Our air fryer sesame chicken recipe will help you cook this Chinese staple without having to clean any pots and pans. Both the sauce and the chicken are placed in a foil faux baking tray, which is simple to make and saves time cleaning.
What Does Sesame Chicken Taste Like?
If you’re expecting a lot of sesame seeds, you are correct, but how this Chinese staple tastes is far more complex.
The chicken is cut into cubes, seared, and cooked with a fragrant sauce made from a host of ingredients including soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. It’s this sweet, salty chicken glaze that makes it so addictive and delicious on top of cooked rice with some side veg.
Today, we’re adding a modern element to this classic treat: air frying. We’re going to blast the top with hot air until golden brown, then cook it all in the staple sauce (more on the how-to later).
Is Air Fryer Sesame Chicken Healthy?
Air fryer sesame chicken is just as healthy as traditional sesame chicken, with lean proteins, good fats, and fulfilling carbs. Add some cooked veg to have a more well-rounded meal.
Our healthy air fryer sesame chicken recipe has a sound nutritional profile:
- 503 calories
- 2.6 g saturated fats
- 534.8 mg sodium
If you’re a fan of sesame chicken, these other recipes might be something to add to your meal prep list:
- Honey Sesame Chicken Recipe: it’s similar to this dish, but with honey as a sweetening agent. It’s served with microwaved/steamed broccoli and cooked rice.
- Instant Pot Sesame Chicken Recipe: do you have a pressure cooker in the house and don’t use it much? Save time making sesame chicken with this recipe.
Ingredients for Air Fryer Sesame Chicken
For this air fryer sesame chicken recipe, you’ll need chicken, cooked rice, green beans, broccoli, and seasonings.
Chicken thighs are our favorite, for a simple reason: they become moist and flavorful with a slightly chewy texture when cooked. If you prefer chicken breasts because they’re leaner, feel free to swap, but flavor-wise, we’d highly recommend the thighs.
Although chicken skin contains some saturated fat, the levels are rather insignificant, so it’s okay to use skin-on chicken thighs if that’s your preference. We didn’t because the supermarket’s stock that day simply didn’t leave much room for choice.
The sauce comprises soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, sugar, red pepper flakes, and a cornstarch slurry for thickening. These ingredients make for a salty and sweet base with a slightly spicy kick.
To the mix, we’re also adding some sriracha and paprika, to up the heat level. If you want a lingering warmth, sprinkle in a few drops of tabasco.
Finally, because it’s sesame chicken after all, we scatter on top a large handful of toasted sesame seeds. You can use the black ones instead, or, for a little variety, go for half and half.
3. Cooked Rice
For this Chinese dish, as always, we used cooked rice. If you haven’t got any to hand, cook up your favorite rice in your favorite way before making the chicken.
We wanted to use green veg that stays crisp after cooking so we went for green beans and broccoli. You can include other veg of your choice, but make sure they’re not starchy veggies like potatoes.
Rather than having to wait for the veg to boil, we spent just 4 minutes microwaving them while we prepared the chicken. It’s an easy process: Place them in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, shoot on medium for 4 minutes, and give them a rinse in cold water to retain their crispness.
Tips for Making Sesame Chicken in an Air Fryer
1. Can You Put Frozen Chicken in an Air Fryer?
No, because slicing into rock-hard raw meat is impossible, and a frozen whole piece of chicken can cook unevenly.
If they’re already cubed before freezing, however, they simply need a lower temperature and a little longer cooking time. For this air fryer sesame chicken recipe, it’s 350 and 15 minutes on the first stage.
2. Can You Use Parchment Paper in an Air Fryer?
You can, but since this recipe involves sauce and parchment doesn’t hold liquid particularly well, it’d be a terrible combo.
Can You Freeze Sesame Chicken?
You can, and that’s one of the reasons why sesame chicken is meal-prep friendly. Divide the portions into biodegradable bags and freeze away. They’ll keep for up to 3 months and reheat easily in a saucepan.
If you’re consuming them within just 4 days, you can store the portions in the fridge. When our fridge has lots of space, we just place everything in one pan and cover it before refrigerating the whole pan.
What to Eat With Sesame Chicken
Today’s accompaniments are a wholesome soup and a simple lemon watermelon juice:
Additional Air-Fried Chicken Recipes to Satisfy Your Tastes
With this Air Fryer Teriyaki Chicken, you can pull off an authentic Japanese meal in 25 minutes. The meat is as juicy, as sticky, as flavorful, but you won't have anything to clean thanks to the faux foil baking tray that holds the meat.
We wouldn’t say that this air fryer chicken fajitas recipe is authentic, but it is healthy, simple, and delicious. The chicken is well-seasoned, the peppers are slightly charred, and the cheese brings everything together. It’s quick to make, too.
Air Fryer Sesame Chicken Recipe
This air fryer sesame chicken recipe needs 26 minutes to turn out an addictive Chinese dish. It's got chicken, sauce, rice, and vegetables.
- cook TIME 21 mins
- prep TIME 5 mins
- total TIME 26 mins
- COURSE Main Course
- CUISINE Global
- CALORIES 503 kcal
- 8 oz broccoli (cut into florets)
- 4 oz green beans (cut into bite-sized segments)
- 20 oz skinless boneless chicken thighs
- 1/2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp white sesame seeds (toasted)
- 2 tbsp scallion (chopped)
- 2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp garlic (about a clove, minced)
- 1 tsp ginger (minced)
- 1 tsp hoisin sauce
- 2 tsp sriracha
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tbsp water
- 3 1/2 cups cooked medium-grain rice
Place 8 oz broccoli and 4 oz green beans into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on medium for 4 minutes. When it’s finished cooking, shock with cold water to keep them crisp.
Meanwhile, make the foil baking tray. Rub 20 oz chicken thigh with 1/2 tbsp canola oil, 1 tsp minced garlic, and 1 tsp ginger, then place it all into the foil tray. Air-fry at 400°F for 10 minutes.
Deal with the veg as aforementioned (it’s probably done by now) and mix the sauce ingredients together: 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sriracha, 1/2 tbsp water, 1 tsp hoisin sauce, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp brown sugar.
Once the chicken is done, pour the sauce on top and give it all a gentle stir. Cook for another 7 minutes at the same temperature.
Drizzle 1 tbsp sesame oil and sprinkle 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds with 2 tbsp chopped scallions on top of the chicken. Enjoy with 3 1/2 cups cooked rice.
Tuyet PhamChef, Culinary Consultant
Luna ReginaWriter, Author
Natalie Butler, RD, LDNutrition Reviewer
April 5, 2023 at 5:45 AMThis is a healthier and more delicious version of the classic takeout dish. Try it now!