Have you ever been curious about what sesame chicken tastes like? You’re not alone.
This article will explain all the delicious flavors of this dish and why it’s so popular.
With this knowledge, you’ll be able to decide if sesame chicken is the perfect meal for you.
What is Sesame Chicken?
Sesame chicken is a classic Chinese takeout dish that is beloved by foodies all over the world.
Preparing the dish requires marinating chicken pieces in a flavorful sauce made with sesame seeds, garlic, and ginger, then deep-frying the pieces until they are golden and crisp.
The finished product can be served either with steamed white rice or crispy fried rice.
The two main components of sesame chicken – the marinade and the frying – combine to create a uniquely delicious flavor that can’t be replicated with any other cooking technique.
The flavor profile of this much-loved dish leans toward sweet, but competitors offer touches of sourness and even some heat to make things interesting.
The crispy texture of the fried chicken ensures that its flavor stands out among all of these other components as well.
The unmistakable taste of sesame plays a big role in determining sesame chicken’s characteristically unique flavor.
However, other ingredients contribute to the overall effect as well.
These can range from soy sauce and brown sugar to Worcestershire sauce and various types of vinegar depending on the recipe used or personal preference.
Some recipes also incorporate orange juice or honey for an added sweetness or chili paste for some kick.
What Does Sesame Chicken Taste Like?
Sesame chicken is a takeout favorite and a menu staple in most Chinese restaurants.
It contains chicken in a savory, soy-based sauce with hints of sweetness and sesame.
The dish has Asian flavors which are created by combining toasted sesame oil and oyster sauce, both popular condiments used in Chinese cuisine.
Cornstarch is also added to the mix to create an irresistibly smooth texture while brown sugar adds depth and complexity.
The combination of these ingredients creates a pleasing flavor profile that is salty, slightly sweet, and lightly nutty from the sesame seeds.
Sesame chicken contains chunks of coating around tender pieces of fried chicken that have been simmered in a thick sauce made with soy sauce, garlic, ginger and vinegar.
The crunchy exterior offers contrast to the succulent interior making this dish enjoyable for all kinds of palates.
Added vegetables such as broccoli or bell peppers make this dish even more interesting.
Variations on traditional sesame chicken recipes can be found all over the world, but they all share the same appealing blend of oriental flavors which come from aromatic ingredients like garlic, ginger and scallions.
In some places it’s served over noodles or rice for an extra comforting meal perfect for any occasion.
Ingredients that Affect the Taste of Sesame Chicken
The flavor of sesame chicken can vary greatly depending on the ingredients used.
The most common ingredients include Chinese-style dark soy sauce, garlic powder, ginger, sugar, cornstarch, and sesame seeds or oil.
Other ingredients that may be included in a recipe for this dish include onion powder, rice wine or white wine vinegar and hoisin sauce.
The amount of each ingredient used will ultimately determine the taste of the dish – some recipes call for a lot more ginger than others, which lends a much spicier flavor.
In addition to the added flavors and spices in sesame chicken dishes, it is also important to consider the type of chicken used.
Traditionally in Chinese cooking free-range chickens are preferred as these are said to have a richer flavor than yard chickens and tend to be juicier when cooked.
1 – Chicken Breast
Chicken breasts are the most popular cut of chicken used for sesame chicken dishes.
This type of meat has a relatively mild flavor and can be cooked quickly and with minimal effort.
When cooked, its flesh easily flakes off the bone and has a soft, light texture.
Its mild taste pairs well with a variety of sauces, making it perfect for the sesame sauce.
If you are using chicken breast for your dish, be sure to watch it carefully while it is cooking to avoid over cooking which can make it dry and tough.
Chicken breasts also contain very little saturated fat and are free of carbohydrates-perfect as an alternative food choice if you’re looking to reduce your intake of unhealthy fats or carbs in your diet.
2 – Soy Sauce and Rice Vinegar Marinade
The marinade for sesame chicken is incredibly simple but incredibly flavorful.
It starts with a combination of low-sodium soy sauce, some sherry or Chinese cooking wine and then enough sugar to help sweeten the flavors.
Finally, a bit of rice vinegar and salt are added to round it all out.
Once all the ingredients for the marinade are combined, you will add your chicken pieces to the bowl and let them sit for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight in the refrigerator.
The longer you marinate your chicken, the deeper the flavor will be when it’s time to cook it.
However, if you don’t have very much time at all, a quick 30-minute soak can still yield delicious results.
Finally, we like to add some black pepper into our marinade as well as some sesame oil and some garlic powder or fresh garlic cloves.
All of these additional ingredients really help bring out all of the nuances in flavor that a classic sesame chicken dish should possess.
3 – Sesame Seeds and Sesame Oil
Sesame seeds and sesame oil add robust flavor to sesame chicken.
Sesame seeds are tiny, flat seeds with a nutty flavor packed inside of their hard protective coating.
They come in a variety of colors, including white and black.
Roasted, they become crunchy and bring nutty and earthy notes to your plate.
Sesame oil is produced by pressing sesame seeds together to extract the oil within them.
It has an intense, slightly sweet flavor that brings warmth to whatever you’re cooking.
When making sesame chicken, it’s common to use both sesame seeds and sesame oil as part of the marinade or coating for the dish.
