This homestyle soy sauce chicken drumsticks recipe is something I've been making at home for YEARS! And let me tell you, omg the FLAVOUR is AMAZING! It's rich, slightly sweet, sticky, gingery and tastes so good with a bowl of rice. The flavour is intensified by cooking with drumsticks or thighs bone-in, skin-on. Remember, meats cooked with bones in are always more flavourful.
Chopping through bones with a cleaver
DISCLAIMER! The chicken drumstick pieces in my photos have been chopped with a Chinese cleaver. Unless you're experienced and are comfortable with handling a Chinese cleaver, it is not recommended to try that at home. Simply use whole drumsticks or chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on for this recipe.
In order to chop drumsticks at home, you'll need a thick bladed cleaver. Growing up, I thought everyone used cleavers to chop everything in the kitchen. Took me a while to learn how to use Western style knives!
Okay, I know most people don't have a scary looking cleaver at home. So instead, the safe and recommended way is to use whole drumsticks or chicken thighs with bones in.
The reason why I like cooking this dish with chopped drumsticks is because: 1) It becomes the perfect size to eat with chopsticks; 2) with the bones exposed/open, more flavour go into the chicken and sauce which means FLAVOUR (think bone broths).
Nonetheless, it'll still be super tasty if you use chicken thighs and whole drumsticks. You'll struggle eating with chopsticks though - serve with knives and forks instead.
Alright, let's get to it!
- Dark/light soy sauces combo is used here to ensure we get as much flavour as possible in this dish. Dark soy sauces are stronger in flavour, darker in colour and lighter on the salt content than light soy sauces. This combo is very common in Chinese cuisines – in achieving that rich, umami flavour.
- Shaoxing wine is a Chinese cooking wine (really good quality ones can be consumed as a beverage) that is made with fermented rice. Similar to cooking with red or white wine, Shaoxing wine adds depth and aroma to a dish.
- Brown sugar is used a lot in the recipes (instead of white sugar) in this blog as I find they add more flavour (the molasses) to any dish!
- Sesame oil is used to provide a nutty aroma. A little goes a long way. Because sesame oils are very strong in flavour, you don't want to overdo it.
- Garlic, ginger and scallions/spring onions this a a very common combo in Chinese cooking. Particularly any stew/slow cook dishes.
- Corn starch/cornflour is used here to thicken the sauce at the end of the cooking process. This is done by mixing a little corn starch with cold water and mixing in the sauce just before serving. A common practice for thickening gravy too!
Step by step instructions
- STEP 1. Saute ginger slices, garlic and white ends of scallions until golden and fragrant. Reserve the green parts of scallions. This will be used at the end of the cooking process.
- STEP 2. Add chicken drumsticks or thighs. Saute on high until brown and skin lightly caramelised and golden. Browning meats prior to slow cooking adds depth and flavour to the final dish. Never skip this part!
- STEP 3. Now things get exciting. Splash in Shaoxing wine, keeping the heat on high, reduce wine by half. Now add soy sauces, sugar, sesame oil and water. Mix thoroughly, bring sauce to boil.
- STEP 4. Reduce heat to low, place a lid on and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces every 10 minutes to allow even seasoning.
- STEP 5. Mix in corn starch and cold water mixture. The sauce will thicken almost instantly.
- STEP 6. Remember the green parts of scallions? Now it's time to mix them in the pot. This will freshen the dish up and provide a lovely aroma.
Here you have it! Serve this incredibly tasty soy sauce chicken drumsticks with a bowl of steaming rice and some simple sauteed Asian greens.
Tip for serving if chopping chicken drumsticks
If you do have a thick bladed cleaver at home and are comfortable with cutting through chicken bones, there is something you need to know.. BONES.
It's great cooking with bones (all that flavour!) HOWEVER! Inevitably, there will be a few small bone pieces in the sauce. Not very pleasant when you want to mix it in with rice and take big, satisfying mouthfuls (guilty).
A way to avoid having the occasional bone piece in your rice is to strain the sauce through a sieve/strainer just before step 5 above.
I admit, I'm too lazy to do this step but it's a good one.
Glossy, sticky and savoury. In my opinion, this soy sauce chicken drumsticks dish is the ultimate Asian comfort food.
