Easy healthy sesame chicken stir fry

A healthy recipe for sesame chicken that is stir-fried using less oil than the battered and fried version. Make it juicy and saucy with a secret ingredient low-sugar sauce that has tons of flavor!

Closeup view of sesame chicken stir fry with rice in a white bowl.

What is “stir-fried” sesame chicken?

Sesame chicken is usually coated with batter and deep-fried, then mixed with a sweet sauce to get you addicted. With this recipe, you’ll learn how to make an easy stir-fried sesame chicken that has the same (addictive) results with a few tricks I’ll be telling you in a few minutes. Once you learn that, you’ll never deep-fry your chicken again!

The only thing you’ll miss in this chicken stir fry recipe is the crispiness (and the added calories). That’s more than compensated by soft and melt-in-your-mouth chicken achieved by tenderizing and marinating it in the sauce before stir-frying. I bet you’ll eventually find this low-calorie recipe more delicious than the fried one.

This is another addition to my easy chicken recipes with a few basic ingredients. For a quick and easy dinner, serve this sesame chicken with plain boiled rice. Double the sauce and use the other half to stir-fry vegetables. This is an absolute time-saving method that I recommended for scrambled tofu stir fry, too.

Velveting chicken for stir-fry

This is a very easy way to tenderize boneless chicken breasts. After a bit of research and trying various techniques from brining to soaking, I found this to be the most effective. You will be blown away by the difference it makes to the chicken breast!

Clean and chop the chicken breast into 1-1/2 inch cubes. For every 250 grams of chicken, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Mix well and allow it to soak. After 20 to 30 minutes, rinse the chicken a couple of times. That’s it! Your chicken is now tenderized and ready to be stir-fried, baked, sauteed, or whatever you want to do with it.

Boneless chicken cubes marinated in baking soda in a white bowl.

This not only works for stir-fries like the chicken in fried Bee hoon recipe or stir-fried chicken with red rice but also for other forms of cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts like easy baked chicken breasts. Since baked breasts are already tender and juicy, you may not find much of a difference, but it makes a WORLD of difference to stir-fried chicken!

Ingredients for stir-fry sauce (marinade)

  • Oyster sauce: This is the secret ingredient that gives this sesame chicken its characteristic mouth-watering flavor, color and saucy consistency.
  • Soy sauce: One of the basic ingredients for Asian stir-fries. Low sodium soy sauce is better if you can find it. If not, use the regular one.
  • Rice vinegar: For a splash of tang.
  • Sesame oil: Gives the final glaze to the sauce.
  • Black pepper, chilli flakes and salt: For that spicy kick. Though we use soy sauce, a dash of salt makes a difference to the flavor of the sauce.
  • Brown sugar: Just a little to balance the spices.

Other stir-fry ingredients

  • Peanut oil for frying.
  • Lots of Garlic for the aroma.
  • Sesame seeds for garnish. (after all, it is sesame chicken!)
  • Chinese parsley for garnishing. Green onions can be used instead.
Marinated chicken cubes with other labelled ingredients for stir fry.

Step-by-step instructions

Marinate tenderized chicken with the sauce for about 15 minutes.

Heat peanut oil in a wok or deep pan. Stir-fry garlic for about 2 minutes until you get a pleasant aroma. Do not let it brown. Add marinated chicken cubes.

Stir-fry for 5 minutes. Now comes the important step: Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water and stir-fry for 5 more minutes. Repeat with 2 more tablespoons of water and stir-fry for 5 more minutes. This process first browns chicken on the outside then adding water steams and cooks the chicken thoroughly, while making it soft and juicy. This is the secret to a good stir-fried chicken.

Garnish with sesame seeds and parsley. Enjoy with a bowl of rice.

Additions and substitutions

  • A teaspoon of finely chopped ginger can be added with garlic.
  • Green onions can be substituted for Chinese parsley for garnishing.
  • My favorite hack to make this a stir-fried chicken recipe with vegetables: Double the amount of sauce and add vegetables like bok choy, carrots, bell peppers and baby corn. Marinate chicken as above with half the sauce. After cooking the marinated chicken for 5 to 10 minutes, add vegetables and fry for 5 minutes. Finally add the other half of the sauce and stir-fry for 5 more minutes until everything comes together. Garnish and serve.
Sesame chicken stir fry with rice in a white bowl with chopsticks.

