Honey Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

Honey Garlic Chicken will be a weekly repeat!  It’s on your table in 30 minutes made with pantry ingredients and whatever veggies you have on hand!

This Honey Garlic Chicken Stir Fry is a quick, one-skillet dinner that always hits the spot. It takes less time to make than running to your favorite restaurant – and it’s healthier and tastes even better!  This Chinese Honey Garlic Chicken is loaded with juicy, undeniably tender chicken and tender-crisp veggies coated in an irresistible honey, garlic, ginger stir fry sauce.  You can stick with broccoli, carrots and bell peppers as seen in the photos or swap them for your favorite veggies or whatever is in your fridge.  This recipe is easy to make with a quick chicken marinade (my secret ingredient makes the chicken velvety tender!) while you chop the veggies and then it’s just a quick stir fry to dinner.  Your family will love this Honey Garlic Chicken recipe with rice or low carb cauliflower rice and if you’re feeling even more gourmet, toss in some homemade egg rolls and cream cheese wontons!

We love a good stir fry recipe around here.  They are my go-to meal whenever I want something simple, quick, easy, healthy and delicious OR whenever I want to clean out my veggie drawer.  Some don’t miss stir fry recipes include: Chinese Chicken Stir Fry, Chicken and BroccoliBeef and Broccoli, Mongolian Beef, Kung Pao Chicken, Szechuan Chicken and Shrimp Stir Fry.

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top view of honey garlic chicken stir fry in a white skillet

Honey Garlic Chicken Recipe

This Honey Garlic Chicken recipe is wonderfully versatile, quick and easy, healthy and satisfyingly delicious!  The sauce boasts an addictive balance between sweet, salty, spicy and savory with a floral honey undertone that will have everyone coming back for seconds and thirds. 

Why this recipe works:

  • Quick and easy. The ingredient list may look a bit lengthy, but I promise the recipe is EASY – most of the ingredients are just dumping and whisking to create the sauce or the marinade.  So, please don’t cheat yourself out of this back-pocket staple dinner recipe! While the chicken is “marinating,” you chop your veggies and whisk the sauce ingredients together – that’s it – the actual cooking time is less than 15 minutes!  
  • Customizable sauce.  The building blocks of the honey garlic sauce (honey, soy sauce, hoisin, rice wine, chicken broth, garlic and ginger), create a complex, satisfying sweet, savory base, now all you have to do is ensure the sauce is perfect for YOU!  You can make this recipe as sweet or as spicy as you’d like depending on your family’s personal preferences.  For sweeter, add additional honey to the sauce, for spicier, add additional chili sauce, now this recipe is everyone’s favorite!
  • Juicy, tender chicken.  You will LOVE the texture of the chicken – just like juicy, authentic Chinese chicken from your favorite restaurants!  The marinade utilizes the easy restaurant velveting technique of adding baking powder to produce smooth, tender, melt-in-your-mouth chicken that you will have to taste to believe. 
  • Versatile.  You can use chicken breasts or chicken thighs or even swap the chicken with beef, pork or shrimp. The veggies are also completely flexible as well – perfect for using up leftover veggies!
  • Nutritious. This Chinese Honey Garlic Chicken boasts lean chicken breasts and veggies and is stir fried rather than fried to create a nutritious yet satisfyingly chicken dinner everyone will clamor for.
  • Budget friendly. Feed the entire family for the fraction of dining out with the bonus of customizing the heat and veggies just how you like them.

WHAT KIND OF CHICKEN best?

This comes down to personal preference.  Both chicken breasts and chicken thighs will work in this Honey Garlic Chicken recipe.

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts:  are leaner than chicken thighs but still emerge buttery tender from the velveting.  I always use chicken breasts + velveting and I am never disappointed.  It is what I have used and shown in these photos.
  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs: are dark meat and therefore inherently juicier and hard to overcook and dry out. Thighs are the best option if you want to skip the velveting but I recommend velveting either way because it infuses the chicken with flavor.
  • Can I use different Protein?  Looking beyond poultry, try out cubed tofu, pork or shrimp.  If using shrimp, add it at the end of cooking because shrimp will get rubbery if overcooked.
showing how to serve honey garlic chicken stir fry by garnishing with green sesame seeds in a skillet

HOW DO YOU MAKE honey garlic CHICKEN EXTRA TENDER?

