Sesame chicken is amazing, and this keto version, made with unsweetened ketchup and just a touch of honey, is just as good.
This easy weeknight recipe is ready in under 30 minutes. The chicken comes out so juicy and flavorful!
Most stir-fry recipes are very easy (this Korean beef recipe is a good example). The only "difficult" part is prepping the veggies and mixing the sauce, and even that's not truly difficult to do. The cooking itself is usually a matter of minutes.
This keto sesame chicken recipe is easier than most. It all happens in one saucepan and there's hardly any prep work. You simply mix the sauce, cook the chicken, then add the sauce and cook until it thickens.
The result is so juicy and flavorful! My teenage tester - my toughest critic - took a few tentative bites, chewed thoughtfully, then announced "Wow. This is ten out of ten." Can you tell I'm beaming? 😁
Like most stir-fry recipes, the list of ingredients may seem daunting. But it's quick to gather, and the cooking itself happens very fast.
The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
For the sauce:
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce: I find the regular soy sauce too salty, so I prefer to use the reduced-sodium variety.
- Unsweetened ketchup: The Primal Kitchen brand is good. I get it at Whole Foods or on Amazon.
- Honey: I only use one tablespoon. Feel free to use a sugar-free syrup instead.
- Rice vinegar: White wine vinegar works too.
- Cornstarch: It helps thicken the sauce and doesn't add many carbs per serving. However, do feel free to use a keto alternative such as konjac flour (use the package directions for converting).
- Aromatics: Minced garlic and grated ginger. The jarred versions are fine, but for the best flavor, mince the garlic and grate the ginger yourself.
For the chicken:
- Avocado oil for cooking: I like using this versatile, neutral-flavored oil in stir-fry recipes. It has a high smoke point which is definitely a plus.
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts: I cut them into 1-inch pieces.
- Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should use less of it.
- Toasted sesame oil: This is a must. It adds TONS of flavor to this dish.
- Sesame seeds: I use them mostly for garnish.
- Sliced green onions: Again, used mostly for garnish. So if you don't have them on hand, it's fine to skip them.
Making this keto sesame chicken recipe is easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
- Your first step is to whisk together the sauce ingredients, then set the sauce aside.
- Now, season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and cook them in avocado oil until cooked through.
- Your next step is to give the sauce one more stir and add it to the pan. Reduce the heat and keep cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens and the chicken is well-coated.
- Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Drizzle it with sesame oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and sliced green onions, then serve.
If you're more of a purist than I am when it comes to low-carb cooking, I suggest you replace the honey with sugar-free syrup and the cornstarch with a low-carb thickener such as konjac flour.
As for how much of the konjac to use, you'll need to follow the package directions. Certainly, use much less than the amount listed for cornstarch.
If using a sugar-free syrup and a non-starchy thickener such as konjac, each serving of this recipe has 302 calories and 3 grams of carbs.
Frequently asked questions
Yes. While nontraditional, you could cook the chicken, remove it from the pan and keep it warm, then add more oil and very briefly cook vegetable pieces such as broccoli florets. Make sure they remain tender-crisp.
Add the chicken back, then proceed with the rest of the recipe (add the sauce, etc.).
Yes, but you'll still have to cook the chicken first in the skillet, so oven-baking will add an extra step and more dishes to wash.
But if you'd like, you can briefly saute the chicken, then place it in a rimmed baking dish, coat it with the sauce, and bake until cooked through - try 30 minutes at 350°F, stirring midway through baking.
Yes. You can use boneless skinless chicken thighs. They're fattier, juicier, and arguably tastier than chicken breast.
I love this recipe as is and almost always make it as written. But in case you'd like to vary the basic recipe, here are a few ideas for you:
- Use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breast. They work well in this recipe and are in fact juicier than chicken breast.
- Use ghee or refined coconut oil instead of avocado oil.
- To add a hint of spice, mix ½ teaspoon of crushed red peppers into the sauce.
This dish is great all on its own with a simple side of a vegetable such as sauteed green beans. It's also good when served over cauliflower rice. If you can handle shirataki noodles, those are another good option.
Sometimes I line our plates with raw baby spinach leaves, ladle the chicken on top, and then the spinach gets lightly cooked by the sauce. Perfect!
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to four days. Reheat them in the microwave, covered, on 50% power. You can also freeze individual portions for up to three months.
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Keto Sesame Chicken
For the sauce
- ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce (or a gluten-free alternative)
- ¼ cup unsweetened ketchup
- 1 tablespoon honey (or a sugar-free alternative)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon fresh garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger root minced
For the chicken
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons green onions thinly sliced
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients (soy sauce, unsweetened ketchup, honey, rice vinegar, cornstarch, garlic, and ginger). Set aside.
- Cook the chicken: In a large frying pan, heat the avocado oil over medium heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Sauté them on all sides in the hot oil until cooked through, about 7 minutes.
- Give the sauce one more stir and add it to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Keep cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens and the chicken is well coated, about 2 more minutes.
- Transfer the sesame chicken to a serving platter (lined with cauliflower rice if you wish). Drizzle it with sesame oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and sliced green onions. Serve immediately.
- If using a sugar-free syrup and a non-starchy thickener such as konjac, each serving has around 302 calories and 3 grams of carbs.
- As an alternative to mixing the garlic and ginger into the sauce, you can add them to the skillet when the chicken is fully cooked and saute them for 30 seconds. This will help them release their flavor and aroma into the dish.
- You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to four days. Reheat them in the microwave, covered, on 50% power. You can also freeze individual portions for up to three months.