Chinese Take-Out Lemon Chicken

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chinese lemon chicken

It all started at Kinkos (insert wavy flashback music here.)

There was a very nice, very eager, very ebullient young lady helping me.  She could not stop talking about the egg rolls she had just eaten. She brainwashed me with all her yammering and ever since, I have only wanted to eat Chinese food.

The only way I could begin scratching that itch was to make this Chinese Take-Out Lemon Chicken.

I love completely un-authentic Chinese food. My favorite version is the battered fried meat, covered in a sticky, sweet sauce or glaze. And I’m in love with lemon. So cha-ching!

The coolest part of this recipe is the sauce. More specifically the color of the sauce. It looks so classic-Chinese-take-out-non-natural-neon. You might think that food coloring was used. But you actually make that color with a tiny bit of turmeric. How cool is that?

The sauce is tangy and sweet. The perfect sauce for crispy chicken! The panko (specialty Asian, super crispity, crunchy bread crumbs, found in the Asian aisle or by the breading) makes it super crispy.

chinese lemon chicken

Sometimes when I’m pressed for time or being lazy, I will skip the battering and frying and just cube and saute the naked chicken in olive oil. You miss the crispness of the chicken, but the sauce makes up for it and it’s about 90 times healthier.

My kids are all over this meal. ALL OVER IT.  It is always gone lickity split.

We always serve it with rice and a green vegetable, like peas or broccoli.

Chinese Take-Out Lemon Chicken

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Chinese Take-Out Lemon Chicken


  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • zest from one large lemon
  • juice from the same lemon (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1- 1 1/2 pounds), cubed into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs


  1. Begin by making the sauce. Make a slurry with 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons corn starch.
  2. Mix cornstarch slurry, sugar, 2/3 cup water, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer while stirring until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and butter. Set aside.
  3. Mix the flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Place the egg in a separate shallow dish and the panko in another.
  4. Working in batches, toss the chicken cubes in the flour mixture (tap off as much excess as possible), then in the egg, then into the panko.
  5. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large saute pan. Fry the chicken in batches, turning as needed. Don't crowd the pan too much or they won't get crispy.
  6. After they are all cooked, carefully toss with the lemon sauce.
  7. Serve immediately with rice.

Recipe Source: Too long ago to remember where it originally came from. But I’ve altered it quite a bit, so I’m calling it mine now :)

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  1. says

    Thank you for sharing this. My wife and I love Chinese take out. It is one of our favorite meals. This lemon chicken looks incredible. We are not great cooks, but I would love to find a similar dish from one of our favorite restaurants. We will have to look for something like this dish.

  2. Alicia says

    The recipe ingredients list lemon zest and butter but I can’t find anywhere in the instructions where I use them. Do they go into the sauce?

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