General Tso Chicken


Yearning for the bold flavors and irresistible aroma of your favorite Chinese takeout dish? Look no further than General Tso Chicken—a beloved classic that never fails to satisfy cravings and delight taste buds. In this article, we’ll dive into the origins of General Tso Chicken, explore what sets it apart from other Chinese-American dishes, and share a mouthwatering homemade recipe that’s sure to become a staple in your kitchen.

The History of General Tso Chicken: General Tso Chicken, named after the renowned Qing dynasty military leader General Tso Tsung-tang, is a popular Chinese-American dish that has become a symbol of Americanized Chinese cuisine. Despite its name, the dish has little to no connection to General Tso himself, and its origins can be traced back to the Taiwanese culinary scene in the mid-20th century.


  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced (for garnish)
  • Cooked white rice, for serving


  1. Coat the Chicken:
    • In a large bowl, toss the chicken pieces with cornstarch until evenly coated.
  2. Pan-Fry the Chicken:
    • Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the coated chicken pieces in a single layer and cook until golden brown and crispy on all sides, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate and set aside.
  3. Prepare the Sauce:
    • In the same skillet or wok, heat the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and grated ginger, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
    • Stir in the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Combine and Serve:
    • Return the cooked chicken to the skillet or wok, tossing to coat evenly with the sauce. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the chicken is heated through and the sauce has thickened.
    • Serve the General Tso Chicken hot over cooked white rice, garnished with thinly sliced green onions.

Serving and Storage Tips:


  1. Hot and Fresh: General Tso Chicken is best served immediately after cooking, while it’s still hot and crispy. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and garnish with thinly sliced green onions for a pop of color and freshness.
  2. Pairing Suggestions: Serve General Tso Chicken over a bed of steamed white rice to soak up the flavorful sauce. For added texture and freshness, consider serving with a side of stir-fried vegetables such as broccoli, bell peppers, or snap peas.
  3. Garnish with Flair: Before serving, garnish the dish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds or additional red pepper flakes for a touch of visual appeal and extra flavor. Fresh cilantro leaves or chopped peanuts can also add a delightful contrast of color and texture.


  1. Refrigeration: If you have leftovers, store the General Tso Chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. To maintain its crispy texture, store the chicken and sauce separately and reheat them together in a skillet or microwave.
  2. Freezing: While General Tso Chicken can be frozen, it’s best to freeze the chicken and sauce separately to prevent the chicken from becoming soggy. Place the cooled chicken in a freezer-safe container or bag, and pour the sauce into a separate container. Freeze for up to 2-3 months.
  3. Reheating: When ready to enjoy frozen General Tso Chicken, thaw the chicken and sauce overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat the chicken in a skillet over medium heat until heated through, then add the sauce and cook until bubbly. Alternatively, reheat individual portions in the microwave until warmed to your liking.

By following these serving and storage tips, you can ensure that your homemade General Tso Chicken retains its crispy texture, bold flavor, and irresistible appeal, whether served fresh from the stove or enjoyed as a convenient leftover meal.

Variations of Recipe:

1. General Tso Cauliflower:

  • Substitute cauliflower florets for chicken to create a vegetarian version of General Tso’s. Coat the cauliflower florets in cornstarch and pan-fry until crispy. Toss with the General Tso sauce and serve over rice for a flavorful meatless alternative.

2. General Tso Shrimp:

  • Swap out the chicken for large shrimp for a seafood twist on this classic dish. Cook the shrimp until pink and opaque, then toss them in the General Tso sauce. Serve with steamed rice and garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds for a delicious variation.

3. General Tso Tofu:

  • Use extra-firm tofu cut into cubes as a protein substitute. Press the tofu to remove excess moisture, then coat in cornstarch and pan-fry until golden brown and crispy. Toss with the General Tso sauce and serve with rice and steamed vegetables for a tasty vegetarian option.

4. General Tso Beef:

  • Opt for thinly sliced beef, such as flank steak or sirloin, for a hearty alternative to chicken. Stir-fry the beef until browned, then add the General Tso sauce and cook until the beef is cooked through and the sauce thickens. Serve over rice or noodles for a satisfying meal.

5. General Tso Tofu Noodles:

  • Combine crispy tofu cubes with cooked noodles and toss with the General Tso sauce for a flavorful noodle dish. Add stir-fried vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots for extra texture and nutrition. Garnish with sesame seeds and chopped green onions before serving.


1. Is General Tso Chicken spicy?

  • It can vary depending on the recipe and personal preference. Traditional General Tso Chicken typically has a mild to moderate level of spiciness due to the addition of red pepper flakes or chili paste in the sauce. Adjust the amount of spice according to your taste.

2. Can I make General Tso Chicken gluten-free?

  • Yes, you can make gluten-free General Tso Chicken by using gluten-free soy sauce and hoisin sauce in the sauce mixture. Additionally, ensure that any other ingredients, such as cornstarch for coating the chicken, are certified gluten-free.

3. How do I make General Tso Chicken crispy?

  • To achieve crispy General Tso Chicken, ensure the chicken pieces are coated evenly in cornstarch before pan-frying. Fry the chicken in hot oil until golden brown and crispy on the outside while remaining tender on the inside.

4. Can I use chicken breast instead of chicken thighs?

  • Yes, you can use chicken breast instead of chicken thighs if you prefer. However, chicken thighs tend to be juicier and more flavorful due to their higher fat content. If using chicken breast, be careful not to overcook it to prevent dryness.

5. What is the difference between General Tso Chicken and Orange Chicken?

  • While both dishes are popular Chinese-American favorites, General Tso Chicken is typically spicier and has a darker, more savory sauce compared to the sweet and tangy sauce of Orange Chicken. Additionally, General Tso Chicken often includes garlic and ginger in its flavor profile.

6. Can I bake General Tso Chicken instead of frying it?

  • Yes, you can bake General Tso Chicken for a healthier alternative to frying. Arrange the coated chicken pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven until cooked through and crispy. Brush with sauce before serving.

7. How do I prevent the sauce from becoming too thick or too thin?

  • To achieve the desired consistency, adjust the amount of cornstarch in the sauce mixture. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water or chicken broth to thin it out. If it’s too thin, mix a small amount of cornstarch with water and stir it into the sauce to thicken.

8. Can I make General Tso Chicken ahead of time?

  • Yes, you can prepare the components of General Tso Chicken ahead of time and assemble them when ready to serve. Cook the chicken and make the sauce separately, then store them in the refrigerator until needed. Reheat the chicken and sauce together in a skillet before serving.

9. Is General Tso Chicken spicy in Chinese cuisine?

  • Authentic Chinese General Tso Chicken may not be as spicy as its Americanized counterpart. The level of spiciness can vary depending on the region and individual preferences, but it typically features a balance of sweet, savory, and tangy flavors.

10. Can I adjust the sweetness of General Tso Chicken?

  • Yes, you can adjust the sweetness of General Tso Chicken by varying the amount of sugar or honey in the sauce. Taste the sauce as you go and add more sugar or honey if you prefer a sweeter flavor profile.


With its crispy exterior, tender chicken, and bold, sweet-savory sauce, General Tso Chicken is a beloved favorite that captures the essence of Chinese-American cuisine. By following this homemade recipe, you can recreate the magic of your favorite takeout dish in the comfort of your own kitchen. So why wait? Gather your ingredients, fire up the stove, and embark on a culinary adventure that’s sure to satisfy your cravings and impress your taste buds!

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