Kirbie's Cravings

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and sour chicken is always a take-out favorite but you can make a delicious version at home. The best part about this recipe is the chicken – it’s very crunchy and stays that way even after it’s been coated in the sweet and sour sauce. It’s so delicious!

photo of a plate of Sweet and Sour Chicken

Growing up, we ate various sweet and sour dishes: fish, pork, beef and, of course, sweet and sour chicken. It was never my favorite dish so I was very surprised when I got a serious craving for it recently. How weird, right? I’m not sure why I started craving it, but I figured I might as well make it!

When I started thinking about it, I realized one reason I never liked it was because it would often get soggy. I don’t understand why you would bread and cook the chicken so it’s nice and crispy only to douse it in a sauce which can turn it soggy pretty quick. So, I thought I would try making a version that would stay crispy even after being coated in sauce.

After experimenting I finally figured it out after doing a little research and what a difference it makes. This homemade sweet and sour chicken is crispy with the perfect amount of sauce. And the chicken stays crispy!

close-up photo of a plate of Sweet and Sour Chicken

The Secret Ingredient for the Best Sweet and Sour Chicken

It might be surprising, but vodka is what makes the breading super crunchy. Serious Eats recently experimented with General Tso’s chicken in its latest Food Lab edition. Kenji discussed that adding vodka to the breading would make the chicken pieces crunchier. He actually did more than add vodka, but I thought I’d try only adding vodka to my egg whites and see if it helped and it did.

So, now I’m obsessed with making crunchy chicken. It tastes so good and it works every time. I used this trick to make crunchy chicken tenders, too.

This sweet and sour chicken is pretty easy to make. All you do is coat the chicken pieces in a mixture of egg white and vodka and then dredge them in cornstarch. Then just fry them and drain them on paper towels while you make the sauce.

What I love about this recipe is that the chicken actually stays crunchy for a while even after you’ve tossed the chicken pieces in the sauce. I can’t wait to use this vodka trick in other recipes.

More Chinese Take-Out Recipes

If you like this sweet and sour recipe you might like to try some of these other homemade take-out recipes, too. Or learn more about common Chinese cooking ingredients and browse some more of my favorite recipes!

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Chinese
One problem with sweet and sour chicken is keeping the chicken crunchy even when it's been drenched in sauce. My version has a little vodka mixed with egg white that keeps the chicken crispy so you get the best of both worlds - crunchy chicken coated in the sweet and sour sauce.


  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • egg white of 1 extra large egg
  • 2 tbsp vodka
  • vegetable oil for frying

for the sauce:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp light sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water


  • Heat oil in wok or other pot being used for frying to medium-high heat. Make sure you have at least 1 inch of oil in your pot. Whisk vodka and egg white in a small bowl. Place cornstarch in a separate small bowl. Dip chicken pieces in egg white and then coat in cornstarch. Gently place into heated oil and fry until golden brown. Work in small batches until all of the chicken is fried. Place finished chicken pieces on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil.
  • In a small saucepan, heat all sauce ingredient except cornstarch and water and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly with a large wooden spoon. Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pour into boiling mixture and stir until sauce boils and thickens. Add chicken pieces into saucepan, until they are all coated. Remove and serve on plate, pouring on top any extra remaining sauce. Garnish with fresh scallions if desired.


Recipe adapted from Damn Delicious

The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.

Did you make this recipe?I'd love to see it! Mention @KirbieCravings and tag #kirbiecravings!

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Recipe Rating

14 comments on “Sweet and Sour Chicken”

  1. I would love to try your sweet and sour chicken recipe but I am allergic to eggs. What can I use in place of the egg whites???

    • There really isn’t a substitute we can think of – the egg white acts as a binder for the breading. You can try leaving it out, but not sure how the breading will hold together.

  2. Any chance of coming up with a keto version of this?? Super Crispy coating that STAYS crisp… and Sweet and Sour Sauce for coating or dipping?? A friend and I have searched and searched for sweet and sour sauce like the red stuff they serve in Chinese restaurants… to no avail. I’ll say “thanks in advance” for your reply ;-D
    She and I BOTH enjoy all the good things that you share with all of us – Thank you SO MUCH! ;-D

  3. I made this today and it was so so good! wonderful! THANK YOU! 

  4. does seem similar indeed! gonna try that next time, add a little cornstarch to it as well! and that next time will be soon, i know that! yumm!

  5. had to come back and comment on this, this was truly delicious!!!
    i didn’t think i would like the sauce since i can’t stand the smell of cidervinegar, and when it was bubbling in the pan i didn’t like the smell either, so i was worried, but when it came together all the flavors just worked so well together!
    will defintely make this over and over, so thank you!
    i will however use my own way to coat the chicken, taught to me by an indonesian woman, add some water to plain flour and mix it till it is a yoghurt like consistency, not too runny, not too thick, mix chicken in it and fry the pieaces, easy and for my personal taste i like those better. as crispy, or even more so

    allthough my boyfriend is Russian and he could appreciate the vodka part haha……

  6. I would never think of using vodka for breading chicken, that’s so cool! I would expect this to apply for fried chicken wings, other fried meats, seafood & veggies too?

  7. Huh, vodka! Imagine that! Makes sense with the explanation about the gluten though. Great, now I need to buy some vodka… haha.

    • haha, I had a hard time finding vodka in my house too! I actually ended up using this expensive bottle someone had gifted me.