This Honey Garlic Chicken recipe is not only crazy delicious but the chicken is wonderful silky and juicy due to a simple process called velveting.  I first introduced you to velveting in my chicken stir fry recipe, and can attest it makes ALL THE difference.  It is how Chinese restaurants attain such smooth, tender chicken – and now you can get the same results at home!

There are a few different velveting techniques, but I opt for the easiest one using baking soda; and don’t worry, you can taste the textural difference but not the baking soda! Essentially, the chicken is marinated in a combination of baking soda, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and cornstarch.  Here’s how it works:

  • baking soda:  tenderizes the chicken by breaking down the chicken fibers so the chicken emerges softer on the inside like “velvet” – hence the name.
  • soy sauce:  the salt in the soy sauce also helps break down the proteins for a more tender texture and infuses the chicken with flavor.
  • rice wine: is an acidic ingredient that breaks down lean muscle fibers on the surface of the protein.
  • cornstarch: acts as a binder and helps our soy sauce bind to the chicken for more flavorful chicken.   Cornstarch also provides a light coating that helps protect the chicken from drying out while cooking.

This easy velveting technique can be used in all your favorite Chinese Chicken recipes – even the ones with breading; instead, skip the breading and add whatever seasonings were in the breading to the velveting mixture. This allows you to enjoy the intoxicating sauces without the hassle of breading.  Try it on my  Cashew Chicken Stir Fry, Hoisin Ginger Chicken, Honey Lemon Chicken and Honey Coconut Chicken.   

WHAT IS IN honey garlic CHICKEN SAUCE?

The BEST Honey Garlic Chicken Stir Fry starts with the best sauce! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Honey:  adds a floral sweetness.  Use more or less to taste.
  • Soy sauce:  use reduced sodium soy sauce so we can control the salt level.
  • Hoisin sauceis like an Asian BBQ Sauce and can be found in the Asian section of any grocery store. I use it in tons of my Asian recipes, so I promise it will not go to waste! Please use only Kikkoman or Lee Kum Kee brands hoisin sauce because they taste 1000X better!
  • Chicken broth:  use low sodium chicken broth or your recipe will be too salty. You can also use vegetable broth but chicken broth is more flavorful. Pro Tip:  You can freeze unused chicken broth in desired quantities in plastic bags so it doesn’t go to waste.
  • Rice wine:  adds a sweetness and depth of flavor.  I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it. I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for.  The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry. Do NOT substitute rice wine with rice vinegar, they are NOT the same.  Rice vinegar will add an acidic flavor without the sweetness. 
  • Cornstarch:  helps thicken the sauce to a glossy, luscious consistency so nice it’s not watery.
  • Aromatics: ginger, onions and garlic (added with the stir fry) add warm spicy, almost peppery taste.  These aromatics awaken and elevate the entire recipe. If you’re looking to save time and skip some chopping, you can substitute the fresh onions, garlic and ginger with powders. The typical rule of thumb is 3:1, so one part dried to three parts fresh.
  • Ginger pro tip:  I like to freeze ginger so it’s always at my fingertips.  To freeze ginger: grate it, spread it by the teaspoon or tablespoon on parchment paper and flash freeze until solid, about 1 hour.  Transfer to an airtight container or plastic bag for up to 6 months.   You can add frozen ginger directly to your stir fry.
  • Asian chili sauce:  is needed to balance the sweetness of the honey and add a depth of flavor. So, if you feel like your Honey Garlic Chicken is missing something, it is probably heat!  I recommend adding more to taste at the end of cooking if you would like it spicier.  I use Sambal Oelek with the green lid but you can also use your favorite chili sauce.

IS honey garlic CHICKEN RECIPE GLUTEN FREE?

As written, this recipe is not gluten free.  To make it gluten free, use gluten free soy sauce or tamari.  You will also want to double check that your hoisin is gluten free. 

WHAT VEGETABLES can I use?

Feel free to use any veggies you’d like based on what’s in your fridge, your favorites, what’s in season or what’s on sale.

Here are some great stir fry vegetables to try: 

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Snow Peas
  • Snap Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Celery
  • Asparagus
  • Baby corn
  • Edamame
  • Bean sprouts
  • Cabbage (green or red)
  • Bok choy
top view of Chinese honey garlic chicken served over rice garnished with sesame seeds

HOW DO I CHOP stir fry VEGETABLES?

