What do you do when you are craving your favorite Chinese chicken dish, General Tso's Chicken, and you can't get to a take out restaurant? You make your own in 20 minutes with ingredients you may already have in your pantry and fridge! Try my 4 ingredient Shortcut General Tso's Chicken tonight!
This recipe is so simple, you may say it's a no-brainer since it uses a bottle of prepared sauce. But many times I'm asked how to cook basic chicken. And sometimes you need a visual for ideas of what to do with ingredients in your pantry. If you don't have a bottle of sauce, I give you a quick homemade version below.
I realize Chinese food is not Southern, but hoisin sauce (ingredient in General Tso's sauce) is often called Chinese BBQ sauce. So...... it's a stretch but I'm calling it a distant cousin to Southern BBQ Chicken! Simply trade out your favorite bottle of Southern bbq sauce and there ya go!
What is General Tso's Chicken?
General Tso's Chicken is a Chinese dish typically made with cubed chicken thighs battered and fried, then generously covered in a sweet and sour, tangy, and spicy sauce. The dish is named after a Chinese military leader from the Qing dynasty.
How do you pronounce General Tso?
General Tso, also spelled Tsau, is pronounced "so" with a long o. It is often mispronounced "sow" like wow.
What is the shortcut in this recipe?
I have 3 possible shortcuts in my version of General Tso's Chicken.
- Chicken breast cooks faster than thigh meat so I used cubed white meat. I also always have it on hand or in the freezer.
- I skipped the batter and fry step and just pan seared the cubes. If you want a bit more crunch on your chicken you can coat the chicken cubes in a zip-top plastic bag with about 3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch. Then, increase the amount of oil in your skillet to at least 1/3 cup and drain any remaining oil before adding the sauce.
- I used a bottle of prepared General Tso's sauce from Aldi. That's not cheating, that's a shortcut!
What if I can't find a bottle of prepared sauce?
No worries! I've got you covered. Keep scrolling. I give you a quick homemade recipe with substitutions. You'll also find it in the recipe.
Ingredients you need to make this shortcut recipe
- 1 pound (2 to 3 breasts) chicken breasts
- 1 bottle prepared General Tso's Sauce
- 2 cups cooked long grain white rice (I prefer parboiled)
How do I cook the chicken?
Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil (vegetable, olive, coconut oil). Add chicken cubes and quickly spread them out into a single layer. Do not stir until about 3 minutes when the undersides are browned.
Turn each piece of chicken over with tongs. You can also stir at this point, then just turn over any remaining unturned pieces. Cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes or until chicken is browned on the other side and no pink remains in the middle.
When do I add the sauce?
Stir in the bottle of General Tso's sauce and heat just until thoroughly heated. Serve over cooked rice! Dinner is done and you made it before the take out delivery could arrive if you'd ordered it!
Quick & Easy Homemade General Tso's Sauce:
1 cup chicken broth (vegetable broth or even water with chicken bouillon cube)
1/4 cup ketchup or 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (apple cider vinegar will work in a pinch)
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce OR Siracha sauce with one pressed clove of garlic (sweet chili sauce will work in a pinch with a pressed clove of garlic) [If you don't like it very spicy, reduce this to 1 teaspoon and taste it first]
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil
(optional) 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper or 3 or 4 small dried chili peppers (Omit if you like it on the milder side) It will still be spicy
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I had low-sodium)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Combine first 7 ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. While mixture is coming to a boil, combine soy sauce and cornstarch. Add the soy sauce slurry to the boiling mixture and stir constantly for 1 minute.
How do I make rice in the Instant Pot?
Here's a link to a video on making long-grain white rice in the instant Pot from Sweet and Savory Meals.
How do I cook rice on the stovetop?
Parboiled rice is my absolute favorite white rice because it's hard to mess it up AND it has way more fiber than regular white rice. Here is a detailed breakdown of what it is and how to cook it from Simply Healthy Family. I always add 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil. It's insurance against sticky rice.
I like to use Dixie Lily brand parboiled and long-grain rice because they are local, right here in Saraland, Alabama! Shop local when you can, y'all.
Want more shortcut recipes?
Shortcut General Tso's Chicken
- 1 pound chicken breasts cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or stir fry oil or olive oil
- 1 14.5-oz bottle General Tso's sauce
- 2 cups cooked long-grain white rice I prefer parboiled
- Heat a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil. Add chicken cubes and quickly spread then out into a single layer. Do not stir at this point.
- Cook about 3 minutes on this side or until browned. Turn each piece over with tongs or stir, then turn over the ones that are remaining. Cook about 2 more minutes or until chicken is browned on the other side and no pink remains in center.
- Stir in bottle of sauce and cook 1 minute or just until thoroughly heated. Serve over cooked rice.