Chicken in Lemon Sauce

Citrus fruits are for me the only cheerful side of Winter seasonal food and lemon has always been my favourite, especially in desserts. When I saw Chicken in Lemon Sauce on Jeno’s Weeknite Meals  I thought it was time to start exploring the tangy side of the savoury dishes too. The dish looked very appetising, but since I am not a big fan of sweet and sour combination in meat dishes  (the ubiquitous sweet and sour pork is the last thing I would order in a Chinese restaurant), I was afraid it would end up similar. I needn’t have worried because there is no sweetness (only a bit of sugar is added for the general taste balance), while the tangy lemon juice and zest make this easy chicken dish original and complex. Not to mention its refreshing and spirit-lifting properties, most welcome in the coldest period of this Winter. Thank you, Jeno, for introducing me to a completely new and luscious combination of flavours.

I have kept all the original ingredients, but have slightly modified – or rather simplified – the preparation stages. I have skipped the cornstarch meat coating stage and left it only as a sauce thickener. I have also used chicken breasts instead of legs. As you see I have  sprinkled it with roasted sesame seeds and it was a very pleasant crunchy addition, but it’s not obligatory (I sprinkle sesame seeds over everything). Click here  to see Jeno’s recipe.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

2 small chicken breasts (or skinned legs)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 lemon 

60 – 80 ml (about 1/4 – 1/3 cup) chicken stock

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon sugar  

2 teaspoons rice wine (I used sake)

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 green onion stalks , cut into 2 cm pieces


Cut up the breasts or the legs into bite-sized pieces.

Season them with soy sauce and put aside.

Wash the lemon (the best here would be an organic lemon), grate the zest and press the juice of half of it.

Mix the cornstarch with a bit of water, add the stock, the sugar, the rice wine, the lemon juice and the zest (from 1/2 of the whole lemon). Put aside.

Heat some oil in a pan.

Fry the chicken for a couple of minutes.

Add the garlic and the green onion.

Stir-fry until the chicken is cooked.

Pour the cornstarch and stock mixture and continue frying until the sauce thickens.

Serve with rice.






54 Replies to “Chicken in Lemon Sauce”

  1. Sweet and sour pork used to be the first thing I would order in a Chinese restaurant:) I love it, haven’t had a good one in years unfortunately. And I’ve never attempted to make it at home.
    This lemon chicken sounds good. I’ve had it few times, loved it. I will make this after I make sweet and sour pork:)
    BTW, very small typo, 60 ml is about 1/4 cup

    1. Then we wouldn’t fight if there was the last portion of the sweet and sour pork left in a restaurant 😉 Strangely, when I add chili of anything hot, I like the sweet and sour combination (I like any combination with chili 😉 ). I wonder how chicken in lemon sauce tastes in a good restaurant… Thanks for the correction. I shouldn’t probably attempt any conversions on my blog.

        1. Oh, I think I have seen this one on Nami’s blog! I must test it one day to compare (I have decided to try this one because it sounded equally good, but lighter and quicker; I think the chicken on Nami’s blog was deep-fried).

  2. Hi Sissi, thank you so much for making this chicken dish! I just love the way you write, reading your words took me back to how pleased my self and family felt about the dish, except I don’t have the skills to describe the taste correctly, haha!

    I am not a big fan of sweet and sour dishes, though I do like McDonald’s sweet and sour sauce for chicken nuggets. Maybe the next time I should add some chili, bet that would be so delicious! Have a good weekend!

    1. Hi Jeno, thank you for the kind words. I can assure you that you describe your dishes, their taste etc. much much better than me. I am less than satisfied with my level of English and I have big problems when I want to express my feelings or emotions.
      I see we have similar tastes 🙂 As much as I don’t like sweet and sour, I love sour in both sweet and savoury dishes. This chicken’s sour and tangy flavours were just prefectly balanced. Thank you once more for this discovery!

  3. I think the sprinkling of the sesame seeds finishes it off nicely. Even in a regular sweet and sour pork dish, the sesame seeds offsets the sickly sweetness … you can tell I’m not a great fan of sweet sour stuff. I like the fact that this recipe only uses a half tsp of sugar.

    1. Thank you, Ping. Strangely, I don’t mind sweet and hot dishes or slightly sweet, but sweet and sour alone somehow is not something I like. Here the sugar is only to balance the sauce and frankly the dish is not sweet at all.

  4. I’m not a fan of sweet and sour either. But I am of lemon and this sounds and looks so good! Really nice complimentary combination of ingredients.

    1. Thank you so much, Linda. I have notice you like lemon 😉 I was also wondering if all your wonderful January posts haven’t made me crave even more for lemon dishes.

  5. I enjoy sweet and sour dishes especially when the sauce is not poured over big balls of fried dough surrounding a very small bite of meat. This seems like it would be amazing.

    1. Thank you. Big balls of fried dough surrounding a small bite of meat bring back the worst Asian fast food memories…

  6. I love lemon chicken Sissi and you make it look so appetizing… this looks like something I could put together relatively easily over the weekend; perfect. I agree, citrus is wonderful in the wintertime to lift the soul… Thank you for linking to Jeno’s recipe too. Have a great weekend Sissi!