Texture is key in any stir fry so it is important to keep that in mind when chopping your veggies – you don’t want some veggies to be crunchy and some to be mushy!  There are some vegetables that take longer to cook such as broccoli and carrots and some take less time to cook such as zucchini and bell peppers.

For this recipe, cut your broccoli into medium florets, chop your bell peppers into 1-inch squares and slice the carrots thinly.

If you choose to use other vegetables, keep in mind longer cooking vegetables need to be chopped smaller/thinner, and the shorter cooking vegetables larger.  For example, cut the zucchini thickly.  Some vegetables such as snow peas and asparagus should only be added the last minute or so of stir frying.

honey garlic chicken recipe VARIATIONS

Make this Honey Garlic Chicken recipe your own!  Here are some ideas: 

  • Make it sweeter: add additional honey.
  • Spice it up: add additional Asian chili paste or red pepper flakes.
  • Make it more savory: add additional soy sauce or salt.
  • Add more oomph: amp up the garlic and/or ginger for a stronger punch of flavor.
  • Swap veggies:  use a combination of your favorite veggies or even go all broccoli. 
  • Add nuts:  add peanuts or cashews for a satisfying nutty crunch.
  • Add water chestnuts:  also add a tasty crunch.  Water chestnuts are easy to find in a can so you can keep them stocked and ready to go.
  • Add canned bamboo Shoots: should be easy to find at every grocery store.  They add a crunchy, meaty texture. 
  • Add sesame seeds:  add the nutty sesame flavor. 

HOW to make honey garlic chicken

This Honey Garlic Chicken recipe is easy to make even though there are a few steps.  Here’s how:

STEP 1:  MARINATE CHICKEN (“VELVETING”)

  • Marinating the chicken ensures juicy, flavorful, silky chicken.  The marinating/velveting process is simple – add cornstarch, baking soda, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine to a large freezer bag or bowl; whisk to combine.
  • Add chicken and turn until evenly coated.  Let sit at room temperature while you chop your veggies.
  • TIP:  Use the marinating time to prep your bell peppers, aromatics and to whisk the sauce together.
showing how to make honey garlic chicken recipe by marinating cubed chicken breasts in a glass bowl

STEP 2:  COOK CHICKEN

  • Heat some vegetable or peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Make sure to use a neutral oil so the chicken isn’t tainted. Once very hot, add chicken in a single layer and cook until golden then stir and cook chicken just until opaque. Transfer to a plate.
  • TIP:  The chicken shouldn’t be cooked all the way through because it will finish cooking in the stir fry sauce.  Don’t overcook it or it won’t be as tender.
  • TIP:  After you remove the chicken, don’t wipe out the skillet; we want all those brown bits leftover from the chicken to flavor the veggies.
showing how to make kung pao chicken by cooking chicken in a white skillet

STEP 3:  STIR FRY VEGGIES

  • Heat oil over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add the onions and veggies and stir fry for three minutes.
  • TIP: Set a timer and DON’T over-cook the veggies because they will continue to cook in the sauce – we want crisp tender veggies, not tender crisp. Also, you don’t want to burn the garlic.
showing how to make honey garlic chicken recipe by stir frying vegetables in a skillet

STEP 4:  COMBINE & THICKEN SAUCE

  • Return the chicken to the skillet. Whisk the sauce to recombine then add to the skillet.
  • Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and chicken is cooked through, about 1-2 minutes.
  • TIP:  The consistency of the sauce is up to you – for thinner sauce, simmer for less time, for thicker sauce, simmer for more time.   Just make sure the chicken is cooked through when you’re finished.
showing how to make honey garlic chicken stir fry recipe by adding chicken and sauce to the vegetables in the skillet

Dig in!

top view of honey garlic chicken stir fry recipe in a white skillet

Cooking TIPS AND TRICKS

This Honey Garlic Chicken Stir Fry is pretty straightforward, but here are some tips and tricks to make it a sizzling success:

