What Is Sesame Chicken?

Megan Shoop
Megan Shoop
Cornstarch is often used as a coating for sesame chicken.
Cornstarch is often used as a coating for sesame chicken.

Sesame chicken is an Asian-style dish that typically features breaded chicken covered in a sweet-salty sauce and topped with sesame seeds. The chicken may be served on a bed of white or fried rice and mixed with broccoli, snow peas, or chopped green onions. While popular in Asian restaurants in Europe and the United States, this is not a traditional Asian dish. It features typically Asian flavors, but is not generally served in Asian countries.

When ordering sesame chicken in a restaurant, the battered, deep-fried chicken served under the sauce is usually the same variety of chicken served in sweet and sour, orange, and garlic chicken dished popular in Chinese restaurants. To save time, many restaurants make one kind of breaded chicken and warm it in different sauces to create all these dishes. This kind of sesame chicken does not often include sesame seeds in the breading, just in the sauce.

Those interested in making sesame chicken at home have many choices when it comes to how the chicken is cooked and how the sauce is prepared. Some cooks love the breading and take a lot of care to coat the chicken in a mixture of egg, cornstarch, and breadcrumbs before frying it. Cornstarch often puffs up and creates dozens of tiny air pockets when fried, creating a very crunchy breading. Many Asian restaurants also coat their chicken in cornstarch.

Other cooks may enjoy making true sesame chicken by adding sesame seeds to the breading. This gives the dish an extra touch of subtle sesame nuttiness. Still others may prefer not to bread their chicken at all. These individuals often marinade the chicken pieces in sugared soy sauce to infuse them with flavor. Home cooks that bread their chicken may also do this to give each bite of the dish a pleasant burst of added flavor.

The sauce used in sesame chicken is usually a mixture of soy sauce, chili paste, cornstarch, sesame oil or butter, sugar, and whole sesame seeds. These ingredients are warmed together in a pan and stirred until they thicken. The sauce should ideally be a very dark red, translucent, and easy to drizzle. Sesame seeds may be added at the end of the cooking process or toasted before the other ingredients are added. This is largely up to the cook.

When the sauce and chicken are both ready, the cook typically drains the oil or excess fluid from the chicken and adds the sauce. The two are stirred together until the sauce begins to sizzle, then poured over a bed of rice. The rice may be white, wild, brown, or fried. A few cooks like to garnish the finished dish with chopped green onions for a touch of color.

Discussion Comments


I like sesame chicken, but the sauce is so sweet, it's only an occasional thing for me. But it is good, especially when your favorite Chinese place makes it from scratch, and doesn't just put a sweet sauce with sesame seeds on top of their sweet and sour chicken pieces.

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    • Cornstarch is often used as a coating for sesame chicken.
      By: Yuriy Afonkin
      Cornstarch is often used as a coating for sesame chicken.