Our easy sweet and sour chicken uses chicken tenderloins, pineapple, sweet bell peppers, and fresh ginger to make a tasty one-dish meal.

Sweet and sour chicken with pineapple in a bowl

This simple recipe for homemade sweet and sour chicken is a healthy alternative to takeout and an easy way to satisfy your craving for Chinese food.

Authentic Chinese versions of sweet and sour are usually made with chunks of pork that have been dipped in batter and deep-fried.

Chinese restaurants generally offer this dish with chicken or shrimp as alternatives to pork, and most include bell peppers and pineapple as we do here.

The healthy difference in our version is that we use chicken breast tenderloins and stir-fry them in a small amount of oil, which results in less fat and fewer calories.

A serving of sweet and sour chicken with white rice

Tips for making sweet and sour chicken with pineapple:

  • Use chicken tenderloins: Chicken tenderloins are great for stir fry. They cook very quickly on medium-high heat and stay moist and tender as long as you don’t overcook them.
  • Use fresh ginger: Ground ginger can definitely be used in a pinch, but the flavor of fresh minced ginger is unique and it gives you a bit of subtle heat that ground ginger just can’t reproduce.
  • Prep all your ingredients ahead of time: Having everything ready to go when stir-frying is essential if you want a successful dish. This includes having your rice cooked and ready to serve.
  • Use a non-stick pan: The chicken pieces in this dish are coated in cornstarch before stir-frying. This coating will thicken the sauce to a glaze as you finish the dish, but it will stick like crazy to a stainless or cast iron pan.

Five recipe variations:

There are many ways you can make this recipe your own. Here are a few ideas to try:

  1. Use boneless pork: We’ve made sweet and sour with both pork tenderloin cut into chunks and thin-sliced boneless pork chops cut into strips. The cooking method is essentially the same as for the chicken in this recipe, but if you’re using thin strips of pork, you’ll want to cut down the initial stir-fry time to 1-1/2 minutes.
  2. Use shrimp: We’ve also made this dish with jumbo shrimp, reducing the initial stir-fry time to 1-1/2 minutes.
  3. Replace the pineapple with orange: Use orange segments instead of pineapple chunks and orange juice instead of pineapple juice. For extra flavor, add a little fresh orange zest or dried orange peel.
  4. Ramp up the heat: Depending on how spicy you like your food, add one or two sliced jalapeño peppers in addition to the sweet bell peppers.
  5. Turn it Thai: Replace the soy with fish sauce and add some chunks of fresh tomato and a few basil leaves as the sauce is thickening.
Sweet and sour pork with bell peppers and pineapple over rice

More easy Chinese at home:

Sweet and sour chicken plated with steamed white rice

Sweet and Sour Chicken with Pineapple

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Our easy sweet and sour chicken uses chicken tenderloins, pineapple, sweet bell peppers, and fresh ginger to make a tasty one-dish meal.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 lbs chicken tenderloins
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
  • 2 sweet bell peppers (1 red, 1 green), cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple cut into 3/4-inch chunks

For the sweet and sour sauce:

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sriracha (optional)

For the garnish (optional):

  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Trim any white tendons from the chicken tenderloins, cut them crosswise into 1-inch pieces, and place them in a shallow bowl.
  2. Season lightly with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the cornstarch and stir until the chicken pieces are thoroughly coated. Set aside.
  3. Make the sauce by combining the ketchup, pineapple juice, rice vinegar, light brown sugar, and sriracha (if using) in a microwave-safe measuring cup.
  4. Microwave on high for 1 minute, then stir until the brown sugar is dissolved.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers and stir-fry until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Season lightly with salt and pepper, transfer to a plate and set aside.
  7. Add the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, swirl to coat and add the garlic and ginger.
  8. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the chicken. Separate the pieces with a spatula and spread to the edges of the pan.
  9. Allow the chicken to cook for about 30 seconds undisturbed, then begin stir-frying until golden on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes longer.
  10. Return the peppers to the pan, add the pineapple, and stir in the sauce.
  11. Continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes until the sauce has thickened and all the ingredients are nicely glazed.
  12. Serve over steamed white or brown rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds if desired.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 406Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 120mgSodium: 329mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 2gSugar: 17gProtein: 45g

Note: Nutrition information is estimated and may vary from your actual results.