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Mongolian Chicken is a dish that rivals your favorite takeout. Made in just 25 minutes with everyday ingredients, this recipe is a game-changer for those busy evenings when you’re short on time, but craving a meal with big flavor. Each element of the dish, from the succulent chicken to the lively sauce, comes together to create the perfect balance of familiar and bold flavors.
Tender cubes of marinated chicken are lightly coated in cornstarch and crisped to perfection in a skillet, then bathed in a rich, glossy sauce that blends the umami of soy sauce with the natural sweetness of maple syrup, and just the right amount of heat from red pepper flakes. Served over steaming rice, this is not just satisfying but a restaurant quality option for any meal.
Table of Contents
Ingredients You Need to Make Mongolian Chicken
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast: Look for chicken breasts that look fresh and feel firm, with a pinkish hue and no sign of gray coloring.
- Vegetable Oil (such as Avocado Oil or Another Neutral, High Heat Oil): Choose an oil with a high smoke point to avoid burning at the high cooking temperature.
- Soy Sauce: If you’re using low-sodium soy sauce, remember it’s ~40% less salty than regular varieties. Start with the amount in the recipe and then taste as you go – it’s easy to add more if needed, but fixing a dish that’s too salty can be a bit tricky.
- Cornstarch: Be sure the cornstarch is free-flowing and lump-free for a smooth coating on the chicken.
- Water: Regular tap water is fine, but if your tap water has a strong taste or odor, consider using filtered water to avoid altering the sauce’s flavor.
- Maple Syrup: Choose a pure maple syrup for its natural sweetness and rich flavor, avoiding artificially flavored syrups.
- Ginger: Fresh ginger is a key ingredient for its zesty, pungent flavor. Look for a piece that is firm to the touch and has a smooth, shiny skin. (Pro Tip: it’s easy to peel with a spoon.)
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: The flakes should be vibrant in color, a good sign of freshness.
- Garlic: Choose plump, firm garlic cloves with a papery skin. Avoid cloves that are soft, shriveled, or have green sprouts.
- Green Onions: Look for green onions with crisp, green tops and a firm white base. Avoid any that are wilted or have slimy spots.
- Rice: Serve over your choice of hot long grain white rice or long grain brown rice.
Is this dish Mongolian?
Mongolian Chicken is a variation of Mongolian Beef, a dish originally from Taiwan that’s become a favorite in American Chinese restaurants. Despite the name, the dish doesn’t have any connection to traditional Mongolian cooking, and the ingredients and preparation methods come from Chinese cuisine. It was developed in Taiwanese restaurants, particularly those that popularized Mongolian barbecue.
5 Recipe Options
- Consider Tamari as a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce, or use dark soy sauce for deeper flavor, but use less.
- Replace maple syrup with honey or brown sugar, each offering a distinct sweetness to the dish.
- Opt for chicken thighs if you prefer juicier, more flavorful meat, adjusting cooking times as needed.
- Substitute green onions with chives or thinly sliced shallots for a similar texture and mild onion flavor.
- Use arrowroot powder as a gluten free cornstarch alternative.
- Marinate Well: Ensure the chicken is thoroughly coated in the marinade. This not only flavors the chicken but also helps tenderize it, for a juicier result.
- Let the Chicken Brown: When cooking the chicken, resist the urge to move it around too much. Letting it cook undisturbed in the pan for a few minutes gives it a nice golden-brown crust.
- Prep the Sauce in Advance: Mix the sauce ingredients before you start cooking. This way, it’s ready to go when you need it, for a smoother and faster cooking process.
- Adjust the Heat: Tailor the spice level to your taste by increasing or decreasing the amount of red pepper flakes.
- Garnish for Freshness: Add a sprinkle of freshly chopped green onions before serving. This adds a burst of color and freshness to the dish.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Overcrowding the Pan: Be sure to use a skillet large enough to give the chicken pieces some space. Overcrowding leads to steaming rather than browning, which can make the chicken tough and less flavorful.
- Coating Unevenly with Cornstarch: Be sure each piece of chicken is evenly coated with cornstarch. This step is key to achieving that desirable crispy texture.
- Overcooking the Garlic: Be careful not to overcook the garlic. Burnt garlic can make the dish bitter.
- Forgetting to Taste as You Go: Especially when adjusting the soy sauce and red pepper flakes, it’s important to taste the dish as you cook. This helps to balance the flavors to your preference.
How to Store and Reheat
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally to warm evenly.
More Great Asian Inspired Recipes
- Korean Pork Belly
- Chashu Pork
- Salt and Pepper Shrimp
- Three Cup Chicken
- Kung Pao Beef
- Spicy Pork Meatballs
How to Make Mongolian Chicken
Marinate chicken breast pieces in a blend of vegetable oil, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a bowl.
Meanwhile, prepare a sauce by mixing water, soy sauce, maple syrup, minced ginger, and red pepper flakes in a separate bowl.
After marinating, coat the chicken evenly with additional cornstarch. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil and cook the chicken until golden brown on both sides, then remove and set aside.
In the same skillet, cook garlic until fragrant, then add the sauce, bringing it to a boil until reduced. Make a cornstarch slurry, add it to the sauce, and cook until thickened. Return chicken and green onions to the skillet, stirring until well coated with the sauce; serve over hot rice.
- hot, cooked rice for serving
To Marinate the Chicken
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 2 large, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-pounds total, diced into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (such as avocado oil or another neutral, high heat oil)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (recipe note #1)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the Sauce
- 1/2 cup water plus 1 tablespoon for cornstarch slurry
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more for a spicier dish
To Coat the Chicken
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Stir-Fry
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil (such as avocado oil or another neutral, high heat oil)
- 3 large cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- 4 green onions white and green parts cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
- To a wide, shallow bowl add: diced chicken breast, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch; mix well to coat chicken. Set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.
- While the chicken marinates, whisk together 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- When chicken has marinated for at least 15 minutes, sprinkle 3 tablespoons cornstarch over and toss well to coat.
- Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat until nearly smoking; add cornstarch coated chicken in a single layer. Cook without disturbing for 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and cook about 3 minutes more. Transfer to clean plate, leaving excess oil behind (add more oil if needed).
- Meanwhile whisk 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl to make a slurry.
- Add garlic to skillet; cook and stir until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in soy sauce mixture and bring to boil; cook and stir until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
- Stir slurry once more and add to sauce, stirring constantly; cook and stir until sauce is very thick, 1 to 2 minutes more. Add chicken and green onions and stir until well coated. Transfer to platter and serve with hot, cooked rice.
- If using regular low-sodium soy sauce, note that it’s significantly less salty (~40%), so you may need to increase the amount to taste.
- Note that nutrition information does not include rice.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.