut all of the ingredients in half so that you’re preparing less chicken and less sauce. The rest of the cooking instructions remain the same.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of the recipeCalories: 429kcalCarbohydrates: 49.7gProtein: 18.2gFat: 16.7gSaturated Fat: 2.5gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 1496mgPotassium: 90mgFiber: 1.6gSugar: 22gCalcium: 8mg
Keyword: honey sesame chicken, sesame chicken, sesame chicken recipe
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, Chinese
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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