This Lemon Chicken recipe tastes better than takeout and one is of my husband’s favorite recipes of all time!
This Chinese Lemon Chicken recipe is destined to become a new family favorite thanks to the intoxicating sauce and EXTRA crispy chicken. To make this Chinese Lemon Chicken recipe, bite-size chicken gets tossed in a simple ONE STEP batter then coated in panko, baked or fried then enveloped in a sticky, sweet and tangy. multidimensional lemon sauce that will have you drooling. The sauce is sweet from the honey and apricot preserves, tangy from the lemon juice and red wine vinegar and kicking from the garlic, ginger and chili sauce. The layered complex flavors combined with the crispy, juicy chicken will have everyone combing back for seconds and thirds! Serve this Chinese Lemon Chicken recipe with rice or low carb cauliflower rice, sesame ginger bok choy and you have an easy weeknight meal your whole family will beg you to make again and again! (Same amazing recipe, photos updated 10/3/20)
If you love make Chinese recipes at home, don’t miss favorites Sweet and Sour Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken, Beef and Broccoli, Orange Chicken and Mongolian Beef. Add some egg rolls or crab rangoons and your takeout fakeout experience is complete!
Easy Chinese Lemon Chicken Recipe
This Chinese Lemon Chicken recipe is an older recipe that is so insanely delicious it deserved a photo reboot. The chicken is tender and juicy, infused with flavor through and through, the golden breading is crispy and crunchy and the sticky lemon sauce adeptly teeters between tangy and sweet. But you don’t have to take my word for it:
What readers are saying about this lemon chicken recipe:
Crunchy and an amazing sauce! Thank you! – Nicole
Another delicious recipe !!!!! We soaked our chicken in the sauce because we couldn’t get enough of it! And the chicken stayed crispy!!! – Therese
Wow! Another amazing recipe! I made this for dinner tonight, and it was awesome! I love the one-stop batter…it was such an easy way to bread the chicken. Flavorful and easy….can’t beat it. The panko breadcrumbs came out perfectly crispy. The sauce was delicious. My family said we never have to go out for Chinese food again. 🙂. – Kara
The one stop batter
To make this Chinese Lemon Chicken recipe even more happy to make, I’ve created a one-step batter instead of the multi-step process of marinating the chicken, dredging in flour, egg, flour, etc. I have always wanted to try this method and I am kicking myself for not perfecting it sooner! It makes breading chicken super quick and SO easy, not to mention way less of a messy production.
Simply combine your marinade of lemon juice, honey, soy sauce along with your egg, egg yolk, flour and spices all in one bowl to create a nice sticky batter. Add your chicken and let sit for 20-60 minutes to soak in flavor and tenderize. Now all you have to do is coat your chicken in breadcrumbs!
Should I bake or fry my lemon chicken?
I first tried to bake this lemon chicken after breading the chicken with already toasted panko, and while the chicken was somewhat crispy, it was not crispy enough to own and flaunt its crispiness This baked texture is totally fine and you are welcome to bake the chicken, but what really made me pause was as soon as the sauce was drizzled over the chicken, the breading not only wasn’t crispy anymore, it become undesirably soggy. No thank you. You could avoid this by dipping the chicken in the sauce instead of drizzling it, and you are welcome to do so, but in my book, the pan fried version is SO worth the deliciousness.
So, if you want extra crispy, extra fabulous Chinese Lemon Chicken, pan fry the chicken in a pan of shallow oil in two sets, being careful not to crowd the pan and it will emerge beautifully golden with a tantalizing crunchy texture on the outside and tender chicken on the inside. Patrick could not stop eaten the chicken plain!
The lemon sauce
And he definitely couldn’t stop eating the chicken once I drizzled it with the lemon sauce. The sauce is a symphony of ingredients, including lemon juice, apricot preserves, honey, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, Asian Sweet Chili Sauce and freshly grated ginger. The Lemon Sauce ingredients simmer together to create a sweet and tart sauce so layered with flavors you won’t be able to stop stuffing your face.
Dinner as it should be.
