Chicken Karaage or Japanese fried chicken is one of my favorite ways to cook chicken. The chicken pieces turn out golden brown, tender and juicy inside and full of flavor, and extra crispy on the outside.
The key to that crisp outer crust is dredging the meat in starch. Japanese cooks are partial to potato starch, so that’s what I use, but you could substitute cornstarch or flour.
One great benefit of using potato starch or cornstarch is that the dish is gluten free (be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari). Since my husband eats a gluten-free diet, this option is perfect.
What makes Japanese fried chicken so crispy?
The secret to getting extra crispy chicken karaage is to double fry the chicken pieces. Fry them once until they are light golden brown and then remove them from the oil. Once all of the pieces are fried the first time, add them to the oil again to fry a second time.
The second time you fry them, they will become a deep golden brown and shatteringly crisp on the outside. Perfect.
What does karaage mean?
Karaage is a Japanese cooking method whereby food—often chicken or tofu—is dredged in a potato starch, cornstarch, or flour and then fried in hot oil.
Traditionally, karaage chicken was not marinated before coating and frying. But these days, the meat is often marinated first in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, garlic, and other seasonings.
Karaage is sometimes also called tatsutaage, which more specifically refers to pieces of meat or other foods that have been marinated in soy sauce, mirin, and other seasonings before being coated in starch or flour and fried. Now the two terms are often used interchangeably to refer to the same dish.
What are the ingredients of karaage chicken?
This dish requires only a few ingredients and all of them are easy to find in any supermarket:
- Boneless, skinless chicken (I prefer thigh meat, but you can use breast meat as well)
- Soy sauce
- Mirin or other rice wine
- Sesame oil
- Salt and pepper
- Potato starch (look for this in the supermarket in either the Asian foods aisle or in the Jewish foods aisle or in a Japanese or Asian grocery or order it online), cornstarch, or flour
- Cooking oil for frying
How do you make it?
Karaage is very easy to make at home and can be made in as little as 45 minutes, even with 30 minutes of marinating time.
- Combine the soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, sugar, sesame oil, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
- Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to marinate. The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will be. You can marinate the chicken as long as overnight.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the marinade.
- Dredge the chicken in starch or flour.
- Heat 3 or 4 inches of oil in a Dutch oven or another high-sided, heavy-bottomed pot, to about 350ºF.
- Drop the dredged chicken pieces into the hot oil and fry until light golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain while you cook the remaining chicken pieces (you’ll need to cook the chicken in a few batches to avoid crowding the pot.)
- Once all of the chicken pieces have been fried the first time, fry them a second time, until they are a deep golden brown and very crisp on the outside. Drain again on a paper towel-lined plate.
- Serve hot plain, with any dipping sauce you like, or with fresh lemon juice squeezed over it.
What is chicken karaage served with?
Serve it as a main dish on a bed of steamed rice or as part of a multi-dish Japanese meal that might include roasted vegetables, salad, miso soup, and other dishes. Or use it as a filling for Onigiri.
But my favorite way to serve chicken karaage is as a topping for a bowl of Spicy Miso Ramen, along with sautéed greens. The crispness of the chicken is a great textural contrast to the tender, chewy noodles and steaming broth.
Spicy Miso Ramen Tare makes a perfect flavor base for the noodles and crispy chicken.
more crunchy fried chicken recipes you’ll love
more japanese recipes you’ll love
If you love Japanese food as much as I do, try my Miso Glazed Salmon or Chicken Karaage. For sides and snacks, don’t miss my Onigiri, Yaki Onigiri, Soy Sauce Eggs, Stir-Fried Lotus Root, or Chawanmushi.
Chicken Karaage or Japanese Fried Chicken
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sake or mirin
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon peeled minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Oil for frying
- 1/2 cup potato starch or cornstarch
- In a medium bowl, stir together the soy sauce,
sake, sesame oil, ginger, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken and stir to coat well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Fill a saucepan with 2 to 3 inches of oil and heat over high heat until you can see it shimmering.
- Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and
discard the marinade.
- In a bowl, dredge the chicken pieces in the potato starch until they are well coated.
- Drop the chicken pieces into the hot oil and cook, turning once or twice, until they are golden brown, 3 minutes. Remove the chicken using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.