So much better than takeout! This Crispy Honey Sesame Chicken is a true Asian dish favorite at our house. It’s delicious and comforting.
The chicken comes out crispy, light, and airy, and the honey sesame sauce is pure deliciousness…perfectly sweet and savory!
Serve this delicious honey sesame chicken with steamed rice, fried rice, or assorted veggies. I promise, everyone will love it!
Crispy Honey Sesame Chicken is one of my favorite dishes at Chinese restaurants, so I tried to recreate it at home. The homemade version is so much better than takeout!
This homemade honey sesame chicken is crispy, airy, and light thanks to the addition of cold soda water and baking powder to the batter. Their fizzy and bubbly nature create air pockets so the exterior always comes out crispy, airy, and light.
You’ll also love the honey sesame sauce! It’s the perfect balance between sweet and savory. I love serving honey sesame chicken with rice dishes, such as this Coconut Jasmine Rice, Chinese Sausage Fried Rice, or Curry Fried Rice.
Fry Batter for Crispy Chicken
I use a super simple batter for this crispy honey sesame chicken recipe. After testing extensively, I can say this one is my favorite batter because it makes the chicken crispy and light and airy at the time time.
The secret is a combination cornstarch with flour, baking powder, and COLD soda water.
Cornstarch, when mixed with flour, yields perfectly crispy chicken. Additionally, soda water and baking powder add airiness. Make sure you use COLD soda water. The colder it is, the crispier the chicken will be.
As for deep frying tips, use vegetable, canola, or peanut oil (don’t use olive oil. Use a candy thermometer to check that the oil is hot enough (360-375 degrees F). Finally, use a cast iron pot as it will retain heat very well, which is essential for getting that golden brown color in the honey sesame chicken.
The Honey Sesame Sauce
The honey sesame sauce is very easy to make and it takes less than 5 minutes. You can even make it a few days in advance!
The sauce is made of honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, rice wine vinegar, chicken broth, garlic, and cornstarch. All you have to do is mix the ingredients and simmer in a pan for just 3 minutes or so until thickened.
The trick to keeping this honey sesame chicken crispy after adding the sauce is simply to not drench the chicken in sauce. The chicken should be generously coating, but not swimming in a pool of sauce – it will just get soggy. You can always dip in extra sauce on the side!
The full list of ingredients can be found in the recipe card down below, but here are some helpful ingredient notes for this honey sesame chicken recipe:
- Chicken: I use chicken breasts, but chicken thighs will work too (boneless, skinless). Make sure the pieces of chicken are not too big so they cook properly – about 1 to 1.5 inch pieces is fine.
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch adds extra crispiness to the chicken.
- Cold soda water: The fizzy nature of soda water adds airiness to the batter, so the fried chicken won’t be dense or heavy.
- Chinese cooking wine: Adds great flavor! You can find it in the Asian aisle at most grocery stores, in Asian grocery stores, or online.
- Sesame oil: It’s so fragrant. You can find it in the Asian aisle at most grocery stores, in Asian grocery stores, or online.
- White sesame seeds: You can find these in the spice section of grocery stores.
Step 1 | Marinate chicken
In a bowl, combine cubed chicken with soy sauce and Chinese cooking wine. Let it marinate for 15 minutes.
Step 2 | Make the batter
In a large bowl, mix cornstarch, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the soda water and combine until a batter forms. Set aside.
Step 3 | Coat chicken
Coat the marinated chicken with cornstarch one by one, and then dip in the prepared batter. Drop the battered chicken into the hot oil.
Step 4 | Deep fry chicken
Deep fry chicken for 6-8 minutes until golden brown and cooked through, occasionally moving the chicken around with a spoon so it gets evenly browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.
Step 5 | Make honey sesame sauce
Meanwhile, make the honey sesame sauce. In a bowl, mix the honey, sesame oil, cornstarch, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, rice wine vinegar, and chicken broth. Set aside.
In a large deep skillet over medium heat, add a few drizzles of oil and minced garlic. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Then add the prepared sauce and simmer for about 3 minutes, until slightly reduced.
Step 6 | Coat with sauce and garnish
Add the chicken to the skillet with the sauce and toss to combine. You can also pour the sauce into the chicken instead. Garnish with white sesame seeds. Seriously, this honey sesame chicken is so much better than takeout!
Do I Need to Deep Fry the Chicken?
For this recipe, yes, you need to deep fry the chicken. Because it uses a wet batter, frying is the way to go.
Do NOT air-fry or bake the chicken in this recipe. You can’t put wet batter in an air fryer or oven, as the batter won’t solidify…it will be gooey and turn into a mess. I’ll share a few Chinese baked or air-fried chicken recipes soon, so stay tuned!
