- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes
- 2 cups broccoli florets (from about 2 broccoli crowns)
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 2 teaspoons chili flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 (1-inch piece) fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts divided
- 1/2 cup honey
- 6 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
Sesame chicken is most assuredly not what anyone would claim as “traditional” Chinese food but in the context of Chinese-American takeout, I would argue it’s a staple. Platters piled high with glistening chicken pieces coated in a sweet sticky sauce and dotted with sesame seeds sound fantastic to me. The dish is super easy to make at home but I’ve made one additional tweak that will save you even more time and effort by taking out the deep-frying step and making this a one-pan meal. I included the broccoli in the baking process to make this a two-birds, one oven situation where we get almost the whole meal finished cooking with only one pan (and a few bowls for breading).
To maximize chicken crispability, I added cornstarch to the flour mixture because it reduces the overall gluten content in our coating, higher gluten content equals a chewier coating on the chicken. Cornstarch also lowers the amount of moisture and oil absorbed, keeping the panko coating extra light and crisp. Instead of using a basic beaten egg as glue for the coating, I added soy sauce for flavor and drumroll, mayo for fat, which helps the panko breadcrumbs coating the chicken get extra crispy. I also added sesame seeds to the breading to double down on the sesame flavor and crunch factor. All of these choices ladder up to the crispiest chicken you can possibly get in an oven.
As for the sauce, that’s an amalgamation of classic Chinese flavors such as scallion, ginger, garlic and sesame oil but with classic American ketchup thrown in there for a sticky-sweet consistency.
Technique Tip: Create an assembly line for breading the chicken—flour first, followed by the egg mixture and finally, the breadcrumbs—with a prepared parchment-lined sheet pan at the end of the line.
Swap Option: Potato starch is a fantastic swap for cornstarch. You can absolutely play around with the vegetables used in this meal, too. Use green beans, carrots, or asparagus as a substitute for, or in addition to, the broccoli. I’d recommend always using fresh vegetables in this recipe so the chicken doesn’t get soggy as the frozen vegetables defrost.
For the Sheet-Pan Chicken & Broccoli1.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prepare a large sheet pan with parchment paper.2.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and salt, mixing with a fork until combined. In another bowl, add the eggs, mayonnaise and soy sauce, whisking until homogeneous. In a third bowl, add the panko breadcrumbs and sesame seeds, stirring to combine.3.
Add the chicken pieces, one at a time, to the flour, tossing to coat well. Next, dip each chicken piece in the egg mixture, shaking off any excess. Finally, dip each piece in the breadcrumb mixture to coat. Arrange the chicken pieces on the prepared sheet pan and repeat with the remaining meat. I did this process by hand but you could use chopsticks or tongs to drop the chicken pieces in and then turn to coat.4.
Add the broccoli florets and vegetable oil to a large mixing bowl and toss to coat. Place the broccoli florets evenly across the sheet pan with the breaded chicken pieces. It’s ok if the pan looks a little crowded — everything will shrink as it bakes.5.
Bake on the center rack for 20 to 25 minutes, until the broccoli has started to char and the chicken is cooked all the way through.
For the Sesame Glaze1.
While the chicken cooks, prepare the glaze. Preheat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil, chili flakes, grated garlic, grated ginger and the white parts of the scallion and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant.2.
Add the honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and ketchup and whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes until it thickens, then turn off the heat.
Toss the cooked chicken pieces in the glaze, getting an even coating. Replate the chicken on the sheet pan with broccoli and top with the remaining scallion greens. Serve with rice or noodles on the side.
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