Is there anything better than takeout? A protein smothered in a sticky, sweet-salty brown sauce over fluffy rice always hits the spot. I see lots of sesame tofu recipes out there — which are absolutely delicious, don’t get me wrong — but I often find myself craving something meatier. You’ll love this vegan sesame chicken because it still achieves that savory-sweet deliciousness without all the battering and frying of traditional sesame chicken, making it lighter and much easier for busy weeknights.
To get an idea of just how sticky and delicious this is, jump to the video and see for yourself!
Key Ingredients in Vegan Sesame Chicken
The punchy flavor of this dish comes from the sauce, which is sweet, salty, and slightly tangy. Here’s what you’ll need:
Soy sauce: Opt for low-sodium if possible. If you’re gluten free, use tamari.
Ketchup: It might not be the first thing you think of for a takeout dish, but it works so well! The tomato flavor adds depth and umami, while bringing more sweetness and acidity to the sauce.
Garlic: Because, garlic.
Agave and brown sugar: I use a little of both. The agave adds subtle sweetness while brown sugar adds extra molasses-y depth.
Rice vinegar: This gives the sauce much needed acidity that lifts it up from being otherwise quite sweet and salty. You can also use mirin!
Toasted sesame oil: Make sure you use the dark brown toasted sesame oil that requires refrigeration. This stuff is quite strong, so a tablespoon for the whole recipe is all you’ll need. It gives the dish its signature nutty sesame flavor. If you use the light, un-toasted oil, the signature sesame flavor won’t come through in the final dish, which will be a big sad face. 🙁
Corn starch: Along with the sugar, it thickens the sauce. You can substitute arrowroot.
Vegan chicken: I use Morningstar Farms brand here because I like the texture. You can use any unbreaded vegan chicken pieces, like Daring or Gardein. If you’re gluten free, this dish is also delicious using tofu, tempeh, or even mushrooms.
How To Make Vegan Sesame Chicken
I love how easy it is to make this sesame chicken, since it doesn’t call for battering and frying chicken like the traditional Chinese takeout dish.
First, whisk together the sauce. You can simply shake all the sauce ingredients together in a mason jar and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. I often do this the night before to let the flavors mingle together for a bit!
Next, stir fry your chicken in a hot skillet or wok until it’s nice and browned and crispy. Make sure you don’t stir it too often, or else it won’t develop those brown bits — that’s where the flavor is!
Add the sauce and stir to coat everything. Cook it off until it’s nice and sticky!
Serve it hot over rice, garnishing with more sesame seeds and lots of green onions. Enjoy!
Serve this sesame chicken over rice (brown rice, white rice, or even cauliflower rice works!). I also like including something green on the plate like steamed broccoli or bok choy. And if you like things spicy, feel free to add a drizzle of chili oil or sriracha to everything!
For a crunchy handheld option, you could serve this in lettuce cups by layering two or three leaves of iceberg together and adding rice and a scoop of chicken. Don’t forget to garnish with lots of sesame seeds and green onions!
Looking for more plant-based chicken ideas? Try these:
Vegan Sesame Chicken
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp agave
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 tsp corn starch
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds (plus more for garnish)
- 1 tbsp neutral, high-smoke-point oil (avocado, grapeseed, or sunflower)
- 1 13.5-oz package unbreaded vegan chicken pieces
- green onions (for garnish)
- cooked rice (for serving)
- First, make the sauce. Whisk together the first 10 ingredients and set aside for the flavors to meld.
- Next, cook the chicken. Heat a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium high heat and add the oil. Once hot, add the chicken and cook, stirring minimally, for about 5 minutes. You want the chicken to get nicely browned.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the sauce. Stir to coat the chicken and cook for about 3 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
- Remove from heat and serve hot over rice, garnished with more sesame seeds and green onions.