Crispy Chinese Lemon Chicken
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This Lemon Chicken is an easy and crispy Chinese chicken dish that’s sweet and savory, balanced with tangy flavor. It’s a perfect weeknight meal as Chinese lemon chicken can be ready in under 30 minutes, so much better than takeout.
LEMON CHICKEN CHINESE STYLE
Chinese lemon chicken recipe features Chinese fried chicken coated in a sweet and tangy lemon sauce. It’s one of my most popular Chinese chicken dishes along with Sweet and Sour Chicken, Orange Chicken and Bourbon Chicken.
Lemon chicken Chinese style consists of chicken breasts that are battered and deep fried before being coated in a lemon sauce.
LEMON SAUCE FOR CHICKEN
The best part of this recipe is the SAUCE: it’s sweet, tangy and savory. Made with lemon juice, sugar and water and then thickened by cornstarch slurry, lemon chicken sauce is so irresistible!
To make the sauce, add lemon juice, and sugar and water in a frying pan. Bring the mixture to boil. Then mix cornstarch with water and add the mixture to thicken the sauce. Stir until mixture is smooth and thick.
I like to drizzle the extra sauce over rice and steamed broccoli in my bowl for ultimate flavor!
HOW TO MAKE STICKY AND CRISPY CHINESE LEMON CHICKEN
- Start with cutting your chicken 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 the chicken for at least 10 minutes in the refrigerator.
- Coat the marinated cubed chicken with flour.
- Deep fry the chicken for about 3-4 minutes until they turn golden brown. Remove and drain oil. Set aside.
- Make the lemon chicken sauce in a skillet, and then add in the chicken. It’ll thicken more as it cools to become the sticky coating.
I learned this amazing authentic recipe from a friend who used to work at a restaurant in China. The secret to getting the tender chicken is to cut the chicken into small cubes, marinate and then cook through hot oil.
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.
- Both chicken thighs and chicken breast work for this recipe, but make sure to cut your chicken into 1-inch cubes, allowing for quicker cooking and a crispier coating.
- 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.
- 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 tarter.
- 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.
Watch How to Make Lemon Chicken:
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!
- 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 10 minutes.
- Make sure not to crowd the pan when you fry the chicken, otherwise, the chicken might stick together and won’t be cooked properly.
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Thank you for this excellent recipe! Made this for dinner and it was well-enjoyed. Might experiment with adding some chilli peppers next time around.
Hi A, Thanks and that’s a great call to add chili peppers. Glad you enjoyed!
100% Amazing! is has such a sour sweet mixture and the chicken is so tasty
Hi there, Great to hear and thanks for your feedback!
Yes I made this recipe the other day and it was very yummy I will be making it often thankyou very much
Hi Cynthia, Thanks for your comment and so happy to hear that. Enjoy!
This recipe has been on my list for a couple years now, I make it frequently and my whole family LOVES it. We always completely finish the pan, even if I try to make extras for leftovers hahah. It’s our top go-to chicken recipe 🥰 All the Chinese food restaurants around here are horrid, I’ve gotten food poisoning, but it’s my most favourite type of food so I always have to make it myself and this is DEFINITELY theeeee recipe ❤️ Thank you for years of this family favourite and certainly many more years to come.
Hi Shayla, Wow what amazing feedback! Thank you so much for your loyalty and letting us help with your food journey! I agree that restaurants are risky so best to cook your own… Deeply appreciate hearing from you.
The 5 Star lemon sauce is awesome! I would love to make the chicken from scratch, but on a weeknight (like I did), and to be honest, more like the average Chinese restaurant, I put breaded chicken fingers in the air fryer and cut them into smaller slices (restaurants often use white breast chicken burgers – at least around here). This worked out perfect and creates something you can start at 5:30 and be eating at 6:30! Was great with some fried rice (10 min rice in the Instant Pot) and improvised ginger broccoli (powdered ginger, soy sauce, cornstarch, maybe a touch of water – broccoli was from frozen too).
Five stars for the sauce! Someday I might try the chicken, but I need hacks to get a family of five fed on a weeknight! 😀
Hi Scott, Great to hear and glad it worked out well with the chicken tenders. Thanks for your comment and hope you’ll try more of our recipes!
Love this recipe, but i found adding sweet chili sauce as well as lemon to the sauce is great, and everyone i have fed this to loves it also 😁
Hi Isaac, Thanks for your comment and great tip about the sweet chili addition!
We made this yesterday for dinner. I used 2 large chicken breasts and seasoned with 1.5 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper and marinated for 4 hrs. The 2 cups of flour is excessive, we used just about 1 cup. The lemon sauce was also excessive and tasted like thickened lemonade. We threw most of it out. Judging by the photos posted on here, you used food coloring. Anyway, we ended up eating the chicken plain with our homemade chili oil. Would not recommend this recipe based on the fact that the proportions are off and the disappointing sauce.
Hi Chauncy, Thanks for your feedback. It’s difficult to coat two large breasts thoroughly with just one cup of flour and the sauce shouldn’t taste like lemonade since it’s boiled. Sorry you didn’t enjoy!
Half a Tablespoon of Lemon Juice doesn’t Seem to Be enough,So I’m making it Tonight with a Cup of Lemon Juice.
Hi Gayel, Thanks for your comment. I’d be concerned it might be too sour, but let me know how it turns out!
I’ve made this 4 times now. I find it definitely works best with boneless thighs. I love this recipe so much! I’ll never order lemon chicken again. Thank you! 🙂
P.S: I wish, I could give this recipe more than 5 stars!!
Hi Janelle, Thanks for your review – you made my day! So glad you’ve made it again and again 🙂
This was very good!! I finished in the wok. Had Broccoli, celery, peppers, carrots and onion sautéed ahead; add chicken and sauce. Served over rice was the perfect meal!
