General Tso Chicken


What is General Tso Chicken?

General Tso’s chicken is a sweet and spicy deep-fried chicken dish.

Although the dish was named after Zuo Zongtang (Tso Tsung-tang) (1812–1885), a Qing dynasty statesman and military leader from Hunan Province, he could not have eaten or known of it. Chef Eileen Yin-Fei Lo speculated that the name “Zongtang” was not a reference to Zuo Zongtang, but rather a reference to the homophone zoning, meaning “the hall of the ancestors”.The dish is known by many alternative names, mostly replacing Tso with a different surname.

What is the taste of General Tso Chicken?

This American invention is a kind of sweet and hot barbecue chicken. There are many variations and they range in flavor with some being more garlicky, others being a little vinegary, and some being hotter (spicy hot pepper) than others.

Why is it called General Tso Chicken?

So how on Earth did this strange, foreign concoction come to be recognized abroad as the culinary classic of Hunan Province? General Tso’s chicken is named for Tso Tsung-tang (now usually transliterated as Zuo Zongtang), a formidable nineteenth-century general who is said to have enjoyed eating it.

Why I love this recipe:

Family Favorite – General Tso’s Chicken is one of my family’s favorite dishes when we get takeout, so everyone gets excited when I attempt to make it from home! I can’t say this recipe is authentic (here’s a truly authentic General Tso’s recipe), but my version is a little healthier (pan-fried chicken) and has the same flavors, using basic ingredients.

Affordable – I was excited to create my version of this popular dish in my kitchen to save us money on eating out without sacrificing any flavor.

Easy – You just batter and pan-fry the chicken and toss it in General Tso’s sauce. It’s a fun, simple recipe that even beginners will enjoy making.

How to make General Tso Chicken:

Make Sauce: Whisk together hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, ginger, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes (reduce amount for less spice, if desired).

Prep Breading: In a large ziplock bag, combine cornstarch, flour, salt, and pepper then shake, shake, shake. In a small bowl, whisk egg whites.

Bread Chicken: Coat chicken pieces in egg whites, lift, and allow to drip off, then drop into the breading bag. Shake until coated.

Fry: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat then add half a cup of oil. Once oil is hot, fry the chicken in batches (don’t crowd), 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through. Remove to a plate.

Combine: Add sauce to the same pan and simmer until warm and thickened. Toss the chicken in the sauce just before serving.

Serve this easy General Tso Chicken recipe with white or brown rice (or for some Pan-Asian fusion, Kimchi Fried Rice) garnished with green onions and sesame seeds.


  • Vegetarian: Sub extra-firm tofu for chicken. Press excess moisture out of the tofu by putting it between paper towels then putting something heavy like a cast-iron skillet on top, leaving it for a few minutes. Proceed as with the chicken.
  • Air-Fryer: Preheat to 400 degrees and, after breading, spread chicken pieces evenly so they don’t touch, spray with olive oil, and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Slow Cooker: Mix sauce ingredients together. Prepare the chicken the same, but cook on very high heat for only 1 minute on each side, to brown the coating but do not cook the chicken through. Spray the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray and add chicken, then pour half of the sauce on top. Cook on LOW for 2-3 hours then stir in the remaining sauce then garnish with chopped green onions.

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