Why is General Tso’s chicken so popular? Well, this dish is sweet, sour, spicy and savoury with just the right amount of salty. It’s the perfect balance of flavour, texture and colour and a wonderful place to start your wok journey.–Jeremy Pang

Authentic General Tso’s Chicken FAQs

How spicy are Tien Tsin chiles?

These beautifully bright, shiny red peppers are really hot. Extremely so. They ring in from 50,000 to 75,000 Scoville heat units. To bring that into perspective, bell peppers are 0 on the Scoville scale and jalapeños can be 2500 to 8000 SHUs.

If you’re heat-averse, don’t worry. The peppers do add flavor, but they can be pushed to the side and not eaten. If you’re still worried, use less peppers or omit them completely.

What does coating the chicken in cornstarch before frying do?

The cornstarch coating is a critical step in achieving that golden, crispy goodness on your chicken. It helps the chicken stay juicy inside while browning it beautifully on the outside, and once all the ingredients are combined, the cornstarch will help to thicken the sauce.

Can I make General Tso’s Chicken without a wok?

Sure can. A decent sauté pan or skillet will work as a substitute for a wok.

A wok filled with authentic General Tso's chicken with a knife and sliced scallions on the side.

Authentic General Tso’s Chicken

5 / 6 votes
Made with wok-seared crispy chunks of boneless chicken thighs and a sweet and spicy sauce, General Tso's chicken is an enduring Chinese takeout favorite. This version is so much better.
David Leite
CourseEntree
CuisineChinese
Servings2 servings
Calories757 kcal
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time1 hour

Ingredients 

For the crispy chicken

  • 10 dried red chiles, such as tien tsin
  • Hot water
  • 10 1/2 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch (2-cm) dice
  • 1 3/4 cups cornstarch, seasoned with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • Mild vegetable oil

For the General Tso sauce

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon black rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water

For the marinade

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

To serve

  • Sliced red chile, sliced scallions, steamed rice, and flash-fried green vegetables (optional)

Instructions 

Soak the chiles

  • Soak the dried red chiles in hot water until slightly softened, 10 to 20 minutes. Drain in a colander or fine mesh sieve.

Make the General Tso sauce

  • Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

Marinate the chicken

  • Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the chicken to the bowl and massage the marinade ingredients into the meat. Let the chicken marinate while the peppers finish soaking.
  • Sprinkle the seasoned cornstarch over the chicken and massage until each piece of meat separates and has a dry dusty white coating.

Fry the chicken

  • In a wok over medium-high heat, heat 2 inches (5 cm) of oil to 350°F (180°C). Working in batches, if necessary, deep-fry the coated chicken until light golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate lined with paper towels.
  • Carefully pour out the oil from your wok into a heatproof bowl to cool and give your wok a quick wipe with a paper towel. Place the wok back on the stove and bring 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to a high heat. Add in your ginger, garlic, and scallions and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the soaked chiles, followed immediately by the sauce mixture. Bring the sauce to a vigorous boil until syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the deep-fried meat, tossing the wok a few times so that the sauce fully coats the chicken.

Serve

  • Sprinkle with the sliced red chile and scallions, if desired, and serve immediately with steamed rice and flash-fried green vegetables.
Jeremy Pang's School of Wok

Adapted From

Jeremy Pang’s School of Wok

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 757 kcalCarbohydrates: 82 gProtein: 35 gFat: 31 gSaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gTrans Fat: 0.2 gCholesterol: 234 mgSodium: 1224 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 19 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2022 Jeremy Pang. Photo © 2022 Kris Kirkham. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Bang bang winner winner chicken dinner! Who doesn’t love a great take out Chinese meal at home? I particularly like this recipe as it is as straightforward as a recipe can get, with easy to follow directions and not a whole lot of ingredients.

A wok filled with authentic General Tso's chicken with sliced scallions on top.

Most people have access to a great Asian grocer or a very well stocked world foods aisle in their nearest store to stock a basic Asian pantry which this recipe is all about.

I’ve made this several times and you can skip out the chicken for cauliflower or a meat alternative, and even turkey is fabulous in this recipe. I have made this with chicken thighs and breasts and they are both juicy and tasty.

It is a very good beginner or any level of cooking. My lunch dates loved it and gave a wonderful review and would make it themselves and their young children. I served it with baby bok-choy and celery, cabbage, broccoli, ginger, and oyster sauce stir fry and Thai Jasmine rice.

I was a bit anxious about this authentic General Tso’s chicken recipe as there were some ingredients that were new to me and they were, well, pungent. But when it all came together, I found true love at first bite! Every mouthful was a burst of perfectly balanced flavour – salty, spicy, sweet, sour and meaty. Yum!

A white plate with authentic General Tso's chicken on top of rice with steamed broccoli on the side.

This is going to be a regular at our house. And it will be perfect in a thermos for school lunch, assuming I can keep my classmates’ hands-off.

I ate this with plain jasmine rice and steamed broccoli. Next time I’ll make double the sauce because good as it was with the crunchy chicken, it was heaven with the plain rice. Okay, I really like rice.

In fact, I’ll double or triple the whole recipe so I can have leftovers and put some away in the freezer. I’m guessing I should freeze the cooked chicken and sauce separately, but it’s no big deal to thaw and toss them together on the stovetop.

And I’m going to give this recipe a go with other meats (duck, lamb) or even tofu. Yes, the sauce is that good.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you that you’ll want to keep eating this even after you’re full. This authentic General Tso’s chicken recipe delivers crunchy chicken pieces smothered in a sweet and sour sticky sauce, and the chicken doesn’t lose its crunch. The spice kicks in as the sauce develops on the plate, so while you might not feel much heat immediately, you’ll get a satisfying hit of it as you eat.

I served it over jasmine rice, and we fought over the last bits of chicken. The ‘light’ in light soy sauce, in Chinese cooking, isn’t about salt content. Rather, it refers to the color and viscosity as compared to Chinese dark soy sauce. In terms of subbing for light soy sauce, look for about 40 percent sodium in a regular soy sauce instead of a low-sodium variety.

For subbing dark soy sauce, you’ll want to keep in mind that Chinese dark soy has a salty molasses taste and viscosity. Feel free to sub vegan oyster sauce for oyster sauce, because that’s what I did.

The dried chiles are just in the recipe for flavor and will generally be too tough to eat, so push them to the side. Add the garnish of sliced fresh chiles only if you prefer more than moderate spice.

This authentic General Tso’s chicken recipe was delicious. 

The only thing I would change is, instead of coating the chicken with cornstarch before deep frying, I would just add 2 tablespoons to the sauce.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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Recipe Rating




8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I sautéed some chopped garlic on low with sone toasted sesame oil and then added the rest that I’d wished together. Sprinkled in a little ginger and sesame seeds and thicken with a little corn starch… SO GOOD! My daughter and my bestie are begging me to make it again!! Tried the sauce with fried cauliflower and made general tso cauliflower wings too!!

    1. Fantastic, Granny Kay! We’re so pleased to hear this. Thanks for taking the time to comment.