My restaurant-quality gluten-free sesame chicken offers battered crispy bits of juicy chicken coated with a sweet and sticky sesame sauce. This popular restaurant dish quickly transforms into a gluten-free masterpiece that you can safely enjoy at home. This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
I love Chinese food. It’s one of the many cuisines I can’t eat since my celiac disease diagnosis in 2012. The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict diet free from gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats. It also means I must avoid foods that may have come in contact with gluten during the cooking process, which is a given in a busy Chinese restaurant.
One of the Chinese dishes I miss the most is crispy and tangy sesame chicken. I used to order this dish – and sweet and sour chicken – all the time.
Unfortunately, sesame chicken is typically coated in wheat flour, deep-fried in a shared fryer where gluten cross-contamination is rampant, and coated in a sesame sauce, which almost always contains soy sauce. Soy sauce, unless labeled gluten free, contains wheat.
If it’s been a hot second since you’ve eaten restaurant-quality sesame chicken, your luck is about to change. My simple gluten-free sesame chicken recipe is out-of-this-world delicious, and you can make it at home in the safety of your dedicated gluten-free kitchen.
I hope you enjoy the tangy, slighty-sweet, and slightly-savory gluten-free sesame chicken recipe. If your family is anything like mine, they will be begging you to make it time and time again.
How to Make Gluten-Free Sesame Chicken
To make the sauce for the sesame chicken, combine the following ingredients in a bowl or measuring cup. Set the sauce aside. You won’t need it until you’re ready to coat the cooked chicken pieces.
- ⅓ cup low-sodium gluten-free soy sauce (or tamari) – see notes
- ⅓ cup chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp garlic, minced (fresh)
- 2 tsp grated ginger (fresh)
- ½ -1 tsp chili flakes (optional)
To make the crispy chicken pieces, combine one cup of cornstarch with one-half teaspoon of kosher salt and fresh black pepper in a bowl.
Dip each piece of the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into the cornstarch mixture, then place each chicken piece in a hot skillet pan coated with oil. I recommend working the chicken in two batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
Allow the chicken to cook in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly browned all over and the chicken is cooked through. Add more oil as needed. Once the chicken is cooked, you’ll remove the chicken from the pan and place each piece on a wire rack or paper towel to drain.
Once all the chicken pieces are cooked, wipe the pan clean with a paper towel, add the sauce mixture, and heat it over medium-high heat for two minutes until it bubbles and thickens.
Turn the heat to medium and add the cooked chicken pieces. Gently stir the chicken pieces to coat them in the sauce. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will continue to thicken and become sticky as it cooks.
Turn off the heat, serve the sesame chicken over rice or vegetables, and top with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions.
Why We Love this Recipe
This recipe is perfect in so many ways:
It Satisfies that Chinese Food Craving: I’m always hankering for Chinese food, and it’s nice to have this go-to recipe to satisfy that intense craving. I make this recipe several times each month because it’s that good.
It’s Savory and Sweet: The sauce is savory and sweet and tastes exactly like you remember sesame chicken tasting.
It’s Not Deep Fried: My sesame chicken is pan-fried vs. deep-fried, making it slightly healthier than anything you’d find at a Chinese restaurant.
It’s MSG-Free: My recipe is free from MSG, a common flavor enhancer used in Chinese restaurants. MSG has been linked to headaches, giddiness, sweating, abdominal pain, and hives in patients with sensitivity to MSG.
It’s Allergen-Friendly: My recipe is free from gluten, peanuts, fish, eggs, and shellfish, all of which are common allergens found in Chinese cuisine. This recipe is also dairy free.
Notes and FAQs
Below I share answers to frequently asked questions:
Tamari: This recipe calls for low-sodium tamari. If using regular tamari, reduce the soy sauce to 1 tablespoon. You can also use coconut aminos if you’re avoiding soy.
Ginger: Fresh ginger is always best, but you can substitute one teaspoon of ground ginger instead of two teaspoons of fresh ginger. I don’t always have fresh ginger readily available, so I sometimes use frozen ginger cubes from Dorot.
Cornstarch: I don’t recommend substituting gluten-free flour for cornstarch. Cornstarch gives you to get a crispy crust on the chicken while sealing in the juices. While cornstarch works best, you could substitute potato starch. Cornstarch is typically gluten free; check labels carefully.
You might also like these recipes:
- Easy Gluten-Free Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Gluten-Free Fried Rice
- Flavorful Egg Roll Filling Inside Rice Paper Wrappers or Over Rice
- Gluten-Free Chicken with Chinese Brown Sauce
- Easy Black Pepper Stir Fry with Ground Turkey
If you enjoy eating out, be sure to download my ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out Gluten Free.
Gluten-Free Sesame Chicken
- Large non-stick skillet pan
For the Sauce:
For the Chicken:
- 1 cup cornstarch more if needed
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- black pepper 3-4 grinds
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil divided
- 1 1/2 lbs skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into chunks
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 2 green onions sliced
- Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl or large measuring cup. Mix well and set aside.
- Combine the cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Whisk and set aside.
- Heat half the oil in a large non-stick skillet pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, coat about half of the chicken pieces with the cornstarch mixture, dipping them individually into the cornstarch mixture, then add each piece of chicken in a single layer in the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook the chicken in two batches.
- Allow the chicken to cook in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly brown all over and the chicken is cooked through. Add more oil as needed. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken from the pan and place each piece on a wire rack or paper towel to drain.
- Heat the remaining oil and cook the additional chicken until cooked through on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and place each piece on the wire rack.
- Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel, then add the sauce mixture and cook it over medium-high heat for two minutes until it bubbles and begins to thicken.
- Turn the heat to medium and add the cooked chicken pieces. Gently stir the chicken pieces to coat them in the sauce. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will continue to thicken and become sticky as it cooks.
- Turn off the heat and serve the sesame chicken over rice or vegetables. Top with sesame seeds and green onions.