The combination of both ingredients helps bring out all the flavors associated with this dish while distinguishing it from other Asian-style dishes like orange chicken or General Tso’s chicken that don’t rely on either ingredient for flavor contribution.
Apart from helping create unique flavors, sesame oil also offers plenty of health benefits due to it being rich in healthy fatty acids like linoleic acid and oleic acid which are essential for better cardiovascular health.
Moreover, antioxidants present in this oil can help reduce inflammation levels in your body as well as lower blood pressure levels when consumed regularly over time.
4 – Cornstarch Coating
The sesame chicken is usually coated with a light cornstarch coating that gives the pieces their signature crispiness.
Cornstarch absorbs moisture, so it helps keep the outside of the chicken pieces nice and dry while they’re cooking.
The cornstarch also browns and crisps up nicely in the hot oil, giving you crunchy pieces of chicken that are still juicy on the inside.
To make a proper sesame chicken coating, mix together some cornstarch with some salt and pepper, then dredge each piece of chicken through it until both sides are nicely coated.
You can also add in some other seasonings as desired to make your sesame chicken extra flavorful.
5 – Vegetables and Sweet Sauce
Sesame chicken is often served over a bed of veggies, such as broccoli, carrots and green beans.
The sweet sauce that gives sesame chicken its distinct flavor is made from a mix of garlic, honey and soy sauce.
For extra sweetness and texture, some restaurants add sugar or brown sugar to the mix.
The combination of honey, soy sauce and garlic creates a subtly spicy dish with a hint of sweetness.
Those who enjoy the complexity of Chinese food will find the contrast between sweet and salty flavors makes sesame chicken even more enjoyable.
Adding fresh herbs or spices such as ginger can enhance the flavor further.
How to Cook Sesame Chicken to Enhance its Flavor
Sesame chicken is one of the most popular Chinese dishes in American cuisine.
It is made with crispy, deep-fried chicken coated with a sweet and savory sauce.
The dish often also includes sesame seeds for added flavor and texture.
When it comes to cooking sesame chicken, it is important to be mindful of all the different elements of flavor that can enhance your dish.
To create a delicious sesame chicken, you need to consider the type of sauce you are using, the cut of meat, the cooking method and even sides that might pair well with your meal.
For a flavorful sesame sauce, make sure to use a combination of fresh vegetables such as ginger and garlic along with sweet ingredients like brown sugar or honey for sweetness.
Soy sauce adds an umami element for depth and balance, while rice wine vinegar provides tanginess.
For more complexity and heat, add some chili garlic paste or sriracha.
Measure carefully as soy sauce can be overly salty if too much is used.
Taste your sauce before adding it to the cooked chicken to adjust seasoning as desired.
Regarding meat preparation, choose succulent pieces such as boneless thighs or strips that have been marinated overnight in a mixture of soy sauce and other ingredients like garlic, ginger and onion powder; this will add more depth to your final dish.
Fry the chicken until golden-brown before tossing in the prepared sauce until everything is evenly coated together.
Garnish with freshly chopped scallions or parsley before serving alongside sides such as boiled broccoli or white rice for an easy weeknight meal that’s full of flavor.
Nutritional Value of Sesame Chicken
The nutritional value of sesame chicken can vary greatly depending on the preparation of ingredients and the type of chicken used.
A single serving of sesame chicken prepared with dark or white meat, cooked in cooking oil or light broth, is high in protein and contains several micronutrients.
While a deep-fried version of sesame chicken is higher in fats, it provides beneficial amounts of fatty acids and minerals as well.
Sesame chicken contains a wide range of micronutrients, including B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B-12; minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium and iron; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; potassium; and selenium.
The amount of nutrition per serving will depend on how much fat is used during its preparation.
Producing it with a higher fat content increases the energy (calories) per serving size but also makes it more healthy by providing more omega-3 fatty acids and other beneficial minerals.
Where to Order Sesame Chicken and Popular Variations
When it comes to ordering sesame chicken dishes from a restaurant, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Popular variations of this beloved dish can be found all over the world, from Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants to fast-food chains.
Sesame chicken often features a sweet and savory sauce that is packed with flavors like garlic, soy sauce, sugar, and tahini (sesame paste).
Most sesame chicken recipes gingerly fry chicken pieces in a batter of egg and cornstarch before coating them in the sauce.
Others use boneless cooked pieces of chicken instead.
In certain recipes, pan-fried pieces of steamed broccoli or sliced bell peppers are used to top off the plate—adding another layer of texture as well as nutrition to the meal.
As you may have guessed by now, sesame chicken tends to present an array of flavor combinations through its ingredients: rich sweetness meets subtle saltiness; crunchiness complements smoothness; sour notes counterbalance savory depth; and hints of umami bring out subtler flavors in the mix.
As such, this dish has something for everyone.
No matter where you’re dining, there is likely a variation on sesame chicken nearby that you can sample—and possibly even bring home for later.
In conclusion, sesame chicken is a popular Chinese-American dish that combines the savory and sweet flavors of chicken, toasted sesame seeds, and a coating of Asian-style sauce.
It is characterized by its thick sauce and crunchy texture.
Sesame chicken can be served over steamed rice or with stir-fried vegetables for a hearty meal that’s delicious and easy to make.
It is also often served as an appetizer at Chinese restaurants.
Whether you’re seeking an exotic treat or looking for convenience at home, sesame chicken may be just what you’re tasting for.
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!