  • Customize the sweetness. Some people like their stir fries, sweeter, some like them savorier. If you know you lean more savory, then reduce the honey to start by one tablespoon, whisk the sauce together then add more honey to taste.
  • Chop chicken into large pieces. Go for about 1 ½ inch pieces of chicken. Larger pieces of chicken are harder to overcook and dry out and will taste far juicier.
  • Chop vegetables the right size.  The most important key to making a good stir-fry is cutting each ingredient to a uniform size as specified in the recipe. As detailed earlier in the post, chop the bell peppers large and the carrots thinly.
  • Don’t skip the marinade/velveting. This ensures that the chicken is tender just like Chinese restaurants.  If you need to skip it, then go with chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts.
  • Don’t marinate chicken for too long. The bite-size pieces of chicken should not be marinated much longer than 30 minutes or else they can become mushy.
  • Prep veggies and sauce first.  While your chicken is marinating, chop all your veggies, aromatics and prep your sauce.  You want everything ready before you start cooking because the actually stir fry portion just takes a few minutes. If you have to stop to make your sauce while your bell peppers are still in the pan, they can end up soft and even worse – mushy.
  • Cook chicken first.  Don’t cook the chicken and veggies together because we want to brown the chicken (color + flavor) which can’t happen with all the veggies in the pan.  The chicken will also leave behind yummy brown bits which will give the veggies flavor.
  • Don’t cook the chicken at high heat. The velveting coating on the chicken makes it brown more easily so you don’t want the skillet too hot or the outsides will burn before the insides have time to cook. I find medium heat to be about right but you may need to play with the heat.
  • Crank up the heat for the veggies. After you cook the chicken, you’ll want to increase the heat to medium high for the veggies. Your pan should be hot enough so that veggies sizzle when they touch the pan and continue to sizzle but the pan shouldn’t be so hot that it smokes excessively once you add the oil.  If the pan is smoking hot, remove it from heat, let it cool slightly then return to heat. To determine if the pan is hot enough, flick a few droplets of water onto the skillet or wok.  The beads of water should evaporate within 2 seconds. 
  • Don’t overcook chicken.  For the juiciest chicken, don’t overcook!  Brown it in the skillet but let it finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Add sauce to the sides of the pan.  Pour the sauce around and down the sides of the pan instead of directly into the center.  This will prevent the pan from cooling down too much. 

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH honey garlic CHICKEN?

This Honey Garlic Chicken Stir Fry is dripping with flavor so it pairs well with neutral sides such as:

up close of Chinese honey garlic chicken in a skillet being served with a wooden spoon

HOW TO PREP AHEAD

This stir fry has a few steps, but you can prep almost everything ahead of time for a speedy dinner. Here’s how:

  • Chop chicken.   Chop chicken into large bite size pieces any time before marinating then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Make sauce.  Whisk the ingredients together up to 24 hours in advance and store, covered in the refrigerator.  Let the sauce sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before using.
  • Chop veggies.  You can chop your garlic, grate your ginger and chop your veggies 24 hours in advance and store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.
  • Cook!  Within the next 24 hours, proceed with the recipe starting with marinating the chicken for 20-30 minutes.

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT

This Honey Garlic Chicken recipe reheats very well if not initially overcooked.   

  • How to store:  store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • How to reheat in microwave:  transfer small portions to a microwave safe dish, heat for one minute, stir then continue to heat at 30 second intervals. 
  • How to reheat on the stove: rewarm gently in a large skillet, stirring often.  You may need to add a splash of water (better yet chicken broth if you have it) to thin the sauce as needed.

CAN YOU FREEZE honey garlic CHICKEN?

Yes, this Honey Garlic Chicken Stir Fry freezes very well, except for the bell peppers.  If using bell peppers, you may want to pick them out or they will become mushy when thawed.  Also, take care not to overcook the chicken or it won’t be as tender when reheated.

  • Let the recipe cool completely. 
  • Transfer to an airtight container.  If using a freezer bag, squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn.
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months. 
  • When ready to eat, let the chicken thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat in the microwave for 60 seconds then at 30 second intervals or gently on the stove.

IS honey garlic CHICKEN HEALTHY?

Honey Garlic Chicken is healthier than other fried Chinese chicken recipes.  The chicken is a lean protein which means it doesn’t have very much fat which can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and even lose weight all while helping to sustain your muscles.  Chicken is also full of calcium and phosphorous which helps strengthen your bones and reduce the risk of arthritis.

The recipe veggies are also cholesterol free and provide vitamins and minerals.  The veggies also retain more nutrients when stir fried verses being boiled.  Just some of the nutrients in fresh veggies include vitamins A & C, potassium, folate and dietary fiber.  Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure and dietary fiber helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.  

To make your recipe even healthier:

  • Add more veggies or substitute some of the chicken with more vegetables.  The more vegetables, the better!
  • Use chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs.
  • Serve the stir fry with cauliflower rice, quinoa, or zucchini noodles instead of rice.

