This Korean Sticky Chicken Recipe is packed with spicy, nutty sweetness. Honey and gochugaru create a peppery glaze that perfectly balance the sweet with the heat. Learn an easy technique for infusing a ton of flavor in a short time. No marinating required! Ready in 20 minutes from start to finish.
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Why This Korean Chicken Recipe Works
- Delicious simplicity. Korean sticky chicken may be easy to make, but tastes anything but. It’s loaded with layers of complex savory and sweet spiciness.
- It’s quick. Ready in about 20 minutes from start to finish.
- Versatile. Serve over rice, quinoa or with a side salad. Goes well surrounded by various Korean banchan. Or go rogue and make spicy chicken and waffles!
- No marinating required. You won’t have to wait around for a marinade to infuse bold flavors. I’ll show you a simple method to infuse a TON of flavor into the meat whether you use chicken breast or boneless thighs.
- Leftovers are magical. This Korean chicken is as delicious cold out of the fridge in the middle of the night as it was fresh out of the pan the day before.
What Does Sticky Chicken Taste Like
I use honey instead of sugar in this Korean chicken recipe. It delivers an understated and rich sweetness that compliments the fiery elements of the gochugaru. With honey, you can go sweet without going overboard into cloying territory. The floral element also makes the dish more complex in flavor.
Then factor in smoky Korean chili flakes, a splash of umami from the soy sauce, and a tangy tablespoon of rice vinegar, and you have a sauce that’s both sweet and savory, a little pungent and tart – with just the right amount of tongue tingling chili.
Ingredients For Korean Sticky Chicken
- Chicken: Skinless, boneless chicken breasts or chicken thighs are best for this recipe. Since there is pounding involved (I’ll explain!), you want to make sure that the cut you pick doesn’t have any bones, unless you don’t mind removing them yourself.
- Gochugaru: Korean chili pepper flakes are smoky and have just enough heat to warm the palate. More on this iconic ingredient in a sec.
- Oil: Any neutral oil works here. Grapeseed oil, vegetable oil and peanut oil are all good choices.
- Soy sauce: When it comes to soy sauce, I use Japanese shoyu. Japanese soy sauce is full of umami and fairly complex in flavor. My go to brand is Yamasa.
- Rice vinegar: Plain rice vinegar has a refreshing fruity taste similar to apple cider vinegar. Make sure it says plain on the bottle and not “original” or “seasoned” – as these types tend to be sweet.
- Honey: Use a honey you like to eat out of the jar since there is plenty of honey flavor in this dish. Just like when a recipe calls for wine, you should always pick one that you actually enjoy drinking on its own.
- Green onion: Chopped green onions (scallions) are used as a garnish for a bright and sharp crunch.
What is Gochugaru
Gochugaru is a coarsely ground sun-dried chili pepper, that is used to provide heat in everything from kimchi to marinades to dipping sauces. The flakes are bright red and have a smoky, almost sweet undertone. The spice level is comparable to poblano peppers and jalapeños. Think of the consistency as a cross between a chili powder and chili flakes.
Gochugaru is one of those integral ingredients that forms much of the architecture of how Korean food tastes. Without it, many Korean recipes wouldn’t get that trademark smoky, spicy flavor profile they are so well known for.
You can easily find gochugaru sold in Korean supermarkets or here on Amazon.
How To Make Korean Sticky Chicken
Instead of spending hours marinating your chicken to achieve deep flavor, spice it – then give it a bash with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin.
- Lay your boneless chicken pieces on a piece of parchment paper atop a solid surface like a kitchen island or butcher’s block. Sprinkle gochugaru (red chili flakes) on top of the chicken and place another piece of parchment paper on top.
- Then pound the chicken a few times with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer. This locks the spices into your chicken.
- Pan fry the chicken in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat for a few minutes until it’s fully cooked and beginning to brown and transfer the pieces to a plate.
