Crispy Chinese Lemon Chicken

Cancel that Chinese takeout! Chinese lemon chicken is the perfect way to enjoy all your favorite parts of Chinese cuisine in the comfort of your own home. It is simple to make and will knock the socks off your friends and family.

Chinese lemon chicken over rice with lemon slices and green onion

If you’re in the mood to feel like a kitchen master, you definitely don’t want to miss today’s Chinese lemon chicken recipe. This deceptively easy dish features some of the simplest and most effective tricks to create mouthwatering Chinese-inspired recipes.

Get ready for velvety-smooth, tender chicken chunks coated in the most crispy, fabulously fluffy batter imaginable. And if that wasn’t enough, the dish then gets drenched in an insanely flavorful sweet and sour lemon sauce. It doesn’t get much better than that!

closeup of Chinese lemon chicken over rice

For more exceptional Chinese chicken recipes, check out Chinese Steamed Chicken, Hunan Chicken, or this Chinese Roast Chicken.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Chicken – This recipe works best with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Thighs will work but might be tougher to evenly slice. 
  • Marinade – Tenderize and infuse the meat with flavor using a combination of:
    • Egg White
    • Cornstarch
    • Soy Sauce
    • White Pepper
    • Salt
  • Batter Ingredients – A blend of flour, cornstarch, and baking soda produces the crispier, fluffiest batter possible. 
  • Lemon Sauce This honey and corn syrup sweetened sauce is infused with bright, sour lemon juice and zest. Rice vinegar and ketchup add tanginess, while sesame oil adds a delicate nuttiness. This sauce is sweet and sour with a pop of savory garlic pungency. 
  • Jasmine Rice – I prefer fragrant jasmine rice, but any rice can be used. You can also go with lo mein or rice noodles if desired. 
  • Garnishes – Lively lemon slices and green onions add complimentary flavors and a dazzling pop of color.

How to Make Chinese Lemon Chicken

  1. Marinate the Chicken. Use a large bowl to combine all the marinade ingredients and whisk together. Slice each chicken breast into 4 equal portions and toss them in the marinade. Cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes. 
  2. Heat the Cooking Oil. Heat a deep skillet or wok to 350 degrees F, then add 1 ½ inches of vegetable oil.
  3. Mix the Batter. Combine batter ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. Drain the chicken but reserve the marinade. Transfer the chicken pieces to the batter and toss to coat.
  4. Start the Sauce. Put the reserved marinade in a medium saucepan along with the sauce ingredients, except for the cornstarch and water. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring. Use a small bowl to mix the cornstarch and water together, then add it to the sauce. It will thicken almost instantly. Cover the pan and turn off the heat. 
overhead of frying Chinese lemon chicken
  1. Fry the Chicken. Working in batches, add chicken pieces to the skillet and fry for about 3-4 minutes each. Flip throughout to get a golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate or tray lined with a paper towel.
  2. Turn Up the Heat. Increase the heat to 375 degrees F. Add the chicken back into the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes, tossing constantly. Transfer back to the paper towels. 
  3. Slice & Serve. Cut each piece into 2-3 slices. Arrange chicken on a platter along with lemon slices, pour the warm sauce over the top, and garnish with plenty of green onions. Serve with jasmine rice.
overhead of a plate of Chinese lemon chicken and lemon slices

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Secret To Crispy Chicken?


If you’re wondering how to get that restaurant-quality crispy Chinese chicken at home, you’re in luck! This recipe for crispy lemon chicken highlights not one, but several tricks Chinese chefs use to achieve that intoxicating crunch. And luckily, they are all incredibly simple!

Cornstarch – This magical ingredient absorbs moisture while preventing gluten development when teamed with flour. This adds up to a crispier, crunchier crust. 
Baking Soda Baking soda helps create a lighter, fluffier batter by the production of carbon dioxide bubbles. 
Flour – All-purpose flour will do, but Chinese cooks will often use rice flour. It is less glutinous and more airy by nature. 
Double Frying – Don’t underestimate the power of this step. Allowing the chicken to drain and then returning for a flash-fry promotes evaporation and an even crispier crust.

Why Is Chicken From Chinese Restaurants So Tender?


This recipe for Chinese lemon chicken, and countless other Chinese recipes, use a technique known as velveting to tenderize meat. 

Before cooking, meat is marinated in a mix of alkalinizing agents. It is usually a slurry of water and cornstarch, baking soda, and/or egg whites. Sometimes soy sauce and salt and pepper are added, but the primary idea is to alkalize. The result is the silkiest, most tender meat you can imagine.

What To Serve With Chinese Lemon Chicken


Crispy lemon chicken makes a great appetizer on its own and a satisfying meal when served with steamed rice. The deliciousness doesn’t end there though!

Here are a few of my top picks for pairing with this delectable dish as part of a larger Asian-themed meal. It really just depends on how big of a feast you want!

– Start off with a Miso, Egg Drop, or Hot and Sour Soup.
– Serve with your favorite appetizers like Egg Roll or Crab Rangoon.
– Freshen the meal with a Chinese Cucumber Salad.
– Squeeze in some veggies with this Bok Choy or Vegetable Stir Fry.
– For dessert, enjoy some Green Tea Ice Cream

a plate of Chinese lemon chicken over rice with lemon slices and green onion

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closeup of a plate of Chinese lemon chicken over rice

Crispy Chinese Lemon Chicken

This easy-to-make recipe for crispy Chinese lemon chicken is sticky-sweet, sour, and tangy with an irresistible crunch factor.
Servings: 6
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Marinate Time: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour

Ingredients 

Chicken/Marinade

Batter

Sauce

Garnish

Instructions 

  • Cut each chicken breast into 4 equal pieces. In a large bowl mix together the marinade ingredients. Toss the chicken in the marinade, cover with wrap and marinate for 30 minutes.
  • Heat 1 1/2 inches of oil in deep skillet or wok to 350°F.
  • In a large bowl mix together the batter ingredients. Transfer drained chicken (reserve marinade) to the batter bowl, tossing to mix together.
  • Add the reserved marinade and all of the Sauce ingredients (except the water and cornstarch) to a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring. In a small bowl mix the water and cornstarch together. Stir into the sauce. This will thicken in a few seconds. Cover and turn heat off.
  • Fry chicken in batches, don’t over crowd the pan, and cook 3-4 minutes, turning until both sides are golden brown. Drain on paper towel lined baking sheet or platter. Turn heat up to reach 375°F and add all chicken back into the oil. Fry, tossing chicken, for 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove chicken, drain on paper towels again. Slice each chicken piece into 2-3 pieces and arrange on platter with lemon slices. Pour warm sauce on top and garnish with green onions. Serve with steamed jasmine rice, or rice of choice.

Video

Notes

Nutritional information is for chicken and sauce only, jasmine rice not included.

Nutrition

Calories: 328kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 125mg | Sodium: 1094mg | Potassium: 687mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 197IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Chinese
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): crispy chinese lemon chicken

Kevin

I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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