After years and years of trial and error, I am beyond thrilled to be finally sharing the BEST crispy General Tso’s chicken recipe. General Tso’s chicken has always been a favorite of mine but I am often so disappointed by the versions served up at my local restaurants. Either the flavor is off, the texture is mushy, it’s not spicy, etc. etc. The only good part about not having amazing asian restaurants in my neighborhood is the dedication I have to making really, really good Chinese/asian foods at home. The chicken in this recipe is extremely crispy, and the sauce is full of robust flavors from sweet, tangy, spicy, and salty. Your only regret will not be making more!
What Makes This Recipe The BEST Crispy General Tso’s Chicken?
This recipe checks all the boxes for a PERFECT Chinese chicken dish:
- Deep fried chicken which follows the traditional method (don’t worry, I give lots of tips on easy frying!)
- A beautiful balance of sweet, spicy and salty flavors in a sticky sauce that glazes over the chicken.
- Maximum crispiness! Which comes from the batter choice, cooking method, and putting the chicken through a double spin in the fry oil.
- The recipe yields the right amount of extra sauce so you can spoon it over your rice.
- It’s surprisingly easy to make with just three main steps:
- Batter chicken
- Fry chicken
- Simmer sauce and coat chicken
Chili peppers are the star of this recipe but it can be difficult to find whole dried chili peppers (which are always found in the takeout version of General Tso’s). I’ve found these at asian markets like H-Mart but didn’t have these on-hand when I took photos of this dish over the weekend. So instead, this combination works well as a comparable alternate: chilies in oil and dried red pepper flakes. I used an combination of the two, following the same quantities I’ve listed in the recipe. You can find chilies in oil in most grocery stores in the asian section of international aisle. If you can only find red pepper flakes, that can work as well.
You can find chilies in oil and whole dried chili peppers on Amazon:
How to Make The BEST Crispy General Tso’s Chicken Recipe:
- Prepare your frying station: safe and easy frying is always the goal. You don’t want your house, clothes, and hair smelling like fried food for days to come. So keep your oil temp monitored at all times with a thermometer. This is imperative! For a landing station, I have found the best solution is a baking sheet lined with paper towels and topped with a cooling rack.
- Plan to have rice/sides ready by the time your dish will be ready. This chicken dish is not one you want sitting around in the pan. The batter will get goopy within minutes of touching the sauce.
- “Clean as you go” in the famous words of my mom. She has taught me since a young age that cleaning as you go whenever you are in the kitchen is not only the key to a successful recipe (because it’s easier to focus and stay organized in a clean kitchen). But it also feels less overwhelming to cook and especially fry, when you clean as you go and you have a neat and tidy workspace. If necessary, pause before going to the next step (like once your chicken is sitting in the batter) and clean up and put away any dishes or ingredients you are finished using.
Batter and fry chicken:
- Batter chicken – with an easy three ingredient batter; cornstarch, flour and water. Normally I’d add salt and a sprinkle of sugar to the batter but since the sauce is perfectly salted/sweet, we will skip this step. Batter will be drippy but don’t worry, although it looks thin, it puffs up nicely from the self-rising flour and corn starch. You can expect bits of batter drips to be floating around your pan. Just skim those off.
- Cook chicken – peanut oil is full of flavor and I often choose this oil when I deep fry, but vegetable and canola are cheaper and function just as well.
- Drain on a cooling rack NOT paper towels to remove excess oil. If you place chicken directly on paper towels, it won’t allow the chicken space to breath and the moisture will build up on the underside of the chicken, leaving it soft and mushy. A cooling rack with paper towels underneath, will allow plenty of space for your chicken to drain without disturbing the crispiness.
Chicken is ready, so keep it warm and make the sauce!
- Keep chicken warm while the sauce is simmering. You want to be careful to not overcook the chicken, so only leave it in a 200 degree warm oven for no more than 15 minutes.
- Sauté garlic, ginger and chili flakes until garlic is golden and it smells amazing, then pour the sauce in.
