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Chinese Lemon Chicken

Chinese lemon chicken is a standard on most take-out menus. It’s delicious, filling and very healthy to enjoy.

However, unless you’re comfortable with the Chinese restaurant the results of the dish can vary by restaurant–from overcooked to slimy. Sometimes it’s better to make it yourself.

Marinating the meat before frying ensures the meat will be moist, as the acid from the sauce reacts with the meat to create a tender result.

Although it doesn’t marinate for a long period of time, this step is crucial to keeping the center juicy during the frying process. The fried chicken is dipped into the lemon sauce, giving the dish its name.

Select meatier cuts of chicken, such as breasts, as thin tenderloins are difficult to keep tender when fried. The chicken is most commonly served with rice, but can complement steamed egg noodles as well.


  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 3 cups oil, such as peanut or vegetable
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. minced, fresh ginger or 1 tsp. dried ginger
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • White sesame seeds


Combine the soy sauce with the sesame oil in a small bowl, and set it aside.
Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut off excess fat, and chop the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Place the chicken into a large freezer bag, and pour in the marinade. Set the bag in a shallow baking dish and allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Combine the cornstarch with the flour in a shallow bowl. When the chicken is ready, shake off the excess liquid from each piece and dip it into the cornstarch mixture.

Heat the 3 cups of chosen cooking oil in a large wok. Heat the wok until it begins to smoke and add some of the chicken. This will take several batches; don’t attempt to place all the chicken in the pan at once as it won’t cook evenly. Fry it for about four to five minutes, and remove them with a slotted spoon. Set the chicken on a plate lined with paper towels or a brown paper bag to drain. Repeat the process until all the chicken is cooked.

Scoop 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil from the wok and place it into a sauce pot. Heat the oil on medium-high. Cook the garlic and ginger (if you’re using fresh) and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the lemon juice and zest, chicken stock, dried ginger (if using) and sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer the sauce until it’s reduced by half. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until combined.

Cook the sauce until thickened. Combine the chicken with the sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Serve with rice and steamed broccoli.

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