Sometimes I Cook: General Tso’s Chicken

Ah, General Tso’s. A staple of Chinese-American takeout food, and a dish that I’m quite fond of. There are many recipes out there for General Tso’s chicken. This one is mine. Quantities here will provide 10-12 servings. Prep time varies with the quantity, but this amount usually takes me two hours or more to complete.


  • 8 cups peanut oil for frying
  • 4 eggs
  • 5-6 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 2 pinches white pepper
  • 2 cups cornstarch

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil

  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 dried whole red chilies
  • 6 strips orange zest

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1/2 cup water


I like to mix the sauce together first, giving the sugar some time to dissolve before we need it at the end. Fish sauce, a favorite of mine, isn’t commonly added to this dish. I find that a couple of tablespoons adds a nice umani flavor, however. Mix together 1 cup of sugar with the ginger, broth, vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame and peanut oils. Set the bowl aside.

Next up, prep your garlic, orange zest, and scallions. You could also use this time to steam some rice (not listed in the ingredients, but c’mon, you should be on top of that already.)

In a large bowl, whip together the eggs with the salt, sugar, and white pepper. Add your cubed chicken to this mixture and make sure every piece is coated. I call for breast meat here, though thighs are much more commonly used. If you are careful not to overcook them, the breast meat does very nicely in this dish. My family prefers the white meat, so that’s what we use. At this point, you should pre-heat your frying oil to around 375 degrees.

Measure out two cups of corn starch and begin slowly incorporating it into the chicken/egg mixture. Work it in until the pieces are mostly coated in corn starch. I don’t worry about them being perfectly coated. You need just enough to make the exterior crispy and to give the sauce a surface to cling to.

Now you can start tossing the chicken pieces into the hot oil. You’ll want to fry these in small batches. I typically fill a skillet with oil and drop 12-18 pieces of chicken into the bottom. Once the chicken begins floating toward the surface (3-4 minutes) remove them and replace with the next batch.

They should be lightly golden in color.

Once you have completed the initial fry, we’re going to do it again for each batch of chicken. This second fry will both crisp the exterior and re-heat the chicken in time for a dunking in the sauce. Allow them to cook in the oil for 2 minutes and then dump them into a large bowl nearby.

Now it’s time to move to your wok. Heat your wok up to medium-high just long enough to heat a few tablespoons of oil. Remove the wok from direct heat and toss in your minced garlic (I remove from heat to be sure we don’t burn the garlic — it doesn’t take much!) Now add in the scallions, peppers, and orange zest and return to direct heat. Stir rapidly for a minute, until everything has softened up and the peppers have brightened.

Pour in your sauce mixture and allow it to reach boiling for two minutes.

Mix together the water and two tablespoons of corn starch and add to the boiling sauce mixture.

Allow this cloudy sauce to boil until it becomes a clear mixture again.

Now you can add the chicken to your wok. Stir it around rapidly, covering each cube in the sauce for a minute or two.

Call your flock to the table, because it’s time to eat!