Chances are even if you’ve never had General Tso’s Chicken, you’ve certainly seen it on your local Chinese takeout menu. I mean, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a Chinese menu that didn’t have this dish on it in some iteration.
With its sticky, savory, and sweet sauce and just a touch of spice, the dish is often compared to sesame or orange chicken, though I find that Genera Tso’s is generally more savory and frequently has a bit more spice than the others. It’s certainly a favorite and for good reason… it’s crazy delicious!
Let’s break this recipe down a bit…
While my observation is that most General Tso’s chicken is made with chicken thighs, I’m not a huge fan of thighs, so I use chicken breast. I feel like the flavor is a bit cleaner and it allows this super delicious sauce to be the star. That said, you can 100% use thigh meat, if that’s your preference.
In this recipe, we coat the chicken with cornstarch. This not only allows the chicken to get crazy golden brown and crispy, the cornstarch also helps to thicken the sauce a bit. I even often add a little cornstarch to my dredge when I’m making good ol’ Southern fried chicken.
Each of the ingredients in this recipe plays an important role in the flavor of the finished product, so I don’t recommend substitutions. While I realize there’s a chance you don’t have hoisin sauce in the pantry right now, it’s totally worth the purchase because it’s a big part of the flavor profile of this dish. Once I started using it in recipes, we almost always have it on hand now. It’s a great dip for things like chicken fingers and nuggets, is a superb glaze for meat, and adds some great flavor to nearly any Asian dish. One thing that I’ve found though is that hoisin sauce flavor can vary wildly between brands. I typically use Kikkoman or Lee Kum Kee.
Another ingredient we need to point out is the rice vinegar – also known as rice wine vinegar. I’ll admit, I used to get confused by this all the time. Rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are the same thing – just different names on the packaging. But “seasoned” rice wine vinegar has added sugar and salt, so it’s a little different. It will work in a pinch, but will change the flavor a bit. Then there’s rice wine. Which, while also made from fermented rice like rice vinegar, is something entirely different. It can’t be used interchangeably in this recipe.
I opted to used ground ginger in this recipe because it’s something most folks always have on hand, but I love to use fresh ginger when I have it. I replace the 1/2 teaspoon of the ground ginger with 2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger when I do. Hot tip: Fresh ginger stores incredibly well wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in a freezer zip-top bag and grates really well when frozen. 🙂
Most Chinese takeout places serve General Tso’s chicken with broccoli, but I really love it with the ramen noodles here. Truth be told, I love any noodle any time, but you could swap the ramen for broccoli, another vegetable, or even a combination of both.
Easy General Tso's Chicken
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3 breasts)
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 heaping teaspoons minced garlic (3 to 4 cloves)
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- 3 (3-ounce) packets ramen noodles (seasoning discarded)
- sliced green onions, sesame seeds, and more soy sauce (optional)
- Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces. Place the corn starch in gallon zip-top bag. Add in the chicken, seal, and toss to coat.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the hoisin, soy, brown sugar, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ground ginger, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
- Prepare ramen noodles according to package directions (without using the seasoning packets). Drain and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Shake off excess cornstarch and add the chicken to the hot oil. Cook the chicken pieces until they are browned on both sides and cooked through. Depending on the size of the pan, you may need to work in batches, being sure not to crowd the pan. Add additional oil if necessary. Remove the chicken from the skillet to a plate and set aside.
- Add the sauce ingredients to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Add additional crushed red pepper to your liking.
- Return the chicken to the pan and coat in the sauce. Add the cooked ramen and toss to coat. Add additional soy sauce if desired. Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onions if desired. Serve immediately.