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30-Minute Healthy Sesame Chicken

Healthy Sesame Chicken made with better-for-you ingredients for a health-conscious version of the classic takeout. Soy-free, refined sugar-free, and gluten-free, this simple recipe requires 30 minutes or less! Serve it up with rice and veggies for a complete meal.

Black plate of brown rice with sesame chicken with a gold fork to the side.

Recently, I felt a deep desire to change up my regular food routine and add new life, new flavor to my meals.

Kind of like buying a new outfit, but for my tastebuds.

I needed to bring youth and vibrance back to my mouth, and with that goal in mind, this healthy sesame chicken was born.

Using my Easy Honey Garlic Chicken as inspiration for the recipe, I made a few tweaks to give the recipe a greater sesame vibe.

A re-creation of classic Chinese takeout sesame chicken, this healthy honey sesame chicken is a guilt-free version that I’d feel good eating any day of the week. 

It’s sweet, sour, tangy, and can even be spicy if you’re like me and dig a little heat. 

Tender chicken gets swaddled in that delicious sauce in a caramelized, glazed sultriness. 

Employing better-for-you ingredients, we end up with sweet and savory sesame chicken that you’ll want to make every single week!

The end result is soy-free, refined sugar-free, gluten-free, and paleo friendly.

No deep frying, breading, or flour needed and we only need a small amount of oil.

Whip it up on any busy weeknight for a delicious main dish in a hurry, or use this as a meal prep recipe for workweek lunches or dinners.

I recommend making a double batch if you want leftovers because this chicken is just so tasty you’ll want to go back for seconds.

Black plate of brown rice, sesame chicken, and roasted asparagus.

Let’s chat about the simple ingredients for this healthy sesame chicken recipe.

Ingredients for Healthy Sesame Chicken:

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts: The star of the show here, we need boneless chicken breasts.

If you prefer very tender chicken, I recommend using boneless chicken thighs instead of boneless breasts.

Chicken thighs contain more fat, which helps keep the meat tender when cooking at high temperatures.

Avocado Oil and Toasted Sesame Oil: We use a combination of avocado oil and sesame oil so that the sesame flavor shines through without being too overpowering.

If you love the flavor of sesame, use all sesame oil and skip the avocado oil. I like using avocado oil over vegetable oil because of the healthy omega 3 fat content.

Fresh Garlic: We chop up a few fresh garlic cloves to bring a nice bold nuance to the flavor profile.

Coconut Aminos: Rather than using soy sauce, I like using coconut aminos which gives umami flavor to a dish but is naturally soy-free.

Coconut aminos are also naturally sweet, which enables us to omit any brown sugar or refined sugar which is used in classic sesame chicken. 

You can swap the coconut aminos out for liquid aminos, low-sodium soy sauce, or tamari if you’d like. If you go this route, don’t add any additional salt until after you have tasted the dish because these three options are high in sodium. You may not need to add any extra salt.

Honey: A little honey brings lovely sweetness to counterbalance the savory sauce. 

Rice Vinegar: Adding a little acidic tang, rice vinegar is a phenomenal ingredient used in Chinese food to bring sour to the sweet.

Sriracha: Do you enjoy spicy food? Add sriracha to your personal taste. I typically go with 1-2 teaspoons. 

Black Pepper: Add sea salt and black pepper to your personal taste at the end of cooking.

Optional Additions:

  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated OR ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp lime zest and or 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • ​1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 to 2 bell peppers, chopped

If you find the sauce is the best part of a chicken recipe, you can double the sauce so that you have enough sauce to saturate the rice.

Plate of brown rice, sesame chicken, and asparagus, ready to eat.

Now that we’ve covered the basic ingredients, let’s make some delicious healthy honey sesame chicken!

How to Make Healthy Sesame Chicken:

In a small bowl, combine the coconut aminos, honey, rice vinegar, sriracha, and black pepper (sauce ingredients). Stir well and set aside until ready to use.

Sesame sauce in a measuring cup for sesame chicken.

Heat the avocado oil and sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to heat up for a few minutes before adding the chopped chicken.

Raw chicken pieces in a skillet, browning.

Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to arrange the chicken pieces into a single layer and allow it to brown for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chopped garlic and continue sauteing for another minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant and the chicken is golden brown. 

