Air fryer Sesame chicken is an easy and healthy home-cooked version of a Chinese takeout favorite.
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This sesame chicken recipe has an addictive sweet-savory sauce, crispy golden fried chicken pieces, and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.
The only difference between my air fryer sesame chicken and the traditional deep-fried sesame chicken is that it uses air fryer to cook the chicken. The crunchy chicken pieces are still tossed in that same addictive sauce.
The savory-sweet, sticky sauce that coats these air fryer chicken thighs is so good I could eat it with a spoon. Add a bowl of sticky white rice and some steamed vegetables and it’s the perfect easy meal.
Is it easy to make this air fryer chicken?
Making sesame chicken recipe at home is not difficult at all. Once you know the basic technique for getting crispy chicken pieces using your air fryer, you’ll find it is easy, quick, and doesn’t make a huge mess of your kitchen.
The sauce comes together quickly with a handful of ingredients tossed together in a skillet or saucepan.
The result is a meal that rivals anything you’d get in a takeout box in terms of flavor but is lighter, healthier, and less expensive.
What are the ingredients for air fryer sesame chicken?
You don’t need a long list of ingredients to make sesame chicken in the air fryer. In fact, the chicken marinade and the sauce share many of the same ingredients, which makes it especially easy to make sure you have the right items.
- Chicken thigh or chicken breast pieces
- Soy sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Brown sugar
- Sesame oil
- Cornstarch or potato starch
- Cooking oil
- Sesame seeds
- Chile paste (optional)
What is sesame chicken sauce made of?
Sesame chicken sauce combines soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, water, cornstarch, sesame oil, vegetable oil, garlic clves, chile paste (optional), and sesame seeds.
Tips for making the best air fryer fried chicken
- For best results, line your air fryer basket with parchment paper. I like to use the rounds of parchment with holes in them.
- The longer you marinate your chicken, the better the flavor will be. You can marinate it as long as overnight. But even if you are only able to marinate it for 15 minutes, it will still be delicious.
- The sauce can be mixed ahead of time, but it’s best to cook it just before serving. The cornstarch in the sauce can make it too thick if you cook it ahead of time and then refrigerate it.
- Whatever you do, don’t toss the chicken and sauce together until you are ready to eat. Ideally, you want to pull the hot chicken right out of the air fryer and drop it immediately into the hot sauce, stir to coat, and then serve. This way the chicken coating keeps its addictive crunch.
What to serve with sesame chicken?
Sesame Chicken is a great weeknight dish because it uses basic pantry ingredients and can be on the table in about 30 minutes. For a quick meal, I like to keep things simple with sides.
I usually serve this Sesame Chicken with white or brown rice and a simple vegetable like steamed broccoli or blanched green beans.
This is one of my family’s all-time favorite meals because it is gluten-free (for my husband), sweet and savory (which my kid adores), and quick to make and pretty healthy (which makes me happy!)
How do you make deep fried sesame chicken?
You can definitely deep fry the chicken if you prefer or if you don’t have an air fryer.
Heat a pot of neutral, high smoke point cooking oil (the oil should be at least 2 or 3 inches deep).
The oil should be very hot, but not smoking. If you have a thermometer, it should be around 350ºF.
I like to use a Dutch oven because the high sides reduce the spatter and mess, but you can also use a wok or skillet if you like.
Drop the coated pieces of chicken into the hot oil and cook, turning 2 or 3 times, until the outside is nice and golden brown.
Drain the chicken pieces on a paper towel-lined plate and then drop it into the sauce and proceed with the recipe as written.
What air fryer do you recommend?
The GoWise is a basket-style fryer and it holds more than the Mealthy version, so it makes it quicker to cook a full meal for my family.
On the other hand, the Mealthy gets hotter, so it can cook a small batch of food quicker.
For the chicken
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup cornstarch
For the sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 to 2 teaspoons chile paste (optional)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- Line the air fryer basket with parchment paper (see note).
- In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat well.
- If desired, let the chicken marinate for about 20 minutes or as long as overnight (refrigerate it if marinating longer than 20 minutes).
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs.
- Put the cornstarch in a separate shallow bowl.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting the excess run off into the bowl, and then place it in the bowl with the beaten eggs. Toss to coat.
- Remove the chicken pieces from the eggs, a few at a time, letting the excess egg run off. Drop the chicken pieces into the cornstarch and toss to coat them well and then arrange them in the air fryer in a single layer (you will probably have to cook the chicken in 2 batches).
- Once all of the chicken is coated and arranged in the air fryer (you will likely have to do this in 2 batches), spritz or brush the chicken with a bit of cooking oil.
- Air fry the chicken at 400ºF for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chicken pieces are golden brown on top. Turn the chicken pieces over, spritz or brush with a bit more oil, and then cook for another 7 minutes at 400ºF.
- While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce. In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, cornstarch, water, and sesame oil.
- In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over high heat.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the sauce mixture, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens.
- Add the air fried chicken pieces to the pan with the sauce. Remove the pan from the heat and toss the chicken pieces with the sauce until they are well coated.
- Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with the sesame seeds and serve immediately.
1. I like to use round parchment paper sheets owith holes in them (these are made for use in steamer baskets and cooking dim sum). You can also use plain parchment paper cut it into strips. Arrange the strips to cover the bottom of the air fryer with space in between to allow air to flow around the pieces of chicken.
2. To deep fry the chicken instead of air frying it, heat vegetable or peanut oil, about 2 or 3 inches deep, in a Dutch oven or wok on the stovetop. Drop the coated chicken pieces into the hot oil and cook, turning a few times, until golden brown.