Everyone loves to indulge in Chinese takeout, but the more popular and tasty dishes like Sesame Chicken are deep fried and can cost you a ton of calories. In my lightened-up Sesame Chicken, chunks of chicken breast are coated in corn starch and lightly pan-fried, then tossed in a thick, sweet, sticky sauce. Paired with some rice and broccoli, this fakeout takeout is a crowd-pleaser.
All about this Lightened-Up Sesame Chicken
One Sunday, I got the idea to make a lightened-up sesame chicken. Actually, it was Valentine’s Day. One of Emilio’s favorite takeout dishes is sesame chicken, and I thought it would be a nice sentiment. I figured, how hard could it be? Well, it took me three rounds to get the sauce where I wanted it, and two rounds of chicken.
I just wanted this recipe to be really good. My goal was for this to turn into a go-to recipe for people to make when they wanted Sesame Chicken. I get that nothing can really replace your favorite takeout meal, but I also believe in trying to create lightened up versions of dishes you love, so that you can enjoy them more frequently while still attaining your goals.
What didn’t work, and what did
As I said, I went through three versions of sauce for this recipe, Emilio tasting each one. It’s times like this I really appreciate my critical husband! “Too acidic.” “Too much sesame oil.” Finally, we landed on the final version and (I think) it’s perfect.
My first version of the chicken for this recipe was air fried. I wanted the chicken to be really crispy on the outside, like sesame chicken typically is; and I really thought this was going to be it! I air fried the chicken, and I tossed it in the sauce. Tasted it, photographed it. Let it sit out for a little, and then I went back to try some more and the chicken was so tough. It was dry and hard as a rock, and nothing that I wanted this recipe to be.
I decided that even though I really wanted to achieve a crispy chicken, the air fryer wasn’t happening, and it was time to just pan sear the chicken so that it could stay juicy and tender.
For the second round of chicken, I pan seared it in batches, and it turned out extremely tender and moist. The chicken is not crispy, but I feel that having a tender piece of chicken is more important here.
So that’s how it went! I am excited to bring this recipe to you all.
What you’ll need to make Lightened-Up Sesame Chicken
For the chicken, you’ll need:
- chicken breast
- corn starch
- cooking spray
To make the sauce, you’ll need:
- reduced sodium soy sauce
- unsweetened applesauce
- sesame oil
- corn starch
How to cook the chicken
There’s not much to this part; all you have to do is really make sure you don’t overcrowd your chicken. That’s really the key when you are searing meat. Don’t dump it all in at once. I know it’s tempting. You’ll be tempted to dump it all in so that dinner is ready quicker. But, I promise you, taking the extra ten minutes to make the chicken in two batches will result in such a better product.
Make sure you use the largest frying pan you own, or a wok. Preheat the frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Chop the chicken up into bite-sized cubes. Then toss them in the two tablespoons of cornstarch.
When you are ready to cook the chicken, add a generous amount of cooking spray to the pan, then add about half of the chicken. Make sure your chicken pieces are evenly spaced out and not crowded. Make sure no piece of chicken is touching another. Add more cooking spray to the tops of the chicken pieces.
Cook the chicken for five minutes on this side, and then flip and cook for another five minutes. Your chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165F.
When all the chicken is cooked, place it in a bowl to the side while you prep the sauce.
How to make the sauce
Ok, so this part is beyond easy. Add all of the sauce ingredients into a small sauce pan. Whisk them together, and bring the sauce to a boil. Once boiling, reduce it to simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and syrupy.
Once the sauce is thick and syrupy, add the cooked chicken in and toss it around. Cook for another five minutes or so, until the flavors combine.
Next, sprinkle the sesame seeds in and toss again.
Then, plate it up! My favorite way to serve this is the traditional way, with steamed broccoli and rice! The serving size for this recipe is 1 cup of chicken.
Lightened-Up Sesame Chicken
- frying pan or wok
- small saucepan
- 2 lbs chicken breast cubed
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- cooking spray
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
- 3 tbsp honey
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- Add the chicken pieces to a bowl with the corn starch and toss to coat.
- Preheat a large frying pan or wok over medium to medium-high heat.
- Spray the pan generously with cooking spray, and then add half of the chicken to the pan.
- Make sure the chicken is spaced out, as to not overcrowd the pan. This is the key to getting a golden crust on the chicken.
- Cook the chicken for five minutes, and then flip each piece to cook for another five minutes.
- Check the internal temperature of the chicken to make sure it's done before removing from the pan. It should be 165F when fully cooked.
- Remove the first batch of chicken from the pan and place in a bowl to the side, then repeat with the remaining chicken.
- Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan, except for the sesame seeds.
- Whisk together to ensure the corn starch is broken up and incorporated.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
- Simmer for approximately five minutes or until the sauce becomes thick and syrupy in texture.
- Add the cooked chicken pieces and toss to coat. Cook for another few minutes,
- Add the sesame seeds and toss.
- 5 WW points (blue and purple)
- 7 WW points (green) - calculated using Perdue brand chicken breast
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