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When I was about twelve, my Mom opened a Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant. And no, she’s neither Chinese nor Vietnamese. The year prior, she had become deeply involved as a sponsor for refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It was this involvement, along with some crazy thinking, that led her to partner with a Vietnamese friend and open Thien Phu (which means “Bless You” in Vietnamese). Needless to say, I ate a LOT of sweet and sour chicken in those days. (That, and Chicken Lo Mein.) I also drank a lot of Diet Coke. Sigh. Ah well – the past is, as they say, the past. But not where Sweet and Sour Chicken is concerned, not anymore!
This Sweet and Sour Chicken has the right amount of tang from the garlic, coconut aminos and apple cider vinegar. The sauce is thick and just sweet enough. I also love the ease of this recipe. It takes just one pan (I use cast iron) to make: score!! I am always on the hunt for easy dinners, and this checks that box. It also is a perfect way to enjoy this Chinese take-out favorite without gluten, nightshades or MSG.
I do still miss somewhat the breaded nature of the Sweet and Sour Chicken from my youth. I did not attempt to re-create that here, but maybe in the future! This does take less time than a breaded version, so that’s a plus. If you experiment and try this, please let me know! I love reading about how others make changes or adjustments to recipes. After all, a recipe is simply a starting spot. Learning this gave me WAY more freedom in the kitchen. Because I used to be a “follow it to the letter” kind of recipe-maker. One who never improvised. I’ll be honest, it made cooking a lot less fun. It certainly removed any spontaneity.
Now, when something fails, I don’t take it personally. I see it as part of the learning process. Failure is, after all, a great teacher, if we will let it be.
My Mom’s restaurant, in the end, did not survive past five-ish years. Restaurant business is a ton of work, and many do not make it. When she speaks of those years, she speaks of failure. But I don’t see it that way. When I think of those years, I see bravery. I watched her TRY to make something work. To build something of value. Bravery doesn’t have to be sky-diving or horseback riding (at least, those would sure require bravery for me)! It can be tackling anything big, that begins as a dream. And if it fails? All the better chance to say “I’m still worthy and valuable. I’m learning.”
Enjoy this Sweet and Sour Chicken friends! Perfect alongside some cauli ricer or pan-fried sweet potato wedges. It’ll also make perfect kid lunchbox food. And, promise, you’re non-AIP family will enjoy this, too. If you make, don’t forget to #letscreatethesweetlife!
What You Need to Make this Recipe:
- cast iron pan: I cook with this every single day. I don’t worry about using too much fat, since I believe fat is where it’s at! And I eat plenty of it.
- solid cooking fat: I’ve been using duck fat a lot lately – love its versatility and depth of flavor!
- coconut sugar: thickens the sauce and gives it a brown sugary flavor. You could try swapping for honey, though I haven’t tried it that way
- raw apple cider vinegar: one of those products I can’t live without. For real!
- coconut aminos: another AIP kitchen staple
- arrowroot flour: great for thickening sauces and baked goods, it’s yet another kitchen must have for me!
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Sweet and Sour Chicken (AIP + Paleo)
Sweet and Sour Chicken is back on the menu! Perfect for when you're craving the Chinese take-out favorite, this one's also a one pan meal that comes together in under 45 minutes. Tangy, sweet, thick sauce coats cubed chicken and pineapple. Serve alongside cauliflower rice for a main meal that everyone will love!
- 1 lb chicken breasts
- 1 Tablespoon solid cooking fat
- 2 cups cubed pineapple
- 1/2 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup orange juice (apple will also work)
- 1/4 cup bone broth
- 3 Tablespoon coconut sugar
- 2 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoon coconut aminos
- 1 Tablespoon arrowroot
- 2 Tablespoon water
Heat pan (I like my cast iron) over medium heat. Cube chicken and pineapple. Chop onion and mince garlic.
Add fat to pan and swirl to coat. Cook chicken, about ~8 minutes, then set aside in large bowl. Cook pineapple about 4-5 minutes, until slightly caramelized and fragrant. Remove to bowl with chicken.
Set heat to low. Add juice, broth, coconut sugar, apple cider vinegar and coconut aminoes. Whisk till sugar dissolves. In a separate small bowl, dissolve arrowroot powder in water by whisking. VERY slowly pour arrowroot mixture into pan, while whisking continually. It took me 7 small pours. Continue to whisk until sauce begins to thicken. About 4 minutes. As soon as it starts to thicken, pour about 3/4 over chicken pineapple mixture. Reserve rest for dipping. Serve immediately. Enjoy!!!