Crispy, juicy and flavour-packed Chinese honey chilli chicken! These lip-smacking fried chicken bites are easy, super tasty and take just 30 minutes to make.
Similar to chicken nuggets, the coating of the chicken is light, crispy and thin. This means the chicken will stay crispy for longer once coated with the mouth-watering sauce.
Speaking of, the honey chilli sauce (hero of this dish IMHO) possesses the perfect balance of sweet, sour, spicy and savoury flavour profiles. Combined with crispy chicken, a match made in heaven. It's addictive and a complete joy to eat. Better than Chinese takeaway? You bet!
Loving the sound of this dish? You're going to want to also check out my ultra crispy, crunchy honey lemon chicken wings! Similar concept, similarly finger-licking good. Both are absolute crowd-pleasers.
For more crispy fried recipes, also check out the following:
- Aromatic, Taiwanese fried chicken inspired salt and pepper squid. It's tender soft on the inside, golden crispy on the outside and infused with basil, garlic and chilli.
- Panko chicken schnitzel (crispy chicken cutlets) - it's extra crispy thanks to the use of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs).
For the fried chicken bites
- Chicken breasts - best use fresh and not thawed. Frozen and then thawed chicken breasts tend to be on the tough side and slightly less juicy. Substitute: skinless, boneless chicken thighs.
- Ice cold soda water - the key to light and the crispiest coating. So before you start preparing, make sure the soda water is in the fridge and only take it out just before frying. Substitute: ice cold light coloured beer.
- Cornflour (cornstarch) - combined with plain flour ensures the coating is light and crispy. Substitute: rice flour or tapioca starch although, I find cornflour produces the best consistency.
- Deep frying oil - opt for neutral-tasting oils with a high smoke point. Good frying oil to use: vegetable oil, sunflower oil and canola oil.
For the honey chilli sauce
- Honey - can substitute with caster sugar.
- Sriracha sauce - a Thai hot sauce, available at most major supermarkets otherwise, at Asian supermarkets. Although not a Chinese ingredient, this sauce just makes the honey chilli sauce so much better!
- Rice wine vinegar - a mild vinegar. Best substitute: apple cider vinegar otherwise, white wine vinegar.
- Chilli powder (optional) - adds extra heat for those who live life on the spicy side.
Although this dish does not take much time (all up, 30 minutes), it isn't one where you add everything into a pot and voila, it's done.
This honey chilli chicken recipe is a little fiddly but totally worth it. Definitely beat the versions you get from Chinese takeaway shops!
Below are the steps to yummy chicken success.
- Season the chicken - very important, we want flavour through and through
- Coat the chicken with 2 layers - one being cornflour and the other, thin soda batter
- Deep fry - to golden goodness
- Coat with lip-smacking honey chilli sauce - the star of this dish!
Alright, let's get into it.
Season the chicken
To start, cut chicken breasts into bite-size pieces, about 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes.
In a large bowl, combine chicken, minced garlic, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, chilli powder, salt and pepper. Note, chilli powder can be optional - leave it out if you prefer mild spiciness.
Mix well then set it aside.
Coat and prepare an ice cold batter
Working a few pieces at a time, coat the seasoned chicken with just cornflour.
This first coating does 2 things:
- Encapsulates the chicken and thus prevents the chicken's juices from escaping when deep frying.
- Creates a dry base for the batter to cling onto, creating a light crispy layer.
Once all of the chicken has been generously coated with cornflour, it's time to get onto the last step before deep frying - make the ice cold batter.
In a large bowl, add cornflour, plain flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Quickly mix with a whisk until just combined.
Pour in 1 cup of ice cold soda water straight out of the fridge. Briskly mix until a thin batter is formed. This will only take about 30 seconds.
The batter is supposed to be quite thin, runny and bubbly. Don't worry if there are small lumps in the batter, that won't impact the texture of the coating once fried.
You want to see the batter bubble up immediately, as soon as the ice cold soda water hits the flour mixture. A cold, bubbly batter produces the lightest and crispest chicken coating!
You want the oil to be really hot (at around 170°C-180°C or 340°F-360°F). Depending on the size of your pot/wok, you may need more or less oil. I used 2 litres/half a gallon.
To deep fry, pick up a piece of cornflour-coated chicken with a pair of tongs, dip chicken into the cold batter then immediately (and gently!) add it to the hot oil.
Repeat until about half of the chicken are in the fryer. Fry the chicken in 2 batches.
Deep fry on high heat for about 2-3 minutes or until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto a paper towel-lined plate.
Be mindful of frying for too long as the chicken can dry out (see useful tips and tricks below).
See how gorgeous and golden these fried chicken bites are!?
If you stop here you'd have a plate of lovely light and crispy Chinese chicken nuggets! But we're here for that tangy, sweet, savoury, spicy honey chilli chicken - so let's continue.
Nonetheless, for variety, you can coat half of these and leave the other half as is.
Coat with honey chilli sauce
Making the honey chilli chicken coating is super easy.
