Drop the take-out menu. We have a better idea!
What’s the one menu item that makes your fingers itch to dial your local Chinese takeout restaurant? Which dish makes your mouth water and has you daydreaming of white cardboard containers, chopsticks, and that sweet and spicy goodness? For many of us, it’s General Tso’s Chicken!
Friendly to Your Taste Buds but a Terror to Your Waistline
This satisfying recipe was first made popular in the kitchens of America’s Chinese restaurants in the 1940’s and 50’s. General Tso’s Chicken is a deep-fried delight that, when prepared at a restaurant, is sure to be loaded with excessive fat and calories. Plus, depending on the restaurant, there’s a chance that it comes with a dose of MSG as well. While this Chinese take-out option might taste incredible, it certainly isn’t conducive to a flat belly or smaller waist!
Does this mean you have to give up your favorite meals? Of course not! You just need to find a way to make your favorite recipes healthier! Fortunately, that’s exactly what we’ve done with this slow cooker version of General Tso’s Chicken!
A Tasty, Lower-Calorie Take-Out Alternative
Slow cooking chicken eliminates the excess fat, cholesterol, and calories that come with deep-frying. We’ve also made some ingredient substitutions that will retain this dish’s classic flavors while boosting its nutritional value.
Antioxidant-rich red bell peppers are a perfect pairing with chicken, and we also included some health boosters in the seasoning mix. Cayenne pepper boasts capsaicin, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to curb cravings. Furthermore, ginger contributes to a healthy digestive system, is anti-inflammatory, and may even have cancer-fighting properties.
We’ve also used low-sodium soy-sauce to reduce the sodium content of this dish, as well as ingredients that are lower in sugar, like unsweetened pineapple juice. Using natural sweeteners like coconut sugar or honey are also great ways to make a recipe cleaner and better for you, all without sacrificing flavor!
Making Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken
Put down the takeout menu, and make this easy, healthy, but just a delicious General Tso’s chicken at home!
The first thing you’ll do is add the arrowroot powder, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder to a shallow dish and mix thoroughly to combine. Dip the chicken pieces into the mixture until they are coated on all sides, shaking off any excess. Then, grab a pan and heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Add the chicken pieces and brown them on one side for 30 to 60 seconds before flipping them over to brown the other side.
Next, you’ll add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, pineapple juice, honey, garlic, water, cayenne pepper, and ginger powder to the slow cooker. Stir well until the ingredients are evenly combined. Finish by stirring in the bell pepper strips, chopped white scallions, and browned chicken. Cook on low heat for four hours. During this time, feel free to go about your day!
You’ll want to check on the chicken about 25 minutes before serving. If the sauce has not thickened enough for your liking, whisk together a slurry of two tablespoons of cornstarch with two tablespoons of cold water and slowly stir it into the mix. Allow it to cook for the remaining 25 minutes, and then add the chopped scallion greens before serving!
The Perfect Side Dishes for General Tso’s Chicken
Every chicken main course needs a tasty side or two. You can serve this dish with a basic grain such as plain brown rice, quinoa, or soba noodles. Greens such as steamed broccoli, spinach, or kale are also great choices.
Of course, if you’d like to explore other flavorful options, we have plenty of recipes for that as well. Check out any of these tasty Asian-inspired sides:
2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken breasts chopped into bite-sized cubes2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil1/2 cup arrowroot powder or tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour), plus an additional 2 tablespoons reserved1 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon garlic powder1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce1/4 cup soy sauce low-sodium1/4 cup rice vinegar apple cider vinegar or white vinegar can substitute1/2 cup pineapple juice unsweetened2 tablespoons honey or coconut palm sugar1 tablespoon garlic minced2 tablespoons water1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper add more if you prefer a spicier sauce1/4 teaspoon ginger powder1 red bell pepper stemmed, seeded, and sliced into strips1/4 cup scallions chopped, only the white part (reserve the green for garnish)
1/4 cup scallion greens chopped, about one small bunch
Combine all of the dry ingredients to coat the chicken in a shallow dish, mixing thoroughly. Dip the chicken pieces in until they are coated on all sides, and shake off any excess mixture.
Over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken pieces, brown on one side for 30 seconds to one minute, and flip to brown on the other side.
Add all of the sauce ingredients, besides the red pepper strips and white scallion pieces, to the slow cooker and mix well. Once mixed, stir in the bell pepper strips and chopped white scallions.
Carefully add the chicken to the sauce. Cook on low heat setting for 4 hours.
Check the chicken 25 minutes before serving. If the sauce has not thickened enough for serving, whisk together a slurry of two tablespoons starch with two tablespoons cold water and slowly stir it into the mix and allow it to cook for the remaining 25 minutes. Add chopped scallion greens to serve.
Serving suggestions: Serve with a grain such as brown rice, quinoa or soba noodles, and a green such as steamed broccoli, spinach, or kale.
SmartPoints (Freestyle): 10
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We’d love to hear what you think of this slow cooker General Tso’s chicken! Leave us a comment, below!
Editor’s Note: This recipe was originally published on February 24, 2015.