Tips to make the best sesame chicken stir-fry

  1. Do not skip the tenderizing step. That’s what makes this a great stir-fry recipe.
  2. The entire stir-frying process should be done on high flame. If you feel that chicken is getting burnt, sprinkle water or feel free to add a little oil.
  3. A pinch of salt and pepper enhances the flavor. (I used to think that soy sauce can replace salt, but salt does make a difference!)

Common questions

What is the healthiest oil for stir-fry?

Peanut oil is one of the oils that have a high smoking point. This makes it suitable not only for stir-frying but also for deep-frying. It also has a delicious nutty flavor that goes well with Asian flavors. Sesame oil has a lower smoking point. It is used either to marinate or towards the end of cooking. It is used to give a glaze to stir-fries rather than for frying.

How to make sesame chicken easy?

The easiest and healthiest way to make sesame chicken is to marinate the chicken in the sauce and then stir-fry with aromatics and optionally with vegetables. It gives the same saucy consistency as fried chicken but without the crispiness and all the calories that come with it.

How can I make stir fry more exciting?

This chicken stir fry is already bursting with flavor. You can add more flavor by adding 1/2 teaspoon of hoisin sauce. Sprinkle some roasted peanuts or other nuts like almonds and cashews for added crunch. Herbs like cilantro and spices like cumin or coriander can also add a delicious twist to the stir-fry. Use apple cider vinegar instead of rice vinegar for a fruity taste.

Looking for more chicken recipes?

Closeup view of sesame chicken stir fry with rice in a white bowl.

Easy healthy sesame chicken stir fry recipe

A healthy recipe for sesame chicken that is stir-fried using less oil than the battered and fried version. Make it juicy and saucy with a secret-ingredient, low-sugar sauce that has tons of flavor!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Tenderizing time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course dinner, LUNCH, Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Chinese
Servings 3
Calories 342 kcal

Ingredients
  

To tenderize

  • 500 grams Boneless chicken (1.1 pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons Baking soda

For the marinade

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon Oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • A pinch of salt

To stir-fry

  • 2 tablespoons Peanut oil
  • 4 Garlic cloves finely chopped

To garnish

  • 2 tablespoons Sesame seeds toasted
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese parsley or green onions

Instructions
 

To tenderize chicken

  • Clean and chop the chicken breasts into 1-1/2 inch cubes. Add 2 teaspoons baking soda and mix well. Let it soak for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 to 30 minutes, rinse the chicken cubes a couple of times and pat them dry with kitchen towels.

To marinate chicken

  • Whisk all ingredients for the marinade until the solids dissolve. Add to the chicken, mix well and let it marinate for 10 minutes or longer, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

To stir-fry

  • Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a wok or deep pan. Stir-fry the finely chopped garlic until you get a nice aroma, but not browned.
  • Add the marinated chicken (and all of the marinade) and stir fry for 5 minutes on high flame.
    Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water and fry for 5 more minutes.
    Repeat with 2 more tablespoons of water and stir-fry for 5 more minutes. Turn off the flame.
  • Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and parsley. Serve on a bed of hot boiled brown/white rice.

Notes

Additions and substitutions
  • Add finely chopped ginger when you fry garlic.
  • Roasted peanuts or cashews can be sprinkled for added crunch.
  • Green onions can also be used for garnishing.
How to make chicken stir fry with vegetables
Double all the ingredients for the marinade. Marinate chicken with one half and reserve the other half. Choose stir-fry vegetables like bok choy, bell peppers, carrots, string beans and baby corn. Slice them into thin strips. They should make roughly about 2 cups. 
After stir-frying the chicken for 5 minutes, add hard vegetables like beans and carrots and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Then add softer vegetables that cook faster, like peppers and bok choy. After stir-frying for 3 more minutes add the reserved sauce and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce thickens and adds a glaze.
A quick tip: In this case, you may not have to sprinkle water, since the vegetables add moisture to the dish. Depending on the vegetables you use, the water content may differ. Sprinkle water only if the sauce gets dried up while cooking.
Easy healthy sesame chicken stir fry
Keyword Easy chicken stir fry, Healthy chicken stir fry sauce, healthy Chinese chicken recipes, healthy sesame chicken recipe, low calorie sesame chicken stir fry

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Thank you and happy cooking!

– Sheeba.

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