Don’t let the lengthy looking list of ingredients intimidate you! Most of them are just whisked together to create either the sauce or the one-step batter AKA super quick and easy. Plus, you should have almost all of the ingredients stocked except perhaps the apricot preserves which can be found at any grocery store. This means you can make this lemon chicken recipe any night of the week!
Breaded Lemon Chicken Ingredients
This easy lemon chicken recipe comes together quickly! Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe:
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts: Make sure you don’t cut the pieces too small or they will overcook and dry out. You may also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- Oil: You’ll be frying the chicken in vegetable oil to make it ultra crispy.
- Chicken broth: Use low-sodium chicken broth so you can control the amount of salt in this dish.
- Honey: Sweetens the sauce and balances out the sour lemon juice.
- Apricot preserves: Adds multidimensional fruity sweetness.
- Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed is best in this recipe but you can get away with pure bottled lemon juice.
- Soy sauce: Use reduced sodium soy sauce so you can control the amount of salt in this recipe.
- Red wine vinegar: Adds a fruity tang, which complements the lemon juice.
- Asian sweet chili sauce: Just 1 tablespoon adds lots of flavor. It is sweet, with a hint of spice and packed with flavor from a combination of red chilies, onion, garlic, Japanese rice wine, brown sugar and fish sauce. Basically, a whole lot of my favorite everything in one bottle. Asian sweet chili sauce should be easy to find in the Asian section of your grocery store. I use it in a ton of my recipes, so it won’t go to waste.
- Asian chili sauce: I use sambal oelek with the green lid but you are welcome to use your favorite chili sauce.
- Ginger: Freshly grated is best but you may substitute with 1/4- 1/2 teaspoon ground. The ginger definitely adds a kick, so you’ll want to determine just how much of a kick you want ;).
- Cornstarch: Helps thicken the sauce to its gorgeous, glossy consistency.
- Eggs: You’ll need one whole egg and one egg yolk to make the batter.
- Flour: I use all-purpose flour, but I’m sure a gluten-free 1 for 1 flour substitute would work as well.
- Spices: Garlic powder, ginger powder, onion powder, salt and pepper flavor are added to the marinade/batter so the chicken is seasoned from the inside out.
- Breadcrumbs: I chose panko breadcrumbs to ramp up the crispy factor of this Crispy Chinese Lemon Chicken instead of just flour. Panko breadcrumbs are larger than normal crumbs so they become even crispier than traditional breadcrumbs for a guaranteed crunch in every breaded chicken morsel. You can find panko breadcrumbs located next to traditional breadcrumbs at your grocery store.
The lemon SAUCE IS EASY!
The lemon sauce is extremely EASY and can be whisked together in minutes!
- QUICK. Despite the long list of ingredients, it probably takes 3 minutes to whisk together – that’s it. Then just simmer until thickened.
- Make ahead. The sauce can be whisked together ahead of time and stored in an airtight container or mason jar in the refrigerator for up to three days. When ready to use, add to a saucepan and simmer until thickened to desired consistency.
- Adaptable. While the lemon sauce is just right for us, you can adjust it to make it just right for YOU and your family’s personal tastes. Just keep a note of your adjustments then whip out the perfect stir fry sauce every time.
HOW DO I THICKEN THE SAUCE?
The cornstarch in the lemon sauce will thicken the sauce it as it simmers. If you still would like a thicker sauce, then just keep simmering until it reaches desired consistency.
HOW DO I THIN THE SAUCE?
The lemon sauce will become thicker the longer it is simmers and the longer it sits before being added to the chicken. If it gets too thick don’t worry! It is easy to thin by whisking in water, a little at a time over low heat.
IS LEMON CHICKEN GLUTEN FREE?
As written, this lemon chicken recipe is not gluten free. To make it gluten free, use gluten free flour, gluten free panko, gluten free soy sauce or tamari. The rest of the ingredients should be gluten free.
How to Make Chinese Lemon Chicken
This breaded lemon chicken is so easy to make! Here are the basic steps:
- Make batter. Whisk together the egg, egg yolk, flour, honey, lemon juice, soy sauce and seasonings in a large bowl.
