Lighter General Tso's Chicken

General Tso’s chicken has been my go-to Chinese take-out order for as long as I can remember. Though I generally like to embrace variety and try new things, this is a definite exception. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of my General Tso’s chicken. A few years ago I was pretty psyched to discover a homemade version of this take-out favorite, and that recipe quickly became a favorite around here. As I mentioned recently, we don’t repeat recipes often, but every single time I find myself with extra chicken on hand, that’s the recipe I immediately want to make. Although I’m sure it’s about 100 times healthier than the take-out version, there’s still quite a bit of sugar in that recipe, so in reality, we don’t have it all that often.

Lighter General Tso's Chicken

I couldn’t help myself when recently I stumbled upon this new variation on General Tso’s chicken. It had to go on our menu for the next week. This recipe is similar to our old favorite in that the chicken is cut into small cubes, dredged and cooked in a bit of oil on the stove top, but where our old recipe used just cornstarch, this one combines cornstarch and egg whites. I thought the addition of the egg whites made for a slightly thicker crust on the chicken. There is some brown sugar in the sauce here, but less than the other variation, and this one doesn’t have ketchup or hoisin sauce either, which also helps to reduce the total amount of sugar in the dish.

Lighter General Tso's Chicken

Ok, so probably healthier – check. But would we like it? The recipe had received rave reviews on Martha Stewart’s site, so I had high hopes, and fortunately, I wasn’t let down. The chicken had a nice crust, and the sauce was really flavorful. I would probably suggest doubling the sauce if you want extra to drizzle over your rice, but otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing. I liked the addition of the snow peas – I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve ever made them at home, but it won’t be the last. Shane, on the other hand, was freaked out by the snow peas so this dish was at a psychological disadvantage for him from the start. That said, he still devoured the generous serving on his plate (minus any peas), and when I asked if he’d want it again, he said yes. I love that we now have two homemade variations on General Tso’s chicken at our disposal – who needs take-out? :)

Lighter General Tso’s Chicken
barely adapted from Martha Stewart

1/4 cup cornstarch, divided
1/2 cup cold water
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 lb snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch and the cold water together until smooth. Add the garlic, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes and whisk to combine. Stir in the peas and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, salt, and pepper until well combined. Add the chicken pieces, and toss to coat.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and once shimmering, add half of the chicken from the egg white mixture (be sure to shake the excess off). Cook the chicken until golden on all sides, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Add the remaining oil to the pan and repeat with the other half of the chicken.

Reduce the heat under the pan then add the snow pea mixture to the now empty skillet. Cover the pan and cook until the peas are tender and the sauce thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Add the chicken (and any juices on the plate) back to the skillet. Toss to coat with the sauce and, if necessary, finish cooking the chicken through. Serve the chicken on a bed of rice, if desired.