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Sesame Chicken vs General Tso

Sesame Chicken vs General Tso

Sesame Chicken vs. General Tso. Two chicken dishes. Two similar yet different looks.

Two comparable but distinctive flavors.

Sesame chicken and General Tso will please your palate and challenge your taste buds to discern the important, small differences.

Sesame Chicken vs. General Tso

Sesame chicken and General Tso chicken look very similar, except that the Sesame chicken is tossed in sesame seeds. Put side-by-side. The General Tso chicken has a slightly darker color than the Sesame chicken. The main difference between them lies in the sauces. Both sauces are based on soy sauce, but each has different additives that produce distinctive flavors.

Sesame Chicken vs General Tso
Sesame Chicken vs General Tso

Sesame Chicken

What is Sesame chicken?

With the name of the dish bearing the word ‘sesame’, it is clear that the dish is based heavily on the flavor of sesame.

Indeed, the tiny sesame seeds are an important part of the dish, as is sesame oil. Of course, don’t forget the chicken.

Sesame chicken is a crispy chicken dish with a sweet and savory sauce, using honey.

The chicken is cut into cubes or strips, which are stir-fried with sesame oil and ginger and garlic.

The sauce for sesame chicken has a soy sauce base cooked with honey, ketchup, and garlic.

Sesame chicken is served with rice or noodles and carrots as a side.

The Origins of Sesame Chicken

One version of the background of sesame chicken is that it originated in the Canton province in mainland China and then spread to northern China.

Another holds that it was created in Hong Kong when a chef invented the dish using sesame oil and seeds.

Yet another version is that the dish is a creation of Chinese restaurants in America, where many authentic Chinese cuisine has been adapted over the years.

Arguably, this means that the dish is not authentically Chinese. Hong Kong was still leased to Britain in the 1980s, suggesting a British influence.

Many American adaptations of traditional Chinese food are quite removed from their origins so sesame chicken may have a very small link to traditional Chinese food.

It may be more accurate to suggest that the dish sesame chicken is more inspired by Chinese cuisine rather than being authentically Chinese.

General Tso chicken

What is General Tso chicken?

General Tso chicken is a dish consisting of crispy chicken pieces in a sweet and sour sauce with chili.

The basic sauce for General Tso chicken has a soy sauce base, which is mixed with chicken stock, vinegar, honey, or brown sugar.

It is thickened with cornstarch.

The ingredients that give General Tso chicken its particular taste are the chili and garlic added to the sauce while it is simmering.

The chicken pieces are coated in the sauce, producing a shiny, sticky feel to the dish.

The chicken is cut into chunks and fried. It is then coated in the sauce, giving it a sweet and sour flavor with chili.

General Tso chicken is served with either rice or noodles, with steamed broccoli on the side.

The Origins of General Tso chicken

General Tso chicken is credited to chef Peng Chang-Kuei, who created and named it in honor of General Tso (also known as Zuo Zontang), a great Chinese general from the Hunan province.

The dish was first served at a banquet in Taiwan in the 1950s. It remains a very popular dish served in American Chinese restaurants.

Sesame chicken vs. General Tso chicken

To begin with, the main ingredient of both Sesame and General Tso chicken is chicken.

Sesame chicken is made with strips or cubes of chicken breasts, while General Tso chicken is usually made with chunks of chicken thighs.

This is not the only similarity, though.

The chicken is fried in minimal oil to ensure it is crispy on the outside but not too oily in both dishes.

For sesame chicken, use sesame oil; for General Tso chicken, any oil can be used.

The chicken pieces are dipped in egg, then in corn starch, before they are fried.

The batter creates a thin crust on the pieces of chicken.

Sesame chicken is fried in sesame oil, while a more neutral oil is used for General Tso.

The difference between Sesame chicken and General Tso chicken lies in the sauce.

The sauce for Sesame chicken is based on sesame oil and soy sauce, while the sauce for General Tso is based on soy sauce.

The sesame oil in the Sesame chicken gives the dish a slightly less sweet taste than General Tso chicken.

The sauce for sesame chicken has a soy sauce base cooked with honey, ketchup, and garlic.

The sauce for General Tso chicken also has a soy sauce base mixed with chicken stock, brown sugar, and vinegar (usually rice wine vinegar).

This differs specifically from the sauce for Sesame chicken in the flavors and additives: chili flakes, garlic, hoisin sauce, and scallions.

The sauce for both these chicken dishes is quite dark red, but that for General Tso chicken is slightly darker than that for Sesame chicken.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is General Tso chicken named after the general?

The General Tso chicken dish was created for a banquet in honor of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and named in honor of a great Chinese general from the Huan province, General Tso (Zuo Zontang).

Are Sesame chicken and General Tso chicken the same color?

Sesame and General Tso chicken is reddy-brown, but General Tso’s is slightly darker.

Which is sweeter, Sesame Chicken or General Tso chicken?

Both chicken dishes have a sweet-and-sour taste, but Sesame chicken is slightly sweeter because General Tso chicken has chili flakes in the sauce, which means that the flavor is not as sweet as that of Sesame chicken.


Sesame chicken and General Tso chicken look similar and are made with the same ingredients.

The differences are in the details, though.

Why not taste both dishes and let your tastebuds discern the important differences in the sauces?

That is, after all, where the difference lies.