This Chinese lemon chicken recipe is a 30-minute version of a common restaurant dish. It’s light, tangy, and sweet, plus it’s easy to make with gluten-free, low carb, paleo and grain-free options.
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Updated January 2022
Crispy Chinese Lemon Chicken Recipe
Lemon chicken is a common takeout order at Chinese restaurants, and it’s not hard to see why. The sauce is lemony, sweet from honey, and jam-packed with flavor and spice, while the chicken is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. This recipe gives you all the flavors and textures of the restaurant version, without having to leave your home.
And the best part? It only takes about 30 minutes to make, so it can become a weeknight staple in your kitchen. Plus, you can make it in the air fryer, in the oven, or on the stove, and I’ve got the recipes for all three.
What You’ll Need
Here are all the ingredients you need for tender, tangy Asian lemon chicken. Make sure to check out the recipe card at the end of the article for the exact quantities.
For the Chicken:
- Egg white
- Chicken breast – You want to use boneless, skinless breasts.
- Cornstarch – Sub with arrowroot starch or tapioca starch for a corn-free version.
- Panko – You can use gluten free panko crumbs or crushed almond flour / cassava flour crackers (such as these or these or even pork rinds for a grain-free version.
- Black pepper
- Oil – You want to use avocado oil or any neutral oil with a high smoke point
- Low-sodium soy sauce – You can also sub with gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos.
- Honey – You can also use maple syrup or preferred sticky liquid sweetener of choice such as date syrup, Yacon syrup or Lakanto sugar-free maple syrup for a lower sugar option.
- Rice wine vinegar – Can sub with coconut vinegar or half the amount of apple cider vinegar.
- Lemon juice – For best results, use freshly-squeezed juice.
- Lemon zest
- Sesame oil
- Cornstarch – Sub with arrowroot flour or tapioca flour for a corn-free version.
- Sriracha – Or preferred hot sauce.
- Green onions
- Sesame seeds
What is Panko?
Panko is a type of Japanese bread crumbs. The main difference between panko and traditional bread crumbs is that panko doesn’t use bread with crusts. This creates a lighter, airier bread crumb, which leads to lighter and crunchier chicken when fried or baked.
How to Make Chinese Lemon Chicken
This mouth-watering entree only takes about 30 minutes to make. Here’s how to do it.
- Mix the sauce. Add all of the sauce ingredients to a saucepan, and stir to combine.
- Prep the chicken. Remove 3 tablespoons of sauce from the saucepan and place it in a mixing bowl. Add the egg white, and lightly whisk. Add the chicken, and stir to combine.
- Dredge the chicken. Place the cornstarch, panko, salt, and pepper in a ziploc bag. Add the chicken to the bag, and shake until all of the pieces are coated.
- Cook the chicken. You can cook the chicken in a few different ways.
- Stove: If using the stove, coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil, and heat over medium-high. Cook the chicken in batches until it’s golden brown and cooked through, which should take 3-5 minutes. When done cooking, place on top of paper towels.
- Oven: If using the oven, place the chicken on a baking sheet that’s been lined with parchment paper. Put in an oven preheated to 375F until the chicken is cooked through, about 12-14 minutes. Flip the chicken halfway through.
- Air Fryer: If using the air fryer, place the chicken in a single layer on the air fryer tray. Heat the air fryer to 400F, then cook the chicken for 8 minutes, turning halfway through.
- Finish the sauce. Heat the sauce in the saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Once the sauce has bubbled and thickened, turn off the heat. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasonings if you want.
- Coat the chicken. Toss the cooked chicken in the sauce until every piece is covered. Garnish and serve.
Tips for Success
Here are some tips for making the best Asian lemon chicken every time.
- Shake off the chicken. The panko breading on the chicken is delicious, but you don’t want it to be too thick. After coating the chicken pieces, shake them off slightly to shed the excess breading. Then you can cook them.
- Prep in advance. I like to cut my chicken and vegetables the night before, and store them in the fridge. That makes this recipe even quicker when you make it.
