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This familiar dish is made even easier and better with our recipe for Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken. Make it tonight in one skillet for a veggie-loaded, protein-rich dinner that satisfies your craving for takeout. A simple lower-sugar sweet and sour sauce coats chicken breast and crisp-tender vegetables in this recipe that will be your new go-to for Sweet and Sour Chicken. It’s a family friendly meal that is sure to become one of your favorite dinner recipes. This version is so simple and requires just 20 minutes of prep time, so you can also make it ahead for an easy reheat meal to enjoy for healthful lunches, as well.
Highlights: Why This Recipe Is Healthier
- Features a simple homemade sweet and sour sauce recipe made from all natural ingredients
- Since the only sweetener is a small amount of 100% real pineapple juice, this recipe contains less sugar than most versions of Sweet & Sour Chicken
- Includes many vegetables for added nutrients and fiber, include bell peppers, onions, and carrots
- Contains chicken breast for a recipe that is high in protein and low to moderate in carb
Make Sweet and Sour Chicken For An Easy Weeknight Dinner
This sweet and sour chicken is made in one skillet, similar to a stir fry. It contains a quick and easy homemade sweet and sour sauce recipe. If you know Sweet and Sour Chicken as takeout from a Chinese or Asian restaurant, then you already know how great this combination of ingredients tastes together. We’ve created a recipe that we think is better than takeout, not only because you can make it from easy-to-find real-food ingredients, but because we’ve also cut down in the typical amounts of added sugar that appear in many a recipe for sweet and sour chicken. This recipe doesn’t call for any breading on the chicken, so it is quick to make in one skillet. You don’t need to work in batches, and simply need to make the sauce, cook the chicken, cook the veggies, and then combine it all!
The Sauce Makes This Dish So Good
If you’ve ever wondered what sauce makes Sweet and Sour Chicken taste so good, the sauce is actually part of the name. Sweet and Sour Sauce, whether purchased or homemade, is the type of sauce used when preparing Sweet & Sour Chicken recipes. It is typically made from ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, and some type of sweetener, whether that is juice (like orange juice) or brown sugar. We’ve lowered the overall sugar in this recipe by lightly sweetening the sauce with 100% pineapple juice. In this recipe, you use ½ cup of the reserved juice from a can of pineapple chunks. You’ll also get less sugar by using a natural unsweetened ketchup, such as Primal Kitchen Organic Unsweetened Ketchup.
Ingredients In Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe
Here’s what you’ll need to make this sweet & sour chicken stir fry, including the homemade sweet and sour sauce ingredients:
- Pineapple – we call for a can of pineapple chunks packed in 100% juice, however you could also use fresh pineapple as long as you can reserve ½ cup of the fresh pineapple juice
- Ketchup – we recommend a natural ketchup that doesn’t contain sweeteners, such as Primal Kitchen Organic Unsweetened Ketchup
- Vinegar – use rice vinegar, white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
- Coconut aminos – read more about why we like to call for coconut aminos in this post. You may also use 1 tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari mixed with 1 tablespoon of water. If you using soy sauce, we recommend using a low sodium soy sauce
- Garlic powder
- Ground ginger
- Cornstarch – use cornstarch to thicken the sauce; or for a Paleo friendly or Whole30 sweet and sour chicken, use arrowroot starch instead
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts – may also use boneless skinless chicken thighs
- Fine salt and black pepper
- Avocado oil or olive oil
- Bell peppers – you’ll need two sweet peppers and you may use any; we recommend one red bell pepper and one green bell pepper
- Yellow onion – you’ll need ½ of a yellow onion; may sub white onion
- Carrots – you’ll need 2 medium carrots cut into thin round slices
- Optional garnishes – we recommend adding sliced green onions and sesame seeds for flavor and nice color
Find the ingredient list with exact measurements in the recipe card below.
How To Make Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken
This recipe is not crispy fried, but rather made easily in a skillet right on the stovetop. Here are the basic steps to make it:
- Combine the sauce ingredients: In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved pineapple juice, ketchup, vinegar, coconut aminos, garlic, and ginger. Slowly whisk in the cornstarch.
- Cook the chicken: Cook the cut up boneless skinless chicken breasts in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate and set that aside.
- Saute the veggies: To the same skillet, add the onion and carrots. Once those veggies begin to soften, add the bell peppers. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the vegetables are crisp tender (soft but still have some texture when chewed).
- Add the chicken and sauce to the skillet: Return the cooked chicken to the skillet along with the pineapple chunks. Stir in the sweet and sour sauce from step 1t. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens and the vegetables are tender.
- Garnish and serve hot: If desired, garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds. Serve this dinner while hot over cooked rice, brown rice, cauliflower rice, fried rice, or just as is.
For the complete directions and ingredient amounts, scroll down to the recipe card below. All of our recipes include the nutrition analysis, listing calories, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, sodium, cholesterol, and more per serving.
