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Lighter Sesame Chicken

Say "open sesame" to a Chinese-restaurant classic that's no longer a guilty pleasure. Our chicken is sauteed in a little oil instead of deep fried. The less-sweet sauce has fewer calories than a standard recipe, and, nutritionally, brown rice beats white.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 4
Lighter Sesame Chicken

Photography: Anna Williams

Source: Everyday Food, December 2007


  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed with a garlic press
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into large florets, stems peeled and thinly sliced


  1. Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, and fill with 1 inch water; set aside for broccoli. Cook rice according to package instructions.

  2. Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small bowl, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and cornstarch. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.

  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken; cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and chicken. Return all the chicken to skillet; add reserved sauce and scallions, and toss to coat.

  4. Meanwhile, place saucepan with steamer basket over high heat; bring water to a boil. Add broccoli, and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve sesame chicken with broccoli and rice.

Reviews (62)

  • runmute 11 Jan, 2014

    life insurance rate

  • eater of worlds 23 Oct, 2013

    this recipe is absolute [filtered word]
    I've halved the honey, doubled the sesame, and it was still inedibly sweet.
    The sweetness isn't a problem, ok, i don't like sweet, but i still couldn't detect a hint of sesame.
    This is just another copy/pasted recipe, without being actually sampled first.
    Bad, bad, bad.

  • lisakow 24 Jan, 2013

    A fabulous, delicous and healthy meal BUT I double the sauce recipe because I found it too dry otherwise.

  • ccherd 22 Mar, 2012

    Have made this recipe numerous times for, of all people, piles of teenagers. Not only do they love it, some of them request it if they will be over at dinner time. Easy to make, great flavors and also reheats well.

  • katiecooper 8 Dec, 2011

    Yes, very good indeed. Just made this last night and substituted flour for cornstarch and the chicken turned out fabulous. Also added red pepper flake for a spicy kick. Next time I will make a little more sauce.

  • kelseypage 10 Oct, 2011

    This is great, I liked the sauce. I will definitely make this again!

  • Kb2121 4 Oct, 2011

    Would make extra dipping sauce next time.

  • Kb2121 4 Oct, 2011

    Lived in Malaysia for five years - great recipe says the family!

  • scooper212 3 Oct, 2011

    OMG, I just tried that busy day chocolate cake and now this. Martha and her team are blowing my mind away with these quick recipes. Super easy to make and it doesn't require too much time. If you like "lighter" Asian fare, this is the recipe for you. Even my German boyfriend (who has a cold) liked it! That's saying something!

  • jessicas20 1 Jun, 2011

    We're going to try this tonight! Does anyone by any chance know the calories in this recipe? We're trying to watch our weight here!

  • BlumpkinPie 20 May, 2011

    YUM!!! I rarely follow recipes to a T, but I did with this one and was happy with the result. Other reviewers said that it needs more sauce, but I thought it was perfect the way it is. I just tossed it before eating so that the sauce that's already there could be dispersed. It subtly sweetened the whole dish. I'm currently counting calories and this recipe is within my 500 calorie limit for dinners. I made it two nights in a row and plan to try it with shrimp instead of chicken next time. :-)

  • allthatsheatherly 15 Mar, 2011

    FABULOUS! I made this recipe as it was written, and it was so moist and delicious. The breading is great, and I just dumped it all in the pan with the chicken ~ didn't want to waste any. I used a very high quality brown rice, and made an extra batch to freeze. I just mixed the rice and chicken mixture and portioned it out in freezer baggies. I did not freeze the broccoli with it. But it was awesome warmed up at work for lunches. HIGHLY RECOMMEND! :)

  • smh131 17 Feb, 2011

    Just made this tonight and it turned out very well. I omitted the sesame seeds and didn't miss them at all. Delicious!

  • kzwierstra 15 Jan, 2011

    I was half way through prep time before I read any of the comments and the first one I saw was negative but this dish came out very well. I used gomashio and just cut down on the salt since its already in that, and added a lil sesame oil and red pepper flake for heat. Very good. Will cook again.

  • lasaunda 2 Dec, 2010

    Not good. I cooked according to the recipe, but should have read these reviews first. I have sesame oil in the cabinet, and that may have helped. The meal wasn't terrible, but it was definitely missing something. I wasn't impressed.

  • peterswife 26 Sep, 2010

    The cornstarch/egg white batter is excellent. It keeps the chicken very moist. I like the touch of sweetness from the honey, but I added a tiny bit of curry and crushed red pepper to give it a little more flavor. I also used mixed stirfry veggies instead of just broccoli. I doubled the amount of sauce based on other reviews but did not double the sesame seeds, and there were still plenty seeds. This recipe is really delicious and has made it into our biweekly rotation.

  • Ifancythetrio 2 Aug, 2010

    This was SO good. It tasted just like what you get at a chinese restaurant, but even better! Will def make this again. I love how it is very healthy for you too.

