Healthy Sesame Chicken – This take-out favorite gets a good-for-you makeover. You’ll love the crispy, tender chicken + mouthwatering sauce! (Gluten Free & Paleo Friendly!)
Sometimes, I REALLY miss take-out.
As a gluten free family, we don’t have a *ton* of gluten free take-out options when it comes to Asian-American food. Most options come with gluten in breading or gluten in the sauces (plus you sometimes also get “extras” like MSG…).
So, when the craving hits (and, it hits regularly), we turn to our favorite “take-out fake-out” recipes. I love that in 25-30 minutes (almost as long as it’d take me to drive somewhere, pick it up, and drive home), I can have my take-out favorites made lighter and gluten free, to boot!
This healthy sesame chicken is out latest take-out remake. I love the crispy chicken, tangy sauce, and how easily it pairs with side dishes!
Here’s why we love it (and why I think you will, too)…
HERE’S WHAT MAKES THIS HEALTHY SESAME CHICKEN RECIPE AMAZING:
IT’S QUICK AND EASY. This recipe can easily be done start-to-finish in 25-30 minutes, depending on how quick you are with your mincing and dicing. Even with side dishes, you’ll be done in a flash!
IT’S LIGHTER THAN TAKE-OUT. Compared to take-out, my healthy sesame chicken recipe comes in lighter across the board. It’s higher in protein, lower in fat, lower in calories, lower in carbs, lower in sugar, and lower in sodium. (And you *still* get that amazing texture + flavor!)
CRISPY CHICKEN (NO DEEP-FRYING REQUIRED!). I love the crispy chicken + flavorful sauce combo that’s so classic in take-out restaurants, but don’t love the deep frying. We lighten things up by giving the chicken a quick toss in some cornstarch (or arrowroot) and gluten free tamari (or coconut aminos or soy sauce). It creates the perfect crispy coating without a heavy batter, and you cook the chicken quickly in just a little oil instead of deep frying. The end result = crispy chicken without deep-frying!
THE SAUCE IS INCREDIBLE. I LOVE the savory-sweet sauce that makes this healthy sesame chicken so delicious. In my mind, it’s ALL about the sauce! This one uses gluten free tamari (or soy sauce or coconut aminos), pure maple syrup or honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes. It’s a perfect salty-sweet-tangy-umami combo that keeps me coming back for more!
MAKE IT A MEAL! WHAT TO SERVE WITH HEALTHY SESAME CHICKEN:
As I said above, you can easily make our healthy sesame chicken in just 25-30 minutes, even including side dishes. I prep the sides while the chicken is cooking to speed things along. Here are some of our favorites…
- STEAMED OR STIR-FRIED GREEN VEGGIES. Snow peas, sugar snap peas, and broccoli are some of our faves for pairing with healthy sesame chicken. (Trader Joe’s carries a yummy frozen mix of green veggies that’s great too!)
- THAI CUCUMBER SALAD. We love this refreshing cool, crisp salad! So nice next to stir fry or meals like this.
- RICE. It’s so lovely to have something to soak up the extra sauce! My kids love rice, so that’s often our go-to pairing. (We love basmati best)
- OR CAULIFLOWER RICE. For paleo or low-carb folks, you can keep things lighter with cauliflower rice. (You might even try this cauliflower fried rice!)
- FRESH FRUIT. Fresh pineapple or orange wedges are a nice, bright complement to this easy dinner. (And kid-friendly!)
- IF I’M FEELING FANCY…Sophie loves when I make a batch of egg drop soup to eat first. It takes just a few minutes to put together and makes it really feel like take-out done at home!
FAQ + TIPS FOR THIS HEALTHY SESAME CHICKEN:
TIP: WATCH THE SODIUM. If possible, I recommend using low-sodium tamari or soy sauce for this recipe to keep it from being too salty. (Coconut aminos isn’t as salty as soy sauce/tamari, so it likely won’t be a problem if you use coconut aminos) Everyone’s tastes are different, though, so if you find it’s still salty, you can thin out the sauce with more water if you like.
TIP: MAKE IT PALEO. Paleo friends! This recipe easily accommodates a paleo diet. You’ll use arrowroot in place of the cornstarch, and coconut aminos in place of the gluten free tamari. Many paleo folks are ok with rice vinegar (since it’s been fermented and is more easily digestible), but if you don’t, you can use apple cider vinegar (or fresh lime juice for a different twist).
