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This General Tso's chicken recipe is savory and sweet with the right amount of heat. Slowly cooked chunks of chicken are crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and perfectly coated in the most delicious sticky-sweet sauce. Make this easy recipe on a weeknight for a healthier than takeout meal that everyone will love!
This recipe was originally published in 2015. We've updated the post with some new photos and more information, but we've left the delicious recipe exactly the same.
What is General Tso's Chicken
General Tso's chicken is a popular sweet and spicy deep-fried chicken dish served at Chinese-American restaurants. While there's debate about the exact origins, it's been associated with Zuo Zongtang, a military leader from Hunan province during the Qing Dynasty. The classic version of this dish has a distinctive tangy sauce with intense spices and savory flavors native to Hunanese cuisine. It's typically served with broccoli on a bed of warm rice.
This crockpot version of General Tso's chicken is sticky and sweet, with just the right amount of heat. It's everything you love about the take-out version without any of the unwanted ingredients. It makes a great weeknight dinner because with little effort, you can prep it, turn it on, and come back to a perfectly cooked dinner. Don't have a slow cooker? You can easily make it on the stovetop, too.
How to pronounce General Tso's Chicken
It has been known by different names such as General Tao’s chicken, General Tong's chicken, General Chow's chicken, or simply general's chicken. To pronounce tso, the sound is midway between “cho” and “joe”. You can reproduce the Chinese sound by combining the “ts” consonant of “cats” and “Oh” and uttering them together, “ts-oh”.
Ingredients you'll need
Here's everything you'll need to make this General Tso's chicken recipe:
- Chicken – we use boneless, skinless chicken breasts for easy and even cooking.
- Cornstarch – is a key ingredient to coat the chicken and make it nice and crispy.
- Pepper – for seasoning and a bit of kick.
- Cooking oil – any neutral vegetable cooking oil will work.
- Hoisin sauce – adds its unique, robust salty-sweet flavor and gives the sauce a rich dark color.
- Soy sauce – for its salty depth of flavor. While this is a Chinese recipe, we prefer the more mild flavor of Japanese soy sauce or Tamari.
- Honey – sweetens things up.
- Rice vinegar – adds a mildly sweet acidity to balance things out.
- Garlic + ginger – are two staple ingredients in Asian cooking that add big flavor and a bit of kick.
- Sliced green onions and sesame seeds – optional, for topping.
How to make General Tso's chicken
There are a few different ways you can go about making a delicious General Tso's chicken. Here we make it in the slow cooker and it turns out so good every time! The meat becomes really tender and the sauce thickens to perfectly coat each piece. It's simple to make at home by following a few simple steps:
- Start by preparing your chicken. Toss the chicken pieces in the cornstarch and pepper until it's all coated.
- Grab your frying pan and heat a bit of oil to sear the chicken on both sides.
- Then it all goes in the crockpot. Add all the remaining sauce ingredients, stir well to coat everything, and put the lid on. Set the timer for 4 hours, and that's it!
- Serve it with some sliced green onions and sesame seeds sprinkled on top if you'd like.
How to make General Tso's chicken on the stovetop
While we love how this recipe turns out in the crockpot, it also turns out great on the stovetop, and it's simple, too. Here's what to do:
- Follow the same steps for searing the chicken.
- Then, instead of adding all the sauce ingredients to the crockpot, pour them into the frying pan over the seared chicken. Stir it all together and simmer it until the sauce thickens. You'll need to watch it closely and stir it frequently so it doesn't burn or stick. When the sauce is thick and the chicken is well-coated, it's done.
- Serve it garnished with sliced green onions and sesame seeds on top.
Is General Tso's chicken healthy?
There's nothing unhealthy about General Tso's chicken per se. Like all cooking, it depends on the quality of the ingredients and how it's prepared. The popular takeout version is coated or breaded chicken that gets deep-fried and then smothered in sauce, which may contain msg or other ingredients.
This healthier version will have fewer calories because it skips the deep-frying, has no unwanted ingredients, and the sauce is naturally sweetened with honey. Served with rice and vegetables, it's a lightened-up version you can feel good about eating anytime!
How long do leftovers last?
Store any extras in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
Can I use chicken thighs instead?
Yes, you can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead.
Where can I find hoisin sauce?
Hoisin sauce is a popular Asian cooking sauce found in the international aisle of most grocery stores.
How to serve
While it's typically served with broccoli and rice, in the pictures we keep things simple by serving this General Tso's chicken with thinly chopped cucumbers. Our creamy cucumber salad also goes really well with this recipe!
It's also a great meal for serving family-style with a few other Asian sides and a big bowl of warm rice. Try it with our spicy honey roasted carrots, sautéed green beans with garlic, or whole roasted cauliflower with sesame and ginger and our favorite coconut rice.
- 4 chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized chunks)
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- ½ cup hoisin sauce (gluten-free if needed)
- ¼ cup soy sauce (gluten-free if needed)
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup rice vinegar (or sub apple cider vinegar)
- 4 cloves garlic (finely minced)
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- sliced green onions and sesame seeds (to serve)
- Place the chicken in a bowl and sprinkle the cornstarch and pepper over the top. Mix the chicken around so that it is well coated.4 chicken breasts, ¼ cup cornstarch, ½ teaspoon pepper
- Heat the oil in a large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sear it until it is well browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.1 tablespoon cooking oil
- Add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, garlic, and ginger to your crockpot and stir well. Add the chicken and stir to coat the chicken in the sauce. Cook for 3-4 hours on low heat, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is very tender.½ cup hoisin sauce, ¼ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup honey, ¼ cup rice vinegar, 4 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- Serve with some sliced green onions and sesame seeds over the top.sliced green onions and sesame seeds
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.