Sweet and Sour Chicken Bowls

5 from 7 votes
Jump to RecipePrint

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Bowls with peppers, cashews, and pineapple served over a fragrant bowl of steaming rice. A healthier version of the classic that is weeknight-friendly, and even better for leftovers.

Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Sweet and sour chicken served over rice in a blue bowl with chopsticks resting on the left side.

Why You’ll Love this Sweet and Sour Chicken

A little sweet, a little tangy, and all-around delicious, this is for my weeknight warriors that are craving the comfort of takeout.

This version of sweet and sour chicken is a more nutrient-dense riff on the Chinese-American take-out favorite.

  • Like its takeout cousins General Tsos Tofu and and Orange Tofu, sweet and sour chicken is made of pieces of sautéed chicken (and veggies) in a sticky-sweet sauce.
  • The sauce calls for more vinegar (the sour) and more sweetener (the sweet) than General Tsos or Orange Chicken, plus the addition of pineapples, bell peppers, and green onion.

Many versions of sweet and sour chicken are quite high in sugar (some calling for up to 1 cup of sugar). While delicious, no doubt, I wanted to feed my family a version that is still sticky-sweet but uses better-for-you ingredients where possible.

I found that using a mix of honey and pineapple juice added just the right amount of sweetness to balance the sour.

The bell peppers also offer a bit of natural sweetness, which fits right in here.

Another major perk of this recipe is that it is a true one-pan-wonder, offering a serving of protein and vegetables (and even fruit!).

Enjoy over a fragrant bed of basmati or Jasmine rice and you’re in business!

How to Make Sweet and Sour Chicken

The simple sauce is a mix of rice vinegar, honey, pineapple juice, and a few umami boosters. It also gets an aromatic boost from fresh garlic and ginger.

You can stick to the traditional sweet and sour vegetables (bell pepper, green onion, and pineapple), or mix it up by adding any veggies you like or have on hand. For example, mushrooms, zucchini, or snap peas.

The Ingredients

Recipe ingredients in separate bowls with labels arranged on a wooden board.
  • Chicken: You can use either chicken breasts or thighs in this recipe. To make it vegetarian, swap the chicken for two blocks of extra-firm tofu.
  • Bell Peppers: I love using red and yellow, which I find to be some of the sweetest. Alternatively, you can use orange or a mix of all three.
  • Green Onion: You need one whole bunch of green onion, most of which is sautéed with the peppers. The remaining is used as a fresh garnish!
  • Cashews: This is the one non-traditional sweet and sour chicken ingredient, however I love the texture it adds!
  • Pineapple: One of the sweet components in the dish. Look for canned pineapple in 100% juice (we’ll be using both the juice and the chunks).
  • Vinegar: Rice vinegar is the sour component in the sauce. It’s much more mellow than other types of vinegars.
  • Honey: In place of granulated or brown sugar, I find that honey adds the quintessential sticky-sweetness to the sauce.
  • Soy Sauce: For a little punch of umami. If making the sauce gluten free, use tamari or coconut aminos instead.
  • Garlic + Ginger: I prefer using fresh garlic, however you can use fresh OR dry ginger.
  • Corn Starch: To help thicken the sauce and give the chicken a nice coating.
  • Tomato Paste or Ketchup: Either will work, however ketchup tends to be a bit sweeter.

For a complete list of ingredients and quantities, see the recipe card below.

Sweet and sour chicken, peppers, and pineapple served over rice in a blue bowl.

Recipe Variations

  • Use Different Veggies: In place of (or in addition to) the peppers and onions, zucchini, mushrooms, and/or snap peas are also delicious here.
  • Make Gluten Free: Use tamari or coconut aminos in place of soy sauce. Everything else is naturally gluten free!
  • Add Spice: Add 1 to 2 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (also know as garlic chili paste) or a pinch of chili flakes to the sauce.
  • Make Vegan: Swap the chicken for two blocks of drained and pressed extra-firm tofu. Either tear or slice the tofu into cubes.
  • Make Paleo: Swap the corn starch for arrowroot starch, and use a no sugar-added ketchup, such as Primal Kitchen brand.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Prepare Chicken by tossing in avocado oil, corn starch, salt and pepper.

Step 2: Cook Chicken over medium-high heat until golden and cooked through.

Chicken pieces being coated in corn starch and spices, and sautéed until golden in a large skillet.

Step 3: Prepare Sweet and Sour Sauce by combining all sauce ingredients in a measuring cup.