Healthy Ingredients In This Dish
Here are a few of the stand-out ingredients in this recipe for Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken made at home:
- Pineapple – this tropical fruit is a good source of vitamin C, as well as enzymes that can help improve digestion. Pineapple is also an excellent source of a trace mineral called manganese, which you need to form connective tissue and bone. You also need manganese for metabolizing fats and carbohydrates, absorbing calcium, and regulating blood sugar
- Bell Peppers – these sweet (not spicy) peppers are a great source of vitamin C, especially red bell peppers. They’re also a good source of fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and antioxidants that are protective against cardiovascular disease. In this recipe you can use any color of bell peppers that you have on hand. We tend to use one green bell pepper and one red bell pepper for more color and a beautiful presentation
- Chicken Breast – this lean protein source contains all nine essential amino acids (the ones you need to get from food). One of those amino acids is tryptophan, which has been linked to increasing levels of the hormone serotonin. That’s the hormone that creates a “feel good” feeling in the brain
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the spices used in this dish?
The spices used in Sweet and Sour Chicken are very simple and typically include garlic powder, ginger powder, salt, and black pepper, which are the spices we’ve used here.
What are the ingredients in this dish?
We’ve made this recipe using chicken breast, pineapple and 100% pineapple juice, unsweetened ketchup, onion, carrots, green bell pepper, red bell pepper as the main ingredients in this dish.
How many calories are in one serving of sweet and sour chicken?
In our recipe for Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken, there are 275 calories (kcal) per serving of this dish.
How do you make Sweet and Sour Chicken healthier?
To increase the health in this recipe, we’ve upped the amount of veggies and reduced the typical amount of sugar. The only sweetener used in this recipe is from ½ cup of 100% fruit juice reserved from the can of pineapple chunks. We’ve also called for an unsweetened natural ketchup instead of ketchup that contains added sugars. Other recipes may include one or more sweeteners, such as brown sugar, cane sugar, sweetened ketchup, or additional juices, such as orange juice.
To make this a Paleo friendly and Whole30 friendly Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe, use these ingredients. Opt for a ketchup that doesn’t contain any added sugars or sweeteners, such as this one. And instead of thickening the sauce with cornstarch, use arrowroot powder. This recipe is naturally gluten free and dairy free.
A Perfect Recipe For Meal Prep
This recipe lends itself well to meal prep lunches or dinners. For easy lunches, prepare the recipe from start to finish and store servings in individual containers, such as these. Round out your lunches with cooked rice (see our Perfect Instant Pot Jasmine Rice or Instant Pot Brown Rice).
For a make-ahead dinner, cook this recipe from start to finish, store it in the fridge, and then reheat when you’re ready. Or you could partially prep this recipe ahead by making the sauce, chopping the veggies, and dicing the chicken. Refrigerate those components in separate containers. When it’s time to make dinner, it will come together very quickly in one skillet.
Servings: 4 servings (6 cups) 1x
- 1 (14-ounce) can of pineapple chunks in 100% juice; drained (½ cup juice reserved)
- ⅓ cup ketchup (we recommend unsweetened natural ketchup, such as Primal Kitchen)
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos*
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (or 1½ tablespoons arrowroot starch)
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ¾-inch pieces
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil, divided
- 2 medium bell peppers, any color, cut into ¾-inch pieces (2 cups)
- ½ medium yellow onion, cut into ¾-inch pieces (1 cup)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced (1 cup)
- Optional garnish: 2 green onions, thinly sliced, and sesame seeds
- In a small bowl, combine the reserved ½ cup pineapple juice, the ketchup, vinegar, coconut aminos, garlic powder, and ground ginger; whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the cornstarch until no lumps remain. Set aside the sweet and sour sauce.
- In a medium bowl, combine the chicken pieces with the salt and pepper; toss well to coat.
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add 1 teaspoon of oil and reduce the heat slightly. Add the chicken and cook 2-3 minutes without stirring. Flip the chicken pieces over when they release easily from the pan and are lightly browned. Continue cooking until the chicken is almost cooked through. Transfer chicken to a plate and increase the heat for the pan to medium-high heat.
- Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the same skillet (no need to wipe it out first) and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the onion and carrots; cook, stirring often, for 4 minutes. Add the bell peppers and continue cooking, stirring often, until the vegetables are crisp tender, 4-5 minutes more.
- Return the cooked chicken to the skillet and add the drained pineapple chunks to the skillet. Stir the sweet and sour sauce again, then pour it over the ingredients in the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens and the vegetables are tender.
- Remove the skillet from the heat. If desired, garnish with sliced green onions and/or sesame seeds.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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* Read more about why we like to call for coconut aminos in this post. In place of coconut aminos, you may use 1 tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari mixed with 1 tablespoon of water.
- Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
- Calories: 275
- Fat: 7 g
- (Sat Fat: 2 g)
- Sodium: 658 mg
- Carbohydrate: 25 g
- (Fiber: 3 g
- Sugar: 16 g)
- Protein: 27 g
- Cholesterol: 66 mg
© The Real Food Dietitians
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Photo Credit: The photos in this blog post were taken by Rachel of Half Acre House
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