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Healthy Sesame Chicken (Gluten Free + Paleo Friendly)

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!)

Gluten Free & Paleo Friendly Healthy Sesame Chicken from One Lovely Life

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)…

Healthy Sesame Chicken from One Lovely LifeHealthy Sesame Chicken from One Lovely Life

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!

Gluten Free & Paleo Friendly Healthy Sesame Chicken from One Lovely Life

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!

Healthy Sesame Chicken from One Lovely Life Gluten Free & Paleo Friendly Healthy Sesame Chicken from One Lovely Life

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:

HELPFUL FOR THIS RECIPE:

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Gluten Free & Paleo Friendly Healthy Sesame Chicken from One Lovely Life

Healthy Sesame Chicken (Gluten Free + Paleo Friendly)


  • Author: One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4-5 Servings 1x

Description

Crispy Chicken coated in a tangy sweet sesame sauce = Healthy Sesame Chicken. It’ll be an instant family favorite! (Gluten Free + Paleo Friendly) 


Ingredients

Scale

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)
  • 12 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

Instructions

START WITH THE CHICKEN:

  1. 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.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. avocado oil over medium-high heat.
  3. 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).
  4. 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. 

  1. 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.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp cornstarch with 1 Tbsp water to make a cornstarch slurry.
  3. When the chicken is fully cooked, reduce the heat in the pan to medium-low.
  4. Add cornstarch slurry to the sesame sauce mixture and whisk to combine (it’ll now look a bit milky).
  5. 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).
  6. Return cooked chicken to pan and coat with the sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve warm!

Notes

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.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • 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

 

28 Comments

  1. Was great! A big hit. I didn’t have sesame seeds so I made it orange chicken by squeezing two orange slices on top of the final mix. Was delicious.

  2. Really tasty, we didn’t have cornstarch, but flour works just as well. I made this dish for my parents and they really liked it. Brings back memories of when my family lived in Asia. Thanks for the delicious recipe : )

  3. I have made this recipe twice for my family and they love it! Now, that’s coming from a 13 and 17 year old. Easy and delicious! Must try

  4. Loved it – paired it with brown rice and broccoli. Just the right amount of sweet & sticky 🙂

    1. You can skip the arrowroot/cornstarch on the outside of the chicken and saute it in less oil (your sauce will likely be slightly thinner). If you are trying to avoid oil completely, you may be able to bake the chicken or “saute” it in a little water or broth (this post has some directions about how to do this). Just know that your chicken won’t have the same crispiness and the sauce will likely be a bit thinner.

  5. I actually need to know why there are two 1/2 tsp of ginger and one of them is optional. I’m about to make this tonight and I am confused.

    1. Coco- I’m so sorry for the confusion. It looks like I wrote it twice–thanks for catching my mistake! You have the option to leave it out if ginger isn’t your jam, but I love it here.

  6. This was delicious! I reduced the amount of water because I thought it would be too much, but it ended up being too thick once it cooked down, so the water amount from the recipe is right. I also used arrowroot powder instead of corn starch and worked out great!

  7. I made it for my husband and I tonight and it was delicious! He said he’d like for it to be added “into the rotation” haha. I love how the chicken was nice and crispy and adding the red pepper flakes added the right amount of heat that we like.

    Is there any reason Avocado Oil is your preference? I’m going to grab some for next time and other recipes but I’m just curious.

    1. What a great compliment! I’m so glad this’ll be a regular at your house!

      And great question about the avocado oil! I use avocado oil here because it’s generally considered a healthy choice, has a neutral flavor (olive oil kind of conflicts with the other flavors), and it can tolerate high heat levels. You can use any other neutral-tasting oil that works for your dietary needs. 🙂

      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review! I appreciate it so much!

  8. My family loved this recipe! It was so easy to make and we felt great after eating it. I will for sure make this again!!

    1. I’m SO glad you loved it Leah! It’s one of our all-time favorite dinners. THANK YOU so much for taking the time to leave a review–it’s so helpful! Have a great day 🙂

  9. This is going to become a staple in my household! I’ve always loved sesame chicken but after marrying my husband it’s been harder and harder to eat the things I used to since he’s celiac, so next time I’m going to try to fry them up in almond flour and add a little more honey & then I think I’ll really be in heaven! Thank you so much ~

  10. Delicious! I able currently on medication for my gut health and am being careful of what I consume. I stumbled upon your website by where luck today and decided to give it ago. We made it tonight and it was a hit! My boyfriend loves food and freaks out when he hears gluten free, carbless, vegan, paleo, etc. He equates it with “rabbit food”. He also the chef in the house. So, I withheld ingredient information until the end- I used the amino, arrowroot and coconut oil. The dish was phenomenal, he ate practically the entire pan lol. Thanks for making me a good cook!

  11. This will be a definite repeat for this household. Very tasty with the bonus of being easy to make. Restaurant Sesame Chicken is so heavy, greasy, salty and sweet but this tames everything so it’s balanced and not overpowering. Thank you.

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