Best chicken parts for this dish
This recipe works best with chicken drumsticks, thighs or wings, bones-in and skins-on. Breasts are not recommended as it'll get really tough through the 30 minute simmering process.
Thank you for checking out my recipes! Let me know what you think and/or if you have any questions, drop me a note in the comments section below. 🙂
Soy sauce chicken
- 1½ kg / 3 lbs chicken drumsticks or thighs, bone-in, skin-on (note 1)
- 4 cm / 1½ inch ginger sliced
- 4 cloves garlic peeled, lightly smashed
- 2 scallion/spring onion cut into 5cm/2inch long
- ¼ cup dark soy sauce
- ⅓ cup light soy sauce
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup Shaoxing wine
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoon neutral tasting oil such as canola or sunflower
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch/cornflour
- ¼ cup cold water (note 2)
- In a large skillet or pot with a lid, saute ginger, garlic and white parts of scallions until golden. Reserve green parts of scallions.
- Add in chicken pieces and brown on high heat until skin golden and caramelised.
- Pour in Shaoxing wine and allow it to reduce by half on high heat.
- Pour in dark and light soy sauces, sugar, sesame oil and ¼ cup of water. Bring up to boil.
- Reduce heat to low and put a lid on, simmer for 30 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over every 10 minutes to allow even seasoning.
- Combine thickening mixture ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour into pot and stir through on low heat.
- Sprinkle reserved green parts of scallions into the pot and mix through. This freshens up the dish.
- Serve with rice and sauteed Asian greens!
UGH, I dropped the bottle of Shaoxing wine! what do you suggest for a quick substitute? I'm only making a teeny portion as it's feeding only 1 person.
Oh no! That's bummer! You can substitute it with dry sherry and if you don't have that on hand, simply leave it out as your last resort 🙂 It won't make a huge difference as it's quite subtle. Enjoy!
My mom used to make this for us as kids. It was one of my all time favorite. This recipe tastes exactly like I remember it. I make it now for my kids and they love it! Thank you for posting this.
Hi Henry, thank you for sharing this and happy to hear that you can now pass this dish onto your kids too 🙂
Made this tonight on a whim. It was absolutely delicious!!! Dad loved it so much that he’s requested it again for dinner this week!
Hi Giselle, so happy to hear! 😀 Thank you for sharing!
This was so so delicious. So quick. So easy. My boys loved it. Will definitely make again. Tonight I am going to try this recipe with a pork tenderloin.
Thank you for such awesome recipe!
Thank you so much for your lovely comment Reggie! 🙂 Very happy to hear that you and your family loved this!
Sounds delicious want to make it tomorrow, would be good to serve with noodles?
Absolutely! Noodles and rice will both work well with this recipe 🙂
This is delicious! Mine came out so juicy and love the flavor! I gotta get myself one of those cleavers. I can see it making the prep much faster.
Thank you Connie! Glad it turned out well for you! 😀
Did not see where and how much of the sesame oil,so I add 1 teaspoon, it’s great, thanks
Thank you so much for your lovely comment Mada and letting me know about the sesame oil! It looks like I had missed it in the ingredients list. Sorry about that! 1 tsp is the perfect amount 🙂
Omg the flavours in this were amazing! Going to make more often for sure!
I'm so happy to hear you liked it Kay! 😀
I love a good Asian dish! This recipe looks divine and I'm drooling over your ingredients used for your sauce..YUM!
Thank you Leslie! 🙂 I really appreciate it!
This is perfect for our weeknight dinner! I am sure my family will love to have this soy sauce chicken on our table!
Hi Dennis, thank you for your comment and I'm so glad to hear that! 🙂
This sauce has so much depth it’s incredible. I love how you could taste all the ingredients without over powering one another. Thank you!
Thank you Magali! I'm very glad that you like it 🙂
The photos are gorgeous making the eyes feel the hunger mounting. Very beautiful and delicious recipe.
Thank you so much Foodheal! 🙂
This looks delicious! I might try it out with the boneless skinless thighs that I already have on hand
Thank you so much and sounds great Sara! 😀 This recipe calls for 1.5 kg worth of chicken so if you're cooking less, make sure to adjust the soy sauce/sugar content accordingly!
This soy sauce chicken looks delicious and I just love fresh ginger in my recipes. Yum!
Thank you so much Scarlet! 🙂 Your comment made my day!