Sweet Fire Chicken (Baked OR Pan Fried!)

SWEET FIRE CHICKEN SMOTHERED IN AN IRRESISTIBLE SWEET AND SPICY, ZINGY SAUCE THAT IS BETTER (and healthier!) THAN YOUR FAVORITE CHINESE TAKEOUT!

This Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken Copycat is easy to make at home and on your table in just over 30 minutes!  It can be pan fried OR baked and is loaded with crispy chicken, red bell peppers, onions, pineapple and a tangy, sweet and spicy chili sauce that will have you licking your plate. 

Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken

It’s been far too long since I posted a Chinese fakeout takeout recipe.  I think the last one I posted was my reshoot of my General Tso’s Chicken (and if you haven’t made it yet, it is a MUST), and so I’m brining you this Sweet Fire Chicken recipe to make up for it spadezzzzz.

Sweet Fire Chicken originated by Panda Express.  While I hardly ever eat at Panda, this flavor profile is a winner in my book because sweet and spicy have my heart.

While I don’t claim my recipe to be an exact Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken copycat, I will claim it is better.  I know that’s a bold statement.  But this Sweet Fire Chicken is boldly delicious.

To explain just how delicious this Sweet Fire Chicken is, my foodie critic husband devoured a huge serving after photos and devoured the leftovers the next day – and he doesn’t do leftovers.

About Sweet Fire Chicken Recipe

Panda Express says their Sweet Fire Chicken is “an exotic fusion of flavors.” And while I do enjoy their Sweet Fire Chicken, I thought it was a little too one note – as in ONLY sweet chili sauce.  I wanted my recipe to be more dynamic and punchy so we’ve infused our sweet chili sauce with a splash of soy sauce, red wine vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic and Asian Chili Sauce.  Now we’re talking.

You can also choose your method of preparing the chicken. You can either:

  • Cook chicken in a little oil (healthier but not as crispy)
  • Pan fry chicken in oil that covers the bottom of the pan (crispiest chicken)
  • Bake your chicken (not as crispy but still delish)

In the recipe, I’ve gone with the pan fry method for the crispiest chicken and included notes for how to bake your chicken.

What is Asian Sweet Chili Sauce?

The main ingredient in Sweet Fire Chicken is Asian Sweet Chili Sauce – it is the sweet and the fire and the reason I had to make this homemade Sweet Fire Chicken recipe!

If you have been following me for long at all, you know Asian Sweet Chili Sauce is one of my favorite Asian ingredients and I add it to almost every Chinese recipe I make from my Chinese Chicken Salad to my Cashew Chicken, Mongolian Chicken, and Sesame Chicken, just to name a few.

Asian Sweet Chili Sauce is the perfect balance of tangy sweet heat and so worth keeping stocked in your refrigerator. You can use it alone or add a tablespoon or two to any dish and it will add a layer of flavor that equals dynamic perfection.

Asian Sweet Chili Sauce is a very common ingredient and can easily be found in the Asian section of your grocery store.  Mae Ploys brand is simply called, “Asian Sweet Chili Sauce” and Lee Kum Kee’s brand is called, “Thai Sweet Chili Sauce.”

How Spicy is Sweet Fire Chicken?

As far as heat of this Sweet Fire Chicken, that is completely up to you!  I’ve left a range of 1-3 teaspoons Asian chili sauce.  1 being mild, 2 moderate (what most of you will like), 3 hot.  If you find you still want your Sweet Fire Chicken to be spicier after all is said and done, you can still add additional chili sauce.  If you want it sweeter, you can still add sugar.  So customize away so your Sweet Fire Chicken is the very best for YOU!

Can I Bake Sweet Fire Chicken?

Yes!   In full disclosure, your Sweet Fire Chicken won’t get as crispy as when fried, but it’s being smothered in a tantalizing sauce anyway, so I can assure you, you won’t even notice.

The only difference in ingredients when baking instead of frying is we replace the cornstarch with flour.  The rest of the breading method remains the same.

TO BAKE CHICKEN:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Place baking sheet in oven.
  2. Add 1 cup flour, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon ground ginger to a freezer size bag.  Add 2 eggs to a separate freezer bag and whisk.  Add chicken to flour, toss to coat, then add chicken to eggs and massage until evenly coated. Remove coated chicken from bag, dabbing off excess egg wash then add chicken again to flour bag. Seal bag and toss until chicken is evenly coated.
  3. Carefully place chicken on the hot baking sheet in an even layer and lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes then move the baking tray to the top middle oven rack and broil until crispy, watching closely so the chicken doesn’t burn (about 2-3 minutes). Flip chicken pieces over and broil another 2-3 minutes, or until golden and crispy.

