Satisfy your craving for Chinese takeout with this recipe for crispy and tender gluten free sesame chicken that’s packed with flavor.
There are a few Chinese restaurants not too far from where we live with safe & reliable gluten-free menus, and sesame chicken has always been a favorite. And I’m not at all against fried chicken.
But this baked version, especially with a new-to-me breading method, is just more versatile and lighter. Plus, the smell doesn’t linger in your home for hours after you’ve finished dinner.
How to bread chicken the easy way
I had always breaded chicken with the dry-wet-dry method with a dipping station for coating the chicken in flour, then beaten eggs, and finally in bread crumbs. It had to be done right before baking or frying the chicken, and it made a mess.
Now, there’s an easier way courtesy of the food blogger Recipe Tin Eats. She calls it her “quick-crumbing technique,” and it has blown up dinnertime 🤯 in the very best way.
Rather than coating the protein in dry-wet-dry ingredients in stages, her method involves making a batter of eggs, flour, and mayonnaise for coating the chicken all at once. Then, right before you’re ready to cook, remove the chicken pieces from the batter and dip them in bread crumbs.
A versatile method
You can even have the chicken sit in the batter in the refrigerator all day until you coat and bake it. I also use this breading method to make our Chinese orange chicken, and just plain chicken fingers with different seasonings like the dry mix from our gluten free Rice a Roni.
My family used to be less than enthusiastic about breaded skinless boneless chicken breasts in any form. Not only is this method so much easier for me, it makes better chicken every single time.
The best sesame chicken sauce
There are few essential elements to most gluten free Chinese food sauces: sesame oil, honey, rice vinegar and/or mirin (a tangy rice wine), tamari or gluten free soy sauce, and garlic. Without some form of each of these ingredients, the sauce won’t seem like American-style Chinese food.
In this recipe for sesame chicken, we begin with chicken stock thickened with cornstarch. We add honey and brown sugar for sweetness and depth of flavor, rice vinegar, tamari, toasted sesame oil, and garlic powder.
A few crushed red pepper flakes don’t make the sauce hot. They just balance the sweetness of the honey and brown sugar.
Since not everyone in my family is, um, flexible when it comes to their individual tastes and preferences, I prefer to drizzle the sauce on individual portions rather than add the cooked chicken to the sauce. Once you’ve cooked the sauce and it’s cooled, you can heat it in the microwave to loosen it before serving it.
Ingredients and substitutions
Eggs: There is one egg in the batter recipe that we use to coat the chicken, and of course eggs in the mayonnaise. If you can’t have eggs, you might be able to use a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel) in the batter.
You might be able to replace the mayonnaise in the batter with an egg-free vegan mayonnaise. I haven’t tried any of them, so I’m afraid I don’t know which, if any, to recommend.
Sesame oil: Toasted sesame oil is a unique ingredient that adds a tremendous amount of flavor to this recipe. If you replace it with another oil, you won’t be replacing the flavor. The sauce will turn out, but it won’t have the same flavor.
Bread crumbs: We’ve made our own gluten free bread crumbs, and that recipe works great here. You can also use your favorite store-bought Panko-style variety, or crushed gluten free cornflakes.
Tamari: I really like San-J brand tamari, and stock up on that when I find it for a good price. Instead of tamari, you can use your favorite gluten free soy sauce.
Keep in mind that traditional soy sauce is made with wheat, so it’s not gluten free. Choose your ingredients carefully!
Gum-free flour blend: You should not use any gluten free flour blend that contains xanthan gum or the chicken batter will be gummy and won’t coat the chicken properly. I always have my three-ingredient gum-free blend, made of superfine white rice flour + potato starch + tapioca starch) in a jar on my kitchen counter, since it’s so useful.
In place of that flour, you can try any non-gritty gum-free blend, if you have one you like. You could also use a single starch, like cornstarch or tapioca starch/flour.