Healthy Sesame Chicken

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This Healthy Sesame Chicken covered in a sticky sweet sesame sauce tastes just like Chinese takeout but is actually good for you.


Easy to make sesame chicken that's healthier, baked, and comes together in less time than it takes to order takeout. Serve it with some Crispy Asian Brussels Sprouts, Healthy ChowMein, or Cauliflower Fried Rice for a lightened up takeout meal at home.

When it comes to Chinese takeout dishes, Sesame Chicken is always at the very top of the list. With its crispy coating, sweet and nutty sauce, it's one of those dishes that is hard to put down.

But as you can probably guess, it's not the healthiest option. Most sesame chicken dishes at restaurants have over 580 calories, 30 grams of fat, and a whopping 42 grams of sugar in a one cup serving. That's more sugar than is recommended for an entire day! 

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Lucky for us, you can still make a really delicious sesame chicken that has less than 250 calories, 8 grams of fat, and only 3 grams of sugar per serving. It starts with lean chicken breast that's tossed with cornstarch. The cornstarch helps create a crispy exterior without frying.

Then comes the sauce. It's made with a combination of chicken broth, soy sauce, garlic, vinegar, and sesame oil. It's just slightly sweet with a delicious nutty note from the sesame oil and a bit of sourness from the vinegar. You'll want to eat it on everything. 

I have a feeling this meal is going to be making a lot of appearances in my house from now on. Not only is it delicious, it takes absolutely no time to put together, and tastes like real take-out sesame chicken. It can also be served in a million different ways - as a rice bowl with veggies, over Asian inspired greens as a salad, as an Asian burrito with Sriracha, you get the idea. 

Baked Sesame chicken with sesame seeds and green onions in a skillet.

How to make sesame chicken sauce?

The sauce for sesame chicken is typically made from a combination of soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, and sesame oil. The sesame oil gives the sauce its nutty flavor and the vinegar gives it a bit of tang. Traditionally, sesame sauce was not super sweet but some Chinese restaurants have changed this traditionally savory, nutty, slightly sweet sauce into a super sweet sauce by adding lots of extra sugar. 

To make a healthier sesame sauce, you need:

  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp white or rice vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • Directions: Stir together all the ingredients. If only making the sauce, bring it to a boil on the stove and reduce to a simmer. Cook until thick and it coats the back of a spoon. If you are using for a stir-fry or baked dish, you can thicken the sauce right in the pan.

Use the sauce for stir-fries, vegetables, lettuce wraps, or as a dipping sauce for chicken, shrimp, pork, or tofu. It will keep in the fridge for a week in an airtight container.

Recipe Ideas and Tips

There are lots of ways to customize this recipe to make it spicy, sweeter, or packed with veggies.

  • Spicy: Add some sambal olek (Asian garlic chili paste) or Sriracha to your sesame sauce. Red pepper flakes also work, but I think the Asian sauces add a bit more flavor. 
  • Honey: If you prefer a honey sesame flavor, replace the brown sugar with honey. You will likely want to use double the amount to get that sweet honey flavor.
  • Sweet: This sesame chicken is mildly sweet since it only has one tablespoon of sugar, Typical sesame chicken recipes have between 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar. If you are looking for a really sweet sesame chicken, you will likely want to double or triple the amount of sugar.
  • Stir Fry: If you don't want to bake this in the oven, you can also cook this as a stir fry. Just add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch to the sauce to help it thicken more quickly. Sear the chicken and then add the sauce. Let it thicken in the pan as the chicken finishes cooking.
  • Add veggies: If you want to make an all in one dish with veggies, than you can add some veggies right to the pan with the chicken before it goes into the oven. Add fresh broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, green beans, or asparagus. Try to stay away from vegetables that release a lot of water when cooking.

Sesame Chicken with white rice and broccoli topped with sesame seeds and green onions.

What are some healthy Asian side dishes for Sesame Chicken?

Traditionally Sesame Chicken is served with steamed white rice and chopped green onions, but there are so many other options. Here are some favorites:

  • Make some crispy Baked Egg Rolls that are stuffed with cabbage, carrots, and come out perfectly crispy in the oven.
  • Try some Healthy Fried Rice that's ready in less than 15 minutes packed with veggies and whole grain brown rice.
  • Go in a different direction and serve your chicken with this delicious Asian Apple Kale Slaw.
  • If you want to go a more traditional route, you could make some brown rice, white rice, or quinoa and serve it with a roasted or steamed veggie.
  • To add some greens, consider making some Sesame Sugar Snap Peas or Sesame Edamame.

More healthy Asian Recipes

This recipe was originally shared back in 2011 but has been updated with new photos, tips, and recipe ideas.

The Recipe
Healthy Sesame Chicken in a skillet with green onions with white rice and broccoli on the side.

Healthy Sesame Chicken

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  • 1.33 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk the chicken stock, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, and white vinegar together. Set aside.

Sesame chicken sauce in a bowl with a spoon.

In another bowl, toss the chicken with salt, pepper, and cornstarch.

Chicken breast tossed with cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

In a large pan (make sure it’s oven safe) heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken in one layer. Cook for 2-3 minutes on one side until seared and then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the other side.

Seared chicken breast pieces in a skillet.

Turn off the heat and pour the sesame sauce mixture over the chicken, stirring to combine.

Chicken breast tossed with sesame chicken sauce in a skillet.

Place the entire pan in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Then toss the chicken with sesame seeds and serve.

Healthy sesame chicken in a thick sesame sauce in a skillet with sesame seeds.
Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 6 oz
Amount Per Serving
Calories 255
Calories from Fat 70
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 8g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 74mg
Sodium 345mg
Total Carbohydrate 7g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 3g
Protein 33g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.


If the sauce doesn't thicken to your liking, mix together 1 teaspoon of cornstarch with 1 teaspoon of cold water and stir into the pan. Bring to a simmer on the stove and immediately turn off heat. Let sit for 2-3 minutes to thicken.
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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Healthy Sesame Chicken
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January 3, 2020 - 18:39
Add a Rating:
This is excellent! I had to have the oven at 425F to thicken it. I also used a monk fruit brown sugar alternative. My husband even loved it! Will go into my regular rotation!
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Lauren Frydman
December 17, 2019 - 19:45
Add a Rating:
This recipe was an amazing addition to the trader joe cauliflower rice! Everyone in my family loved it! Thank you!
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August 26, 2018 - 00:06
Add a Rating:
Really good, some other recipes have more ingredients, but this is great and I wouldn't change it. Will make again
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