General Tso’s Chicken | Basics with Babish

Hey, folks. General Tso’s chicken is the Chinese-American favorite that everyone loves to complain about. It’s either too saucy, too sweet, too breaded or not crispy enough and more often than not, all at the same time. But by making your own sauce and frying up chicken thighs from scratch we can take this takeout classic to a whole new level. Let’s get down to basics. All right, folks, today’s method comes courtesy of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, creator of all good recipes ever written. Into a large bowl, we are separating two egg whites and beating until frothy. This is going to serve as the basis for our chicken marinade. Once those eggs are good and frothed, we’re going to add 3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of Chinese cooking wine and 3 tablespoons of Vodka. Before you get to tempted to drink this General Tso’s cocktail, we’re going to beat it together and set aside half for a very special use down the line. Then to the half of the marinade, in the large bowl, we’re going to add 1/4 of a teaspoon of baking soda and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Then one last time, we are whisking until smooth and no lumps remain before even thinking about introducing it to our chicken, which according to Chinese takeout law, must be dark meat, but you can use white meat if you like. I’ve got about a pound and a half of boneless, skinless chicken thighs here that I’m cutting into 1-inch pieces. That might seem a little small, but the breading is going to add a lot of volume. Mix together rigorously by hand, making sure that every piece is evenly coated in the mixture and then cover and set aside for about 20 minutes. During which time we’re going to get started on our breading. I’m combining 1 cup each all-purpose flour and cornstarch in a shallow wide pan or your breading vessel of choice, and adding 1 teaspoon each of baking powder and salt, tiny whisking until homogenous, and then performing the all-important step of adding a few tablespoons of the reserved marinade to the flour mixture and then we’re going to incorporate that marinade using our fingers, breaking up and dispersing evenly to make tiny little clumps of breading. This is going to make the craggly, crusty nooks and crannies that we know and love on our General Tso’s. This is the same technique we employed two weeks ago in recreating KFC’s Fried Chicken. Go ahead and set that aside because finally it is time to work on our sauce. Into a small bowl goes 4 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, 4 tablespoons of Chinese cooking wine, 3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons of chicken stock, 1/4 cup (or 4 tablespoons) of sugar, 1 teaspoon of roasted sesame seed oil and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Once again, whisk until completely smooth and no lumps remain, and then set aside because it’s time to negotiate the only vegetable that we’re having with dinner, (unless you plan on steaming up some broccoli, which I do not.) We’re going to thinly slice all the whites and maybe two inches worth of the greens of six scallions. That, along with four cloves of garlic, two inches of freshly grated ginger and a little bit of funk. I think I was listening to Room Service by Chromeo? We are now gonna head on over to the stovetop, where we’re gonna saute our aromatics. In a high-walled saute pan, we’re heating two tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering, adding most of our scallions, reserving some of the greens for garnish, and grating in our garlic and fresh ginger. Sauté for about one minute until it’s the best smelling thing you’ve ever smelled and we’re gonna add a dozen Arbol chilies, (which you can optionally omit if you are afraid of spicy things.) Once we’ve let those flavors get to know each other for about an additional minute, we’re pouring in our sauce mixture, scraping up all that good stuff off the bottom of the pot and cooking for one more minute until the sauce has thickened. Next and last, it’s time to fry our chicken. We’re heating a quart of vegetable oil to 375°F whilst we commence to breading. One piece at a time, we’re going to add the marinated chicken to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Continue until all the chicken has been added and all the pieces have been coated. And with that into the frying oil they go, one piece at a time, lowering in gently and taking care not to crowd. We’re gonna go ahead and fry the chicken in batches about four minutes per batch, removing and placing on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and keeping in a low oven until all the chicken is complete. Then all that’s left to do is toss with our sauce. Oh! Cheese and crackers! Place the sauce back over medium-low heat and toss the chicken to coat. I think I made a little bit too much chicken and not enough sauce, so I adjusted the recipe accordingly in this voiceover. D’oh! Jiminy Crickets! But as you can see, it was still a tremendous success. It looks just like the restaurant stuff but it’s super crispy and it has a deeper, less cloyingly sweet flavor. To make white rice, I generally bring the package specified amount of water to a boil in a small saucepan, add the rice, cover and place in a 375°F oven for about 15-20 minutes. After plating up and seasoning the rice with a little bit of kosher salt, it’s time to pile our sweet, saucy, spicy chicken on top and garnish with our reserved sliced scallions. Now, General Tso’s seems like one of those things that you’d probably never want to recreate at home. It’s just too easy and inexpensive to buy, but I am telling you that this one is worth it. Kenji has developed a recipe that will make you rethink a dish that you were certain you knew by heart. and it only takes like 45 minutes to make, which is about how long takes to order takeout. So, what are you waiting for? Go make some.

100 thoughts on “General Tso’s Chicken | Basics with Babish

  1. Mine came out super dark? It was also absurdly salty? Anyone have any thoughts? I also used gluten free flour, but I don't think that made a difference?

  2. I make a general tso with hoison, water, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, dark soy, rehydrated red pepper flakes, arbol chillies, and pineapple juice for work and put all 20 quarts in a 26 quart vessel.

  3. Sorry Babish I will continue to just order my General Tso's as takeout and not make it myself, I am not about to start frying chicken while drunk and not wearing any pants, which is when I typically order my takeout.

  4. Why did you set aside half the marinade? This is driving me mad you never went back to what you did with it.

  5. I made this yesterday and it surprises me that the chicken without the sauce coating tastes like Jollibee's Fried Chicken

  6. Babish big fan but question, is there an alternative for alcohole in cooking
    I am a muslim so alcohole and pig meat is forbidden for me

  7. Is it General Tso or General Tao? I work at a Chinese restaurant and it’s General Tao there and the owners are Chinese……. I’m just confused….. which is it?

  8. I would use a wok instead of a sauté pan since it’s much easier to toss the chicken and get a nice even coating of sauce on each piece… also it’s more fun.

  9. Hey Babish thanks for this recipe! I'm from the UK where I've never seen General Tso's on a menu so was very excited to try it. I made it for the family and it was absolutely fantastic and loved by all. Took a little longer than 45 mins but I'm sure I'll get the time down with practice. It has been added to my main menu for 'Random Wednesdays' and am wondering if I can get away with making it two weeks in a row.
    Anyway, can't wait to get your book when it comes out, peace and love from across the pond!

  10. What’s the deal with kosher salt? I can’t believe that a rabbi blessing the salt improves the taste. Is kosher salt special before its blessed? I’ve never heard a recipe outside of America calling for kosher salt so what’s the secret?

  11. Most people in the comment section: You don’t season it, you add salt before you cook it, you add olive oil, you add coconut milk, etc.

    SAME FUCKEN SHIT!!! That’s still seasoning!! Ofc no one in their right mind adds salt after the rice is already cooked but I mean come on!

  12. Am I the bad guy for no longer being friends with one of the best people ive known because he didnt like general tsos?

    He may or may not be buried under my bushes at this moment.

  13. Who the hell is waiting 45 min to get chinese takeout?? Love the vid but holy crap i feel bad if you cant get your Chineasy in under 20 min max

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