General Tso's chicken recipe- How to made the best Chinese take-out (2024)

This General Tso’s Chicken recipe (左宗棠鸡) is the top-selling Chinese food in our restaurant.

Our team has done numerous experiments during the development phase and fine-tuned them to become the most popular item in the last three years.

We decided to rewrite the recipe and post it on this blog to let all our readers across the world replicate this proven General Tso’s Chicken recipe at your comfy home.

We understand that General Tso’s Chicken does not need an introduction to our American readers. Still, to my surprise, there are hardly any Chinese restaurants that serve this mouth-watering American Chinese cuisine in Hong Kong and Malaysia.

My goal is to make sure you can replicate my recipe, and hence I will provide as much detail as possible with the video presentation to show this homemade General Tso’s chicken recipe.Once you tried this recipe, you are most likely not to order from take-out anymore!

Shoot me a question in the comment section below whenever you have doubts. By doing so, you are helping me to get my messages across in the most precise means, as I will keep updating the content of this article.

Let’s dive straight into the details.

General Tso's chicken recipe- How to made the best Chinese take-out (1)

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Who is General Tso? (the myths and lore)

General Tso is called Zuo Zongtang (左宗棠) in Chinese. Tso is a famous general during the Qing Dynasty (清朝).
He is a native of the Hunan province who joined the Qing military and eventually become the Provincial Governor of Zhejiang Province.
The name of the dish was created by Chef C.K. Peng (彭长贵). Chef Peng went to New York to set up his restaurant. He improvised the authentic Hunanese chicken and highlighted it as the house specialty of his restaurant. It becomes an instant hit among the Americans and become the epitome of Hunanese cuisine outside mainland China. He named his chicken dish after General Tso.

1. Prepare the chicken

We use only boneless chicken thighs in our General Tso’s Chicken recipe. Chicken breasts meat is not the best because it is dry, and the texture is tougher than the thigh meat.

Therefore we only order the whole chicken leg from our chicken vendor. He will debone the chicken for us, which I think you can request the same service from your chicken supplier.

Upon receiving the chicken (his worker will deliver it to our kitchen), our staff will clean the chicken and drain the chicken thigh in a large colander.

We discard the skin as it does not taste good. Cut the chicken thigh into bite-size pieces, about three to four cm square. We also want to make sure that the thigh meat is entirely free from any small bones. Sometimes we found some bone debris still attached to the meat unnoticed.

Transfer the meat pieces to the kitchen scale to obtain the net weight. We weigh everything with the digital scale down to one gram because consistency is crucial in the restaurant business. It is so useful that I also purchase a digital scale for my kitchen at home, although I am only cooking at home occasionally.

Our standard recipe is based on one kg of deboned thigh meat. We will recalculate the amount of each ingredient based on the actual amount of meat that we have. Occasionally, the net weight is less than a kg. Sometimes we also make larger batches.

Once we have recalculated the batch size (we use a spreadsheet to do this), we can then move on to the next step, i. e. to prepare the marinade.

2. Constitute the marinade

The marinade comprises five ingredients: egg whites, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, and cornstarch. Let’s look at the reason why we use these ingredients to marinate the chicken meat.

  • Egg whites. It is customary to use egg whites to marinate meat in Chinese cooking. It helps to protect the meat from direct heat during stir-frying, which can dry up the meat.
  • Light soy sauce. It is the primary flavoring agent for the chicken. Since it is salty, salt is not required in the recipe.
  • Dark soy sauce. It is not as salty as the light soy sauce, but with a tinge of caramelized flavor. We use both soy sauces to strike a balanced flavor. Dark soy sauce also adds color to the chicken.
  • Chinese rice wine The wine infuse flavor to the meat. It is also an acidic component that helps to tenderize the meat.
  • Cornstarch. It forms a coating on the meat. It also acts as a binder to hold the soy sauce and bind to the meat.

How to marinate

The reason we marinate the chicken in advance is that we don’t want to run out of chicken at the last minute. After it is marinated for one hour, the flavor should have penetrated the entire piece of meat.

