How To Make Chinese Lemon Chicken At Home

Nov 18, 2020 | Chicken and Poultry, Recipes

Chinese-Style Lemon Chicken is crispy bits of fried chicken in a lemon sweet and sour sauce. And yes, it is exactly as good as it sounds. For those who have been following the whole Homemade Chinese Take-Out Series here on Chef’s Notes, parts of this recipe will seem familiar. The batter for the lemon chicken is the same as it was for the General Tso Chicken. The lemon sauce is almost identical to the sweet and sour sauce we used for the Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls, with two exceptions. There is no cherry juice for colour, and the vinegar is replaced with lemon juice. Despite that, you will be blown away by how different this Lemon Chicken tastes than those other dishes despite the similarities. Okay, let’s get to it.

Chinese Lemon Chicken Sauce

To make this sauce, grate the zest of one lemon into a medium pot. Be careful only to grate the yellow rind as the white pith under it is very bitter and will make the sauce bitter. To the lemon zest, add the juice of three lemons, two tablespoons of soy sauce, one tablespoon of rice vinegar, half a cup of sugar, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Boil the contents of the pot for one minute. Whisk in a mixture of two tablespoons cornstarch and half a cup of water. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the sauce, whisking until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set the sauce aside until you are ready to use it.

The Chicken

When making lemon chicken, it is easiest to use boneless, skinless chicken breast. I used three fairly large chicken breasts for my lemon chicken, which I diced into one inch by one-inch cubes (2.5 cm x 2.5 cm). These three chicken breasts made more than enough lemon chicken for four people. I made a lot intending to have leftovers. Feel free to cut the amount of chicken back, or once the chicken is deep-fried, let half of it cool and freeze it. When you want to use it, cook it in a 400°f oven on a sheet pan for about twenty to twenty-five minutes from frozen.

Battering and Frying The Chicken

To batter the chicken, put three egg whites in a bowl and whisk them together with a big pinch of salt and white pepper. Put one cup of cornstarch in a separate bowl. In batches, coat the chicken in the egg whites, then in the cornstarch. Shake off the excess and deep-fry on 365°f for about five minutes or until the chicken is golden brown, crispy, and cooked all the way through. Shake any excess oil off the chicken, then put it in a large metal bowl and repeat the process until all of the chicken has been fried.

Putting The Lemon Chicken All Together

To finish the lemon chicken, heat a large wok or frying pan over high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with canola oil and add in two tablespoons, each thinly sliced ginger and garlic along with three green onions cut into one-inch pieces. Cook just until the ginger and garlic start to brown. Add the fried chicken to the wok and toss. Finally, add the sauce, and cook it until it is hot. Toss the chicken to completely coat it in the sauce. Serve.

Chinese Lemon Chicken

Chinese-Style Lemon Chicken

Lemon chicken is essentially sweet and sour chicken but the vinegar in the sweet and sour sauce is mostly replace with lemon juice. This sweet, tart lemon chicken is just the thing you need in your homemade Chinese Food repotoir.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Canadian, Chinese
Keyword: Chicken, chicken recipes, Chinese Food, Chinese Food Series, Chinese Take-Out, Homemade Chinese Food, Lemon Chicken
Servings: 4 people
Author: Chef’s Notes


Lemon Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1 Lemon, zest
  • 3 Lemons, juiced
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup Water


  • 3 lg Chicken Breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 tsp White Pepper
  • 1 cup Cornstarch
  • Oil For Deep Frying

Finishing the Lemon Chicken

  • 2 tbsp Sliced Ginger
  • 2 tbsp Sliced Garlic
  • 3 Green Onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp Canola Oil


Lemon Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • Put all of the ingredients in a medium-sized pot except the cornstarch and water.
  • Bring the contents of the pot to a boil and cook for one minute.
  • Whisk together the cornstarch and water and whisk it into the sauce.
  • Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook the sauce, gently whisking, for about five minutes or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Set the sauce aside until you are ready to use it.


  • Whisk the egg whites with the salt and white pepper.
  • In batches coat the chicken in the egg whites then in the cornstarch. Shake off any excess then fry the chicken at 365°f for about five minutes or until the chicken is crispy and cooked through.
  • Take the chicken out of the fryer, draining off any excess oil and put it in a large metal bowl until you are ready to use it. Continue this process unitl all of the chicken has been fried.

Finishing The Lemon Chicken

  • Heat a large wok or skillet over high heat.
  • Add in 1 tablespoon of oil along with the ginger, garlic and green onions. Cook just until the garlic starts to brown.
  • Add the fried chicken to the wok and toss to distribute the ginger and garlic.
  • Add the sauce, and cook until it is hot. Toss the chicken to coat it full in the sauce.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


Chinese Food is one of my favourite cuisines, whether it is real Chinese Food or our North American version. Having to eat gluten-free makes going to Chinese Restaurants almost impossible. So, cooking all these wonderful dishes at home means that I still get to enjoy them, and I don’t have to worry about gluten. Whether you can eat gluten or not, making this stuff at home is an excellent thing. There is nothing like really well made, fresh Chinese food, especially when you’ve made it yourself.

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  1. Mary

    5 stars

    5 stars
    Thanks for sharing hugs love lemonsweet and sour chicken

  2. Chef Ben Kelly

    My pleasure Mary. Enjoy!

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