This naturally sweetened and gluten-free sesame chicken will blow… your… MIND! Lightly fried chicken gets tossed in a sweet and savory glaze that kicks take-out out of the park. I’ve put together a video showing the whole process below.

Close up of sesame chicken on a plate with rice.

Gluten free sesame chicken recipe

You know what’s really freaking delicious? Sesame chicken! You know what stinks? Take-out sesame chicken that arrives gummy and saccharine sweet. Yech. Truth be told, until recently I hadn’t eaten sesame chicken in almost a decade. We don’t have any decent Chinese restaurants around here, and when I had to cut gluten out of my diet almost a decade ago, most Chinese foods went with it. A few months ago, however, craving struck, and I went on a sesame chicken recipe-developing spree. After several tries, I hit the nail on the head.

Close-up of chopsticks holding a piece of sesame chicken.

How to make sesame chicken

This version is nostalgic while also being firmly modern. Think of the recipe as three steps. First, you make a simple marinade for the chicken. I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which are more flavorful than breasts and stay juicy when cooked.

Sesame chicken sauce

Next you make the sauce. I use easy-to-find pantry ingredients and replace the sugar with honey (only a quarter cup of honey compared to the cup or so of sugar in most recipes!). I also add a touch of heat (in the way of sriracha) for balance. It’s deeply flavorful but much lighter than most take-out sauces.

Sesame chicken in a pot with the sauce.

Gluten free crispy sesame chicken

Finally, you toss the chicken in a cornstarch, baking powder and flour mixture (the addition of baking powder lends a crispier crust), fry it in oil, and toss it with the sauce. It’s a bit of a process (this is usually a weekend meal for me, when I have a bit more time), but it comes together in about an hour, and it only uses ingredients that you can find at any supermarket.

Fried chicken in a strainer coming out of the oil.

Don’t fear the fry

I know a lot of you will see the word “fry” and freak. Let me assure you, this is “foolproof frying 101.” The result is light and tender morsels of goodness, not the heavy, greasy stuff of our fears (although, you could skip the flouring and frying steps – see below).

Fried chicken pieces draining on paper towels.

Sesame chicken tips:

  • When frying, you’ll want use a large heavy pot (such as a Dutch oven). Heat the oil to 350°F, then add your battered chicken. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test to see if the oil is hot enough by adding a small piece of chicken. It should start bubbling and fizzing immediately. Since the chicken is cut into small pieces, it only takes about three minutes to cook through.
  • A spider is a fantastic tool for pulling foods out of frying oil or boiling water (I also use mine for blanching vegetables and cooking pasta).
  • Drain the fried chicken on paper towels quickly, then immediately toss it with the sauce.
  • You can skip the flouring and frying steps and sauté the marinated chicken instead in a large skillet or wok. The chicken won’t be as tender and juicy, but it will still be tasty (more like a stir-fry).
Gluten free sesame chicken over rice on a platter.

The BEST sesame chicken

This is the ultimate stay-in or game-day meal. Pile the chicken over rice, grab a few pairs of chopsticks, and let your family and friends go to town. I guarantee there won’t be leftovers.

Watch the Video!

Get the Recipe!

Gluten Free Sesame Chicken

There’s something irresistible about sesame chicken. This version is even better than takeout, with ultra tender morsels of chicken in a lightly sweet and savory glaze. The sauce is less cloying than most recipes, using only a touch of honey to sweeten. Think of the recipe as three steps: first you make a simple marinade for the chicken; then you make the sauce; and finally, you fry the chicken and toss it with the sauce. Frying the chicken creates a supremely tender, juicy texture, but you can skip that step (and the flouring step) and sauté the chicken in a large skillet, if you prefer (but I urge to try frying!). For those of you who can’t eat gluten, the recipe can be made gluten-free by using wheat-free tamari and a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend.
Prep Time35 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten free sesame chicken recipe, how to make sesame chicken, sesame chicken
Servings: 6 people

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless thighs, cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 large garlic cloves , grated

To Finish

  • 2 quarts neutral vegetable oil for frying
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup gluten-free all purpose flour blend (or regular AP flour)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • Cooked rice, for serving

Instructions

Marinate the chicken

  • First, marinate the chicken. Combine the chicken, salt, tamari, sesame oil and cornstarch. Stir to coat. Let sit while you make the sauce.

Make the sauce

  • In a bowl, whisk together the tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sriracha, chicken broth, honey and cornstarch.
  • In a medium saucepan, add the vegetable oil, ginger and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant and softened, about 1 minute. Whisk in the sauce mixture and bring to a boil, stirring. Boil, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

Fry the chicken and finish

  • To finish, heat the 2 quarts of vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, flour and baking powder. Season with salt. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the flour mixture and toss well, making sure that all the pieces are evenly coated.
  • Using tongs or a spider, shake off the excess flour and carefully lower the chicken into the hot oil. Once all the chicken is added, stir gently. Cook until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain the oil temperature, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain briefly, then transfer it to the pot with the sauce. Toss gently to coat.
  • Spoon the chicken over rice and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and scallions. Serve immediately.

Notes

Do Ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days before using. Reheat until warmed through before using.
Tips:
  • When frying, you’ll want use a large heavy pot (such as a Dutch oven). Heat the oil to 350°F, then add your battered chicken. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test to see if the oil is hot enough by adding a small piece of chicken. It should start bubbling and fizzing immediately. Since the chicken is cut into small pieces, it only takes about three minutes to cook through.
  • A spider is a fantastic tool for pulling foods out of frying oil or boiling water (I also use mine for blanching vegetables and cooking pasta).
  • Drain the fried chicken on paper towels quickly, then immediately toss it with the sauce.
  • You can skip the flouring and frying steps and sauté the marinated chicken instead in a large skillet or wok. The chicken won’t be as tender and juicy, but it will still be tasty (more like a stir-fry).