  • susan373 22 Jul, 2010

    I made this with some changes and it was so goood!!! I left the egg and cornstarch off the chicken. I added 1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil to the sauce and I cooked the chicken in olive oil with grated ginger and garlic (2 tea. each). And I toasted the seeds in a small dry fry pan to brown them up (2 or 3 Min) Try it this way!

  • salanie 22 Jul, 2010

    I love this recipe. I also added a tsp of sesame oil for that asian flavor, and I always cook my brown rice in chicken stock. These two changes add very few calories to the dish as a whole, but alot more flavor.

  • SallyDollLuvsJack 22 Jul, 2010

    hmmmmm...many say something is missing...could it be sesame oil?? since sesame oil smokes when heated, add a little to your regular veg oil...also, maybe some fresh grated ginger would taste good in the mix?

  • JenLikestoCook 20 Jun, 2010

    Great taste and a great alternative than ordering sesame chicken from a Chinese restaurant. Easy to make as my husband, who doesn't cook as much, could make it.

  • Jedibabe 8 Apr, 2010

    I decided to try firm tofu instead of chicken and it worked out great. I also made extra sauce and was glad I did so.

  • kimberly_ponomarova 9 Mar, 2010

    I disagree with some of the other users, this meal was great as is, an instant favourite. It was simple to make and fast. I loved the flavours (I used wild rice and brown rice mix and cooked it following Martha's perfect rice recipe.) Everything was moist and delicious. I agree that a bit of orange would be great with this meal.

  • jaclyninthebox 24 Feb, 2010

    I agree with ttouloumis. I cooked this recipe just as it is printed and my rice came out dry, making the meal unappealing and bland. I think that if I had doubled the sauce, the meal would have been MUCH more appetizing! Some orange in the sauce wouldn't be bad, either....

  • ttouloumis 15 Feb, 2010

    This came out delicious. My boyfriend loved it! It's a great, semi-healthy alternative to takeout. I doubled the sauce, and I would recommend doing so, unless you like dry rice.

  • rbee 14 Jan, 2010

    I have to cook for 5 people aged between 1 and 68 every day and this recipe worked really well. For the middle agers I put a small dish of sweet chilli sauce on the table. I also added a bit of chopped cilantro and lime juice.

  • larajb 7 Jan, 2010

    I was really excited to make this dish given the positive feedback but found it to be just OK. It seemed like it was missing a key ingredient. It was very bland. I don't plan to make this again.

  • bucki824 14 Dec, 2009

    My husband and I loved this! Even this kids (3 and 18months) ate it. It was good leftover as well.

  • historyguide 7 Dec, 2009

    This reciipe is also Gluten free. Just be careful to use a gluten free soy sauce.

  • JLA 15 Jul, 2009

    Wow! Love it! I didn't have brown rice so I used short-grain white rice and I followed the advice of many here in doubling the sauce. Yummy! Couldn't get enough of it.

  • marthaminiCantonGA 18 Jun, 2009

    Double the sauce for sure! Otherwise VERY tasty.

  • asjlsmama 12 Jun, 2009

    Super yummy! I don't bread the chicken and double the sauce, its wonderful!

  • erikalane 15 Jan, 2009

    I was looking for a lighter meal that was fairly basic but tasty, and this was exactly it! I did add more fresh veggies (carrots, celery, red pepper) and some fresh grated ginger to cook with veggies. I also tried basmati rice, and it all came together so well! A real winner, and wonderful seconds as I'm eating it again tonight!

  • lisakow 7 Jan, 2009

    Fabulous recipe - delicious, healthy and fast! Very easy direcitons. Will become a definite mainstay. Only criticism is that it needed more sauce...

  • danastar 10 Dec, 2008

    Followed recipe exactly... was surprised at how easy and delicious it was! The "breading" makes the chicken very satisfying, and tasted great! Only complaint is the small amount of sauce. I guess that's what makes it "lighter." I will just double the sauce next time and see how it goes.

  • danastar 10 Dec, 2008

    Followed recipe exactly... was surprised at how easy and delicious it was! The "breading" makes the chicken very satisfying, and tasted great! Only complaint is the small amount of sauce. I guess that's what makes it "lighter." I will just double the sauce next time and see how it goes.

  • Marthaisgenius 9 Nov, 2008

    This sauce is a real winner, and so easy to do. I added ginger to mine.

  • Somayeh 6 Aug, 2008

    Loved this tasted very much like sesame chicken you get at a restaurant. I also made brown basmati rice using Alton Browns Baked Brown Rice Recipe....delicious!

  • Somayeh 6 Aug, 2008

    Loved this tasted very much like sesame chicken you get at a restaurant. I also made brown basmati rice using Alton Browns Baked Brown Rice Recipe....delicious!

  • WesternLady 11 Jul, 2008

    I really liked this recipe and would recommend it to anyone. It is easy, tasty and elegant to serve. Perfect for dinner for two, or for entertaining guests.