- Marinate chicken. Add chicken, then let sit at room temperature 20-60 minutes.
- Make lemon sauce. Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, chicken broth, honey, apricot preserves, soy sauce, Asian sweet chili sauce, red wine vinegar, garlic, ginger and cornstarch in a small saucepan.
- Bread chicken. Remove the chicken one piece at a time from the batter, then coat in panko breadcrumbs. Place on a baking sheet.
- Fry or bake chicken. Add enough vegetable oil to a large fry pan to cover 1/4-1/2 inch up the sides. Once hot, add chicken to pan and pan fry until golden and cooked through.
- Thicken sauce. Meanwhile, whisk lemon sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until thickened.
- Coat chicken. Drizzle lemon sauce over crispy fried chicken and dig in!
Tips for Making Lemon Chicken
- Don’t chop the chicken pieces too small so they remain juicy and are harder to overcook and dry out. The chicken should be chopped 1” thick, erroring on the side of larger.
- To make breading chicken even more streamlined and less messy, use one hand to add the battered chicken to the panko and the other hand to coat in the panko so your hands can stay clean instead of caked and crumbly. simple pleasures.
- It is important to remove excess batter so the panko doesn’t become a goopy mess. To do this, I plop the chicken on a wad of paper towels before adding to the panko.
- The panko is not very forgiving and can easily burn if the oil is too hot, so I recommend an instant-read thermometer. If your oil is too hot, then the panko will brown quickly, but the chicken will stay raw. You can still fry the lemon chicken without a thermometer, but it may be more trial and error.
- I definitely recommend adding ONE breaded piece of chicken to the hot oil first to ensure the oil is the correct temperature.
- When frying the chicken, don’t crowd pan or the chicken won’t get crispy. You need to fry it in batches!
- Don’t walk away from the chicken while it is frying become it can turn from crispy to burnt in a flash!
- Use a stainless-steel strainer or slotted spoon to transfer the fried chicken piece to paper towels in a single layer without touching. You don’t want the chicken touching or the pieces will steam and lose crispiness and you don’t want them sitting in oil or they won’t be as crispy. Wait to combine the chicken pieces in a bowl just when you’re ready to drizzle with sauce.
- Fried lemon chicken is much more forgiving when it comes to how long it will stay crispy with the sauce, still for best results, serve it immediately. For crispy baked chicken, dip your chicken pieces in the sauce, don’t coat in the sauce.
- Don’t forget to make this YOUR Chinese Lemon Chicken recipe by making it sweeter, tangier, or spicier if desired. Taste the sauce before adding the chicken and make any adjustments necessary. For example, this last time making the recipe I used 3 tablespoons lemon juice but the time before I used 2 tablespoons lemon juice – I must have not had as tart of a lemon this time around. See ways below on how to customize your lemon chicken.
Recipe Variations to Try
If this easy lemon chicken recipe isn’t exactly how you want it, MAKE it how you want it! It is easy to customize the sauce by:
- sweeten it up with additional honey or sugar
- spice it up with additional chili sauce or red pepper flakes
- make it tangier by adding additional red wine vinegar
- amp up the lemon flavor by adding lemon zest
- amp up the garlic and/or ginger for a stronger punch of flavor
- add vegetables by stir frying veggies then adding to the chicken and the sauce and stirring to coat.
How to Bake Lemon Chicken
As previously discussed, baked lemon chicken doesn’t get as crispy as fried lemon chicken and can even become soggy when coated in the sauce. Still, it can be crunchy if you stick to dipping the chicken in the sauce and not enveloping it in the sauce.
- Place a baking rack on top of a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spread panko into an even layer on a baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray. Bake for 5-8 minutes or until lightly golden; transfer to a bowl so the panko stops baking.
- Use the toasted panko to bread the chicken.
- Place breaded chicken on the prepared baking rack and spray with cooking spray.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes then broil to desired crispiness.
- Instead of drizzling the chicken with the lemon sauce, dip the chicken in the sauce so it stays crispy.
