This recipe is generously sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods but all opinions (like the fact that this healthy sweet and sour chicken is un-freaking-believable) are my own.
This healthy sweet and sour chicken is so crispy and perfectly sweet and sour, but it’s Whole30, paleo, and refined sugar free! This lightened up take on the Chinese classic is totally takeout-worthy yet easy, and the healthy sweet and sour sauce is made with dates and Dole pineapple juice.
When you’re in “screw it” mode at the Chinese buffet, sweet and sour chicken is the siren song of chafing dishes.
Battered, fried, and coated in a super sweet yet tangy sauce. A bit (or a lot?) of food coloring in there for good measure. Ir-re-sis-ti-ble. There’s not much competition along the row of steaming dishes when it comes to sweet and sour chicken: even if you prefer, say, sesame or kung pao chicken, sweet and sour is the crispiest, the richest, the most luxe. Am I right?
So making a healthy sweet and sour chicken recipe with a seriously worthy sweet and sour sauce is a major challenge. A deserving recipe has to be:
- Sweet enough
- Sour enough
- With super tender chicken
I’m not at all ashamed to say that my first version sucked. I had high hopes, took photos, ate a bite, and tried to convince myself to name the dish something else so I could still post it. Sure, the recipe was not bad; it was actually a good dinner! But it wasn’t something I’d call a true healthy sweet and sour chicken recipe. Nah, more like… pineapple chicken stir fry? Good, but not I could eat this for the next six meals good.
Which is kind of exactly what my husband said after eating this version. In fact, it’s caused problems! When we have this healthy sweet and sour chicken in the fridge, he doesn’t want to roll with my new recipes or order takeout when I’m too tired to cook.
Well, that’s not exactly true. He doesn’t care what I do, so long as I leave him and his bowl of leftover healthy sweet and sour chicken out of it.
Why this healthy sweet and sour chicken recipe is so good:
- It’s actually healthy! There’s no added sugar; the sauce is sweetened with dates and pineapple juice from a can of Dole Pineapple Chunks in 100% Pineapple Juice.
- The chicken is actually crispy, thanks to an easy coating using arrowroot powder and eggs. Simple, too!
- The onions and peppers round this dish out with plenty of veggies, so you can serve it over cauliflower rice and call it a night.
- The sweet and sour sauce is oh so good and made easily in the blender with all whole-food ingredients.
- It’s Whole30 compliant and paleo, too!
- Leave out any element you don’t love, whether that’s the peppers or onion. The pineapple is sooo good here, though (So keep it!).
- Try substituting shrimp for the chicken. Follow the recipe the same as you would for the chicken, but you’ll need to cook the shrimp a lot less, only about 2 minutes.
- If you eat soy, feel free to swap out the coconut aminos for soy sauce in the sauce. Just leave out the salt as well, if you use soy sauce. If you’re on a Whole30, do not use soy sauce!
- I really love to use Dole Pineapple Chunks in 100% Pineapple Juice since they’re easy to keep on hand and perfectly little nuggets of natural sweetness. You can, however, use fresh pineapple, but you will need to sauté it much longer to soften. Just roll with the Dole!
- I like to sauté the peppers and onions pretty well so they’re not super raw and crunchy-tasting, but I’m not a huge fan of bell peppers to start with. You can sauté them just a couple minutes or a bit longer, depending on your preference.
- Shake up your chicken in batches; about 2 batches will cover everything. This will prevent clumpy chicken pieces, and you can shake up the second batch while the first batch is frying. Just make sure you keep a close eye on the chicken frying!
- Cut your chicken into smaller pieces than you think would be “bite-sized.” You want pieces about 3/4-1″ big, not big chunks. The coating will add some volume here.
Can I use cassava flour instead of arrowroot powder?
Absolutely! Cassava flour is a little harder to find, so I don’t use it in as many of my recipes. It is, however, my favorite grain-free flour or starch, and it works very well in this recipe.
How to make healthy sweet and sour chicken
Make your sauce first: combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth.
Place your arrowroot powder in a large plastic food storage bag. In a medium bowl, whisk your eggs well. Working in 2 batches, add chicken to bag and shake to coat. Remove chicken pieces, tapping to remove excess arrowroot, and transfer to bowl with eggs. Toss to coat then remove chicken pieces, straining to remove any excess egg, and place back in arrowroot bag. Shake up again to coat well, using your hands on the outside to try and break up clumps. Remove from bag, shaking off excess and breaking up any large clumps of pieces.
Heat a layer of coconut oil or avocado oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add chicken to skillet. Fry about 2 minutes to set breading then continue to cook, stirring occasionally and flipping to lightly brown on all sides, until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Repeat coating and frying process with all chicken.
Clean out skillet and replace on medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon coconut or avocado oil to the skillet and fry peppers, onions, and Dole Pineapple Chunks until peppers are beginning to soften, about 4-5 minutes.
Pour in sauce and cook 2 minutes or until bubbly. Add in cooked chicken and toss to coat. Serve over cauliflower rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Other recipes you’ll love:
Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken (Whole30, Paleo)
A healthy Chinese sweet and sour chicken that's super crispy and perfectly sweet and sour. Whole30, paleo, refined sugar free, it's totally delish yet easy.
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small chunks, about 3/4-1"
- 1 1/2 cups arrowroot starch plus more as needed, or substitute cassava flour
- 2 eggs beaten well
- refined coconut oil or avocado oil for frying, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 cup pineapple chunks drained and juice reserved, from a can of Dole Pineapple Chunks in 100% Pineapple Juice
- 1 red bell pepper seeded, quartered, and cut into 1/2" strips
- 1 green bell pepper seeded, quartered, and cut into 1/2" strips
- 1/2 yellow onion halved and sliced
- white sesame seeds for garnish
- green onions green parts thinly sliced, for garnish
- steamed cauliflower rice to serve
Healthy Sweet and Sour Sauce
- Make the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Set aside.
- Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt. Pour arrowroot powder into a gallon Ziploc bag, and place eggs in a medium bowl. Add half of chicken to the bag with arrowroot. Shake to coat then remove chicken, tapping to remove excess. Transfer chicken to bowl with eggs and toss to coat. Remove from bowl, letting excess drain off, and transfer back to bag with arrowroot powder. Toss again to coat, using hands to break up any clumpy pieces. Remove from bag and set aside.
- Repeat process with remaining half of chicken, adding more arrowroot powder to bag as needed to coat.
- Heat a layer of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in about two batches, add chicken and cook 1-2 minutes to set bottom breading. Continue to cook another 3-4 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and coating is lightly golden brown. Transfer to a plate, and repeat the process with the remaining chicken.
- Clean out skillet and add in 1 tablespoon coconut oil or avocado oil. Add peppers, onions, and pineapple and sauté until peppers are beginning to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Add in sauce and cook 1-2 minutes until bubbly and thickened.
- Add in cooked chicken and stir gently but thoroughly to coat well.
- Serve over steamed cauliflower rice and sprinkle with white sesame seeds and sliced green onions.
If you eat soy, feel free to swap out the coconut aminos for soy sauce in the sauce. Just leave out the salt as well, if you use soy sauce. If you're on a Whole30, do not use soy sauce!
If you have cassava flour on hand, try that for the breading! It's a little harder to find but my favorite grain-free flour, and it doesn't have a gelling quality like arrowroot can.