Easy General Tso's Chicken Recipe (2024)

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An Easy General Tso’s Chicken Recipe which is light and healthy. There is no deep-frying but you can still enjoy the classic flavours of this Chinese takeaway favourite.

Easy General Tso's Chicken Recipe (1)

There’s Chinese food, and there’s American-Chinese food. I wasn’t even aware of the latter until we were posted in Chicago for a few years where lunch with colleagues was often at P.F. Chang’s or Big Bowl, two popular Chinese restaurant chains in the US. There, the menu often featured the likes of Sweet & Sour Chicken, Honey-Glazed Chicken, and Mongolian Beef; Chinese food which is rarely eaten by the Chinese themselves but which are very popular with westerners.

In fact, in some traditional Chinese restaurants, they will often have two entirely different menus – a menu for westerners, and a different menu for those who are suspected to be of Chinese or other Asian origin, i.e. the menu without Sweet & Sour Chicken. I stumbled across this finding when I had recommended a Chinese restaurant in Zurich to an American colleague, a place which was well-known locally for specialising in dishes from the Szechuan region. When I bumped into him the following day, he proclaimed their Sweet & Sour Chicken to be the best he had ever eaten. I wasn’t even aware that they offered this dish on the menu! It transpired that my colleague was never even given the menu with the fiery and tongue-numbing Szechuan specialties; he was simply handed a shorter menu (in English) with his American-Chinese favourites listed inside. With this new knowledge, I began to notice the same amusing trend in other Chinese restaurants.

One particular Chinese dish which doesn’t even originate from China is the vastly popular General Tso’s Chicken. According to Fuchsia Dunlop, this dish was created by a Chinese chef when he was working in New York. And while it is now a dish which many Americans know and love, it is virtually unknown in China. Not that I am an expert on Chinese food, nor an expert Chinese-food eater, but I have never come across this dish outside of the US and Canada.

So upon moving back to Zurich, I was missing my hit of American-Chinese food and set about finding the perfect recipe to recreate General Tso’s Chicken at home.

The recipe below for General Tso’s Chicken comes from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop, a rather wonderful collection of authentic Chinese recipes. The recipe is based on the original version which she learnt from the actual creator of the dish, Peng Chang-Kuei. I mention this fact because this recipe tastes somewhat different to the versions you might find at your local Chinese restaurant in America, an indication of how recipes can change and adapt greatly over time.

My experience of General Tso’s Chicken is usually crisp, deep-fried pieces of chicken in a heavy batter, coated in a dark, sweet and sticky sauce which is spiked with hot chillies. This version below has a very light batter, just enough to give the chicken a light coating. And the sauce is absent of any sugar, meaning that it is not sweet at all, but rather savoury and tangy with the requisite amount of heat from the dried chillies. Whilst there is a time and place for the take-away version (I have a weakness for anything deep-fried in batter), one could describe the original recipe for General Tso’s Chicken as a healthier version of what is commonly found in most Chinese restaurants today.

So that the dish can be eaten on its own with some steamed rice, I like to bulk up the dish with some vegetables, usually chopped red or green capsic*ms, sliced celery or even large diced onions. I know – it’s not very authentic but it saves me from having to make a separate vege dish. Plus, I can then serve everything in one bowl and curl up on the sofa for an evening in front of the telly. Right now, I’m addicted to Damages.


General Tso’s Chicken

Easy General Tso's Chicken Recipe (4)

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Gluten FreeDairy FreeQuick

  • Author: eatlittlebird.com
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 50 mins
  • Yield: Serves 2-3 as part of a shared meal
  • Category: Lunch, Dinner
  • Cuisine: Chinese

An Easy General Tso’s Chicken Recipe which is light and healthy. There is no deep-frying but you can still enjoy the classic flavours of this Chinese takeaway favourite. Recipe adapted from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop




For the marinade

For the sauce

For the stir-fry

  • 350 g (12 oz) chicken breast or thigh fillets, diced
  • 610 dried red chillies
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 large red capisicum, diced
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • cooking oil for deep-frying
  • spring onions (scallions), sliced


  1. To make the marinade, mix together the light and dark soy sauces with the egg yolk.
  2. Add the chicken pieces and mix well.
  3. Stir through the potato flour and then the oil.
  4. Make the sauce by mixing all the ingredients together in a small bowl or jug.
  5. Heat the cooking oil in a large saucepan until about 180°C (350°F) and deep-fry the chicken in batches until crisp and golden. Set the chicken aside.
  6. Heat another saucepan with some of the used cooking oil and stir-fry the dried chillies for a few seconds.
  7. Add the ginger, garlic and capsicum and cook for a few minutes until fragrant.
  8. Add the sauce and stir until it thickens.
  9. Add the cooked chicken to the sauce and give everything a good mix.
  10. Stir in the sesame oil and garnish with spring onions.

Kitchen Notes

The heat intensity of dried chillies can vary so go easy with them. If you’re a bit timid, I would start by halving the amount of dried chillies in this recipe.

If you can’t find potato flour, you can substitute with half the quantity of cornflour (cornstarch).

Easy General Tso's Chicken Recipe (7)COOKING FOR CHILDREN
For a kid-friendly meal, my 15 month old child loved the chicken on its own with some rice on the side.

