Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken (Paleo, Whole30)
Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe with Paleo sweet and sour sauce that’s made with pineapple juice and apricots. It tastes just like your favorite Chinese restaurants but much healthier!
This sweet and sour chicken stir-fry comes together in 30 minutes and is Paleo Whole30 friendly. This is a must-have stir-fry dish for chicken lovers! Get your chopsticks ready!
The original recipe was published in March 2017 and updated in August 2019 for housekeeping matters, no change to recipe.
Is Sweet and Sour Chicken Chinese?
The popular American Chinese dish – Sweet and sour chicken – is closely related to sweet and sour pork 糖醋咕咾肉 or sweet and sour fish 糖醋鱼 in Chinese cuisine. The most popular version that we know in the west is from the Canton province. The Mandarin characters of Sweet 甜 [Tián] or 糖 [Táng] means sugary and Sour 酸 [Suān] or 醋 [cù] means vinegary, so hence some people call this dish sweet and sour 甜酸 and others describe it as sugary and vinegary 糖醋.
I don’t recall that my family makes sweet and sour chicken at home because most of the time we only see people enjoy it (often in a whole fish form) in Chinese weddings and celebratory banquet occasions. A whole deep fried sea bass, coated in sweet and sour sauce, is considered a fancy and lucky dish that will bring fortune into the family, especially during Chinese New Year’s.
What is Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken Made Of?
Be that as it may, I’m very happy to see that sweet and sour chicken becomes so popular in the west and there’s a reason why. Besides the sweet and tart flavor that we all love, the homemade Chinese sweet and sour chicken is much easier to make. It’s less elaborate, compared to the banquet version and with common ingredients – chicken, onions, bell peppers – that we can find easily.
My Paleo take on this popular takeout is made with chicken breasts, onions, and bell peppers, and a homemade sauce that’s made with pineapple juice, dry apricots, tomato paste, cider or rice vinegar, and coconut aminos.
The pineapple juice and apricots are the perfect combination for sweet and sour sauce to replace added sugar and starch thickeners. And you know what? You can use the same sauce to make sweet and sour fish, pork, or even veggie stir-fries. How cool is that?
Is sweet and sour chicken the same as Orange Chicken?
In my opinion, sweet and sour chicken is different from orange chicken. In my baked crispy orange chicken recipe, I incorporate fresh orange juice and orange slices in the sauce so it tastes fruity and citrusy. On the other hand, my Chinese sweet and sour chicken recipe is made with pineapple juice and apricot sauce. The flavorful profile is sweeter and more tart than orange chicken.
How to make Healthy Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken
1. Dice the chicken breasts to 1-inch cubes and add salt, pepper, arrowroot, and ginger powder.
2. Dice the bell peppers and onions to cubes and prepare ginger slices.
3. Make the sauce
4. Stir fry the chicken with vegetables, and toss with the sauce.
Sweet and Sour Chicken Sauce
You can make the sweet and sour chicken sauce ahead to save time. Since there are no additives and preservatives, I recommend storing it in the fridge and finishing it in 1 week.
Blend dry apricots with pineapple juice, coconut aminos, rice or cider vinegar, tomato paste, and a little salt. Puree with chicken stock or water to thin the texture.
MORE Chinese Recipes (Paleo, Whole30, and Low Carb!)
- Chinese Sesame Chicken
- Paleo Beef With Broccoli
- Paleo Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry
- Stir-Fried Beef In Oyster Sauce
- Chinese Pepper Steak
- Low Carb Seafood Dim Sum
- Paleo Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Paleo Kung Pao Chicken
- More stir-fry recipe here
- Chinese new year recipes
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Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken (Paleo, Whole30)
Sweet and Sour Chicken:
- 1 1/4 lbs Chicken breasts or thighs, , skinless boneless
- 1 1/4 tsp Coarse sea salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp Coconut Aminos
- 1/4 tsp White pepper
- 1/2 tsp Ground ginger powder
- 1 tbsp Toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp Arrowroot starch
- 3 tbsp Avocado oil
- Quarter one whole Yellow onion, diced
- 1 bulb Scallion, chopped
- 2-3 slice ginger, roughly chopped
- Half one whole green bell pepper, cut into bite size cubes
- Half one whole red bell pepper, cut into bite size cubes
Sweet and sour chicken sauce:
- 1/4 cup Dry apricots, or figs, or pitted prunes
- 1/3 cup Pineapple juice, fresh or from a can, not in heavy syrup
- 2 tbsp Coconut aminos
- 1 1/2 tbsp Rice vinegar, ,or 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp Tomato paste
- 1 small Pinch of sea salt
- 3-4 tbsp Chicken stock or water
Season the chicken:
- Thinly slice the chicken breasts or dice the chicken thighs. Mix well in a medium bowl with the remaining chicken ingredients. Marinate in the refrigerator while preparing the stir-fry ingredients.
Sweet and sour sauce:
- Finely chop the apricots. Add them to a sauce pan from pineapple juice to salt. Cook over low heat until the fruits turn softer, about 10 minutes. Then puree it with chicken stock or water.
- Preheat a wok or large skillet over medium heat until it's too hot to place your palm nearby, about 2-3 inches away. Add 1.5 tbsp of the avocado oil. Add the chicken in the skillet in one shallow layer and panfry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, flipping once to cook the other side for an additional 1 minute. Set aside along with the chicken juice.
- Heat the remaining 1.5 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat in the same skillet, then lower the heat to medium. Add the onion, scallion, and ginger. Season with a small pinch of salt. Stir-fry for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the bell peppers. Season with another small pinch of salt and stir-fry for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the chicken back to the skillet. Add 3 to 4 heaping tablespoons of the sweet-and-sour sauce. Keep stir-frying until the chicken is completely cooked through. Serve hot and immediately.
- Thinly slice and season the chicken. Store in the refrigerator if using the next day, or otherwise in the freezer. defrost overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.
- Pre-make the sweet and sour chicken sauce. Store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Delicious, just made this for me (with a thyroid condition, so on an AIP diet) and my husband (nothing technically wrong with him 🙂 ) we both loved it “yum, you can make that again” top compliment from him. Thank you for this great recipe.
I’m late to the party as always. This is mind-blowingly good. I’ll be making it again next week.
Not late at all! Thanks, Elizabeth!
I’ve done a bunch of your recipes and they are consistently fantastic!
Question: Can the sweet and sour sauce be frozen for next time? Or is “week in the fridge” our only option?
Thank you! I haven’t tried frozen the sauce. There’s water in the recipe so it might get crystallized and separated once frozen. You might need to blend it again. If you use water (instead of chicken stock) the sauce should last longer in the fridge. 🙂
I triple the sauce recipe (for meal prepping purposes) and then freeze in small cubes (~1 tablespoon each). Once frozen, I move to a vacuum sealed bag and then defrost amount needed for the recipe as I go. Generally, the frozen sauce keeps well for several months!
Thanks so much for sharing the tip! I appreciate it!
This was delicious!! Will definitely make again, repeatedly!!