Ready in just 25 minutes, this is truly healthy and seriously easy Sweet and Sour Chicken. Chicken breast, bell peppers, carrots, and broccoli are stir fried in a super clean, sugar free sweet and sour sauce made from a handful of real, whole foods. Naturally Whole30, paleo, low carb, and gluten and grain free.
Let’s get straight to it – this healthier twist on sweet and sour chicken isn’t a replica of its Chinese take-out inspiration. Stick with me though!
I’ve stripped away the breading and the super heavy sauce to reveal the best flavors of this classic dish – sweet pineapple and that big tang that always gives my mouth a good pucker. The result is fresher, lighter, and super clean, with big bold flavor.
I don’t typically label my recipes as “healthy” because it’s such a subjective word – so when I actually go there, you know I meant it! This sweet and sour chicken is, in my very humble opinion, legit healthy:
- It’s 100% sugar free. No sugar in the stir fry sauce, no hidden sugars in sweetened pineapple juice or store-bought ketchup.
- It has all of the vegetables – broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers, plus pineapple chunks if that’s your thing (it isn’t for me, it is for my husband). A literal edible rainbow.
- There’s no battering and frying, even with a “healthy” coating.
Beyond that, if you stick to a particular dietary persuasion, this recipe is also Whole30, paleo, low carb, and gluten and grain free. If none of those apply, then show up for the veggies – they’re worth it!
How to Make Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken
This is the back-pocket recipe you need for harried weeknights or fake-out Fridays – it’s ready in just 25 minutes, and the short and sweet list of ingredients are staples you probably already have in your fridge and pantry. Serve it over cauliflower rice for a veggie-packed Whole30 dinner, or reach for steamed white rice if you’re feeling frisky.
- Prep the chicken and the vegetables. Separate a head of broccoli into florets, thinly sliced a carrot or two, and dice a red bell pepper into 1″ pieces.
- Dice the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces (roughly 1.5″).
- Make the sweet and sour stir fry sauce. Combine one cup pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, two tablespoons coconut aminos, and a tablespoon of tomato pate.
- Whisk until the sauce is completely smooth.
Before we go any further, a note about cooking vessels. There’s a reason that woks are the go-to pan for stir fries, and this recipe is no exception. I, however, do not own a wok (which I’ll be rectifying sooner than later). Anyway, using a standard skillet – even a 12″ one – can’t quite get the job done here. There’s a good bit of tossing involved, and ingredients are destined to fly right over the side of a low-sided skillet. If like me you don’t have a wok, a dutch oven is an excellent stand-in. It retains heat well, and provides sufficient space to toss without sacrificing a single veggie or spilling the sauce over the sides. Phew.
- Heat a wok or dutch oven over medium high heat, add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the diced chicken to the pot, toss to coat in the fat, then sautee until the chicken is no longer pink. It won’t be cooked through at this point and that’s exactly right – the chicken will finish cooking in the following steps.
- Add the broccoli florets, carrots, and bell peppers. Give those a good toss with the chicken, then continue to toss frequently and sautee for an additional 4 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.
- Add garlic and fresh ginger and cook, stirring continuously, until the ginger is very fragrant – about a minute longer.
- Give the sweet and sour sauce a quick whisk (the arrowroot may have settled to the bottom), then pour the sauce into the pot. Simmer for 2-4 minutes longer, until the sauce is thick and the chicken is cooked through.
Tips and Variations for Making this Recipe Perfectly
- Use the right cooking vessel – a wok is preferable, but if like me you don’t own one, a dutch oven is your next best bet. And if you don’t have a dutch oven, go for a high-sided saute pan.
- Dice the vegetables and chicken into (roughly) equally sized bites for even cooking (and to get a bit of everything in every bite!).
- If you like pineapple chunks in your sweet and sour chicken, go for it! (My husband likes them, I don’t). To do so, use one 20-oz can diced pineapple packed into 100% juice. Strain the pineapple from the juice, and use the juice to make the stir-fry sauce. Add the pineapple along with the vegetables.
- Substitute cornstarch for arrowroot if you’re not paleo or Whole30.
- Substitute soy sauce or regular aminos for the coconut aminos if you’re not paleo or Whole30. If doing so, hold off seasoning with any additional salt until the end.
- Serve over cauliflower rice or steamed rice, or toss with sweet potato glass noodles.
More Quick and Easy Dinner Recipes
- Mostly Vegetable Steak Stir Fry
- Lemon Garlic Chicken and Asparagus Skillet
- Whole30 Steak Bites with Sweet Potatoes and Peppers
- 20-Minute Honey Garlic Chicken
- Low Carb Italian Sausage and Peppers
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- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken, diced into bite sized pieces
- 1 c pineapple juice, 100% juice
- 2 tbsp coconut aminos
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ¼ tsp sea or kosher salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 c broccoli florets, about 1 medium head broccoli
- 1 medium carrot, sliced into ½” rounds
- 1 red bell pepper, diced into 1” pieces
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- Green onions, to taste
- Make the sweet and sour stir fry sauce. Combine pineapple juice with coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar, arrowroot powder, tomato paste, and salt. Whisk until smooth.
- Heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering in a wok, dutch oven, or high-sided saute pan. Add chicken, toss to coat in the fat, and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink - about 3 minutes.
- Add broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers and toss with the chicken pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables starting to soften, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute more.
- Whisk the stir fry sauce, then pour into the pot. Cook until the liquid has thickened into a sauce and the chicken is cooked through, 2-4 minutes further. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.
- Portion over cauliflower rice or steamed rice, and garnish generously with sliced green onions. Serve immediately.
- Use the right pan - a wok is preferable, but if you don't own one, a dutch oven or a high-sided saute pan will work.
- If you like pineapple chunks in your sweet and sour chicken, go for it! Use one 20-oz can diced pineapple packed into 100% juice. Strain the pineapple from the juice; use the juice to make the stir-fry sauce, and add the pineapple along with the vegetables.
- Substitute cornstarch for arrowroot if you're not paleo or Whole30.
- Substitute soy sauce or regular aminos for the coconut aminos if you're not paleo or Whole30. If doing so, hold off seasoning with any additional salt until the end.