- Mix the sauce ingredients together and add to the empty skillet. Stir until the sauce starts to bubble – about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Return the chicken to the hot skillet and quickly toss with the sauce until all the pieces are coated evenly.
- Turn the heat off and add the sesame seeds. Toss the chicken and transfer the dish to a serving plate. Serve immediately with chopped green onions.
*This method does not tenderize chicken, it just gives it flavor.
Tips and Variations
- Boost the flavor. Drizzle a little toasted sesame oil on the chicken pieces before serving to add a nutty depth of flavor. A little sesame oil goes a long way.
- Spice it up. Mix 1 teaspoon gochujang with 2 tablespoons water and add it to the sauce to make your Korean chicken even more fiery. Another option would be to add sriracha sauce (which is spicy, garlicky and sweet).
- Make Korean inspired BBQ sauce. Add a squirt of ketchup and a dash of worcestershire sauce to your sauce mixture to impart a more bbq-like taste.
- Thicken the sauce. To make the sauce gooey and thick, mix 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water. If you choose this option, add the cornstarch slurry slowly, stirring the sauce the entire time so it incorporates evenly.
- Try a different protein. Shrimp or extra firm tofu are obvious contenders.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! But not without a few ingredient changes. Use extra firm tofu instead of the chicken. And use maple syrup instead of the honey. Or try this pan fried tofu with gochujang sauce recipe.
No. Korean fried chicken is deep fried and has a texture that is much more crunchy. However, this sticky chicken recipe was born out of my love for KFC – and my crippling fear of cooking with a huge vat of boiling oil. The sauce in this recipe captures the spicy/sweet flavor essence of Korean fried chicken, but is simply pan fried. That said, this sticky chicken sauce would make a great wing sauce!
The only spicy element in this recipe is from gochugaru. Now, while there are exceptions, most Korean chili pepper flakes err on the side of smoky heat rather than volcanic, melt-your-face fire. This makes it great for people who may be sensitive to spice, but still love Korean flavors.
What to Serve With Korean Sticky Chicken
Make it a meal with a few banchan.
- Korean Spicy Daikon Radish Salad (무생채)
- Bean Sprout Salad (Sookju Namul)
- Korean Cucumber Salad
- Scallion Pancakes (Pajeon – 파전 )
- The Best Vegan Kimchi – 김치
Store leftovers in an airtight food storage container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Microwave leftovers in a container with a vented lid – at 50% intensity – until hot. Reheating on medium will make the chicken less likely to dry out. Top with freshly chopped green onions and a few sesame seeds for that fresh out of the pan experience.
- However, this is one of those rare leftovers that tastes great cold. If you love leftover chicken, ‘fresh’ from the fridge, then you know what to do.
Other Easy and Delicious Korean Recipes You Might Like
Did you try this Korean chicken recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!
Hot, sweet and savory, this Korean sticky chicken is the perfect accompaniment to a steamy bowl of white rice, and only takes 20 minutes to make from start to finish.
- 1 pound skinless and boneless chicken breasts or thighs, sliced into large chunks
- 2 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes)
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil, vegetable oil, or other neutral oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 2 stalks scallions, chopped
- Put the chicken pieces on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle Korean red pepper flakes on top. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and pound the chicken with a meat mallet, until each piece is well coated.
- In a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat, add the oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom surface of the skillet. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook on each side for 2 to 3 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- In the same pan over medium heat, add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and honey, and let the sauce bubble for 1 minute, until it thickens a little.
- Return the chicken to the pan and cook for about 1 minute, until the chicken is coated evenly.
- Turn the heat off and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Toss the chicken on last time and transfer it to a serving plate.
- Top with chopped scallions a serve immediately.
This Korean sticky chicken recipe will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 304
- Sugar: 12.7g
- Sodium: 360.5mg
- Fat: 10.7g
- Saturated Fat: 1.6g
- Unsaturated Fat: 4.8g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 16.2g
- Fiber: 1.5g
- Protein: 35.9g
- Cholesterol: 110.3mg
Keywords: Korean chicken