Step 4: Sauté Veggies until tender, about 5 minutes.

Sauce being mixed in a large liquid measuring cup, and peppers and onion being sautéed in a large skillet.

Step 5: Add Sauce to skillet and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes

Step 6: Add Chicken, pineapple chunks, and cashews to pan, toss to combine. Serve over rice.

Sauce being poured into skillet with veggies, and chicken, pineapple, and cashews being mixed in.
Sweet and sour chicken simmering in sauce in a large skillet. Topped with sliced green onion.

How to Store and Reheat:

  • To Store. Refrigerate sweet and sour chicken in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You can either store the chicken and sauce separate from the rice, or all together.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat, or reheat individual portions in the microwave. 
  • To Freeze. Freeze chicken in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Recipe FAQs

Is Sweet and Sour Chicken the Same as Orange Chicken?

While the two dishes share some similar ingredients and flavors, orange chicken often tastes much sweeter since it does not have the acidic component that sweet and sour chicken does.
Another key difference is orange chicken uses orange juice, while sweet and sour chicken often leans on pineapple juice.

Can I Make this Recipe in the Slow Cooker?

This recipe has not been tested in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.

Can I Use Pork Instead of Chicken?

You can use pork in this recipe, however I recommend pork loin over pork butt (unless you plan on marinating the meat to tenderize it).

Two bowls of sweet and sour chicken styled on a gray surface.

More Chinese-Inspired Recipes

If you give this sweet and sour chicken a try, be sure to snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your creations. Also, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates!

5 from 7 votes

Sweet and Sour Chicken Bowls

Sweet and Sour Chicken Bowls with peppers, cashews, and pineapple served over a fragrant bowl of steaming rice. A healthier version of the classic that is weeknight-friendly, and even better for leftovers.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 5 servings

Equipment

  • Large sauté pan or high-sided skillet
  • Mixing bowls

Ingredients  

Chicken + Veggies

  • 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. avocado oil, divided (or any neutral, high smoke cooking oil)
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 bunch green onions, divided
  • 1 cup canned pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice (from the can of pineapple chunks)
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 Tbsp. ketchup (or 2 Tablespoons tomato paste)
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • Pinch of chili flakes or 1 to 2 tsp. sambal oelek (or similar garlic chili paste)

For Serving

  • Cooked white rice
Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, combine chicken, 2 Tbsp. of the avocado oil, corn starch, 3/4 tsp. of the salt, and black pepper; mix to coat. Set aside.
    Prepare Sweet and Sour Sauce by combining all sauce ingredients in a large liquid measuring cup or medium mixing bowl; whisk well. Set aside.
    Slice about two-thirds of the green onion into 1-inch pieces. Thinly slice remaining to use as garnish, and set aside.
  • Heat a large sauté pan or high-sided skillet over medium-high. Add chicken and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Transfer to a clean bowl, and reduce heat to medium.
  • Add remaining 1 Tbsp. avocado oil to pan, along with bell peppers and sliced green onion; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with remaining 1/4 tsp. salt.
    Add Sweet and Sour Sauce and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add cooked chicken, pineapple chunks, and cashews to pan, and gently stir to coat in sauce. Garnish with remaining thinly sliced green onion, and serve over white rice.

Notes

  • To Store. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You can either store the chicken and sauce separate from the rice, or all together.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat, or reheat individual portions in the microwave. 
  • To Freeze. Freeze chicken in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.33cups sweet and sour chicken and 1/2 cup cooked rice | Calories: 564kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 810mg | Fiber: 2.5g | Sugar: 27g

I calculate these values by hand to ensure accuracy, however expect up to a 10% variable depending on food brands.

If you love this recipe, please leave a star rating and review below!
306 Shares

You May Also Like

5 from 7 votes (1 rating without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




19 Comments

  1. Dani says:

    5 stars
    This is SO good. I subbed arrowroot powder for the corn starch and it still turned out perfectly! I also added some roasted broccoli to bulk it up for leftovers. We will absolutely be adding this to the rotation. Thank you!

  2. Trudie says:

    5 stars
    Delicious! Tastes like Chinese takeout without feeling gross afterwards. 10/10

  3. deepak says:

    I hope you will continue to give your recipe in the same way in future also

    1. Denise says:

      5 stars
      This was so good! I used tofu and my husband used the chicken. Very flavorful and easy! We each got a few meals out of this.