Skip the takeout and make this Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken from the comfort of your kitchen instead! It’s a simple 30-minute copycat recipe made with crispy chicken, peppers, and pineapple tossed in a sticky 4-ingredient sauce.
I’m not against splurging on Chinese takeout. It’s delicious, crowd-pleasing, and there are a ton of great dishes to choose from! But learning how to make a few takeout-fakeout recipes is the best way to replicate the same great flavors without opening your wallet.
Like my peanut shrimp stir fry and orange chicken, this Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken is a copycat takeout recipe that’s easy to make at home. Without the heavy breading or deep-fried chicken, you can think of it as a lightened-up version of the classic.
My version involves pan-frying the chicken until golden, then tossing it with peppers, onions, pineapple, and a homemade sweet and sour sauce. The 4-ingredient sauce is so easy to make from scratch and has an incredible flavor. You’ll want to use it on everything!
- It’s a 30-minute, one-skillet dinner made with a handful of fresh and pantry-staple ingredients.
- Think of it as a healthy, homemade version of a Chinese takeout classic. Serve it with rice and your other copycat takeout recipes for a takeout-inspired night in!
- It’s high-protein, veggie-loaded, and easy to adapt with gluten free and paleo ingredients.
Chicken - Whether you use chicken breast or thighs is totally up to you, but know that chicken thighs stay juicy and have more flavor. This recipe also works well with pork and tofu if you feel like mixing things up.
Flour - For a light breading on the chicken. Head to the FAQs section to learn what other kinds of flour can be used for gluten free and paleo variations.
Brown sugar - This is the primary source of sweetness in the sauce. Coconut sugar works well as a substitute.
Apple cider vinegar - This mild and subtly tart vinegar adds just the right amount of sour flavor in the sweet and sour sauce. White vinegar should also work if that’s all you have at home.
Ketchup - This helps thicken the sauce and adds a bright, acidic flavor.
Pineapple - Use freshly diced pineapple or drained canned pineapple.
Step 1: Make the sweet and sour sauce. Mix the brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
Step 2: Bread the chicken. Whisk the egg white in one bowl and add the flour to another. Transfer the chicken and cornstarch to a ziploc bag and shake to coat. From there, dip the chicken pieces into the egg white, then the flour.
Step 3: Cook the chicken. Transfer the chicken to a hot oiled skillet and cook until browned. Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.
Step 4: Cook the vegetables. Heat more oil in the skillet, then add the veggies and cook until they’re lightly charred.
Step 5: Toss together, then serve. Add the sauce and pineapple to the pan and toss to coat. Add the cooked chicken back into the skillet and let everything simmer until the sauce thickens. Scoop the sweet and sour chicken into bowls with rice, top with green onions, and enjoy!
Tips and FAQs
- Remember to pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel to help the cornstarch stick to the surface.
- You also don’t HAVE to dip the chicken in the egg white/flour mixture! It certainly helps crisp up the chicken but isn’t a necessary step if you want to keep this recipe extra light.
- Pan fry the chicken pieces in a single layer in the skillet. This way, each piece will crisp up evenly. Work in batches if you need to, adding a little more oil in between each batch.
- Not a fan of bell peppers? Saute broccoli florets, carrots, green beans, mushrooms, or sugar snap peas with the onions instead.
Can you air fry the chicken instead?
Yes, the air fryer method is great when you want to use less oil. To air fry, place the breaded chicken pieces in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Cook at 380ºF for 6 minutes, then flip and cook for 4 more minutes.
Once they’re ready, toss the crispy chicken in the skillet with the sauce and vegetables. Serve and enjoy!
How do you make this recipe paleo-friendly?
Follow the substitutions below to make paleo sweet and sour chicken:
- Use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar.
- Sugar free ketchup instead of regular ketchup (Primal Kitchen is my favorite).
- Coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
- Tapioca flour or arrowroot flour can be used instead of cornstarch.
- Almond flour should work in place of the all purpose flour.
- Avocado oil or coconut oil instead of olive oil.
What should you serve with sweet and sour chicken?
This meal always goes well with rice, whether it's white or brown basmati rice, bone broth rice, coconut rice, fried rice, and so on. Cooked quinoa or cauliflower rice are great options, too!
Serve the batch with more takeout-inspired favorites for a well-rounded meal, like general tso’s chickpeas, teriyaki noodles, and teriyaki pork meatballs.
Refrigerator: Store the leftover sweet and sour chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Reheating: Place the chicken and veggies in a hot skillet until warmed through or reheat in the microwave for about 1 minute.
More healthy chicken dinner recipes
If you made this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below. Thanks!
Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken
For the sauce:
- ½ cup brown sugar or sub coconut sugar
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce or sub coconut aminos
For the chicken:
- 1.5 lbs chicken thighs boneless, skinless; cut into 1 inch cubes
- ¼ cup cornstarch or sub tapioca flour
- 1 egg white whisked
- ½ cup flour
- 2 tablespoon avocado oil (or oil of choice) plus more as needed
For the veggies:
- 1 red bell pepper chopped; seeds removed
- ½ onion chopped
- ¾ cup diced pineapple canned or fresh
- ¼ cup green onion for garnish
- First, make the sauce: whisk the sauce ingredients together; set aside.
- Next, chop the veggies: dice the bell pepper, chop the onion and dice the pineapple into bite-sized pieces (or buy pre-diced pineapple).
- Now, place the chicken in a ziploc bag, then add the cornstarch. Seal the bag and shake until the chicken is coated. Add the egg whites to a shallow bowl, then add the flour in a separate shallow bowl. Dip the cornstarch-coated chicken into the egg white, then into the flour.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the chicken and cook it for 2 minutes per side; transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Add 1 teaspoon more oil and turn heat down to medium, then add the veggies in a single layer and cook for 2 minutes until slightly charred, then pour in the sauce and stir to coat. Pour in the chicken and stir to coat and cook for 2-3 more minutes – may need to turn heat back up so sauce thickens.
- Sprinkle with green onions and enjoy!
I used the substitutes of coconut sugar and coconut aminos and the sauce was delicious. I did not cornstarch the chicken but added the sauce and broccoli once the chicken was cooked. Served it over cauliflower rice and thoroughly enjoyed this dish. Will defiantly save this one to make again and with chicken or tofu.
I'm so glad you enjoyed this recipe, Susan!
10/10. Sweet and sour chicken is my husband's favorite Chinese takeout meal and I have never been able to successfully make something comparable until today. Highly recommend! Great job!!
YAY! Glad you both enjoyed the chicken!