I absolutely love cooking Chinese food at home. And I also have enjoyed experimenting with my air fryer.
So I thought, why not combine both my passions.
My air fryer Chinese honey chicken recipe will be the first time I’ve come out of my comfort zone.
Many years ago, I worked as an assistant in the kitchen of a small Chinese Restaurant; underpaid and overworked, I observed and assisted in how Chinese dishes were made.
And I was then able to bring those dishes home with me to cook for my family.
Check out my Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup recipe to see what I mean.
Cooking honey chicken at home the traditional way with a deep fryer is time-consuming, but it is also challenging.
So thought to myself that maybe cooking the same dish in an air fryer would cut down my preparation time.
And it Did! Why, because I didn’t have to set up my deep fryer.
What are the differences between air fryer honey chicken and deep-fried?
Almost nothing! That’s right. The only change I made is there is no batter in this recipe.
And this is pretty obvious, You can’t put wet ingredients into an air fryer, including batter. It will not hold, drip off while the chicken cooks, and burn.
So there needs to be an alternative, and that’s flour. I had cooked this recipe a lot before I brought it to you guys to be sure it would work.
First, I had to bread my chicken in all-purpose flour and brush on a small amount of canola oil to stop the air fryer from making a mess and to achieve that crispy texture.
Combine the cooked chicken with my authentic Chinese honey sauce, and I can assure you, you’ll never notice the difference.
And it’s still juicy, and the texture is excellent!
Preparing air fryer Chinese honey chicken
When deciding to air fry with chicken, it is crucial to choose the right parts. We want our chicken to be juicy, after all.
I use chicken thighs, and it’s easy to say why.
The thighs are fattier when compared with chicken breast. Thighs also have more moisture content.
Chicken breast can often turn out dry and chewy, and we want our chicken to be super juicy.
First, we will be creating easy garlic marinate to give our chicken some flavor.
Cut any excess fat off the chicken things. Layout flat and slice them into about 1-inch cubes.
If you have smaller chicken thighs, it won’t be a problem if you slice the cubes into slightly smaller chunks.
Try not to make the cubes too small, or the chicken will cook in the air fryer unevenly.
Pop the cubes into a mixing bowl and add garlic powder, salt, white pepper, and water.
Now it’s time to make our hands smell of garlic.
With your hands, give the chicken a good toss making sure to coat the chicken evenly, then pop into the fridge for 20 minutes.
How to make authentic Chinese honey sauce for Honey Chicken?
Unlike many recipes I have found on the internet, I cannot find anyone who uses the real authentic honey sauce used in Chinese restaurants.
And you will never know the difference; why? Because we only use the air fryer for cooking the chicken, not the sauce.
The sauce is still made and coated onto our chicken the same way the Chinese Restaurants do it.
Well, with one exception. I don’t have a wok, but a saute pan works just as well when combined with a traditional wooden spoon.
In a small mixing bowl, add ketchup, sugar, honey, and water and give the sauce a thorough whisking.
Set the sauce aside; we are not going to be needing it for a while.
Setting up your breading station
Firstly we want our chicken to stick to the flour, so we will need 3-4 eggs depending on the amount of chicken you’re using.
And yes, we want to use the whole egg, yay, less work for us!
Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk.
In another mixing bowl, add 1-2 cups of flour. Again depending on the amount of chicken that needs to be coated.
If your mixing bowl has a lid, definitely use it, and I will explain why shortly.
The flour will get a little sticky in places.
A quick tip: sift the flour through a colander between each batch of chicken while cooking in the air fryer.
Take the chicken out of the fridge and strain any excess water still left in the bowl.
Have a wire rack handy with something underneath to minimize any mess from the flour.
Add about 10-12 chicken chunks into the flour mixture at a time.
And as I talked about earlier, pop a lid on the container if your mixing bowl has one and give it a good toss.
This will save you a considerable cleanup later, and coat the chicken with flour really well compared to using your hands.
Put the coated chicken into the egg, and then put the chicken back into the flour and toss one more time.
Then all that’s left to do is shake off any excess flour and put the chicken chunks onto our wire rack.
So the order is flour, egg, flour. By doing this method, you will have perfect crispy chicken.
Rinse and repeat this method with every batch of chicken while it’s cooking in the air fryer.
Time to fire up your air fryer
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Wow, this is tedious! But it’s totally worth it when you taste air fryer Chinese honey chicken, I promise.
And in my opinion, it totally beats the deep fryer method.
Spray or brush oil onto the base of your air fryer to avoid the chicken sticking.
Gently brush on canola oil to cover the flour on one side of the chicken only until you can’t see any dry flour.
Place each piece of chicken into your air fryer, making sure to fit as much as possible without overcrowding. We need the air to circulate the chicken.