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picking up a piece of Chinese honey garlic chicken with chopsticks
top view of Chinese honey garlic chicken served over rice garnished with sesame seeds

Honey Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

This Honey Garlic Chicken Stir Fry is a quick, one-skillet dinner that always hits the spot. It takes less time to make than running to your favorite restaurant – and it’s healthier and tastes even better!  This Chinese Honey Garlic Chicken is loaded with juicy, undeniably tender chicken and tender-crisp veggies coated in an irresistible honey, garlic, ginger stir fry sauce.  You can stick with broccoli, carrots and bell peppers as seen in the photos or swap them for your favorite veggies or whatever is in your fridge.  This recipe is easy to make with a quick chicken marinade (my secret ingredient makes the chicken velvety tender!) while you chop the veggies and then it’s just a quick stir fry to dinner.  Your family will love this Honey Garlic Chicken recipe with rice or low carb cauliflower rice and if you’re feeling even more gourmet, toss in some homemade egg rolls and cream cheese wontons!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients

QUICK MARINADE/VELVETING

STIR FRY SAUCE

STIR FRY

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil, divided
  • 1/2 large yellow onion chopped into 1/2”-inch pieces
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into 1” pieces
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

Instructions

  • Add the velveting ingredients to a large freezer bag or bowl; whisk to combine. Add chicken and turn until evenly coated. Let sit at room temperature while you prep your veggies; preferable 30 minutes (no more).
  • Meanwhile, whisk the Stir Fry Sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  • Heat 1 ½ tablespoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add chicken in a single layer and cook until golden; flip chicken over and cook an additional 2 minutes, until browned on all sides (does not need to be cooked through). Remove chicken to a plate.
  • To the now empty pan (don’t wipe out), heat one tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers. Stir fry until vegetables are crisp tender, about 3 minutes. (Don’t over-cook because they will continue to cook in sauce). Add garlic and ginger to the veggies and sauté 30 seconds.
  • Whisk the Stir Fry Sauce (to recombine) and add to the pan along with the chicken. Simmer, while stirring, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through; 1-2 minutes. Adjust to taste with additional, honey, soy sauce or chili sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions if desired, dig in.

Notes

Tips and Tricks

  • Veggies:  You can use 5 cups of whatever veggies you like, even all broccoli or a store-bought stir fry medley (you will likely need to cut some veggies in the medley).  Make sure to cut longer cooking veggies thinner and shorter cooking veggies, like zucchini, thicker.  Veggies like asparagus and snow or snap peas only need to be stir fried for about 1 minute.
  • Chicken thighs:  are the best option if you want to skip the velveting but I recommend velveting either way because it infuses the chicken with flavor.
  • Rice wine:  adds a sweetness and depth of flavor.  I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it. I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for.  The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry. Do NOT substitute rice wine with rice vinegar, they are NOT the same.  Rice vinegar will add an acidic flavor without the sweetness. 
  • Customize the sweetness. Some people like their stir fries, sweeter, some like them more savory. If you know you lean more savory, then reduce the honey to start by one tablespoon, whisk the sauce together then add more honey to taste.
  • Don’t cook the chicken at high heat. The velveting coating on the chicken makes it brown more easily so you don’t want the skillet too hot or the outsides will burn before the insides have time to cook. I find medium heat to be about right but you may need to play with the heat.

HOW TO PREP AHEAD

This stir fry has a few steps, but you can prep almost everything ahead of time for a speedy dinner. Here’s how:
  • Chop chicken.   Chop chicken into large bite size pieces any time before marinating then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Make sauce.  Whisk the ingredients together up to 24 hours in advance and store, covered in the refrigerator.  Let the sauce sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before using.
  • Chop veggies.  You can chop your garlic, grate your ginger and chop your veggies 24 hours in advance and store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.
  • Cook!  Within the next 24 hours, proceed with the recipe starting with marinating the chicken for 20-30 minutes.

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT

  • How to store:  store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • How to freeze:  I recommend removing the bell peppers before freezing because they will become mushy once thawed. Let the recipe cool completely then transfer to an airtight container.  Label and freeze for up to 3 months. 
  • How to reheat in microwave:  transfer small portions to a microwave safe dish, heat for one minute, stir then continue to heat at 30 second intervals. 
  • How to reheat on the stove: rewarm gently in a large skillet, stirring often.  You may need to add a splash of water (better yet chicken broth if you have it) to thin the sauce as needed.

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