  • schmandrea 1 Jul, 2008

    I replaced the chicken with tofu and it came out crisp and light.
    Will definitely make this again.

  • rouncer 29 Jun, 2008

    This is super easy and my husband even likes to make it. It's an impressive quick dinner for last minute company and usually have the stuff on hand to make it.

  • karaheald 6 Jun, 2008

    Super recipe - I have made it a few times since it was published and it has been delicious everytime. Leftovers for lunch the next day leave everyone asking at the office!

  • Coleman Boys Mama 21 May, 2008

    This is a great recipe! A non stick pan is a must and it is important to brown the chicken in two batches as stated in the recipe or it would probably turn into one large chicken pancake! Also, I placed the chicken in the skillet one piece at a time so it would not stick together. Double the sauce....its great! I'll be making this again and again!

  • MAGST100 3 Mar, 2008

    My fiance and I were really impressed with how this recipe turned out! I added crushed red pepper flakes to make it a little spicy and it was perfect. I was so proud of myself, I didn't think I could make food like this!

  • BritAmerican 1 Mar, 2008

    I loved it. I had trouble getting it to brown, it might be better in a non stick pan. Simple, easy and fat free, plus tastes good - how good can that get? I steamed my broccoli in microwave then added it at the last minute.

  • flits21 25 Feb, 2008

    The chicken does turn out moist but, overall, I was not impressed with the flavor of this recipe and would not make again. Previous reviews were way too enthusiastic. There are much better light, chicken stirfry recipes out there.. try

  • flits21 25 Feb, 2008

    The chicken does turn out moist but, overall, I was not impressed with the flavor of this recipe and would not make again. Previous reviews were way too enthusiastic. There are much better light, chicken stirfry recipes out there.. try

  • icensnow 19 Feb, 2008

    A_M_A_Z_I_N_G!!! I also made this tonight for my family and they couldn't get enough! It was delicious! The chicken turned out so moist and the sauce is fantastic! This has quickly turned into a family favorite!

  • heidimarieh 19 Feb, 2008

    I made this tonight, and it was EXCELLENT! My husband was so impressed. Next time, I might make a little extra sauce to mix around with the broccoli. Would add a few more calories, but it would be worth it!!!

  • jaymo 12 Feb, 2008

    I made this last night and it has become one of my favorite dishes. Ran out of white sesame seeds half way through so I used black. Added to the dish as far as color goes. Yummy!!

  • write4kids 28 Jan, 2008

    My kids loved this recipe and it was so easy to make. I added a teaspoon of Sesame oil too and it was fabulous! My kids love peanut sauce so I made up a quick sauce for them to dip their chicken in. I would love to see a recipe for Sesame Beef.

  • debhan 23 Jan, 2008

    This is a great recipe. I added a teaspoon of Sesame oil to the sauce and it was excellent

  • duckgrl 22 Jan, 2008

    This was my first Martha Stewart recipe and I tried it for a small dinner party. It was wonderful and I got a lot of compliments. So easy and tastes like take out even though it's not. Can you ask for more? :)

  • HJS799 14 Jan, 2008

    I agree. This was VERY good. I need to cut the chicken into larger bites though. When I put the chicken from the batter into the skillet, it kind of all formed a pancake when I went to turn them. LOL Live and and learn! My boyfriend has already requested this for next week. I did boxed brown rice and some steamed microwavable broccoli florets in the microwave. Simple.

  • JennyBop 10 Jan, 2008

    Easy and delicious. I like to make a little extra sauce to pour on my rice.

  • heatherjski 5 Jan, 2008

    Eveyone loved this recipe!! We love to eat out Chinese but its not healthy so we were thirilled when this dish was so good and on our diets!!

  • TexasNantz 4 Jan, 2008

    I thought this was excellent! I think it would be really nice with some red pepper flakes, but I didn't add them because I was feeding it to my kiddos. :) The chicken kind of finished cooking in the was really moist.

  • fla_guy9 1 Jan, 2008

    Not being highly skilled in the kitchen, I need recipes to be described in as simple a fashion as possible. I actually succeeded in creating a reasonable facsimile of this dish. Kudos to the team for presenting recipes that are tasty yet basic enough for the 'self-trained'. I liked the honey/soy sauce combo for the chicken; made for a tasty meal.

  • soccer1grl 30 Dec, 2007

    This dish tasted good, but not like sesame chicken (in my opinion).

  • LoveRiot 30 Dec, 2007

    I was in a pinch as to what to make for dinner. I had all the ingredients in the house except for broccoli, so I used a bag of frozen mixed veggies and it turned out great! It's quick and easy!

  • Allybean 29 Nov, 2007

    Very good - I cut chicken a little smaller and add ~1/2 lb more. I used calibroccli (light green cauliflower) instead, awesome!!! Even my husband loved it.

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