Set your air fryer to 375°C or (190°C) and a timer for 12-14 minutes.
Quick Tip: It’s important to remember cooking times can vary across each air fryer model. So you will need to experiment with yours.
But an excellent way to tell if your chicken is ready is when it’s turning a lovely shade of golden brown.
I’m using the Phillips XXL family sized air fryer, so cooking time will be accurate for this model.
When the timer has reached the halfway point, pause your air fryer and gently turn each chicken piece. And once again, brush with oil.
Restart your timer, regularly checking to make sure you don’t overcook the chicken.
Rinse and repeat these steps until you have no more chicken left.
Don’t worry about the chicken going cold; it will be fine once we transfer the chicken to our saute pan and coat it with our sauce.
But if you are worried about it, you can cover the chicken with aluminum foil to keep the heat in.
Adding the chicken to the honey sauce
We are almost done; all that’s left is to coat the chicken with our delicious honey sauce.
Give the honey sauce another quick stir with our whisk and preheat a saute pan. No oil necessary.
When the pan is nice and hot, slowly add the sauce to the center of the pan.
With the back of your wooden spoon, stir the sauce until it starts to boil.
Take it off the heat, add all of your chicken, and then put it back onto medium heat.
Gently toss the chicken through the sauce until it is all thoroughly covered.
And that’s it! Plate up and enjoy.
What side dishes does air fryer Chinese honey chicken go with?
Chinese food is so universal; that’s why I love it, and I love to cook it.
And Chinese food works best with, you guessed it, Chinese food. Haha, that was easy.
Salads are another easy option to add as a side, especially after all the work you just did.
A bed of steamed rice with soy sauce also is a great side alternative.
Some of my favorite sides that compliment my air fryer Chinese honey chicken very well, and I have tried personally are:
- Authentic Chinese Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup
- Classic Fried Rice
- Simple Homemade Potato Salad with Egg and Bacon
- Homemade Austrian Egg Drop Soup
- Air Fryer Spring Rolls
- Air Fryer Dim Sum
Crispy Air Fryer Chinese Honey Chicken
- 1.8 lb Chicken Thighs Cut into cubes
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp White Pepper
- 5 tbsp Ketchup
- 4 tbsp White Sugar
- 2 tbsp Honey
- 2 tbsp Water
- 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 3 Eggs You can use more eggs if required
Making the Marinate for the Chicken
- Cut the chicken thighs into large chunks, If using breast cut chunks into 1 inch squares and place into a mixing bowl.
- Combine the garlic powder, salt and white pepper and mix thoroughly with your hands. Place chicken into the fridge for atleast 20 minutes.
- In a bowl combine, ketchup, sugar, honey, and water. Mix thoroughly with a wisk until the sauce has thickened.
Breading the Chicken
- In a medium or large mixing bowl (lid is optional) add 1-2 cups of all-purpose flour.
- Crack 3 eggs into a seperate bowl and whisk thoroughly.
- Take chicken out of the fridge and place into a colander to strain any excess water. There no need to pat the chicken dry.
- Place 10-12 pieces of chicken into the flour mix and cover fully in flour. If you have a lid gently toss the chicken.
- Place chicken into the egg bowl. And then back into the flour mixture one last time.
- Once chicken is coated in flour mixture, place the pieces onto a wire rack.
- Repeat steps 1-4 until all chicken is covered in flour.
- Coat one side of the chicken while on the rack with oil. Any oil is fine but canola oil works best. Only coat what chicken will fit into your air fryer.
- Add chicken to your air fryer trying not to overcrowd the bottom. Chicken pieces cannot be stacked on top of each other.
Air Frying the Chicken
- Set your air fryer to 375°F (190°C) for approx 12-14 minutes. All air fryer cooking times can vary depending on the brand. It's important to check your chicken through the cooking process so as not to burn or dry out the chicken.
- When the chicken has reached the halfway point, pause your air fryer. And gently turn each piece of chicken. Baste on a small amount of oil to cover any remaining bits of flour. And restart your air fryer.
- When the chicken is a lovely shade of golden brown, the chicken is ready. Place on a wire rack and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat steps 1-2 until all of the chicken is cooked. Rememeber to (baste oil onto the next batch of chicken) before placing into your air fryer.
Adding the Chicken to the Honey Sauce
- Give the honey sauce another whisk.
- Place a saute pan or wok onto high heat and pour the sauce into the center of the pan.
- Wait for the sauce to boil fully while stirring with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Turn down to medium heat and take the pan/wok off.
- Place all of the cooked chicken into pan/wok and mix the sauce gently but thoroughly until all of the chicken is coated in honey sauce.