Tips and Tricks for Sweet Fire Chicken

Pound chicken.  You want to pound your chicken thin so it becomes more tender.

Cube chicken.  Because you’ve pounded your chicken thin, when you cut it into 1” pieces, they will be more like flat squares verses cubes.

Cook Chicken.  You can pan fry or bake your chicken (see separate section).  If you want the convenience of pan frying your chicken but don’t want all the calories, then use less oil.  Your chicken won’t be as crispy but still delicious.

Use freezer bags.  I like to use freezer bags to add my flour and eggs to instead of bowls.  This way, all you have to do is shake your chicken instead of dredging your chicken.  Your hands  – and counter – stay much cleaner and it takes much less time.

Press Flour Into Chicken.  After the second shake of chicken in flour, you may need to open the bag and toss the chicken a few times with your hands to make sure they are evenly coated.

Pineapple.  You can use canned or fresh pineapple for this recipe.  If you use fresh, take care it is ripe and sweet or you may need to add more sugar to the recipe.

Veggies.  Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken uses onions and red bell peppers.  I’ve added the snow peas which are optional.  Feel free to customize the veggies with what you have on hand.

Serve immediately.  The chicken will lose its crispiness the longer it sits in the sauce.  It will be still be delicious and I love leftovers.

Customize.  Depending on your preference and the sweetness of your pineapple, you may want to adjust the Sweet Fire Chicken.  You can do this even after the chicken is all combined in the sauce. Add additional chili sauce for spicier, sugar for sweeter or red wine vinegar for tangier.

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Sweet Fire Chicken

Sweet Fire Chicken (Panda Express copycat) smothered in an irresistible sweet and spicy zingy sauce that is better (and healthier!) than your favorite Chinese takeout! 
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 1 pound chicken breasts pounded thin, cut into 1” pieces
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp EACH ground ginger, garlic powder
  • 2 eggs

Sweet Fire Sauce

Stir Fry

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable/olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped into 1” pieces
  • 1/2 small white onion chopped into 1” pieces
  • 1 1 /2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 1/2 cups pineapple cut into 1” cubes (may sub canned)
  • 4 oz. Snow peas ends trimmed (optional)

Instructions

Chicken

  • Add flour, cornstarch, salt, ginger, garlic powder to a large freezer bag (or large bowl). Add eggs to a separate large freezer bag (or bowl). Add chicken to flour mixture, toss until well coated. Remove chicken, letting excess flour drip off, and add to egg bag and massage until evenly coated. Remove chicken, letting excess egg drip off and return to flour bag. Shake once more until evenly coated.
  • Add enough vegetable oil to evenly coat the bottom of a large skillet. Heat over medium high heat until very hot. Add half of the chicken in a single layer and cook until golden and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Stir Fry

  • Whisk together all of the Sweet Fire Sauce ingredients. Set aside.
  • Wipe out now empty skillet. Heat one tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add onions and red bell peppers and stir fry 2 minutes or until onions begin to soften.
  • Add garlic and ginger and cook 30 seconds. Stir in pineapple, snow peas and Sweet Fire Sauce and cook 1 minute. Stir in chicken until evenly coated and heated through. Taste and add Chili Sauce for spicier or sugar for sweeter. Serve immediately with rice or zoodles.