The process is straightforward. Before you begin, let’s keep the chine dry with paper towels. You only need to combine the marinade with the chicken. Since we usually prepare this General Tso’s Chicken recipe in advance, we divide the marinated meat into two hundred grams portions (keep in small bags) and keep them refrigerated.

The meat can be frozen if we do not use it immediately. In this case, we will remove the required portions from the freezer in advance and let them defrost at room temperature before cooking.

3. Deep-fried the chicken meat

Coat with a unique flour mix

Coat the chicken meat with our special flour mix before deep-frying to create a crispy coating.

We coat the chicken with a mixture of dry ingredients, not a batter. This method can create a coating that stays crispy for more than half an hour.

The component of the dry flour mixture are:

  • 100g (3/4 cup) of all-purpose flour
  • 100g (0.6 cup) of cornstarch
  • 2g (1/2 tsp) of salt
  • 4g (1 tsp) of baking powder(or baking soda)

We make a larger batch of the flour most than above for the restaurant, but half of the above should be sufficient for one kg of chicken meat.

Drain away any excess marinade. Mix the chicken meat with a copious amount of flour mix. Shake off any excess flour and deep-fried immediately.

Based on our experience, the chicken will be very crispy if we deep-fried the chicken chunks immediately. That is when the flour mix still coats the exterior. The chicken will be less crispy if we left it until the dry powder absorbs the marinade, and the surface becomes wet.

We deep-fried the chicken at 175°C/350°F for four minutes until golden brown. Remove the meat from the oil and drain.

Use clean oil to deep-fry

General Tso’s Chicken recipe involves deep-frying, which is a concern to some people. The oil will break down once it hits the smoking point, which creates organic substances that are bad for health. A similar chemical reaction will happen after the oil is recycled multiple times. Therefore, we should be careful while deep frying any food items by following a few simple rules :

  • Use the smallest amount of oil required for deep-frying. You can use either a large wok or a large skillet.
  • Do not recycle the oil for more than three times.
  • Be careful not to heat the oil until it turns smoky.

I am using minimum oil with a frying pan to deep-fry the chicken. Here are a few tips for you :

  • Make sure you pay attention to the temperature. Do not let the oil turn smoky. Medium-high heat is the best.
  • Use cooking oil with a high smoking point. Vegetable oil such as peanut oil, palm oil, and corn oil are my choice.
  • Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon once it turns golden brown.
  • Pour the used oil through a wire mesh strainer. Keep for future use.
General Tso's chicken recipe- How to made the best Chinese take-out (2)

4. Formulate the General Tso’s sauce

The next step of this General Tso’s Chicken recipe is to coat the fried chicken with thick and spicy sauce.

The sauce is the extension of the marinade. It comprises all the ingredients of the marinade plus vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, and tomato paste.

Since the sauce has all the ingredients of the marinade, why do we still want to marinate the meat? The reason is that the sauce can only coat the surface and is unable to penetrate the interior of the meat.

Now let’s understand the role of each additional ingredient in the sauce.

Vinegar. It furnishes the sourness required by the recipe. I am using white vinegar, but you are free to substitute it with balsamic or rice vinegar.

Sugar. The objective of using sugar, in my opinion, is to balance the sourness of the vinegar. Our version of General Tso’s Chicken recipe has less sugar than the original version. This adjustment is based on the request from our customers as most Asians prefer savory over sweet in general.You can use either white or brown sugar in this recipe.

Sesame oil. It adds a layer of nutty flavor to the chicken. We do not use it to marinate the chicken as the heat will destroy it during deep-frying.

Tomato paste. It gives the chicken a slightly reddish color, which certainly looks better than dark brown. The small amount of tomato paste does not contribute much flavor.

We do not use hoisin sauce as the above ingredients are sufficient.

To prepare the sauce, combine all the ingredients and bring it to a boil. Make sure the sugar is dissolved.

We need 45ml (3 tbsp) of this sauce for every 150g (5 oz) of the marinated chicken meat.

If you like this sauce, you can make a large batch and portion it to 45ml each. It can be stored in an airtight container and stable for up to 2-3 months in the freezer.

5. Coat the chicken with the sauce

Now we come to the final step of this recipe- coat the chicken with General Tso’s Chicken sauce.

