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Sesame Chicken

Sesame is another great flavor for stir-fries; it stands out on its own and complements the flavor of protein or vegetables. Sesame comes in a few different forms as an ingredient, including seeds, oil, and paste. The paste form in Mediterranean cultures is called “tahini,” and it has some differences from Chinese sesame paste so they aren’t precisely interchangeable.

This is another great recipe where you can use a variety of proteins. If you use ones with understated flavor such as chicken or tofu, then the sesame will stand out; with others such as pork or beef it will be more of a counterpoint. You can also cook the protein a number of ways, though below is one approach to “lightly battering” and stir-frying that makes the protein brown well without a noticeable crust.

Ingredients

Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1 cup water

Sauce:

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces (or other protein)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. sherry
  • 1/2 tbsp. Thai chili paste
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. white sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Stir-fry:

  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger root
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
  • 16 oz. fresh green beans cut into 2-inch pieces, or frozen green beans
  • 8 oz. mushrooms: crimini (aka “baby bella”), shiitake, or a mix; sliced
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds

Combine the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add in the chicken and stir to ensure it’s all submerged. Allow to marinate for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the sauce ingredients and stir to ensure that the sugar and corn starch are completely dissolved, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix sesame oil, corn starch and flour and stir until it forms a smooth, thick liquid. Drain the marinade from the chicken, and add the chicken to the cornstarch-flour mix. Stir to coat all the chicken, and let sit for 5-10 minutes. The flour and cornstarch will help the chicken brown, and the oil will help transfer heat to the chicken more efficiently. Leaving it to sit for 5-10 minutes lets the coating adhere better to the chicken.

Heat one tablespoon of cooking oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and spread it into a single layer. Let cook without stirring until the underside is brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook the other side until browned, 2-3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside. Don’t clean out the skillet after you remove the chicken; what remains is full of awesome flavor that we want to keep.

Reduce the heat to medium. If the skillet is dry, add another tablespoon of cooking oil. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant but not browned. Add in the green beans and mushrooms and stir-fry until slightly softened. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Pour the sauce mix into the skillet and cook over medium heat until it thickens. Add back in the chicken, green beans and mushrooms, and stir to coat them with the sauce. Simmer for 2-3 minutes to reheat.

Remove from skillet, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

Tips and suggestions:

  • Toasting the sesame seeds can accentuate their flavor.
  • Most of the sesame flavor comes from the sesame oil. You can add a bit more, or substitute for some of it with regular cooking oil, to adjust the taste.
  • Sliced green onions also makes a nice finishing touch.
  • If you want to add a bit more spice, increase the chili paste.