A Sweet & Sour Recipe for Your Favorite Protein

This recipe for sweet and sour chicken has been floating around my family since I was kid and it seriously is still one of my favorite dinners to have on rotation. Although it was almost always made with chicken, pork occasionally was the protein of choice. In recent years, I’ve also used tofu or thick portobello mushrooms as the main feature. The beauty of this healthy dinner recipe is that it works the same no matter what protein or veggies you use!

Sweet and Sour Veggies

In the original version of this sweet and sour recipe, the chicken was coated in flour and fried first, but in our efforts to create an easy dinner, we quickly changed that step for this much easier and less messy version in which so you simply brown the meat, tofu, or mushrooms in a small bit of oil in a heavy pan. Ideally, if you have a nice deep-sided skillet or medium-sized pot, this makes for a perfect one-dish meal with loads of flavor.

Sweet and Sour Recipe in Skillet

In addition to using tofu or mushrooms instead of chicken, I often find myself tossing in a few extra vegetables to the pot, just depending on what I have on hand. Diced zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower and broccoli are all good choices to simmer in with the peppers and certainly help boost the nutrient density of this inexpensive dinner. In attempt to clean out my pantry, I once even made this with sweet potatoes – and it was quite tasty! In that version, I recommend dicing the sweet potatoes to bite-size pieces, sautéing it in place of the chicken, and continuing the rest of the recipe as usual. Then, skip the rice and just serve this sweet and sour recipe like a hearty stew.

How to Make This Sweet and Sour Recipe

Sweet and Sour Recipe Plated

By Marie Powell

Since this is such an easy recipe, I usually double it so I have quick leftovers for another meal. It’s also great to share with a small dinner group. I usually like to serve my sweet and sour chicken over Jasmine rice, and ideally with a nice warm pot of green tea. If you want to dress it up a bit and add more color, top it with some fresh sliced cucumber and tomato wedges at the end of cooking. It’s fine to stir them in the pot just before serving, but if I’m making individual plates I like to arrange them like a garnish so you get a nice pop of color. Whatever version of this sweet and sour recipe you decide to make, you’re sure to have a delicious, easy meal that everyone will enjoy!

Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 30 min


  • 1 lb. chicken, pork, or firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chunked
  • 1 red bell pepper, chunked
  • 8 oz. sliced water chestnuts
  • 16 oz. chunk pineapple with juice
  • 14 cup white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. Cut chicken in ½” pieces. Add oil to pan and brown the meat over medium-high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to low then add onion and garlic.
  3. Cover and cook 10 minutes.
  4. Add carrots, bell pepper, water chestnuts and pineapple.
  5. Combine remaining ingredients and stir into skillet.
  6. Cover and simmer 10 minutes until thickened.
  7. Serve with rice.

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Marie Powell
Marie Powell

Marie Powell grew up eating pecans, fresh fruits and vegetables, and homemade meals in rural southern Georgia. Thanks to her family's tradition of military service and the generosity and diversity of her friends, her culinary influences also come from Taiwan, Greece, and the Middle East. A graduate of the University of Georgia, she learned about food prep, storage, and presentation during her time as UGA's catering manager. Marie now lives in Phoenix with her daughter, Sophie, who has inspired her to learn more about adapting recipes for food allergies and intolerances, and their tortoise, Elizabeth, whose favorite food is dandelion greens.