Easy General Tso's Chicken Recipe (8)CONVERSIONS
To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.


  • Serving Size: Serves 2 to 3
  • Calories: 475
  • Sugar: 6g
  • Sodium: 212mg
  • Fat: 35.7g
  • Carbohydrates: 15.4g
  • Fiber: 2.5g
  • Protein: 24g
  • Cholesterol: 110.4mg

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If you have made this dish, I would love to hear how it turned out! Please leave a comment below and share your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #eatlittlebird

Easy General Tso's Chicken Recipe (2024)


What is General Tso sauce made of? ›

How to Make General Tso's Sauce: The sauce for General Tso's chicken is so simple to make with pantry staple ingredients: rice vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, water, sugar, and some corn starch to thicken the sauce. Simply add the ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine.

What does General Tso Chicken contain? ›

General Tso's (pronounced tsow) chicken is a Chinese-American dish that features deep-fried chicken tossed in an irresistibly sticky glaze made with garlic, sugar, soy sauce, and chiles. The dish is named after 19th-century military leader Tso Tsung-t'ang.

What is the difference between General Tso chicken and General Tao chicken? ›

General Tso's chicken (also known as General Tao's or Tsao's chicken) is an iconic Chinese-American takeout of deep-fried chicken coated in a thick sweet sauce. You can also make it spicy for those who like a little kick.

What can be used instead of hoisin sauce? ›

Ready-made hoisin sauce alternatives
  • soy sauce.
  • tamari, which is suitable for gluten-free diets.
  • oyster sauce.
  • chili sauce.
  • barbecue sauce.
  • sweet and sour sauce.
  • teriyaki sauce.
Feb 2, 2022

What is the difference between General Tso and Szechuan sauce? ›

General Tso's is an American Chinese restaurant invention. Generally speaking Szechuan chicken is usually spicier than General Tso's chicken. Although the sauces are similar, General Tso's does not call for Szechuan peppercorns either though I see no reason why you couldn't add them anyway.

Should I coat my chicken in cornstarch before frying? ›

Cornstarch Is the Secret to the Crispiest Fried Chicken

And, it's the secret ingredient for getting crispy coatings like tempura paper-thin.

What is the flavor of General Tso? ›

What does general tso's chicken taste like? At a basic level, this American invention is a kind of sweet and hot barbecue chicken. There are many variations and they range in flavors with some being more garlicky, others being a little vinegary, and some being hotter (spicy hot pepper) than others.

What is the original General Tso chicken? ›

"The original General Tso's chicken was Hunanese in taste and made without sugar," he says, "but when I began cooking for non-Hunanese people in the United States, I altered the recipe." In the late 1980s, having made his fortune, he sold up and returned to Taipei.

What is inside hoisin sauce? ›

Though regional variations exist, most modern hoisin sauce recipes contain some combination of the following ingredients: fermented soybeans, five-spice powder, garlic, red chili peppers, and sugar. "Hoisin" comes from the Cantonese word for seafood, though it's not commonly associated with seafood dishes.

Do Chinese eat General Tso? ›

You might be surprised to learn that General Tso's chicken, a staple on Chinese-American menus, is almost entirely foreign to people who live in the country from which it supposedly originated. While the dish isn't exactly authentic Chinese food, its namesake was a very real (and very powerful) general.

What is hoisin sauce made of? ›

Ingredients. The key ingredient of hoisin sauce is fermented soybean paste. Some hoisin sauce ingredients include starches such as sweet potato, wheat and rice, and water, sugar, soybeans, sesame seeds, white distilled vinegar, salt, garlic, red chili peppers, and sometimes preservatives or coloring agents.

What is the closest thing to General Tso's chicken? ›

Sesame chicken: These two dishes are very similar. The main difference is the oil used in the sauce. Sesame chicken calls for sesame oil, which adds a salty and nutty taste, making it a little less sweet than General Tso.

What is PF Chang's version of General Tso's chicken? ›

Have you ever eaten at P.F. Chang's? They have “Chang's Spicy Chicken” on the menu, which is basically their version of general tso's. It has the perfect balance of sweet and spicy, and the sauce is light in color, which indicates it's not overloaded with soy sauce.

Why is General Tso's chicken so popular? ›

Popularity. Tso's chicken was spicy rather than sweet and spicy. It was altered to suit the tastes of Americans. The dish drew the attention of many food writers; among them were Fuchsia Dunlop from the United Kingdom and Jennifer 8. Lee from the U.S. The dish was adopted by some Hunan chefs.

What does General Tso's sauce taste like? ›

General Tso Sauce is a sweet, spicy, and rich sauce perfect for making General Tso tofu, veggies, and all your stir-fry dishes! Full of flavor and easy to make with only 6 ingredients.

What is General Tso's taste like? ›

It falls somewhere between the tangy, caramelized, thick sauce of orange chicken and the peanut-y, peppery heat of kung pao. Our General Tso's chicken recipe uses reduced-sodium soy sauce and reduced-sodium chicken broth to make the sauce. If you want a saltier dish, swap for regular chicken broth and soy sauce.

What's the difference between General Tso and sesame sauce? ›

General Tso's chicken is a spicy and tangy dish made with a mix of chicken breast and thighs, while sesame chicken is a sweeter option made with succulent chicken thighs.

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