This one pan sesame chicken is the answer to all your quick and easy weeknight dinner dreams.

Sesame chicken is a sweet and saucy dish of crispy bits of chicken coated in a sticky savory sauce, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. It’s a classic Chinese take-out favorite and one of my must order dishes.

It’s extremely versatile – go with whatever pieces of chicken you have in the fridge or picked up at the store on sale, either breasts or thighs will work. I prefer skin off, but skin on works too. The name of the game is ease. From there, your chicken gets a little coat of cornstarch for both tenderizing and to add a bit of crisp.

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What is sesame chicken?

Sesame chicken is a super popular American Chinese chicken dish that is most likely inspired by real Chinese dishes like sweet and sour pork or lemon chicken. It’s almost just like General Tso’s chicken but instead of on the spicy side, it’s sweet. Like General Tso’s chicken, no one is quite sure of the origins of sesame chicken. Sesame chicken is uniquely Chinese-American and incredibly delicious.

What’s in sesame chicken sauce?

Sesame chicken sauce is made of garlic, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil, which gives it that sesame-ness.

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How to make sesame chicken

  1. Season and cornstarch your chicken. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces then mix it up with some cornstarch.
  2. Fry the chicken. Heat up a bit of oil and pan-fry the chicken until golden and crisp.
  3. Make the sauce. Push the chicken to the side and fry the garlic for a minute, then add all the sauce ingredients. Cook until it starts to bubble and thicken, stirring occasionally.
  4. Make it rain. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds and enjoy hot with fluffy white rice!

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Ingredient notes

  • Chicken – I used boneless skinless thighs but you can use whatever boneless chicken you happen to have, skin on or skin off doesn’t really matter. Both breasts and thighs will work in this recipe. Versatility is the name of the game.
  • Cornstarch – this is what we’re using to dry coat the chicken with before it gets pan fried. Cornstarch doesn’t have any gluten in it which will help make the chicken a little bit crispy and golden.
    Garlic – just a bit of garlic for those mellow warm garlicky flavors we all know and love.
  • Honey – this is what is going to add the sweetness and also cook down nicely into a sticky, thick sauce.
  • Soy sauce – There are so, so many soy sauces out there, but in this case, the best one is the one in your pantry. That being said, if you’re running out or want to expand your soy sauce collection, make sure you go for a naturally brewed soy sauce for its complex deep aroma and flavor. We like both Amoy and Lee Kum Kee.
  • Rice vinegar – rice vinegar adds that signature little bit of tang that sesame chicken has. The tanginess highlights the sweetness and that contrast is what makes sesame chicken irresistible. We like to use Marukan or Kikkoman unseasoned rice vinegar. If you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute white vinegar.
  • Toasted sesame oil – Toasted sesame oil will add a huge hit of sesame flavor! It’s intensely nutty, toasty, and so so good. It’s not the same as regular sesame oil. Toasted sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds and is a finishing oil, much like a really good olive oil. Our favorite brand is the Japanese one, Kadoya, with its signature bottle shape and yellow cap. You can find it in the Asian aisle at most grocery stores, in your local Asian grocery store, or online.
  • Toasted sesame seeds – These guys are the finishing touch. Look for toasted sesame seeds at the store, they have a nuttier, toastier flavor.

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Crispy sesame chicken

Personally I love the ease of this one pan sesame chicken but if you NEED crispy sesame chicken, I’ve got you. The recipe is exactly the same, the only difference is: you’re going to shallow fry the chicken in more oil. You can also choose to bake or air fry for a crispier coat.

How to fry

In a cast iron skillet, or heavy bottomed pan, heat up 1/2-1 inch of oil over medium heat. When it’s hot and shimmery, add in the cornstarch coated chicken, making sure to shake off any excess cornstarch. Fry the chicken, flipping as needed, until the chicken is golden brown and crisp. Remove and drain on a rack so it crisps up more while you use another pan to make the sesame sauce. When the sesame sauce is thick, add the crispy chicken to the sauce and toss to coat.

How to bake

Baking will give you a slightly crisper chicken than simply pan frying but it takes a lot longer in the oven. To bake: heat the oven to 420°F and lightly oil a rack. Place the coated chicken on the rack and bake for 15-20 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165°F and the juices run clear, flipping once, halfway. When the chicken is almost done, use a nonstick pan to make the sesame sauce. When the sesame sauce is thick, add the crispy chicken to the sauce and toss to coat.

How to air fry

Air frying will give you a similar crunch to shallow frying but is a bit more hands off. To air fry: oil the air fryer basket and lay in the cornstarch coated chicken in a single layer. Air fry at 400°F for 12-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F and the juices run clear, flipping halfway. When the chicken is almost done, use a nonstick pan to make the sesame sauce. When the sesame sauce is thick, add the crispy chicken to the sauce and toss to coat.

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Why this is the best sesame chicken recipe out there

Most sesame chicken recipes are deep fried chicken but I love this one-pan version because it’s the easiest way to make homemade sesame chicken from scratch. Instead of coating each piece of chicken in a batter and deep-frying, we’re going to toss our chicken cornstarch to give it a slightly crispy coat. Not quite the same as deep fried, but 1000 times easier and quicker, which is what everyone needs on a weeknight. This sesame chicken is definitely faster (and healthier) than ordering take out!

Pro tip

If you want your sesame chicken to have a deeper, nuttier, sesame flavor, and you don’t have toasted sesame seeds on hand, you can toast untoasted sesame seeds yourself. Toasting them right before you add them to the chicken will unlock the ultimate nutty sesame aroma.

To toast sesame seeds, add a table spoon of sesame seeds to a dry pan and heat over low, shaking the pan constantly until the seeds start to smell nutty and turn slightly golden. Remove the seeds from the pan immediately as they have a tendency to burn.

What to serve alongside

More Chinese takeout dishes you should try


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Sesame Chicken Recipe

This one pan sesame chicken is the answer to all your quick and easy weeknight dinner dreams.

Serves 2

Prep Time 10 mins

Cook Time 10 mins

Total Time 20 mins

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs ~4 thighs, or sub 2 breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • Season the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper, then toss with 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

  • Heat up oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook the chicken in a single layer, until cooked through, golden brown, and crispy, flipping once. Cook in batches, if needed.

  • Push the chicken to one side, then add the garlic to the pan and cook until soft, but not brown.

  • Add soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sauce turns slightly thick and glossy and coats the chicken. Finish with toasted sesame seeds and enjoy hot!

Nutrition Facts

Sesame Chicken Recipe

Amount Per Serving

Calories 433
Calories from Fat 201

% Daily Value*

Fat 22.3g34%

Saturated Fat 6.3g39%

Cholesterol 180mg60%

Sodium 603mg26%

Potassium 580mg17%

Carbohydrates 22.6g8%

Fiber 0.2g1%

Sugar 17.4g19%

Protein 38.8g78%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


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