Tender chunks of chicken, bell pepper and sweet pineapple coated in a sticky, sweet and sour sauce. Lightened-up sweet and sour chicken offers a generous portion of the classic takeout dish, but for less than half the calories per serving. Serve it with some fluffy white rice and broccoli for the perfect fake-out takeout meal.
What is sweet and sour chicken?
Sweet and sour chicken is a dish typically served in Chinese restaurants, typically made with white-meat chicken, coated in sweet and sour sauce, and topped with pineapple and peppers.
The dish is a combination of flavors and textures; soft, tender chunks of chicken, crisp pan-seared bell peppers, crunchy pineapple. The sauce is a combination of sweet and savory. Together, it’s a beautiful and flavorful dish.
When you look at the ingredients of this dish, it seems like it wouldn’t be hard to “lighten up.” It’s already got the veggies and white-meat chicken. The issue is the sauce. The sauce is traditionally made with a lot of sugar. I’m talking, cups of sugar.
We know it’s not easy to lighten up sugary dishes, but what I have done here is just use all the same ingredients, but scaled back a bit. I still use sugar, but less. To bulk the sauce up more, I add some unsweetened applesauce (as always). I also use ketchup for that added tangy-sweetness. All together, it really works. Trust me!
What you’ll need to make lightened-up sweet and sour chicken
For the chicken and vegetables, you’ll need:
- chicken breast
- corn starch
- kosher salt
- cooking spray
- bell peppers
- red onion
- pineapple chunks
- fresh or canned will work, but must be drained of all liquid
- sesame seeds
To make the sauce, you’ll need:
- unsweetened applesauce
- light brown sugar
- reduced sodium soy sauce
- rice wine vinegar
- 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 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.
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.
How to cook the vegetables and put everything together
How to serve lightened-up sweet and sour chicken
One serving of this dish is 2 cups! It’s a huge, generous size portion. This recipe makes four servings, but can easily be split into six. It’s a hearty serving.
I love this dish served over white rice and with another vegetable, like steamed broccoli.
Lightened-Up Sweet and Sour Chicken
- frying pan or wok
- small saucepan
- 2 lbs chicken breast cubed
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- cooking spray
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tbsp corn starch
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 2 scallions chopped
- 2 bell peppers chopped
- 1 red onion chopped
- 1 cup pineapple canned, drained
- Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- Add the salt to the corn starch.
- 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.
- In the same pan you cooked the chicken in, spray more cooking spray, and add the diced pepper and onion.
- Cook on high heat for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly charred and tender.
- Add the drained pineapple chunks. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the cooked chicken pieces and the sauce.
- Cook the mixture for a few minutes for all flavors to combine.
- Add the sesame seeds and toss.
- 8 WW points (green plan)- calculated using Perdue brand chicken breast
- 6 WW points (blue and purple plans)
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