How to Make the Perfect Sweet and Sour Chicken and Common Mistakes to Avoid


Sweet and sour is delicious with pork, shrimp, and tofu, so don’t be afraid to use your protein of choice. Toss the tofu in the five spices and cornmeal and cook in either a frying pan or an air fryer until crispy, add the shrimp to the sauce five minutes before serving and cut pork into 5 mm thick pieces before cooking.

To beat or not to beat, that is the question

While most Chinese takeouts serve their sweet and sour chicken fried with crispy batter, for most home cooks the batter ordeal may be a bridge too far. If you can’t stand the idea of ​​your sweet and sour without a crispy crumb, make Colm O’Gorman’s Crispy Fried Chicken and serve it with the sauce in our recipe below.

Will plain flour do?

Most sweet and sour recipes contain corn flour. This is for “velvetting” meat or thickening sauce and plain flour is an imperfect substitute. When mixed with water, a layer of cornmeal tenderizes the meat and when mixed with sauce, it thickens to the perfect take-out consistency.

Don’t skimp on the ketchup

While Neven Maguire uses tomato puree in his sweet and sour, most chefs agree that good old-fashioned ketchup gives the best, most delicious rounded flavor to a sweet and sour — and why. not ? Ketchup is both sweet and sour itself, containing vinegar and sugar in most. If you don’t have ketchup, you can use tomato puree, but you’ll need to add a little extra sugar to the mixture.

Canned pineapple is non-negotiable

Every chef we could find—from Darina Allen to Hairy Bikers to Ken Hom—includes a can of pineapple in their sweet and sour recipe. We can see why. Pineapple juice has the perfect sour note to start a sweet and sour sauce, and the tiny bits of fruit are welcome bursts of sweetness in the finished dish. Ken Hom adds the juice and zest of a lemon, but it is not essential.

Chinese sweet and sour chicken

This take-out Chinese favorite is quick and easy, making it the perfect mid-week meal. Replace the chicken with pork, shrimp or tofu if you prefer.

Preparation time

15 minutes


  • 350g chicken breast, sliced

  • 2 heaped tablespoons seasoned cornstarch

  • 1 clove of garlic

  • 1 medium sweet green pepper

  • 225g canned pineapple chunks plus juice

  • 1 chicken stock cube

  • 300ml water

  • 2 tablespoons ketchup

  • 1 tablespoon malt vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons of honey

  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce


  1. Toss the chicken in the cornstarch and season with salt and pepper.

  2. Remove the stem and seeds from the pepper and chop it. Drain the pineapple cubes, reserving the juice.

  3. Heat the garlic in the oil. Fry the chicken briefly until browned on all sides. Lower the heat and add the chopped pepper and continue cooking over low heat for 10 minutes.

  4. Add the pineapple chunks, mushrooms and tomatoes for the last five minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by dissolving the chicken stock cube in boiling water. Mix with ketchup, vinegar, honey and soy sauce.

  5. Mix the rest of the cornstarch from the dish with a little pineapple juice and add to the mixture.

  6. Bring to a boil and cook for three minutes, stirring all the time. Add it to the chicken and mix well.


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