Instant Pot General Tso’s Style Chicken

Instant Pot General Tso’s Style Chicken
Instant Pot General Tso’s Style Chicken

You may be surprised to learn that General Tso’s style chicken is not served in China, or anywhere in Asia for that matter. In fact, the family of the General with whom this dish is associated were once interviewed and asked if they had ever heard of it. Confused laughter ensued, and they assured the interviewer they had never known of this chicken dish’s existence. There is some disagreement over which Chef cooked it first, but we do know it was inspired by the Hunan region of China and first prepared in New York City. Since its inception, General Tso’s chicken has migrated all over the country and into the mouths of millions.

Despite not being legitimate Chinese cuisine, this style of chicken is popular in the minds of Amercians as Chinese food. The recipe Jeff made here is an even better version of the chicken, which if it comes out in nice, pulled pieces, you’ve done it right. The recommendation is chicken drumsticks, but you could easily replace that with thighs or chicken breast. If you use chicken breast, be sure to chop it up into small enough pieces that you can still get that pull-apart effect.

The ginger we used here is our Crystallized Ginger with the sugar rinsed off. It has a very concentrated ginger flavor, which worked well with the overall taste of the dish. “Here’s a good tidbit for you,” Jeff quipped, “arrowroot powder and cornstarch are both thickeners, but arrowroot powder works better with acidity than cornstarch does, so that’s what we used for this recipe.” Add the arrowroot powder to the sauce slowly as it cooks so you can decide the right thickness for you. Some people prefer a runnier sauce than others. If you do decide to stick with the cornstarch, remember to cook the sauce back up to a boil before you add the cornstarch so it can activate the thickening process. If it’s any calmer than a boil, the sauce simply won’t thicken up.

There are two interesting facets to this recipe. The first is that it calls for Shaoxing wine, which Jeff replaced with regular cooking sherry. The other interesting part is that the recipe calls for either Chinese black vinegar or distilled white vinegar. There is a lot of difference between these two vinegars, so Jeff suggests using Chinese black vinegar or Balsamic vinegar, which is much closer than distilled white vinegar would be. “People use white vinegar for cleaning their houses more than they use it for cooking, I think,” he added, laughing, and so he used the Balsamic vinegar for our recipe.

The recommended partner for this chicken was 16-20 pieces of lettuce, but no one here is particularly fond of warm lettuce, so we served our shredded meat over rice. You could even pair it with some steamed broccoli for that Chinese takeout feel with the better for you ingredients.

 Print Recipe

Category: Chicken
Cuisine: Chinese
  • 2 lbs chicken thigh/drumstick quarters, skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 10 dried Tien Tsin Chiles
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 stalks green onion, green part finely chopped for garnish, white part cut into 1.5 inch pieces
  • 1 slice Crystallized Ginger, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Granulated Honey
  • 3 cups cooked white or Basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Shaoxing wine or cooking sherry
  • 2 Tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Organic Coconut Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Thickener: 2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder plus 2 Tbsp cold water
  1. Preheat (Saute) the Instant Pot.
  2. When the word 'hot' appears on the display, add oil.
  3. Add the Tien Tsin Chiles, minced garlic, white part of green onions, and chopped ginger into the Instant Pot, sauté for roughly 3 minutes or until fragrant.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the General Tso's sauce and mix thoroughly.
  5. Add sauce mixture and chicken drumsticks into the Instant Pot.
  6. Close and lock the lid of the Instant Pot.
  7. Press manual mode and choose 12 minutes cooking time.
  8. When cooking time is up, use the Quick Pressure Release to cool the cooker.
  9. Carefully open the Instant Pot and remove the chicken pieces.
  10. Remove the chiles.
  11. When chicken is cool to the touch, use 2 forks to remove the chicken from the bone. Set aside.
  12. Reset the Instant Pot to Saute.
  13. In a small bowl, whisk together the Arrowroot Powder and cold water.
  14. Add the Granulated Honey and Arrowroot Powder mixture.
  15. Cook until sauce is desired thickness. It should coat the back of a spoon.
  16. Return shredded chicken into the sauce and mix well.
  17. Serve hot over rice.