Nutrition facts do not indicate amount. I assume 1C ?
Hi Dave, Thanks for your feedback and glad to hear it turned out well. Yes, the amount is approximately one cup. 🙂
I made this but with seitan ‘chicken’ as I don’t eat meat and WOW!! simply amazing, maybe even better than the lemon chicken I used to get when I did eat meat.. will be making this a lot more, thank you!
Hi Dida, Wow – sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing and for your review. 😉
Really good recipe, but a little too sweet. I added 1 tbsp of soy sauce to cut the sweetness, and now it’s perfect.
But that was for double recipe, so if you are doing a regular recipe, add only 1/2 of a tbsp.
Hi Owen, Thanks for your feedback and glad you enjoyed! Will add some notes about adjusting sweetness to suit 🙂
Tell chick that was complaining about crisps of chicken she needs to learn how to cook this stuff is the bomb
I’m making this tonight and thanks for your comment about next time I’m going to add more lemon, I’m a person that loves lemon flavor so I will add more then it says and post what I think. The recipe sounds very easy and mouth watering I can’t wait for dinner time so I’m going to start it soon as I’m done here. Renee
just made this now. my whole family loved it. i added yellow food colouring to the sauce just to make it look more lemony then put sesame seeds for garnish.
Hi Shai, Thanks for your review and feedback! Sounds delicious and sesame seeds are a great garnish too 🙂
I just maid this a couldn’t get enough. It was great and I will make it again. The only thing I put 2 Tbls. Of lemon juice instead of 2 tbs. only because I love lemon and boy it tasted great especially over rice. Renee.
Hi Renee, Amazing to hear and will add a note about extra lemon juice for lemon lovers! 🙂
The printable version of this recipe missed key steps. Would be ok, but i swapped chicken for a hard caught Hapuka. Such a waste
Hi Stu, There was an issue with the printable recipes that’s been fixed, but thanks for letting me know. Sorry to hear about that poor hapuka – fish is not a great substitute in this dish unfortunately. Hope you’ll try again 🙂
Just made this tonight for supper and loved it, family and I all enjoyed it. Easy enough to make and delicious, will definitely be making it again 🙂
Hi Karley, That’s awesome to hear, thanks for letting me know and hope to see you again soon on the site 🙂
Huge hit with the whole family, even my picky husband loved it. I added a little more lemon as I like a tangy flavour but overall the recipe is a keeper. I especially liked that the chicken was lemony even before being glazed in the sauce!
Thanks Phae for your review and so happy to hear y’all enjoyed it 🙂
Absolutely gorgeous Thankyou for the recipe I would use more lemon next time.
Feel very proud of the meal I have just made , the whole family enjoyed it . Even my fussy child (although I kept some of his to one side and didnt put his in the sauce )
Thankyou again it was quick, easy and delicious
Thanks for your feedback Frankii and you should feel proud! It’s a great dish for picky eaters as you said 🙂
I’m making this tonight. Cant wait my taste buds are going wild thinking about it.
This was so easy and delicious finally a recipe that is what it says.Quick easy and delicious thanks
So glad to hear that Renee 🙂 Thanks
I used this recipe for the crispy batter only and unfortunately mine didn’t turn out like this. Followed the recipe and cooking instructions to a T and not sure what went wrong 🙁
Hi Annette, was your oil hot enough when you add the chicken?
I just made this and omg it was yummy! My boyfriend and I loved it. Will be making it again for sure! 😄 thanks!
Hi Tayla, great that you like it! Thanks for letting me know.
This was amazing! The only thing I tweaked was adding more lemon juice, as it’s winter here and my finacé and I are citrus lovers. This recipe has now been added to the weekly menu. He absolutely LOVED it! Thank you.
Hi there, Awesome to hear!!! 🙂
Its delicious!! Made this last week.
I used two lemons cause we love lemons here. Definitely Making it again tomorrow.
Awesome Laura, so glad to hear that, sounds yummy 🙂
Auto correct sucks! I meant to say , it was so easy to make and I would make it again!
Thanks for your review Patricia and glad you enjoyed it!
This was really yummy and
Solo easy to make. Will may
I would recommend cutting back on the sugar a little but other than that it’s delicious.
Hi Dana, Great point, you can adjust to taste and glad you enjoyed 🙂
I was craving a crispy Asian chicken meal for lunch. Most recipes called for specialty items. This recipe was perfect as I had all on hand. We are doing a ketogenic diet so I used truvia to sweeten. I also used almond flour and arrowroot starch to coat the chicken. I used the deep fryer and all the chicken was cooked in 10 minutes. I blanched broccoli to go with it.the sauce was not quite tart enough but I was too hungry to fix it! It was so good we ate it all. The sauce was perfect for the broccoli, you could taste it more on it than the chicken. I will definitely make this again!
Hi Michelle, thanks so much for your feedback and glad you enjoyed it!! I like truvia and arrowroot is a great way to coat chicken too. Awesome! 🙂
My husband and son had 3rd helpings it was so delicious! I used 2 lemons (1 in marinade and 1 in sauce with a little zest) because I like the sauce tart. Very easy to make and definitely a keeper! Thanks.
Hi Sheila, You made my day! Thanks for your review and so glad you enjoyed it 🙂
This was amazing!!! Thank You.
Hi Rachel, Awesome to hear thanks for letting me know 🙂 🙂
Thi dish took longer than stated. It was tasteless. The chicken wasn’t crispy at all. An hour of my life that I’ll never get back
Hi Lisa, Sorry to hear that it didn’t work out. Not sure what happened – the oil may not have been hot enough. 🙁