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Sesame Chicken has tender bites of fried chicken tossed in a deep sesame-flavored sauce. After just one bite, your taste buds will be very happy!
Our delicious Sesame Chicken is a dish that the entire family will absolutely love! Fried, succulent bites of chicken are coated in a soy and sesame-infused sauce, with a kick of fresh ginger and garlic chili paste.
We served it on a bed of fluffy white rice to complete the meal – and the rice absorbs all of that luscious sauce as well. Watch how we make it here:
Inspiration for this delicious Asian chicken recipe
Traditional Chinese cuisine has a similar dish called La Zi Ji – but it’s a spicy, Szechuan version where the chiles outnumber the chunks of chicken in each serving!
Our recipe today is a far less spicy, make-at-home version that takes inspiration from the Sesame Chicken served at many Asian-American restaurants.
Why you’ll love this Sesame Chicken!
- The flavors are lip-smacking and irresistible!
- It’s easy! After a quick marinade, you’ll have this delicious chicken dinner on the table in about 30 minutes.
- Each bite of chicken is juicy, tender, and loaded with flavor.
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Chicken Breasts – Choose fresh, boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are plump and pink in color. (It’s always best to buy your meat and poultry from a reputable butcher or supermarket.) You’ll be cutting the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces, so larger breasts will work best if you can find them. You can also swap in boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat if you’d like, but the chunks of chicken will be smaller.
- Tahini – Tahini is a sauce made from grinding sesame seeds until a paste has formed (see our Small Batch Tahini recipe here). It’s used in both the marinade and sauce – so the earthy flavor is infused throughout this dish.
- Toasted Sesame Oil – You’ll also use sesame oil in the marinade, as well as the sauce.
- Garlic Chili Paste – This gives the sauce a touch of heat and spicy garlic flavor.
- Peanut Oil – We use peanut oil to fry this dish because it can handle the high frying temperature. Plus, it adds delicious flavor to the finished dish.
Special supplies needed
- A spider strainer – This handy kitchen tool is perfect for deep frying food. The basket on the end of a long handle allows you to gently lower your food into the hot oil without splashing. When you use it to remove foods from the oil, the basket openings allow the oil to drain immediately.
Avoid cooking your Sesame Chicken for too long – it can lead to a dry dish. For best results, test for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into one of the pieces of chicken. It’s done when the chicken reaches 165 degrees F.
How Do I Make Sesame Chicken?
- Marinate – Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, then toss with the cubed chicken to evenly coat. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Prepare the Sauce – Heat the ingredients until hot. Then form a slurry with cornstarch, soy sauce, and vinegar. Add the slurry to the sauce and stir until it has thickened.
- Cook the Rice – Follow the package directions to prepare the rice, timing it so it’s ready as soon as the chicken is cooked.
- Toast the Sesame Seeds – Use medium heat and a dry pan for best results. This brings out the natural nuttiness of the sesame seeds. Be sure to save some to use as a garnish before serving.
- Fry the Chicken – Drain the excess marinade and fry the chicken in hot peanut oil. Cook in batches until all the chicken has been cooked.
- Coat with Sauce – Add the cooked chicken to a bowl with the hot sauce and toasted sesame seeds. Toss until well coated.
- Serve – Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, slivered scallions and enjoy with white rice!
To keep the cooked chicken warm as you fry each batch, store it in a warmed oven until all of the chicken has been cooked.
Using a rice cooker can also be helpful. You can cook the rice ahead of time, then keep it warm while you prepare the Sesame Chicken. The key is planning the cooking time so the rice is done when the chicken is ready to serve.
Frequently asked Questions
- Can I make sesame chicken ahead? Some steps, yes. You can cube the chicken breasts in advance, as well as prepare the sauce, and combine the marinade ingredients – but don’t marinate the chicken until about 30 minutes before cooking. When you are ready to cook simply add the chicken to the marinade, start your rice, and heat up the sauce. Then, follow the rest of the directions.
- Can I use an air fryer to make this sesame chicken? We’ve never tried it ourselves. You’ll definitely want to remove any excess marinade from the chicken, and be careful not to overcook the chicken. (And, please let us know how it comes out if you try it!)
You might enjoy these other chicken recipes:
- Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
- Gooey Ginger Chicken
- Asian Barbecue Chicken Wings
- Sesame Chicken Skewers with Sriracha-Soy Dipping Sauce
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1” cubes
½ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup corn starch
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon garlic chili paste
1 ¾ cups chicken broth low sodium
2 teaspoons sherry
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons tahini (make your own here)
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons Champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds plus more for garnish
Peanut oil to come up 3 inches up side of pan or wok
Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and add the chicken pieces to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
In a medium sauce pan, heat sesame oil over medium low heat and add the ginger and garlic chili paste and cook to flavor the oil, three minutes.
Add the chicken broth, sherry, sugar and tahini and raise heat to medium and bring mixture to hot.
In a small bowl, mix corn starch with the soy sauce and vinegar to form a slurry.
Add this to the hot sauce and stir to thicken. Once hot and bubbling, remove to a back burner and keep hot on a low heat. If the sauce is not thick enough, mix another tablespoon of corn starch with a little water and slowly add to hot sauce until desired thickness. If too thick, add a little water or soy sauce to thin.
Start cooking the rice so that it is done once the chicken is done. If you have a rice cooker, this can be a make ahead item.
Toast the sesame seeds by placing in a dry pan and heating over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, tossing often. Remove to a dish after toasting so they don’t continue to cook in the hot pan.
When ready to fry, pour the chicken into a colander over a bowl to drain off some of the excess marinade. You can discard the drained marinade.
In a heavy pan or wok, heat peanut oil to 375 degrees F.
Heat oven to warm to hold cooked chicken between batches.
Fry wet chicken pieces in four batches to maintain the oil temperature, moving cooked chicken with a spider or strainer to a pan covered in paper towels. To fry, use tongs and quickly place one piece at a time into hot oil, not letting the pieces touch each other. Each batch will take about 3-4 minutes. Let the oil come back to 375 degrees F before starting the next batch. Keep cooked chicken in warm oven between batches.
Once all the chicken is cooked, place warm cooked chicken pieces in a large bowl and toss with the hot sauce. Add in the toasted sesame seeds and toss again, saving a little to sprinkle over the finished dish.
Serve on a platter or in a bowl with the reserved sesame seeds sprinkled over the dish and garnish with slivered scallions.
Serve with the cooked white rice on the side.
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