Notes

TO BAKE CHICKEN INSTEAD OF PAN FRY:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Place baking sheet in oven.
  2. Add 1 cup flour, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon ground ginger to a freezer size bag.  Add 2 eggs to a separate freezer bag and whisk.  Add chicken to flour, toss to coat, then add chicken to eggs and massage until evenly coated. Remove coated chicken from bag, dabbing off excess egg wash then add chicken again to flour bag. Seal bag and toss until chicken is evenly coated.
  3. Carefully place chicken on the hot baking sheet in an even layer and lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes then move the baking tray to the top middle oven rack and broil until crispy, watching closely so the chicken doesn’t burn (about 2-3 minutes). Flip chicken pieces over and broil another 2-3 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
TIPS AND TRICKS
  • Pound chicken.  You want to pound your chicken thin so it becomes more tender and cooks evenly.
  • Cube chicken.  Because you’ve pounded your chicken thin, when you cut it into 1” pieces, they will be more like flat squares verses cubes.
  • Use freezer bags.  I like to use freezer bags to add my flour and eggs to instead of bowls.  This way, all you have to do is shake your chicken instead of dredging your chicken.  Your hands  – and counter – stay much cleaner and it takes much less time.
  • Press Flour Into Chicken.  After the second shake of chicken in flour, you may need to open the bag and toss the chicken a few times with your hands to make sure they are evenly coated.
  • Pineapple.  You can use canned or fresh pineapple for this recipe.  If you use fresh, take care it is ripe and sweet or you may need to add more sugar to the recipe.
  • Veggies.  Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken uses onions and red bell peppers.  I’ve added the snow peas which are optional.  Feel free to customize the veggies with what you have on hand.
  • Serve immediately.  The chicken will lose its crispiness the longer it sits in the sauce.  It will be still be delicious and I love leftovers.
  • Customize.  Depending on your preference and the sweetness of your pineapple, you may want to adjust the Sweet Fire Chicken.  You can do this even after the chicken is all combined in the sauce. Add additional chili sauce for spicier, sugar for sweeter or red wine vinegar for tangier.
 

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18 Comments

  1. Tammy says

    We made this last night and it was a huge hit with the entire family! My son is already asking me to make it again. Thanks for another winning recipe!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m thrilled it was a hit with everyone, thanks so much Tammy!

  2. Kim says

    I have never had Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken I can tell by the ingredient most I am going to love this!

    • Jen says

      I think you will love it too Kim! I’m excited for you to try it!

  3. Nicole says

    Jen, you never disappoint! I have been wanting to make this the second you posted it and finally got to make it tonight – it is amazing! I already can’t wait to make it again! Thanks so much for all your delicious recipes, beautiful photography and extra tips and tricks!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your extra kind, thoughtful comment Nicole! I’m so happy you are enjoying my recipes and this was another winner! xo

  4. Melyssa L Braman says

    Wow! This was so good! I LOVE Panda’s version, and this was better 🙂
    I cut the Sambal Oelek in half- I used 1/2 teaspoon- because my kids might try it. It still gave enough heat, barely lol.
    Everyone loved it- but no surprise, I have loved every recipe you have put out that i’ve tried.
    I love your whole set up. The pictures, the blog, the tips and tricks at the end, I love it all! This sounds silly, but from the very first time I found your Pinterest board, I felt like it was everything I was looking for in a recipe site. It just fits, if that makes sense.
    So, thank you and keep up the awesome work 🙂

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Melyssa for taking the time to comment! I’m catching up on old comments so sorry for the delay but I LOVE your comment so much – you absolutely made my day, my week! I’m honored you love my recipes and my blog setup! I hope you continue to find many new favorites! xo

  5. dennyb says

    Made this chicken last night. Used sauteed chicken instead of fried, and added sliced carrots. It was delicious!

    • Jen says

      Awesome! I love that you were able to adapt it with sauteed chicken and carrots!

  6. Ashley says

    Just made this for dinner and it was SO good! Pan fryed chicken for the win ( because calories don’t count on mondays!) . Thank you for helping me look like I know what I am doing in the kitchen with your amazing recipes!

    • Jen says

      I’m loving your Monday philosophy 🙂 And you are so welcome! Thank you for making my recipes and for taking the time to comment! I’m thrilled this was another winner!

  7. Heather says

    My family loved it (as they do with all your recipes!). Thanks for sharing all of your amazing recipes. I’m trying the Grilled Steak Fajitas and Skillet Chicken Fajitas tonight!

    • Jen says

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Heather, I’m so happy your family is loving my recipes! I hope you love the fajitas tonight!

  8. KYLEE WATKINS says

    When baking, do you include all the veggies on the pan with the chicken?

    • Jen says

      Hi Kylee, no just the chicken then cook the veggies per instructions – enjoy!

  9. Marci says

    Took my husband and son on a culinary experience and lit up there taste buds with amazingness. My son was craving Asian food but I’m not fond of the local place here in town so I decided I’d face the challenge and attempt to satisfy his craving. Big thank you Jen for all your hard work and continuously sharing new recipes. We had cream cheese wontons for an appetizer and the sweet fire chicken for the main dish.

    • Jen says

      mmmm, your entire meal sounds fabulous! I’m so pleased this sweet fire chicken was a winner and satisfied those cravings!

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