To do this, you need to get ready four ingredients – chopped ginger, chopped garlic, chopped scallion, and dried chilies.You can use red pepper flakes if you do not have dried chilies.

Here are the steps

  • Heat some oil in the pan. Saute all the four ingredients, as mentioned above, until aromatic. You need about a teaspoon each of these items for every 150g (5 oz) of chicken. There is no need to use high heat, and the process will take fifteen to thirty seconds.
  • Next, add the correct amount of sauce to the aromatics. (45g per 150g chicken). The sauce will boil within ten seconds as the amount is small.
  • Add the crispy chicken pieces to the sauce mixture. Mix and flip the chicken quickly to coat the surface with the sauce. Once there is no more sauce left in the pan, remove from heat, and serve.

You will notice we only a small amount of water constitutes the sauce, as we want a concentrated sauce with intense flavor to coat the meat without wetting the surface too much. This method is our way to preserve the crispiness of the chicken, and it works.

If you add more water to the sauce, coupled with using a cornstarch slurry to thicken the diluted sauce, all the effort to deep-fry the chicken until crispy will be wasted. We want the sauce with intense flavor to cling on to the crispy surface, not to let the chicken be inundated by a pool of cornstarch paste.

Note: If you like this recipe, you will most likely also like our Sesame Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, and Lemon Chicken. It is also prepared by deep-frying and coated with a thick savory sauce.

Garnish and serve

We garnish the General Tso’s Chicken with shredded scallion and chopped red chiles. It is not necessary to have elaborate garnishing, as the chicken will disappear from the plate in no time. You may also sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top. It is best to serve with white rice.

Conclusion

I have just shown you our General Tso’s Chicken recipe and all the trade secrets behind the scene, nothing is left untold. My goal is to make it clear to you so that you can replicate it at home wherever you are living.

If you have any doubts, please leave your comments below. I will update this recipe whenever it is necessary to make every point clear and concise.

Enjoy the General Tso’s Chicken.

Yield: 3 servings

General Tso's chicken recipe- How to made the best Chinese take-out (3)

General Tso's chicken is the ultimate American Chinese cuisine.

Prep Time15 minutes

Cook Time10 minutes

Total Time25 minutes

Ingredients

For the marinate

For the Dry Coating

For the Sauce:

For sauteeing

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic, , minced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, , minced
  • 2 teaspoons scallion, , cut
  • 8 dry red chili

For deep-frying:

  • Vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Score the skinless side of the chicken in a crosshatch pattern. Be careful not to cut through the meat.
  2. Cut the chicken into 4 cm chunks, leaving some skin on it for extra crispiness.
  3. Marinate with the ingredients in (A) for at least half an hour or oversight.
  4. Mix the ingredients (B) together to become the dry flour mix.
  5. Drain off any excess liquid from the chicken. Dredge the chicken chunks into the flour mix.
  6. Pour at least 1.5-inch layer of vegetable oil into a heavy-bottomed pot or wok and heat the oil up to up 360 °F (180 °C).
  7. Deep fried the chicken until cooked through and turns golden brown about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally with chopsticks to avoid the chicken pieces sticking together.
  8. Drain the chicken pieces on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  9. Mix the ingredients D together.
  10. Saute the garlic, ginger, dry red chili and scallion in D with vegetable oil in a pan. Pour the ingredients D to the pan and cook until the mixture become translucent. Turn of the heat.
  11. Add the deep-fried chicken to the sauce. Coat the chicken with the sauce thoroughly. Serve.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

3

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 2317Total Fat: 129gSaturated Fat: 37gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 68gCholesterol: 482mgSodium: 7816mgCarbohydrates: 144gFiber: 8gSugar: 32gProtein: 141g

General Tso's chicken recipe- How to made the best Chinese take-out (2024)

FAQs

How do the Chinese get their chicken so tender? ›

Chinese stir-fried chicken is extra tender due to the velveting technique. Chicken is sliced into thin, even-sized pieces and then marinated briefly in a mix of baking soda, cornstarch, wine, and seasoning. This seals in moisture and tenderizes the chicken.

What is General Tso's sauce made of? ›

How to Make General Tso's Sauce: The sauce for General Tso's chicken is so simple to make with pantry staple ingredients: rice vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, water, sugar, and some corn starch to thicken the sauce. Simply add the ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine.

