Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Restaurant Style Sweet and Sour Chicken

So I like old school American style Chinese food. The fake stuff that no self respecting Chinese person would see as remotely Chinese. I like the real stuff too, but like the Americanized version of a lot of different ethnic dishes, I feel there is a place for both. This chicken dish sits firmly, with its huge helping of ketchup, on the American side of the line. Funny story though… I haven’t made or thought about this dish in years, but recently I made pineapple upside down cake with a real pineapple. The cake was excellent and a huge hit with my kids (well I mean, cake hello…) and it reminded me of this old recipe which I dug out. My son bought a fresh pineapple again in the hopes I’d make more cake. Instead I decided to make this chicken dish for everyone. I was so happy because I thought, oh it has chicken, ketchup and pineapple. My kids will LOVE this. Wrong-o alas. It came out perfectly and delicious, but they, for whatever reason absolutely refused to touch it. My daughter was like, “Mom, you know how some things are just yucky to you? Well this chicken is awful. I can’t eat it.” I was like, seriously, but, but it’s ketchup and pineapple what’s not to love? Of course her brother followed her lead. They had cereal for dinner instead. My husband loved it as a consolation prize but I just don’t understand it. Never will I understand my children’s palates.

Practical notes: This comes from Madam Wu’s Art of Chinese Cooking which is a trashy old paperback cookbook from the 70s, but from time to time it has good classic American Chinese recipes. This is one such example. The recipe below, if followed perfectly, will give you a dead ringer for restaurant sweet and sour chicken, no question. My version, which is what’s pictured, is just slightly different because I chose not to deep fry the chicken. I LOVE the chicken when it’s deep fried (it’s really, really good), but deep frying is bad for you and makes a raging mess. So my compromise is listed below. Since the sauce is identical it tastes basically the same as the restaurant version, without that deep fried crunch.

One storage tip, if you deep fry the chicken and you’re only making this for two people (so you know you’ll have leftovers) I recommend mixing only the chicken and sauce you know you’ll eat that night together. Store the extra chicken and sauce separately and reheat separately. Then mix for your follow up dinner. It keeps the chicken coating nice and crunchy and it tastes really good this way the next day.

Serves 2-3

Freezes: No

Reheats: Yes

Kid Friendly Tasks: Pineapple taster


  • 2 quarts vegetable oil (if deep frying)
  •  1 lb chicken breast, cut into small pieces


  • ½ c all purpose flour
  •  ¼ c corn starch
  •  ½ tsp baking powder
  •  ¼ tsp salt
  •  ¾ c water (note: make the dry batter but omit the water if not deep frying)


  • ¾ c ketchup
  •  ¼ c white vinegar
  •  1 can pineapple chunks in heavy syrup (if you get chunks in juice add about 3 tbsp white sugar to compensate- yes it’s very sweet)
  •  ½ c chopped white onion (I use yellow instead if I have it)
  • ½ c chopped bell pepper (green is traditional, but I like red too)
  •  1 tbsp cornstarch blended with 2 tbsp water


  1. Mix all of the batter ingredients and stir well. The batter should look like pancake batter in consistency.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pot or deep fryer to 375 degrees.
  3. Working with a few at a time, dip the chicken pieces in batter and then deep fry them in oil for 8 minutes (roughly). Drain on paper towels
  4. In a bowl blend ketchup and vinegar. Drain the pineapple syrup into the ketchup vinegar blend and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat in a wok or deep pot and add the chopped onions and peppers. Bring to a boil a second time and add chicken pieces and pinepapple chunks. Add the cornstartch and water blend. Stir everything together. Serve immediately over white rice. Enjoy!

Alternate directions if not deep frying

  1. Mix all batter ingredient except for water and stir well. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat. They should be completely white.
  2. Put about 3-4 tbsp of oil in a deep bottom pan (you should just cover it) and heat over high heat. Stir fry the chicken pieces until cooked through (the same 6-8 minutes roughly). Remove chicken to paper towel and proceed with the recipe as normal.


Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and Sour Chicken


Leave a Reply