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General Tso’s Chicken Recipe

General Tso’s Chicken is more than just a dish; it’s a culinary phenomenon that has captivated the taste buds of millions around the globe. This guide delves deep into the heart of this iconic dish, exploring its history, ingredients, and the secret to making it at home. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a curious foodie, this article promises to enrich your understanding and appreciation of General Tso’s Chicken.

The Intriguing History and Origin of General Tso’s Chicken

The origins of General Tso’s Chicken are shrouded in mystery and debate. While some narratives trace it back to the Hunan province in China, others credit Taiwanese chefs in the United States with its creation. Named after General Tso, a revered Chinese military leader, the dish’s true roots remain a topic of culinary speculation.

Despite its contested origins, General Tso’s Chicken has become a staple of Chinese-American cuisine, celebrated for its perfect balance of sweet, savory, spicy, and tangy flavors. The dish’s widespread popularity is a testament to its universal appeal and the fascinating blend of cultures that it represents. For a deeper dive into the dish’s history, Explore the history of General Tso’s Chicken.

What Makes General Tso’s Chicken Unique

At the heart of General Tso’s Chicken lies its unique combination of flavors and textures. The dish is renowned for its:

  • Crispy, deep-fried chicken pieces that are both juicy and flavorful.
  • A sticky sauce that masterfully combines sweet, savory, spicy, and tangy elements, creating a complex flavor profile that is hard to resist.

The secret to achieving the perfect crispy texture lies in the frying technique. Whether opting for shallow or deep frying, the goal is to achieve a golden, crunchy exterior without compromising the chicken’s tenderness. For those keen on mastering the art of frying, Master the art of frying provides invaluable insights.

The Recipe Breakdown

Ingredients Overview

Sauce/Marinade: The heart of General Tso’s Chicken lies in its sauce/marinade, a complex blend of ingredients that imbue the dish with its signature flavors. Soy sauce provides the savory backbone, while hoisin sauce adds a sweet and slightly tangy depth. Rice vinegar introduces a subtle acidity, balancing the sweetness, and brown sugar caramelizes under heat, contributing to the sauce’s sticky consistency. Chili paste or dried red chili peppers inject a spicy kick, essential for the dish’s characteristic heat. Sesame oil rounds out the sauce with its nutty aroma, and chicken stock is often included to adjust the sauce’s consistency. Cornstarch is a critical component, thickening the sauce to ensure it clings to the chicken pieces effectively.

The Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are the preferred choice for their moisture and flavor, standing up well to the frying process without becoming dry. The chicken is typically cut into bite-sized pieces, allowing for more surface area to be coated with the delicious sauce. Marinating the chicken in a portion of the sauce enhances its flavor and tenderizes the meat.

Stir Fry Essentials: Fresh garlic and ginger are indispensable in the stir-fry process, providing a fragrant base that complements the spicy elements of the dish. Red pepper flakes can be adjusted according to heat preference but are essential for achieving the characteristic warmth of General Tso’s Chicken.

Step-by-Step Cooking Guide

  1. Preparing the Sauce/Marinade: Begin by mixing soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, chili paste, sesame oil, and a portion of chicken stock in a bowl. Reserve some of this mixture to marinate the chicken pieces. Thicken the remaining sauce with cornstarch dissolved in a little water, ensuring it’s ready to coat the chicken later.
  2. Marinating and Coating the Chicken: Marinate the chicken pieces in the reserved sauce mixture for at least 30 minutes. After marinating, dredge the chicken in additional cornstarch, ensuring each piece is well-coated. This step is crucial for achieving the crispy exterior.
  3. Frying Techniques: You can either shallow fry in a skillet with enough oil to come halfway up the sides of the chicken pieces or deep fry in a pot with oil that fully submerges the chicken. Both methods require the oil to be heated to around 350°F (175°C). Fry the chicken until golden and crispy, then drain on paper towels.
  4. Finalizing the Sauce and Coating the Chicken: In a separate pan, sauté garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes until fragrant. Add the thickened sauce and heat until it bubbles and thickens further. Toss the fried chicken in the sauce until evenly coated.

Serving Suggestions

General Tso’s Chicken is best served hot, with steamed jasmine or basmati rice to soak up the extra sauce. For a balanced meal, accompany it with steamed broccoli or a light cucumber salad dressed with vinegar and sesame oil. Garnish the dish with thinly sliced green onions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for an added layer of flavor and texture. These sides and garnishes not only complement the dish’s flavors but also add a refreshing contrast to the rich, spicy chicken.


