Skip the take-out and make this sweet and sour chicken stir fry recipe using fresh cherries, pineapple, and vegetables – No thick breading and no deep-frying.
We didn’t have any Chinese restaurants in the small town where I grew up. When I moved to Portland, Maine in my early 20s, I was introduced to American-Chinese food and developed a taste for the various noodle dishes and fried foods covered with sweet sauces.
Unfortunately, I also soon discovered that eating this food made me ill. “It’s the MSG.” people would tell me, “Ask for no MSG.” It didn’t matter if I asked for no MSG or even if the restaurant claimed it didn’t use MSG in general. It was the combination of the processed foods, the excess sodium, the sauces, chemicals, preservatives, and the grease that made me ill. I soon realized that I had to give up the new fast food I had discovered.
I began collecting Chinese cookbooks to try to re-create my favorite dishes using ingredients I could control. Over the years, I have experimented and tweaked until I developed recipes that closely matched the flavors of those I fell in love with, but didn’t rely on processed ingredients.
The first recipe I want to share is Sweet and Sour Chicken with a few healthier twists. The typical restaurant version of this dish has the chicken coated with a thick batter and deep-fried. Most often, there is more breading than chicken. Let’s face it; it is the sweet and sour sauce that makes this dish shine. The heavy, greasy battered chicken is not really needed.
In this recipe, the chicken is marinated, tossed in arrowroot starch, and sautéed in a small amount of oil for a light, crispy exterior that the sauce can cling to. Add vegetables, sweet and sour sauce, serve on rice, and you have yourself a delicious meal.
Sweet and Sour Chicken Stir Fry Recipe
- 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 medium bell pepper cut into bite sized pieces
- 3 green onions sliced (reserve green parts for garnish)
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 8 ounce can pineapple chunks in natural juice
- 1 cup cherries divided
- 1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the Marinade:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the tamari or soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, and grated garlic. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate.
For the Sauce:
- Separate the pineapple chunks from the pineapple juice. Reserve the pineapple chunks for later. Measure out 1/2 cup of pineapple juice, stir in the arrowroot to make a slurry, and set aside (this will be used to thicken the sauce later).
- Pit and slice the cherries in half. Set aside half of the cherries for later. Extract the juice from the remaining cherries by combining them with 3 tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Simmer over low heat until fruit softens. Gently mash the cherries with a potato masher and continue simmering until the juices are released. Strain and discard the solids. Measure out 1/4 cup of cherry juice (add more water if needed). See note below.
- Add the cherry juice, ketchup, vinegar, and soy sauce to the saucepan. Heat and stir over medium heat until combined. Add the cane sugar and simmer over medium heat while stirring.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, stir the pineapple juice slurry, and add it to the saucepan. While stirring, bring the saucepan to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sweet and sour sauce to cool.
For the Stir-Fry:
- Add the oil to the preheated wok. Add the chicken to the pan in batches and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked on the outside, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan. Add the peppers, green onion, and garlic. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan. Add 1/2 cup of the sweet and sour sauce, and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are to your liking, about 2-3 minutes more.
- Add reserved, pineapple and cherries and combine. Serve over rice and garnish with the reserved green onions, and remaining sauce. Serves 6.
You May Also Like:
- Cherry Sweet and Sour Sauce – Includes a large batch recipe for freezing
- Roasted Rosemary Chicken and Vegetables
- Zucchini Garlic Bites
- Homemade Grape Juice – No Added Sugar
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