Simply add honey, soy sauce, sriracha sauce, tomato sauce (ketchup), rice wine vinegar and chilli powder (optional) in a large wok or pan.
With a spatula, mix the sauce well over medium heat. Once the sauce starts to bubble, turn the heat to low and reduce the sauce to a thick, sticky, yummy consistency.
This will take about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the heat off.
Carefully give it a taste (it will be VERY HOT) and add more chilli powder or sriracha sauce if preferred. The spiciness level of this recipe is low, perfect to build with.
Lastly, add fried chicken bites into the wok and toss through.
Make sure each piece gets a good coating of that sticky glaze - delicious.
Glossy, crispy, sticky honey chilli chicken done in 30 minutes.
Since honey chilli chicken is a very flavour-rich dish, opt for simpler dishes to balance it out such as a simple salad like an Asian coleslaw, sauteed leafy greens or steamed vegetables with a side of steamed rice.
Useful tips and tricks
- Let the chicken deep fry undisturbed in the first 1 minute before separating - there is a high chance that the chicken pieces will stick together whilst frying. Don't worry, they come apart really easily. First let the coating form/harden then gently separate each piece apart using chopsticks or tongs.
- Use the chopstick method to see if the oil is hot enough - a great and simple alternative if you don't have a candy thermometer (aka deep-frying thermometer). Simply dip the tip of a wooden (must be wooden) chopstick into the hot oil over high heat. If the tip sizzles immediately then the oil is hot enough.
- Deep fry the chicken in batches - overcrowding will reduce the temperature of the oil which means the chicken will take longer to turn golden and thus risk overcooking (chicken can dry out). I used a 25cm (8.5 inches) deep pot and fried it in 2 batches in 2 litres (half a gallon) of oil.
- Put soda water in the freezer to speed up chilling time - it's crucial that ice cold soda water is used here. If it wasn't in the fridge well before you want to make this recipe, get it in the freezer to make it cold faster. Just be mindful and not let it freeze up!
Good to know
A mix of cornstarch (cornflour) and plain flour. Rice flour and plain flour mix also a great option.
Cornflour and plain flour mixture is my favourite flour mix for deep frying, I used it in both my ultra crunchy and crispy honey lemon chicken wings and salt and pepper squid recipes!
After many trials, I can say the chicken will stay lightly crisp (definitely not soggy) for about 30 minutes once coated with the sticky honey chilli sauce. Over time, the chicken will lose its crispness due to the moisture from the sauce so best eat these quickly!
On the off chance of leftovers, they can be stored in air-tight containers for up to 4 days in the fridge. The chicken coating will turn soft but all of the flavours will still be there!
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below!
I'd love to hear from you. 🙂
Crispy Honey Chilli Chicken
- 500 g /1 pound chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces
- deep frying oil eg. canola, sunflower, vegetable oil (note 1)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon shaoxing wine
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder optional
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cup cornflour (cornstarch)
- ½ cup plain four
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup ice cold soda water straight from the fridge (note 2)
Honey chilli sauce
- ⅓ cup honey
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
- ½ tablespoon chilli powder optional
- Preheat frying oil in a large pot or wok on high heat. (note 3)
Season chicken and prepare coating
- In a large bowl, combine chicken with seasoning. Mix well and set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, add 1 cup of cornflour (cornstarch). Working 5 - 6 pieces at a time, dip chicken in cornflour and coat each piece well. Once coated, place the chicken on a separate plate/bowl. Discard excess cornflour.
- To make the batter, combine the remaining ¼ cup of cornflour, plain flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Using a whisk, mix the dry ingredients for about 5 seconds. Add in ice cold soda water and whisk for 20 seconds or until a thin batter is formed. Don't worry if it is a tiny bit lumpy. The batter should be bubbly/foamy - that's exactly what we want! (note 4)
- Using a pair of tongs, pick up 1 piece of cornflour-coated chicken and dip it into the thin batter then immediately (gently!) add it into hot frying oil. Repeat until about ½ of the chicken has been added to the oil.
- Deep fry for about 2 to 3 minutes on high heat or until golden and crispy. (note 5) Transfer crispy chicken onto a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat for the remaining half of the chicken.
Coat with honey chilli sauce
- In a large non-stick wok or frying pan, add all honey chilli sauce ingredients. Mix well with a spatula. Turn the heat on to medium until the sauce starts to bubble then reduce the heat to low. Allow the sauce to reduce to a thick consistency. About 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the heat off.
- Add all of the fried crispy chicken bites into the wok/pan. Toss well until each piece is well coated. Transfer onto a serving plate.
- Serve whilst it's still hot and crispy. Optional: sprinkle with sesame seeds for presentation.
- Candy thermometer (deep fry thermometer) method - oil is hot enough once it reaches 170°C-180°C or 340°F-360°F.
- Chopsticks method - a great and simple alternative if you don't have a thermometer. Simply dip the tip of a wooden (must be wooden) chopstick into the hot oil over high heat. If the tip sizzles immediately then the oil is hot enough.