Serving and Pairing Ideas
I like to keep it simple, so my go-to side dish for this crispy honey sesame chicken is steamed jasmine rice. Here’s how to steam long grain white rice: for every 1 cup of rice, use 1 ⅓ cups of water in a rice cooker or over the stovetop in a covered pot. It takes about 20 minutes.
Also try steaming or sautéing some vegetables, like broccoli or bok choy. Or complement it with these Asian-inspired dishes:
Make sure the oil is hot enough, between 360 to 375 degrees F when frying. Use a candy thermometer to check temperature. A Dutch oven pot will help retain heat. Also use COLD soda water and baking powder in the batter.
Any neutral oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable, canola, or peanut oil. Do not use olive oil.
No, you can’t use wet batters in an air fryer or in the oven.
If possible, try to get Chinese cooking wine (also called Shaoxing wine) because of its unique flavor. It will add depth to the sauce. If you can’t find it, substitute with dry cooking sherry.
Tips for Success
- COLD soda water and baking powder both add lightness, airiness, and crispiness to the batter. Make sure the soda water is cold and that the baking powder is not expired.
- Use vegetable, canola, or peanut oil for deep frying. They have higher smoke points, so they are conducive for deep frying.
- Use a candy thermometer to ensure the oil is at the right temperature. This way, your chicken will always come out golden brown and crispy. Also, a cast iron pot is helpful for retaining heat.
Crispy Honey Sesame Chicken
- 1.5 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes - boneless, skinless
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine) - see note
- Vegetable oil, enough to cover about 2-3 inches of the pot - plus more for sauce
- ¾ cup cornstarch - for dredging
- Sesame seeds for garnish
- Thinly sliced scallions for garnish
For the batter
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ cup COLD soda water - keep refrigerated until ready to use
Honey sesame sauce
- ⅓ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil - plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine) - see note
- ½ teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- ½ cup chicken broth - plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a bowl, evenly combine the chicken with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon Chinese cooking wine. Set aside and let it marinate for 15 minutes.
Make the batter and cook chicken
- Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a large cast iron Dutch oven pot over medium-high heat, enough to cover 2-3 inches of the pot. Use a candy thermometer (clipped to the pot) to make sure it reaches the right deep frying temperature, 360 to 375 degrees F. This will take a few minutes.
- While the oil is heating, make the batter: In a large bowl, evenly mix the cornstarch, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the COLD soda water and combine until a batter forms. It won’t be too thick or too thin. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, add the cornstarch. One by one, thoroughly dredge the chicken in the cornstarch followed by the batter, shaking off any excess batter. Drop each coated piece of chicken into the hot oil.
- Fry for about 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Do it in batches, as adding too much food at one will cause the oil temperature to drop.
- Transfer the cooked chicken onto a plate or sheet pan lined with paper towel to remove any excess oil.
Make the honey sesame sauce
- In a medium bowl, mix the honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, rice wine vinegar, chicken broth, and cornstarch. Set aside.
- In a large deep skillet over medium heat, add the minced garlic and a few drizzles of oil. Cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Then add the sauce mixture and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 3 minutes, whisking. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Toss with sauce and serve
- Add the cooked chicken to the skillet with sauce, and toss to coat the chicken evenly. Serve and garnish with sesame seeds and sliced scallions.
- Chinese cooking wine, also known as Shaoxing wine, can be found in the Asian aisle of grocery stores, at Asian grocery stores, or online. It has a dark amber color and has a milk sweet taste, which is great for adding flavor. If you really can’t find it, use dry cooking sherry instead.
- Do not substitute cornstarch with more flour. Flour contains gluten, so the chicken won’t stay as crisp. Use both cornstarch and flour per the ratios listed in the recipe card.
- Use COLD soda water to maximize crispiness (keep it refrigerated until ready to use). Adding soda water and baking powder to the batter will also incorporate lightness and airiness to the chicken.
- Use vegetable, canola, or peanut oil for deep frying. Don’t use olive oil – it will burn.
- Use a candy thermometer to make sure the oil is at the right temperature, 360 to 375 degrees F. It will This way, your chicken will always come out golden brown and crispy.
- Try not to heavily drench the chicken in sauce. You want to generously coat the chicken, but not swimming in a pool of sauce – it will just get soggy. You can always dip in extra sauce on the side!
- Storing and make-ahead: Unfortunately, the chicken may turn soggy after refrigeration. An alternative would be to refrigerate the fried chicken WITHOUT sauce and reheat it in the oven at 400 degrees until warmed up – it will be crispy but not as crispy as freshly made.
- Make ahead: The sauce can be made 1-2 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat over the stovetop.
- Chicken breasts: Chicken thighs (boneless, skin removed).
- Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine): Dry cooking sherry, but Chinese cooking wine highly recommended.
- Vegetable oil: Canola or peanut oil.