MY FAVORITE SHORT-CUT. Lately, I’ve been using frozen minced garlic and ginger. There are no other added ingredients, so it tastes as good as fresh (not like the jarred ones that sometimes feel a bit “off”). Plus, I never have to worry about getting to it before it goes bad. I find it at Trader Joe’s and Sprouts, but sometimes see it at Kroger or other local grocery stores in the freezer section near the veggies. Total game changer!
HOW TO PUNCH UP THE SESAME FLAVOR. Toasted sesame oil gives most of the sesame flavor here. It’s pretty strong, so a little goes a long way. I start with 1/2 tsp., but if you want more sesame flavor, you can go all the way up to 1 tsp. if you like. (Start small and add more, to taste!)
A NOTE ON THICKENING THE SAUCE. When you’re stirring the sauce, you’ll see it turn from milky/opaque to clear and more translucent as it thickens. You’ll want to stop stirring and take it off the heat once it’s gotten that translucent look and the sauce sort of “holds” the whisking marks. (You’ll be able to see the path of your whisk). If you’re using arrowroot, I find it thickens quicker and can over-thicken faster than a cornstarch sauce. For either cornstarch or arrowroot, you can thin the sauce out a bit with another splash of water and some whisking.
You can use boneless, skinless chicken breast, chicken tenders, or chicken thighs for this recipe. (Whatever you like best!). You’ll be dicing the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
LOVE TAKE-OUT FAKE-OUT? YOU’D PROBABLY LOVE:
- Paleo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Egg Drop Soup
- Healthy Orange Chicken
- Healthy Beef & Broccoli
- Classic Ham Fried Rice
- Pineapple Fried Rice
HELPFUL FOR THIS RECIPE:
Crispy Chicken coated in a tangy sweet sesame sauce = Healthy Sesame Chicken. It’ll be an instant family favorite! (Gluten Free + Paleo Friendly)
FOR THE CHICKEN:
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (or thighs), diced into 1″ cubes
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch (or arrowroot)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. gluten free tamari (or soy sauce or coconut aminos)
- 1–2 Tbsp. Avocado oil
FOR THE SESAME SAUCE:
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 Tbsp. gluten free tamari (or soy sauce or coconut aminos)
- 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup or honey
- 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil (or more, to taste)
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
- pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 1 tsp. sesame seeds
START WITH THE CHICKEN:
- In a medium bowl or container, combine diced chicken with 2 Tbsp. cornstarch and 1 1/2 Tbsp. tamari. Toss with a fork to coat well.
- In a medium skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. avocado oil over medium-high heat.
- Working in batches, add chicken pieces to the pan (they shouldn’t be touching) and cook 3-4 minutes on the first side and 1-3 minutes on the second side to cook through. (They should be fully opaque and have no pink inside).
- Remove cooked chicken to a clean plate and repeat with remaining chicken until add chicken is cooked, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
WHILE THE CHICKEN IS COOKING, WHISK UP THE SAUCE.
- In a bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine water, tamari, syrup or honey, vinegar, toasted sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes (if using). Whisk to combine.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp cornstarch with 1 Tbsp water to make a cornstarch slurry.
- When the chicken is fully cooked, reduce the heat in the pan to medium-low.
- Add cornstarch slurry to the sesame sauce mixture and whisk to combine (it’ll now look a bit milky).
- Pour sauce mixture into the warm pan and whisk over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling, thickened, and more translucent. (You should start to be able to see the path of your whisk in the sauce).
- Return cooked chicken to pan and coat with the sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve warm!
IF YOUR SAUCE GETS TOO THICK: you should be able to easily water it down with a splash of water and some whisking.
IF YOU’RE PALEO. Be sure to use the arrowroot instead of cornstarch, coconut aminos instead of gluten free tamari, and feel free to substitute cider vinegar in place of the rice vinegar, if needed.
- Category: Main Dish, Chicken
- Method: Stir Fry
- Cuisine: Asian American
Keywords: sesame chicken, healthy sesame chicken, gluten free sesame chicken, paleo sesame chicken, sesame chicken stir fry, honey sesame chicken