Why is Chinese takeout chicken so soft? ›

In Chinese cooking, proteins like beef, pork or chicken are velveted first before stir-frying them. There are several ways to velvet, but at its most basic level, it involves marinating meat with at least one ingredient that will make it alkaline. This is what tenderizes the meat, especially cheaper, tougher cuts.

How does Chinese chicken get crispy? ›

This is done by first poaching the chicken in water with spices (e.g. star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, Sichuan pepper, ginger, fennel, and scallions), drying it, coating with a syrup of vinegar and sugar, letting it dry thoroughly (which helps make the skin crispy) and deep-frying.

How to make chicken extremely tender? ›

Low and slow cooking methods like braising, stewing, or smoking are most effective when trying to create tender, succulent chicken.

What is the difference between General Tso and Szechuan sauce? ›

General Tso's is an American Chinese restaurant invention. Generally speaking Szechuan chicken is usually spicier than General Tso's chicken. Although the sauces are similar, General Tso's does not call for Szechuan peppercorns either though I see no reason why you couldn't add them anyway.

What is the flavor of General Tso? ›

General Tso's Chicken is that perfect combination of sweet, savoury, spicy and tangy with crispy Chinese chicken bites. It's a Chinese takeout favourite that just pushes all the right buttons!

What is the difference between General Tso's chicken and General Tao's chicken? ›

General Tso's chicken (also known as General Tao's or Tsao's chicken) is an iconic Chinese-American takeout of deep-fried chicken coated in a thick sweet sauce. You can also make it spicy for those who like a little kick.

Why does Chinese takeout taste so good? ›

The ingredients used by Chinese chefs to cook dishes are fantastic. Herbs and spices included in Chinese cuisine make each dish taste like heaven. We also can't forget about all the delicious types of sauces that make the dishes mouth-watering.

Why is Chinese takeout unhealthy? ›

Chinese food takeout is delicious, but as with other cuisines offering takeout, some of the choices offered can be high in salt, sugar, oil, and processed additives. American-Chinese food, in particular, tends to be much sweeter and saltier than traditional Chinese cuisine and often features its own distinct flavors.

Should I use cornstarch or flour for crispy chicken? ›

When paired with all-purpose flour, cornstarch helps prevent gluten development, which makes the flour coating crispier, and absorb moisture (from the frying and the chicken), which also means a crispier coating. If you already have a favorite fried chicken recipe, try replacing a quarter of the flour with cornstarch.

Do you dip chicken in egg before frying? ›

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge it in the flour, and then shake off the excess. Submerge the chicken in the egg wash. Remove the chicken from the egg wash and dredge it in the flour a second time. Shake off the excess flour and place the chicken skin-side down in the hot oil.

Does cornstarch help make chicken crispy? ›

My not-so-secret tip to the best fried chicken is a combination of FLOUR, CORNSTARCH, and BAKING POWDER. When mixed with the flour, the cornstarch makes the flour coating crispier and gives it that golden brown color! (It has to do with prevention of gluten development.)

Is velveting chicken healthy? ›

Water Velveting

It will lower the fat content of your meal, so it's a healthier way to cook. It's also a technique used in some Cantonese cooking, so water velveting is the way to go if you're going for that light feel.

Why does Chinese fried chicken taste so good? ›

Soy sauce & fish sauce: Both of these ingredients add a solid amount of umami-richness and a savoriness to the fried chicken wings. Sesame oil: Adds a fragrant, rich nutty flavor…so good! Eggs: One full egg and one egg yolk contributes to the light batter.

What is velveting chicken in Chinese? ›

What does it mean to velvet chicken? Velveting chicken means to put it through a tenderizing process prior to cooking. This alters the texture of the chicken and results in super succulent chicken. There are a few different ways, this article focuses on the baking soda velveting process.

What does baking soda do to chicken? ›

Velveting is a simple process of using baking soda or a mixture of egg whites, cornstarch and oil to marinate and tenderize economical cuts of steak, chicken and other meats before cooking. Velveting meat softens fibers to reduce toughness and enhance juiciness for maximum flavor and tenderness.

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