Skip to Content

What is Chinese boneless chicken made of?

Chinese boneless chicken is a popular menu item at many Chinese restaurants. It consists of chicken that has been deboned and usually battered and fried or sauced. There are a few key things that go into making Chinese boneless chicken.

Chicken Type

Most Chinese boneless chicken is made from chicken breast meat. This is the leanest part of the chicken and provides a mild flavor as well as a texture that holds up well to frying, saucing, and chopping. While thigh or leg meat is sometimes used, breast meat is preferred for its versatility.

Removing Bones

To create boneless chicken, the bones are removed from the meat. This is typically done by hand, with the chef carefully filleting the chicken breasts to cut out all bones, cartilage, and tendons. It takes some skill to remove all the small bones while keeping the chicken breast intact.


Once deboned, the chicken is usually sliced, diced, or cubed. The size and shape depends on the particular dish. For something like chicken fingers, long thin strips are cut. For stir-fries and sauced dishes, small cubes are more common. This allows the chicken to cook quickly and absorb flavors.


Chinese boneless chicken is typically marinated before cooking. The marinade helps add flavor and keep the chicken moist. A simple marinade might contain soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, ginger, and cornstarch. Spices like five-spice powder are also popular. The chicken soaks in the marinade anywhere from 20 minutes to overnight.


For boneless chicken that will be fried, a batter is applied before cooking. The batter helps seal in moisture and adds a crispy, crunchy coating. Batters range from a light dusting of cornstarch to thick coatings of egg and starch. Common batters include:

  • Cornstarch – A light dusting that crisps up nicely
  • Flour – Mixed with egg and water to make a thicker batter
  • Tempura batter – A very light Japanese-style batter
  • Beer batter – Featuring beer for a distinct flavor


Frying is the most common cooking method for boneless chicken in Chinese cuisine. The chicken is fried up until golden brown and crispy. The oil temperature is usually between 350-375°F. The chicken is fried in small batches to maintain the temperature. Frying cooks the chicken quickly while also adding texture from the batter and absorbing any flavors from the oil.


In other boneless chicken dishes, frying is skipped and the chicken is instead cooked by sautéing, baking, or braising in sauce. Common Chinese sauces and cooking liquids include:

  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sweet and sour sauce
  • Garlic sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Rice wine
  • Chicken stock

The sauce adds flavor and gives the boneless chicken a lovely glossy finish.


In addition to marinades and sauces, boneless chicken is often seasoned before or after cooking. Common Chinese seasonings include:

  • Five-spice powder
  • White pepper
  • Sichuan peppercorns
  • Red chili flakes
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Green onions
  • Sesame seeds

These spices and aromatics complement the chicken flavor and complete the dish.


Boneless chicken is usually served with something starchy on the side. Common pairings are:

  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Buns

It may also be served with a veggie side dish like bok choy, broccoli, or carrots. And no Chinese meal is complete without soy sauce on the table.

Key Takeaways

Here are the key points on what Chinese boneless chicken is made of:

  • Chicken breast is the most commonly used cut of meat
  • Bones, cartilage and tendons are removed by hand
  • Chicken is sliced, diced, or cubed
  • Marinades add flavor and moisture
  • Frying, sautéing, baking, and braising are common cooking methods
  • Batters and breadings create a crispy exterior
  • Sauces such as oyster, hoisin, and sweet and sour provide flavor
  • Seasonings like five-spice powder, sesame, and chili complement the chicken

While the exact preparation varies by recipe, this covers the basic components that go into making the Chinese boneless chicken we all love!

Nutrition Information

The nutrition of Chinese boneless chicken can vary significantly based on the exact ingredients and cooking method. Here is the approximate nutrition for a common version – 100g of fried boneless chicken in a light batter, without sauce or seasoning:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 221
Fat 13g
Carbs 5g
Protein 24g

As you can see, boneless chicken is high in protein and relatively low in carbs when served plain. The biggest nutritional factor is the fat content, which can range widely depending on cooking method. Fried chicken has significantly more fat than baked or sauteed. Adding sauces and batter also increases the carb and calorie counts.

Popular Chinese Boneless Chicken Dishes

Boneless chicken is featured in a number of classic Chinese dishes. Here are some of the most popular:

General Tso’s Chicken

Chicken cubes fried with batter, then cooked in a sweet, savory sauce along with broccoli and chili peppers. The sauce gives this dish its signature flavor.

Sesame Chicken

The chicken is fried or baked with a light dusting of cornstarch, then coated in a thick, sweet sesame sauce. Often garnished with sesame seeds and green onions.

Kung Pao Chicken

Spicy diced chicken stir-fried with peanuts, chili peppers, vegetables, and a savory sauce flavored with soy sauce and rice wine.

Cashew Chicken

Chicken sautéed with carrots, celery, bell peppers, and cashews. The sauce is made from oyster sauce, soy sauce, and rice wine.

Chicken Chow Mein

Chow mein noodles stir-fried with sliced chicken, cabbage, onion, and celery. The chicken slices soak up the savory sauce.

Lemon Chicken

A crisp fried chicken in lemon sauce. The bright, tart lemon cuts through the fried coating and contrasts nicely.

Chicken with Mixed Vegetables

Stir-fries made with sliced chicken, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, baby corn, snow peas, or other veggies in garlic sauce.

Chicken Fried Rice

Diced chicken and eggs cooked into fluffy rice along with soy sauce, vegetables, and other seasonings.


What cut of chicken is typically used?

Chicken breast is most commonly used as it is versatile, lean, and has a mild flavor that takes on sauces and seasoning well. Chicken thigh or leg meat may also be used.

Is the chicken skin left on or removed?

For Chinese boneless chicken, the skin is always removed to reduce fat and calories and allow for even cooking. Skinless, boneless chicken breast is ideal.

Does it contain MSG?

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is commonly used in Chinese cooking and may be an ingredient in some boneless chicken dishes and sauces. Many restaurants offer MSG-free options if requested.

What’s the healthiest way to prepare it?

Opt for sautéing, baking, or braising over deep frying. Also choose lower-sodium sauces and ask for steamed vegetables instead of fried rice or noodles.

Is reheating boneless chicken safe?

Leftover cooked chicken can safely be reheated once. Reheat fully to 165°F and eat within a couple days. Do not reheat chicken more than once as it increases food safety risks.


Chinese boneless chicken brings together lean, tender chicken with flavorful sauces, seasonings, and cooking techniques. While fried chicken tends to be the most popular, sautéed, braised, and baked versions can also be found. No matter how it’s prepared, boneless chicken remains a staple on Chinese restaurant menus, providing a tasty protein to pair with rice, noodles, or veggies. When made well, it’s easy to see why this versatile chicken dish maintains such widespread popularity.