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Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and covered in a zesty, savory glaze, this Chinese lemon chicken is sure to become a new dinnertime favorite. It’s a better-than-takeout meal the whole family will go crazy over!

For more better-than-takeout dishes, try this bang bang chicken, slow cooker General Tso’s chicken, or crispy walnut shrimp!

Lemon chicken served with rice in a gray stoneware bowl.

Chinese Lemon Chicken Recipe

Everyone loves orange chicken, but it’s time for lemon to step into the spotlight! This Chinese lemon chicken recipe starts with crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside chicken pieces. Once they’re fried to perfection, everything gets coated in the most mouthwatering sauce ever. It’s the best mix of savory and sweet, with a thick, glossy consistency that coats each piece wonderfully.

The sauce has a soy sauce base for that classic savory, Chinese takeout flavor, but then it’s combined with lemon zest, lemon juice, white vinegar, and garlic. The result? Pure heaven! Chinese lemon chicken has just enough bright, zesty flavor to keep it from being too heavy, but is so savory and delicious you won’t be able to resist going back for seconds. For more delicious recipes inspired by Chinese cuisine, try this dynamite shrimp or some crispy crab rangoon to complete your meal!

Chicken and Sauce Ingredients

Chinese lemon chicken takes simple ingredients and transforms them into a crispy and tangy masterpiece. From tender chicken pieces coated in a golden crust to a zesty sauce that bursts with citrusy goodness, each element plays a crucial role in making this dish delectable. (Exact measurements are in the recipe card!)

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts: Cut into 1-inch pieces, these provide the main protein for the dish.
  • Salt and Pepper: Used to season the chicken pieces, enhancing the overall flavor.
  • Cornstarch: Coats the chicken, creating a crispy and golden exterior when fried.
  • Eggs: Beaten eggs act as a binding agent, helping the cornstarch adhere to the chicken.
  • Canola Oil: Used for frying, it gives the Chinese lemon chicken a nice, crispy texture.

For the Lemon Sauce:

  • Granulated Sugar: Adds sweetness to balance the tanginess of the lemon juice and vinegar.
  • Lemon Juice: Provides a zesty and refreshing citrus flavor to the sauce.
  • Soy Sauce: For that classic, savory Asian flavor!
  • White Vinegar: Complements the lemon juice and adds tanginess. You can also use rice vinegar for a more authentic flavor.
  • Garlic Salt: Infuses a hint of garlic flavor and enhances the overall seasoning.
  • Lemon Zest: For a little more concentrated lemon.
  • Cornstarch: Helps thicken the Chinese lemon chicken sauce, creating a glossy texture.

How to Make Chinese Lemon Chicken

Perfect for busy families, Chinese lemon chicken only takes 1 hour from start to finish! Making it from scratch is definitely the way to go. It’s fresher, tastes better, and is free from additives and artificial flavors.

  1. Preheat Oven, Cut Chicken: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Coat With Batter: Add the cornstarch to one bowl, and the slightly beaten eggs to another bowl. Then dip each chicken piece into the cornstarch then coat it in the egg mixture.
  3. Heat Oil, Fry: Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the chicken until browned.
  4. Add to Baking Dish: Place the chicken in a 9 x 13 greased baking dish.
  5. Mix Sauce Ingredients: Mix the sugar, lemon juice, grated lemon zest, white vinegar, soy sauce, garlic salt, and cornstarch in a medium-sized mixing bowl. 
  6. Pour Over Chicken and Bake: Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake for 1 hour.
  7. Toss: Stir the chicken every 15 minutes so that it is coated in the sauce.
  8. Serve: Serve over rice and enjoy!
Preparing Chinese lemon chicken, step-by-step.

Tips and Tricks

These helpful tips will make sure you achieve restaurant-quality Chinese lemon chicken every time! This is a recipe that your family won’t be able to get enough of.

  • Cut Consistently: When cutting the chicken into 1-inch pieces, aim for uniform sizes. This way, they’ll cook at the same rate.
  • Season From the Inside Out: Use salt and pepper to season the chicken pieces before coating them. This enhances the flavor profile from the very first bite.
  • Double Coating: After dipping the chicken in beaten eggs, coat them generously with cornstarch. This double-coating method creates a crunchier and more substantial crispy layer.
  • Oil Temperature: Heat the canola oil to the right temperature before frying (around 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 degrees Celsius). This prevents the chicken from becoming greasy and helps achieve that perfect crispiness.
  • Drain Excess Oil: After frying, let the Chinese lemon chicken rest on paper towels to remove any excess oil and maintain its crunchiness. No soggy chicken here!
Chinese lemon chicken in a blue and white casserole dish.

Storing Leftovers

Chinese lemon chicken is at its tastiest when it’s just made, all crispy and delicious. But if you’ve got some leftovers, you can pop them into an airtight container in the fridge. They should stay good for around 2-3 days. Just remember, the crispy part might not be as crispy after a while because of the sauce.

To reheat, add your chicken to a baking sheet and warm for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also warm your chicken in a skillet! These are both great ways to keep that delicious crispy coating. Microwaving can make your chicken soggy.

A piece of chicken being picked up with chopsticks.

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Chinese Lemon Chicken

5 from 2 votes
By: Alyssa Rivers
Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and covered in a zesty, savory glaze, this Chinese lemon chicken is sure to become a new dinnertime favorite. It's a better-than-takeout meal the whole family will go crazy over!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

Chicken

  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts boneless, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cups cornstarch
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Lemon Sauce

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the cornstarch to one bowl, and the slightly beaten eggs to another bowl. Dip each chicken piece into the cornstarch then coat it in the egg mixture.
  • Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the chicken until browned.
  • Place the chicken in a 9 x 13 greased baking dish.
  • Mix the sugar, lemon juice, grated lemon zest, white vinegar, soy sauce, garlic salt, and cornstarch in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake for 1 hour.
  • Stir the chicken every 15 minutes so that it is coated in the sauce.
  • Serve over rice and enjoy!

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 475kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 16gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 118mgSodium: 532mgPotassium: 276mgFiber: 1gSugar: 23gVitamin A: 137IUVitamin C: 10mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Chinese
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic!
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About Alyssa Rivers

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Alyssa Rivers and the food blogger behind The Recipe Critic. The blog launched in 2012 as a place to share my passion for cooking. I love trying new things and testing them out with my family. Each recipe is tried and true, family-tested and approved.

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8 Comments

  1. You’re using the oven to reduce the sauce…. why don’t you just reduce the sauce in a pan for 10 minutes to save time and energy? I mean, the oven will impart some roasted flavor, but does it affect the final dish enough for the wasted time and energy to keep the oven running for an hour? Also, doesn’t it make the fried chicken pieces soggy? I’m legit asking if you tested both ways to compare because I’m curious.

  2. Isn’t an hour too long in the oven? Being bite sized pieces that are already fried, the chicken will be overcooked that long in the oven.

    1. These are the correct times. You need to stir the chicken every 15 minutes while it’s cooking so it doesn’t get burned.

  3. This says it takes an hour from start to finish, but you aren’t accounting for the fact that the chicken doesn’t need to stay in the oven for an hour..