Chicken browning in a skillet with garlic.

Pour the sauce into the skillet and allow the mixture to come to a full (but controlled) boil.

Pouring the sauce into the skillet with the chicken

Cook until much of the liquid has evaporated and you’re left with glazed, caramelized chicken, about 8 to 15 minutes.

Skillet full of sesame chicken.

Serve this easy sesame chicken recipe with steamed brown rice, jasmine rice, or white rice, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, and any veggies you enjoy, such as roasted or stir fry asparagus, green beans, or broccoli.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. You can freeze this flavorful chicken in a ziplock bag for up to 3 months.

What to Serve with Sesame Chicken:

I love serving this healthy sesame chicken recipe with steamed white rice or brown rice. If you enjoy making fried rice, you can serve it up with my Vegetable Fried Rice, Basil Fried Rice or Pineapple Fried Rice

In addition, fresh vegetables like broccoli, green beans, or asparagus are also great options for adding fiber and vitamins to the meal. Whip up my Air Fryer Green Beans, Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan and Lemon, or my Stir Fry Vegetables Recipe.

Be sure to pick up some toasted sesame seeds to add a little pop of sesame flavor and some crunch to the chicken.

Black plate of sesame chicken with rice and asparagus. Red napkin and gold fork to the side.

The next time you find yourself craving takeout or just a wholesome meal, whip up this easy recipe! This copycat Panda Express recipe is the perfect balance of flavors with the savory honey sesame sauce.

My favorite part about this recipe is the final product takes less time than placing a takeout order. 

Sesame chicken in a skillet, sprinkled with sesame seeds and ready to eat.

This delicious Chinese takeout dish will surely be a huge hit among the whole family!

If you love Asian-inspired cuisine, you may also enjoy these reader favorites.

More Takeout Recipes:

Bring vibrance back to your taste buds!

Plate of brown rice, sesame chicken, and asparagus, ready to eat.
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4.88 from 8 votes

Healthy Sesame Chicken

A healthier version of the classic takeout, this Sesame Chicken recipe features a sticky sweet and sour sauce that gives a caramelized chicken vibe. Serve it with rice and veggies for a complete meal!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: Chicken Main Dishes, Main Course, Main Dishes
Cuisine: American, Chinese
Servings: 2 Servings
Calories: 380kcal
Author: Julia

Ingredients

For Serving

  • Brown rice or white rice
  • Asparagus green beans, or broccoli

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, combine the coconut aminos, honey, rice vinegar, sriracha, and black pepper (sauce ingredients). Stir well and set aside until ready to use.
  • Heat the avocado oil and sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to heat up for a few minutes before adding the chopped chicken. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to arrange the chicken pieces into a single layer and allow it to brown for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped garlic and continue sauteing for another minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant and the chicken is golden brown.
  • Pour the sauce into the skillet and allow the mixture to come to a full (but controlled) boil.
  • Cook until much of the liquid has evaporated and you’re left with glazed, caramelized chicken, about 8 to 15 minutes.
  • Serve this easy sesame chicken recipe with steamed brown rice, jasmine rice, or white rice, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, and any veggies you enjoy, such as roasted or stir fry asparagus, green beans, or broccoli.

Notes

*Use boneless skinless chicken thighs if you prefer.
**You can also use liquid aminos or soy sauce. If using liquid aminos or soy sauce, taste the finished chicken before adding any additional salt.
***Use ½ tsp ground ginger if you don’t have fresh ginger on hand.
Omit the sriracha for mild chicken.
If you want the sesame flavor to be more prominent, use 2 Tbsp sesame oil and omit the avocado oil.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Serving (of 3) | Calories: 380kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 128mg | Sodium: 382mg | Sugar: 15g

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Trish

Saturday 3rd of February 2024

Hello! Can we add Arrow root or tapioca or another thickener to the sauce so we don't have to cook it down so much? I like a lot of sauce, Thank you!

Julia

Tuesday 6th of February 2024

Hi Trish! You could definitely go that route. I would start with 1 teaspoon of either tapioca flour or arrowroot. Another option is to also double the sauce ingredients for more sauce in addition to using a thickening agent. Hope this helps!

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