General Tso's Chicken

Chinese buffet restaurants are considered my family's second kitchen. As soon as my parents grew tired of catering and cooking home meals in general, they became big fans of Chinese buffet restaurants. Let's face it, those restaurants have an abundant spread of dishes, allow you to eat as much as you wanted and the low cost was a big draw. But despite how much me and my siblings groaned about eating at the local Chinese buffet with my parents week after week, there was no arguing the fact we loved the dishes and food there. One of my favorites was the ever popular Chinese American dish, General Tso's Chicken. It may be more convenient to hit up the local Chinese buffet to eat this dish but I'd rather make it at home for a much better tasting version...

At those buffet restaurants, the General Tso's Chicken can often be too heavy with batter, soggy after it sits out a bit or the sauce is just too sweet and overpowering. Well, Cooks Illustrated came up with a recipe for General Tso's Chicken that really gives the local restaurants near me a run for their money. After making Korean Style Chicken Wings recently, I've been finding more recipes calling for cornstarch to get that unmistakable crispy texture in fried foods. It's the cornstarch and foamy egg whites that make this dish so good... along with a tasty marinade/sauce.

To start off, chicken is marinated in a hoisin, white vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch and water mixture. This mixture for the marinade also doubles as a sauce, which is a great time saver. The General Tso's sauce is then made by sautéing garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes until fragrant. Some of the marinade mixture is added to the pan and allowed to simmer until thickened.

When you're ready to batter the marinated chicken, each piece of chicken is tossed in foamy egg whites and dredged in a mixture of cornstarch, flour, baking soda and a touch of the hoisin mixture just before frying. The egg whites produce a fluffy breading around each piece of chicken while the cornstarch allows the chicken to fry up nice and crispy. Once the chicken is all golden brown with that perfect crisp coating, the chicken is tossed in a bowl with the warmed General Tso's sauce. It adds just the right amount of sweetness and very subtle heat (from the red pepper flakes). We loved this over steamed jasmine rice and garnished with a few fresh slices of green onions.

General Tso's Chicken
recipe from Cooks Illustrated

1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

Coating & frying:
3 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups vegetable oil
1-2 green onions, thinly sliced on a bias for garnish

Prep the chicken breasts by cutting them into 1 inch pieces.

To make the marinade & sauce, whisk the hoisin, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, and water in a bowl. Of this mixture, place 6 tablespoons into a zip lock storage bag and add the chicken; seal and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Set aside the remaining marinade in the bowl.

While the chicken is chilling in the marinade, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Sauté the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes until fragrant. Add 2 cups of the hoisin marinade to the skillet and simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture is dark brown and thickened. Remove from heat, cover and keep the sauce warm.

To prepare the chicken coating and frying, whisk the egg whites in a shallow dish until foamy; set aside. Combine the cornstarch, flour, baking soda, and remaining hoisin marinade in a second shallow dish; mix until it resembles coarse meal.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and from the marinade. Pat the marinated chicken dry with paper towels. Toss half the chicken into the foamy egg whites until well coated, then dredge the chicken in the cornstarch mmixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer the coated chicken to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat until the oil registers 350 degrees. Fry half the chicken until golden brown, about 3 minutes, turning each piece halfway through cooking. Transfer the cooked chicken onto a paper towel lined plate to drain. Return the oil to 350 degrees before frying again. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Warm the sauce over medium heat until simmering. Place the sauce in a large bowl and add the fried chicken pieces. Toss to coat and serve.


  1. Holy cow this looks amazing! I just showed your picture to my husband and he wants me to make it tonight. If it tastes half as good as it looks I can't wait.

  2. That photo is amazingly clear and vibrant. It makes the dish looks especially inviting. Yum.

  3. this recipe looks delicious, and I am eager to try it out. ...and as a former Chicagoan, I am loving the skyline. Thanks!

  4. I made this last week for dinner and it came out great. The only thing I couldn't get my hands on beforehand was the ginger. Thanks!

  5. I recently moved from a large city (with many Chinese restaurants) to a small town with one Chinese buffet with HORRIBLE General Tso's Chicken - it's actually ORANGE! Yuck! I missed my favorite Chinese place so much and have been trying many online recipes and pre-made bottled or frozen sauces - to no avail.

    This was AWESOME! I had to substitute a pre-minced ginger for fresh (comes in a tube & I recommend cutting the amount in 1/2 if you do the same) The sauce had plenty of kick with only 1/2 the red pepper flakes. Otherwise, I didn't change it at all and it was as good as my favorite General Tso's. Thanks!

  6. I just made this dish for some guests and it was a hit! everyone loved it. I could honestly say it tastes as good as it looks.

  7. Hi I made this and it was amazing but mine didn't come out the same colour lol. Yours is more red. Any idea why?