Sticky and Crispy Chinese Lemon Chicken
This Lemon Chicken is an easy, crispy and delicious dish that’s sweet and savory, balanced with tangy flavor. Chinese Lemon Chicken is a perfect weeknight meal that comes together in 30 minutes, so much better than takeout.
Chinese Lemon Chicken（柠檬鸡）features crispy chicken coated in a sweet and tangy lemon sauce. It’s one of my most popular Chinese chicken recipes along with Sweet and Sour Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken, Orange Chicken, Bourbon Chicken, Sesame Chicken and Moo Goo Gai Pan.
Chinese lemon chicken consists of chicken pieces that are battered and deep fried before being coated in a lemon glaze sauce. It apparently was created at Hong Kong’s Panda Hotel and has since appeared on takeout menus around the world!
The best part? It’s also easy to make restaurant style lemon chicken at home. You’ll love the tangy sauce with its sweet and savory flavors so much you’ll make it again and again.
How to Make Sticky and Crispy Chinese Lemon Chicken
I learned this amazing recipe from a friend who used to work at a restaurant in Shanghai. The secret to getting the tender chicken is to cut the chicken into one-inch cubes, and then marinate them with egg, lemon zest and salt & pepper mixture.
This is a process called “Velveting”, which many Chinese restaurants use to make meat juicy and tender. The secret for getting the crispy coating is to dip marinated chicken cubes into flour, and deep fry them into perfect golden brown.
If you don’t want to deep fry them, it’s fine to pan fry your chicken. It will still taste amazing, but won’t be as crispy as the deep fried ones.
Step 1: Marinate the Chicken
Cut your chicken thighs or breasts into 1-inch pieces. In a mixing bowl, add cubed chicken, zest of half a lemon, egg, salt and pepper. Mix well and marinate for at least 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
Note: If you have extra time, marinate the chicken for more than 30 minutes. But if you are in a rush, you can even reduce the marinating time to less than 10 minutes.
Step 2: Coat the Chicken with Flour
Coat the marinated cubed chicken breasts or thighs into flour.
Step 3: Cook the Chicken
In a medium-large saucepan heat the oil to 350˚F. Add the chicken cubes in batches and deep fry them for about 3-4 minutes until they turn golden brown. Remove and drain oil. Set aside.
Note: Make sure not to crowd the pan, otherwise, the chicken might stick together and won’t be cooked properly.
Step 4: Make Lemon Chicken Sauce
In a frying pan, add 1 cup water, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring the mixture to boil.
Mix the cornstarch with water, then add the mixture to the frying pan to thicken the sauce. Stir until mixture is smooth and thick.
Step 5: Coat the Chicken with the Sauce
Lower the heat to low or medium, and add in the chicken and toss the chicken with the sauce. Remember it’ll thicken more as it cools to become the sticky coating.
How to Serve Chinese Lemon Chicken
Garnish your Lemon Chicken with sesame seeds and serve with steamed rice and broccoli or your favorite vegetables. You can also double or triple this recipe and make extra for Meal Prep. Lemon Chicken can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
You can fry the chicken and make the sauce ahead of time. Then you’ll only have to heat up the sauce and coat the chicken at the last minute.
Tips and Secrets for Making Delicious Lemon Chicken
- Both chicken thighs and chicken breast work for this recipe, but chicken thighs will taste even better as they are moister and have more flavor than chicken breasts
- Cut your chicken into 1-inch cubes, allowing for quicker cooking and a crispier coating.
- Taste-test your lemon chicken sauce before you add cornstarch and water mixture. Increasing sugar will give a sweeter flavor, while adding more lemon juice will make it more tart.
- You can pan-fry the chicken with a small amount of oil instead of deep-frying.
- Serve with brown rice or cauliflower rice.
Watch How to Make Lemon Chicken:
Easy Sticky and Crispy Chinese Lemon Chicken (with Video)
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 lemon
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup water, (plus another 3 tbsp for cornstarch mix)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- In a mixing bowl with cubed chicken breasts, add zest of half a lemon, egg, salt and pepper. Mix well and marinate for about 15 minutes.
- Coat the marinated cubed chicken breasts into flour.
- In a medium-sized saucepan heat the oil to 350˚F. Deep fry the chicken for about 3-4 minutes until they turn golden brown.
- Remove and drain oil. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, add 1 cup water, lemon juice (about 2 tbsp) and sugar. Bring the mixture to boil.
- Mix the cornstarch with 3 tbsp water, then add the mixture to the frying pan to thicken the sauce. Stir until mixture is smooth and thick.
- Mix in the chicken and toss to coat evenly. Serve and enjoy!
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