Chicken Karaage ~ Japanese Fried Chicken

Chicken karaage, or Japanese fried chicken, is made by marinating chicken in soy sauce and sake and then coating it in egg white and potato starch and frying it twice. The result is blissfully crisp and golden on the outside, tender and ridiculously juicy on the inside.

A dozen pieces of double fried Japanese chicken on a paper towel.

Employees at Union Square Tokyo have developed their own family meal repertoire. Their version of fried chicken has the requisite crunch thanks to potato starch, which is found in the baking or kosher food section of most supermarkets. Boneless chunks of marinated chicken are lightly coated in egg white and potato starch, then twice-fried briefly until crisp. The first frying cooks the chicken through, and the second frying, at a higher temperature, turns it to golden brown perfection.–Michael Romano and Karen Stabiner

Chicken Karaage | Japanese Fried Chicken

A dozen pieces of double fried Japanese chicken on a paper towel.
Chicken karaage, or Japanese fried chicken, is made by marinating chicken in soy sauce and sake and then coating it in egg white and potato starch and frying it twice. The result is blissfully crisp and golden on the outside, tender and ridiculously juicy on the inside.
Michael Romano and Karen Stabiner

Prep 35 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 1 hr 40 mins
Entrees
Japanese
6 to 8 servings
402 kcal
5 / 2 votes
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Equipment

  • Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer

Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons grated garlic cloves (from about 8 cloves)
  • 4 teaspoons grated ginger root
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (or substitute gluten-free tamari) preferably low-sodium
  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken preferably dark meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) pieces
  • 3 large egg whites lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup potato starch*
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Directions
 

  • In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken, combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sake, sugar, salt, and pepper, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  • About 30 minutes before you intend to cook the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature.
  • Drain the chicken, discarding the marinade. Return the chicken to the bowl. Add the egg whites and stir and turn to coat all the pieces. Add the potato starch and mix well.
  • Heat 2 inches of oil over medium heat in a wok or heavy, deep-sided pot until it reaches 325°F (163°C) on a deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer. Fry the chicken in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan, just until the chicken is cooked through on the inside and golden brown on the outside, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and let it drain on paper towels or a brown paper bag. The chicken will look done, although it won't yet be incredibly crisp. That's okay. That's what the second frying is for. Wait until the temperature of the oil returns to 325°F (163°C) before frying the remaining chicken in batches.
  • Crank the heat underneath the oil to 375°F (190°C). Using the slotted spoon, return the chicken to the oil in batches and fry until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain on clean paper towels and serve while still hot.
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Notes

*Is potato starch better than flour for fried chicken?

You can definitely deep fry food without a coating—think unbattered chicken wings. But that little bit (or a lot) of extra starchy batter is what makes fried food so appealing. A starchy coating provides a few benefits. Less moisture loss because the batter fries first and seals in most of the liquid, more gentle cooking of the interior food because of this sturdy coating, and just good, old-fashioned mouth appeal. Now, as far as wheat vs potato starch, you’ll find that they both crisp up to the same extent because of their molecular makeup. However, potato starch is quite a bit finer, closer to cornstarch, and lets you create a thinner coating. And thinner means crispier and more delicate.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 402kcal (20%)Carbohydrates: 25g (8%)Protein: 25g (50%)Fat: 21g (32%)Saturated Fat: 9g (56%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 82mg (27%)Sodium: 824mg (36%)Potassium: 500mg (14%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 5g (6%)Vitamin A: 155IU (3%)Vitamin C: 4mg (5%)Calcium: 39mg (4%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

When I was a kid, I disliked sushi, yet my favorite restaurant was a sushi place because they had the most amazing karaage chicken. This recipe is a close replica of that dish. The bite-sized pieces are packed with flavor and have an awesome crunchy outside. I rarely deep-fry but once I realized that this was a recipe for one of my favorite chicken dishes, 2 inches of hot oil seemed less intimidating to me. It really is worth the effort to marinate the chicken and to take the extra time to fry it twice.

A few notes to share: Use chicken thighs over breast meat. The chicken won’t overcook and stays juicy. Definitely use low-sodium soy sauce and if you don’t, reduce the amount of salt. I used low-sodium soy sauce and kosher salt and the results were just right. The timing of the first fry was accurate for pieces that were 1 1/2 inches. (I had some smaller pieces and they cooked in about 3 minutes.)

Since the chicken marinates in the soy sauce mixture, it already goes into the oil a bit dark, and the first fry darkens the chicken even more. It doesn’t look pale or light but keep an eye on the coating getting too dark because the second fry could result in a burnt coating. The chicken does tend to easily clump together so not overcrowding is really important. However, if the chicken pieces do clump together, they are easy to pull apart after the first fry.

This two-step method for frying boneless chicken pieces worked beautifully for me. The marinade made the chicken well-seasoned with a slight Asian flavor that wasn’t as obvious in the finished dish as you might expect.

I found the frying times and temperatures to be appropriate. After the first frying, the chicken pieces were already golden and a novice fry-cook might think they were done. While the meat is cooked through at that point, the texture of the coating will not be what it should be—it will be too soft, thus the second fry at a higher temperature to really crisp it. The end product is crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside.

It’s important not to crowd the pan, and to give the oil time to come back up to temperature between batches. For me, that meant letting the oil heat back up for about 1 to 2 minutes between each batch. It is really important to keep monitoring the temperature, otherwise, the oil will have a tendency to be cooler with each successive batch, and your results will be sub-par.

I think these chicken nuggets need a dipping sauce to go with them. I used a Burmese chile-garlic sauce, which was a great combination, but you have a lot of flexibility here. Despite the Asian flavors in the marinade, even a Western-style sauce could be good with this chicken.


Originally published June 3, 2013

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Comments

    1. Charmaine, we haven’t tried this with an air fryer, so we can’t say how it will turn out, but I think it’s worth a try. You may need to do it in batches, depending on the size of your air fryer. If you try it, do let us know how it turns out!

  1. 5 stars
    I dunno why I’m feeling so NOT patriotic this year (cough, cough, Trump, cough, cough) but we passed on the Red, White and Blue and the Americana this year and a Japanese Fourth seemed like a very good idea when I ran across this recipe.

    I did it with ramen cabbage salad, grilled corn (yakitomorokoshi) and cucumber salad (sunomono). It was all a new culinary adventure for me and it paid off wonderfully. I wish mine were as pretty an yours but the flavor was off the charts!

    I used my slow cooker for the frying. It’s deep. It holds a constant temp. Why not? And it worked out great.

    Thanks for a great recipe and a great idea!

      1. 5 stars
        Can’t understand why this recipe hasn’t generated more attention in 5 years.

        It’s different — I hope not too different for folks to consider. It was not at all difficult to prepare. The flavor was just outstanding. The 2-step deep frying process made it convenient to prepare a decent amount of time in advance and then finish very quickly for service.

        I am inspired to go looking for some additional Japanese recipes to try for some future event.

  2. My kind of food, David. Can’t wait to try this soon! If some of your readers don’t know about potato starch it’s usually found with the gluten-free baking ingredients, but you can also find it (especially around Passover) with the kosher foods. And in a total pinch, you can always use cornstarch.

    1. Glad you like it, Georgia! We know several folks who feel like they’ve hit the jackpot now that they can indulge in this at home after having seeking it out in Japanese restros for years….

  3. Pronounced kah rah ah geh to be precise. This wonderful snack can be found in just about every one of a zillion convenience stores in Japan.

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