Why is General Tso’s Chicken so popular in America?

  • General Tso’s Chicken has captivated American palates with its perfect blend of sweet, savory, spicy, and tangy flavors, combined with the irresistible crunch of fried chicken. This dish exemplifies the fusion of Chinese cooking techniques with flavors that appeal to the American taste for bold and comforting foods. Its widespread availability in Chinese-American restaurants across the country has made it a familiar and beloved choice for many. The dish’s rich, glossy sauce and satisfying texture have cemented its status as a quintessential takeout favorite, embodying the comfort and indulgence that many seek in their culinary experiences.

Is General Tso’s Chicken actually Chinese?

  • General Tso’s Chicken is a prime example of Chinese-American cuisine, a culinary genre that blends Chinese cooking methods with Western tastes. While the dish is named after a historical Chinese military leader, General Tso, it does not have roots in traditional Chinese cuisine. Instead, it was likely invented by Chinese chefs in the United States as a way to appeal to American palates. Therefore, while inspired by Chinese flavors and techniques, General Tso’s Chicken is more accurately described as an American creation that reflects the cultural exchange and adaptation of Chinese immigrants in the US.

Can General Tso’s Chicken be made less spicy?

  • Yes, General Tso’s Chicken can easily be adjusted to suit different spice preferences. The heat in the dish primarily comes from chili paste or dried red chili peppers used in the sauce. To make a milder version, simply reduce the amount of these spicy ingredients or omit them altogether. Alternatively, for those who enjoy a hint of spice without overwhelming heat, incorporating sweet bell peppers can add flavor and bulk to the sauce while tempering its spiciness. This flexibility allows the dish to be customized to individual tastes, making it enjoyable for everyone at the table.

Understanding the ingredients and techniques behind General Tso’s Chicken is crucial for anyone looking to recreate this dish at home. For further insights into Asian cuisine ingredients, Understanding Asian cuisine ingredients offers a comprehensive guide.

In crafting this guide, the aim was to provide a thorough exploration of General Tso’s Chicken, from its historical roots to the secrets of its preparation. Whether you’re cooking for a special occasion or simply indulging in a personal craving, this dish is sure to impress with its rich flavors and textures.

General Tso's Chicken Recipe

General Tso's Chicken is a beloved Chinese-American dish known for its perfect balance of sweet, savory, spicy, and tangy flavors. This recipe offers a homemade version that captures the essence of what makes this dish a favorite in restaurants across America. With crispy, deep-fried chicken pieces coated in a rich, flavorful sauce, it's a satisfying meal that's sure to impress.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese-American
Servings 5 people
Calories 465 kcal


  • Deep skillet or frying pan
  • Mixing bowls
  • Whisk
  • Tongs or slotted spoon


For the Chicken:

  • 600 g about 1.3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup cornstarch for coating
  • Oil for frying

For the Sauce/Marinade:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili paste adjust to taste
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ¾ cup chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch for thickening the sauce

Stir Fry Essentials:

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger minced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional

Garnishes (optional):

  • Sesame seeds
  • Sliced green onions


  • Prepare the Sauce/Marinade: In a bowl, mix soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili paste, rice vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, and chicken stock. Take 2 tablespoons of this mixture to marinate the chicken and set the rest aside. Mix the 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with a little water and add to the sauce mixture for later use.
  • Marinate the Chicken: Toss the chicken pieces in the marinade and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  • Coat the Chicken: Dredge the marinated chicken pieces in cornstarch, ensuring each piece is well-coated.
  • Fry the Chicken: Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the chicken pieces until golden and crispy, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels.
  • Make the Sauce: In a separate pan, heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes until fragrant. Add the reserved sauce mixture and bring to a simmer until thickened.
  • Combine: Add the fried chicken to the sauce, tossing to coat evenly.
  • Serve: Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onions, if desired. Serve hot with steamed rice.


  • For a less spicy version, reduce or omit the chili paste and red pepper flakes.
  • Chicken breast can be used instead of thighs but may result in a less juicy texture.
  • To ensure the chicken stays crispy, serve immediately after tossing with the sauce.
  • Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated, though the chicken may not be as crispy upon reheating.
Keyword Chinese-American Cuisine, Crispy Chicken Recipe, General Tso's Chicken, Spicy Chicken