    1. Thank you, Kelly. This dish is one of the easiest and quickest stir-fries I know. Have a great weekend too!

  7. Hi Sissi! I made this recipe from Cindy too! It was delicious and my family liked it. Your presentation was much more pretty than mine. I cooked really quickly for week night dinner. Have a wonderful weekend! We will have a super bowl party and I have to photo shoot for v-day posts. =)

    1. Nami, you are very kind in wanting to make me feel good, but I will never believe your presentation didn’t look better! I remember also seeing a deep-fried lemon chicken on your blog once. It sounded delicious, but a bit longer to prepare. This version is also super-light. Have a lovely weekend too and have fun with the photos!

  8. I have been looking for a lemon chicken recipe I had once in a restaurant but haven’t quite found it yet. After living in Canada for 45 years I am on the hunt to recreate not only Hungarian food experiences you see. I will have to try Jeno’s recipe, could this be the one? Thanks Sissi!

    1. Zsuzsa, I hope it is the same… Although Mr. Three-Cookies says the lemon chicken he has had in restaurants is first battered and deep-fried, and then combined with the lemon sauce. This one is not crunchy, nor battered, nor deep-fried, but even if it’s not what you are looking for, I can guarantee this recipe is quick, easy and much much healthier 😉 Good luck!

  9. Very nice picture. Appetizing. Chicken and lemon is always delicious. Do you know this italian dish where you butterfly a chicken and roast it over lemon slices? I guess you could like it too.

    1. Thank you, Kiki. I have never heard about this dish. Thanks for letting me know. It sounds very good indeed.

  10. Yum…chicken is something I never get tired of. And cooking it with lemon sauce is a great idea. I love the citrus tangy taste of lemons. I’ll have to hop over to Jeno’s and check out her recipe as well. =)

  11. I love sweet and sour dishes! this is great!

    I think it’s not just a chinese thing even, because I’ve tried this combination before in an italian-style dish too, like kikki mentioned, and of course, people here like to stuff a lemon into a bird before roasting. lemon + chicken= yum (:

    1. Thank you, Shuhan. I rarely roast a whole chicken. I have heard about putting a lemon in it, but have never tried it. Although once I have made a Nigella’s recipe with chicken pieces roasted with lemon and it was awful. I think there was too much lemon and it spent too much time in the oven with the chicken (the result was very sour and bitter, not tangy any more, because of a long contact with lemon zest I think).

  12. Hi Sissi – I wonder if my wife would like this? From your description I think yes. She really doesn’t “sweet and sour” flavour combinations, and I made her orange chicken one time. She claims that was the second worst thing I’ve ever made! If this isn’t so sweet maybe she’d enjoy it – I know I would… I loved my orange chicken and I’ve been wanting to try lemon chicken for a while… it looks delicious 🙂

    1. Thank you, Charles. It is slightly sour, but not sweet at all (you can even skip the 1/2 teaspoon sugar, it doesn’t bring any sweetness at all), so if your wife is ok with slight sourness/tanginess, then she might like it. (Since the lemon sauce is added only at the end, the chicken bits are not sour inside, if you know what I mean). I have never had orange chicken…

  13. Chicken with lemon is always so tasty! It’s nice to have a quick and easy way to prepare it! Sweet and sour pork used to be one of my favorite dishes… I can’t believe you don’t like the combo! How do you feel about sweet and salty?

    1. Thanks, Stefanie. I do like this combination, but in sweet dishes only 🙂 Otherwise, I like it when it’s sweet+sour+hot, but if it’s only sweet and sour, I hate it. Maybe because all the sweet and sour dishes are more sweet than sour? I have never tried making them at home because it was the only kind of Asian dish I never liked.

  14. I plan to make this very soon for my ponytails. I will definitely report back on how it was received. I also wanted to let you know that I found some dashi on the weekend, so I’ll be giving your other recipe on my list a try soon too. Hope you are having a great weekend Sissi!

    1. Hi, Barb. I’m very happy for you. I hope you will enjoy cooking with dashi and I’m looking forward to seeing you discovering it.
      I hope your family will enjoy this dish. I cross my fingers. Thanks for your visit!

  15. Sissi,
    I just made this dish tonight and loved it. I was surprised by how quickly the sauce thickened to the perfect consistency. It has lots of flavour and it is so easy to prepare — perfect for weeknight dinners when you don’t have lots of time.

    1. Hi, Barb. I’m thrilled to learn that you have made it and liked it! You make my horribly cold Monday seem much warmer 🙂 Thank you so much for this kind message!

  16. Dear Sissy,

    I must say I have not had this dish for years even though the chinese version are bastardised to death by so many chinese restaurants around the world. If I have to try this again, I would most probably cook it myself at home.

    1. It’s funny because I have never had lemon chicken in any restaurant. I often discover foreign dishes this way so when finally I will taste the “real” thing, I might be very surprised.

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