Can I Prep Lemon Chicken in Advance?
Even though this Chinese lemon chicken is quick to make, you can still prepare it in stages if that works better for you.
- Lemon Sauce: Whisk the lemon sauce ingredients together but do not simmer/thicken. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When ready to use, simmer on the stove to thicken. If you make the sauce in advance, make sure to taste the thickened sauce as the lemon juice and some of the other flavors will have mellowed upon refrigeration and might need to be perked up.
- Batter: Whisk the batter ingredients together in a Ziploc freezer bag. It’ll keep up to 24 hours in the fridge.
- Chicken: Chop into bite-sized pieces and store in an airtight container for up to 2 days before making the recipe.
How to Store Breaded Lemon Chicken
This Lemon Chicken recipe is best served fresh because it is at peak crispiness, sauciness and the chicken is the juiciest. You will find leftover chicken is not quite crispy or as flavorful. Still, you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
How to Reheat Lemon Chicken
- How to reheat on the stove: Leftovers are best reheated on the stove, even if they are small portions. To reheat, heat a drizzle of vegetable, canola or peanut oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Once hot, add the chicken, stirring occasionally until warmed through.
- Reheating in microwave: Microwaving leftovers is not advised as the chicken can become rubbery and the breading will definitely not be crispy. It is better to reheat in the skillet. If you must reheat in the microwave, microwave on high for 60 seconds, stir, then microwave at 15 second intervals as needed.
Can I Freeze Chinese Lemon Chicken?
If you are making Lemon Chicken specifically to freeze, then I recommend freezing the fried chicken and lemon sauce separately so the chicken doesn’t get soggy.
TO FREEZE CHICKEN AND SAUCE SEPARATELY:
- Cook chicken according to directions.
- Let chicken cool to room temperature.
- Transfer chicken to a baking sheet in an even layer so the pieces aren’t touching.
- Freeze for 1-2 hours or until the chicken is solid. This prevents the chicken from clumping together.
- Add chicken to a freezer size bag, squeeze out excess air and label.
- Add lemon sauce to a separate airtight container.
- Freeze chicken and sauce separately for up to 3 months.
- When ready to use, defrost chicken and sauce in the refrigerator overnight.
What to Serve with Chinese Lemon Chicken
Lemon chicken is traditionally served with rice because it soaks up the flavorful sauce and offers a neutral textural component. That being said, you still have a few options:
- Rice. I like jasmine rice or brown rice but any rice will work. Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for a hands’ off, easy side. You can also use microwave rice pouches if you’re making a serving for one or meal prep.
- Low carb. Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options. You can also use low carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
- Noodles. Ramen, soba noodles, rice noodles or even linguine are a fun way to mix things up!
IN ADDITION TO RICE, YOU CAN SERVE Lemon CHICKEN WITH:
- Appetizers: Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Pineapple Cream Cheese Wontons, Sesame Chicken Egg Rolls, Sweet and Sour Chicken Egg Rolls or Chinese Chicken Wings.
- Veggies: My sesame ginger bok choy is my favorite Asian side to serve with Chinese dishes and is so quick and easy! You can also stir fry any veggies your heart desires from broccoli, to bell peppers, to mushrooms, to carrots, etc. or you can serve with roasted veggies such as my favorite Honey Sriracha Roasted Brussels Sprouts – so good! You can also serve with, Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Cauliflower or Roasted Squash. When roasting veggies to serve with Asian dishes, I like to add a ginger, garlic, salt, pepper and Chinese 5 spice.
- Shortcut Veggies: You can purchase pre-chopped veggies perfect for stir fries or use a frozen stir-fry blend or steam-in-the-bag microwavable frozen veggies.
- Salad: Crunchy Asian Salad, Chinese Salad, or Asian Pineapple Salad.
More Chinese Chicken Recipes:
- Chinese Chicken and Broccoli
- Szechuan Chicken
- Crockpot Honey Garlic Chicken
- Crockpot Sesame Chicken
- Hunan Chicken
- All of my Asian-inspired recipes!
Want to try this Chinese Lemon Chicken?
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