“Better-Than-Takeout” Chinese Chicken

Chickity-China, the Chinese CHICKEN! (Name that song…) OK fine, I’ll tell you: it’s “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies, and I have vivid memories of rollerblading and rocking out to this song on the radio in my parents’ unfinished basement in the late 90s. But one thing I do NOT remember is having Chinese, ever, during my early childhood. It wasn’t until I went to a random P.F. Chang’s while traveling for sports–sometime in high school (maybe middle school)–when I first even tasted any sort of Chinese cuisine. I had no idea what to order, so I played it safe and got Orange Chicken. It must have been really good because I still remember it! But I have to say: knowing what I know now about ingredients and preservatives and the food industry in general, I cannot get myself to order takeout Chinese anywhere. I rarely order takeout period, plus my hubby is highly sensitive to MSG, so ordering Chinese takeout isn’t really a smart option for us. We kind of just gave up on Chinese cuisine altogether.

THEN…we fell upon this easy Chinese Chicken recipe from our favorite Lisa Leake, in her book “100 Days of Real Food on a Budget.” We were SO eager to try it, but I honestly didn’t have high hopes because it seems like everyone says that “nothing compares to Chinese takeout.” Well, I BEG TO DIFFER! This recipe exceeded all my “orange chicken” dreams, and more! Let me be clear: This is NOT orange chicken, but the texture and presentation reminds me SO much of it!

My husband rocks this recipe every time. Every step matters and is worth it when you bite into the tender chicken! It has this subtle, crisp-like “crunch” layer underneath the caramelized, outer, “saucy” layer. It is to die for! I cannot get over the texture…it is literal perfection. And the flavors are spot on, too! A little tangy, a tiny bit of spice, and just loads of flavor! We love it on top of rice with some green veggies on the side–broccoli or sugar snap peas. This is just one of those recipes where…eating is BELIEVING! Trust me: You can skip the Chinese takeout next time you’re craving it. This is leaps and bounds better and healthier that you won’t even miss getting Chinese to go! I promise.

“Better Than Takeout” Chinese Chicken

No more mysterious (and high MSG) Chinese takeout–this is BETTER, healthier, and seriously satisfying!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4



  • 1/4 cup Tamari sauce or soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil


  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger grated
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or 1 tsp if you like it spicy
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup Tamari sauce or soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water


To make the chicken:

  • In a shallow dish, combine the soy sauce and water.
  • Cut your chicken into 2-inch cubes and add cubes to marinade as you cut (to save time). Make sure the chicken cubes marinate for at least 10-15 minutes at room temperature, or up to a few hours in the refrigerator.
  • Place the flour on a plate. Remove the chicken from the marinade and roll the pieces around in the flour until all sides are coated.
  • In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown all over and cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Move the chicken to a plate, leaving the flavorful bits in the pan.

To make the sauce:

  • In the same pan over medium low heat, cook the garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes for 30-60 seconds.
  • Whisk in the vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and water, and bring to a boil. Cook, scraping up the browned bits in the bottom of the pan, until the liquid begins to thicken, 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the chicken, stir to coat it in the sauce, and serve warm over rice with sesame seeds on top and a veggie side (optional).


You can use chicken breasts instead of thighs, but we definitely prefer thighs (plus, they’re usually more cost effective anyway)!
Keyword Dairy-free, egg free, Freezer-friendly, Nut-free

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