- Don’t overcook the chicken. Part of what makes this recipe so special is how tender and juicy the chicken is. Make sure you don’t overcook the chicken, or else it will start to dry out. Follow the timing in the recipe carefully to ensure a mouth-watering chicken.
Diet and Allergy Variations
Here are a few variations you can make to this Asian lemon chicken recipe if it doesn’t fit your diet.
- Soy sauce. If you are on a paleo diet or a gluten-free diet, you can replace soy sauce with gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos.
- Cornstarch. If you want to make this recipe paleo-friendly, you can use arrowroot starch instead.
- Panko. If you’re trying to make a gluten-free Asian lemon chicken, substitute panko with gluten-free bread crumbs.
What to Serve With Chinese Lemon Chicken
Here are some of my favorite dishes to serve with this sticky, tangy chicken dish.
How to Store and Reheat
You can keep this Asian lemon chicken recipe in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven, on the stovetop, or in the microwave.
Can I Freeze Extras?
Yes! Store this dish in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge before reheating.
This Chinese lemon chicken recipe is a 30-minute version of a common restaurant dish. It’s light, tangy, and sweet, plus it's easy to make with gluten-free, low carb, paleo and grain-free options.
- 1 egg white lightly beaten
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized chunks (or long strips if preferred)
- 1/2 cup cornstarch , you can also sub with tapioca starch or arrowroot powder for paleo
- 1/3 cup panko crumbs , you can use gluten free panko crumbs or crushed almond flour / cassava flour crackers (such as these or these or even pork rinds for a grain-free version.
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Oil for pan-frying
- 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce , you can sub with gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos for gluten free and paleo friendly version
- 1/4 cup honey , you can also use maple syrup or preferred sticky liquid sweetener of choice such as date syrup, Yacon syrup or Lakanto sugar-free maple syrup for a lower sugar option.
- 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar , can sub with coconut vinegar or 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- 2-3 Tablespoons water plus more to thin out sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce optional or to taste. Sub with preferred hot sauce.
- Green onions and sesame seeds
- Combine the sauce ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Measure out 3 tablespoons and add to a large mixing bowl. Set aside the saucepan. To the mixing bowl, lightly beat in the egg white and add chicken pieces. Mix well.
- In a large zip-top freezer bag, combine the cornstarch, panko crumbs, salt, and black pepper. Add the chicken and shake well to coat.
- Cook chicken using your preferred method below.
- While the chicken is cooking, heat saucepan with sauce on medium high. Allow to bubble and thicken while whisking and turn off the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings to what you prefer – add additional lemon for tangier, honey for sweeter and sriracha for spicier, if desired.
- Heat 2-3 tablespoons oil (or enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add chicken and pan fry until golden and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a large platter lined with paper towels. Repeat.
- Toss chicken together with the heated lemon sauce, coating well.
- Garnish with green onions, sesame seeds and serve immediately with rice or noodles, if desired.
Preheat oven to 375F. Place chicken in a single layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until chicken is cooked, flipping once in between. Turn oven to broil for 2-3 minutes or until chicken pieces turn light brown on top and crisp up. Watch your chicken closely so it doesn’t burn. Remove chicken from oven and toss together with heated lemon sauce, coating well.
Garnish with green onions, sesame seeds and serve immediately with rice or noodles, if desired.
Preheat air fryer to 400°F for 8 minutes.
Place chicken in a single layer in the cooking tray (you will have to cook in batches depending on how big your air fryer is.
Air fry 8 minutes, turning halfway. Until golden.
Remove chicken from the tray and toss together with the heated lemon sauce, coating well.
Garnish with green onions, sesame seeds and serve immediately with rice or noodles, if desired.
This Asian Lemon Chicken is so damn delicious! OMG, I can eat it everyday! So tasty and flavorful.
Yum, my entire family loved it. Thank you!
Made this for my husband and he wants me to make it again tonight. A keeper! Thanks for a great recipe!
TANGY FLAVOUR , SWEET FLAVOUR AND THE CRISPYNESS MAKES IT PERFECT
Loved it! Crunchy, easy, and healthy. What I love! Definitely saving this one to make again.