- Simmer sauce for 3-5 minutes until it goes from a watery texture to a thickened saucey texture, perfect to coat chicken.
- Add chicken and QUICKLY toss only the amount of chicken you plan to eat/serve. The faster you get it on the table, the crispier the chicken stays! This is the part when I yell to my husband “dinner’s ready, get the drinks!” before I even add the chicken. I wait for us to be ready to eat within seconds of tossing.
Tips for Easy Deep Frying (to make it less intimidating):
Safety with frying is very important. Always use thermometers to monitor your heat to prevent it from smoking and getting too hot. Be sure to set up your fry station so that you have everything you need readily available and don’t need to run around and create a stressful moment. Lastly, be sure to read through all the steps and notes of the recipe to ensure you aren’t flying by the seat of your pants. Is there anything worse than being mid-way through a recipe and realizing you don’t have what is needed? I want to prevent you from wasting any of your time or money.
For a landing station, I have found the best solution is a baking sheet lined with paper towels and topped with a cooling rack.
As I mentioned earlier, plan to have rice/sides ready by the time your dish will be ready. This chicken dish is not one you want sitting around in the pan. The batter will get goopy within minutes of touching the sauce.
Check out these incredible asian-inspired recipes:
I look forward to your questions and feedback below. Please be sure to tag me @BadBatchBaking using hashtag #badbatchbaking if you made this recipe and I will feature you on my story! Plus, I LOVE to see your baking accomplishments.
The BEST Crispy General Tso's Chicken Recipe
Stir Fry Sauce
- 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sambal oelak
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons sriracha
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3/4 cup chicken stock/broth
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenderloins cut in 1" pieces boneless skinless thighs or breasts also work
- 1/2 cup self rising flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup filtered water
- 2 cups peanut oil, for frying vegetable or canola also work
- 3 tbsp peanut oil vegetable or canola also work
- 2 teaspoons ginger, grated
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
- 6-7 whole dried Sichuan chili peppers optional as they are hard to find. Reduce red pepper flakes if using chili peppers.
- Jasmine rice
- Sliced green onions and/or whole dried chilies Sesame seeds are NOT used in traditional General Tso's, contrary to some recipes.
Prep Frying Station
- Heat your oil to 350 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to monitor and adjust the heat as needed throughout the process as it will fluctuate.
- Prepare a baking sheet lined with paper towels and set a cooling rack on top. Set it beside the frying pan for placing the cooked chicken when finished.
Make Stir Fry Sauce
- While the oil is heating, combine all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Whisk well until the cornstarch is fully dissolved. Set aside.
- Make the batter by mixing together all batter ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth and no lumps remain. Batter will be drippy, that's normal. Place chicken pieces into the batter and toss to coat.
- Working in batches, place battered chicken chunks into the oil. Don't overcrowd the pan. Use metal tongs or a skimmer to agitate the oil so chicken doesn't stick together while it fries.
- Cook chicken 3-4 minutes, turning halfway, until golden and crispy. Place onto the prepared cooling rack. **For extra crispy chicken: after chicken cools on rack for 1-2 minutes, place it back into the oil for another 45 seconds. Then return to rack to cool.
- Keep chicken warm in a 200 degree oven while sauce is made.
- Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes or chilies, saute 30 seconds until garlic is fragrant. Add stir fry sauce, bring to simmer and stir occasionally until it thickens to a saucy texture. Taste test and add a touch more heat or a touch more brown sugar based on your preference.
- Add chicken into the pan tossing quickly to coat - the quicker you are, the crispier the chicken stays! Transfer to serving plate atop warm jasmine rice. Garnish and serve immediately
- It can be difficult to find whole dried chili peppers. I previously found these at asian markets like H-Mart. As an alternate you can use chilies in oil and dried red pepper flakes. You can find chilies in oil in most grocery stores in the asian section of the international aisle. If you can only find red pepper flakes, that can work as well.