Growing up, getting take-out from the local Chinese restaurant was a real treat. My mother always cooked because there wasn’t a lot of room in the budget for expensive restaurant meals. Going out to eat was reserved for special occasions or especially busy weekends. You know, the ones where my siblings and I all had swim meets, soccer matches, and piano recitals on the same day.
Chinese take-out was always especially welcomed because of my favorite dish, sesame chicken. I loved those deep-fried chunks of chicken, but it was really about the sauce. Every bite was coated in that sweet, sour, and savory glaze packed with toasted sesame flavor. It was a magical experience—my mother didn’t cook anything like it. Making this meal at home seemed impossible.
Fast forward a few years and here I am, an accomplished cook, but I’ve still never made sesame chicken. No matter how many foods I make from scratch, my childhood favorite has stayed out there in the realm of impossibility. That is, until I discovered this easy, healthy one-pot sesame chicken recipe.
Ditching the MSG
Chinese restaurants are infamous for using MSG to amp up the flavor of their dishes. Monosodium glutamate is a chemical compound that is used to enhance the flavor of food. It brings an “umami” component to your dish, adding flavors which naturally occur in Parmesan cheese or mushrooms.
My mother always added “…and no MSG” when she ordered Chinese food. She was a firm believer that this chemical was responsible for giving her headaches, feelings of sluggishness, and achy limbs. Was it the culprit? We still don’t quite know.
Ask a hundred people what they think about MSG and you’ll get a hundred different responses. The science is still out on the chemical, and there are no conclusive studies that prove that MSG creates these side effects. But, whether it’s placebo or true, people still complain of headaches after eating MSG-rich foods.
I can’t say one way or another if it’s good or bad. While I personally don’t feel side effects, I trust my mother’s reactions that she knows her body better than anyone. I always try to avoid it anyway, which makes a great excuse to make foods from scratch—like homemade hoisin sauce. I like to know 100 percent of the ingredients that go into making it. This also helps me control my sugar intake, too.
All You Need Is One Pot
Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s move on to the best part of this healthy sesame chicken recipe. You can make it in one pot! I love healthy one-pot meals because they make it easier to cook on weeknights. I find that if I only have one pot to clean up, I’m that much more likely to cook.
We start by browning the chicken in the sesame oil. This creates these roasty little bits at the bottom of the pan. In classic French cooking, this is called fond, which roughly translates to “base.” These browned bits are like super concentrated flavor capsules. When you add liquid, the bits dissolve to create the base of a flavorful sauce.
So the one-pot meal isn’t just about easy cleanup – it creates a better, more intensely flavorful sauce! By the time you whisk in your soy sauce, honey, ginger, and garlic, you’ll already have a great base for your sauce. The cornstarch will help the sauce thicken up so it will cling better to the sides of the chicken. You definitely want that, because the best part of this dish is how the sweet and savory sauce coats the chicken.
We think this easy, one-pot sesame chicken recipe is better than the Chinese take-out variety, but you be the judge! Let us know in the comments what you think of this healthy chicken recipe.
Yields: 4 servings | Serving Size: 1 cup | Calories: 278 | Total Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 447mg | Carbohydrates: 14g | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 10g | Protein: 28g | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 7
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch strips
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into thin 1 inch ribbons
- 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup green onion, sliced
- Heat the sesame oil on medium heat. Once hot add the chicken and carrot. Cook until the chicken is firm and cooked through. Drain off any excess liquid.
- In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except sesame seeds and green onion. Whisk until smooth and pour over the cooked chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute, or until thick and chicken is coated. Stir in the sesame seeds. Remove from heat and top with green onion. Serve over brown rice or quinoa, if desired.