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Soy Sauce Chicken

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Soy sauce chicken not only tastes great, it makes a real eye-catching centre piece.

One of the things that makes soy sauce chicken look so amazing and taste so good is the way it is cooked. If you are not familiar with this popular dish, you might have seen it hanging in the windows of fancy Chinese restaurants together with Peking duck and char sui. 

You are going to need at least an hour to prepare this soy sauce chicken but you will be well rewarded for your effort.

Soy sauce chicken

What is soy sauce chicken?

Chinese restaurant-style soy sauce chicken is a popular and flavorful dish that typically features chicken cooked in a savory soy-based sauce. The exact recipe can vary, but here’s a general overview of what is often in a Chinese restaurant-style soy sauce chicken:


  • Chicken: Whole chicken, chicken pieces, or chicken wings/drumsticks can be used. In this recipe, you use the whole bird.
  • Soy Sauce: The primary seasoning for the dish. Dark soy sauce is often used for its rich flavour and colour as in this recipe.
  • Shaoxing Rice Wine: Adds depth of flavour and a mild sweetness. You can substitute dry sherry. 
  • Sugar: Usually brown  to balance the saltiness of the soy sauce and to add colour.
  • Ginger and Garlic: Freshly minced or sliced for aromatic flavour.
  • Star Anise, Cloves, Cinnamon and Fennel Seeds: These are a must for the characteristic flavour profile of Chinese soy sauce chicken.
  • Sesame Oil: Adds a nutty aroma and flavour.

How is soy sauce chicken cooked?

There are many different recipes but after trying quite a few and watching the process done, I think this is the best.

The marinade and a little additional liquid such as water or unsalted chicken stock are brought to the boil. Then the chicken is lowered into the boiling broth and the heat is turned off. You then cover the pan and allow the chicken to sit in the hot broth for 15 minutes.

After that, you transfer the chicken to a plate and bring the broth back up to a boil. Add the chicken again and let it sit for 15 minutes. You repeat this process two more times. 

It’s really that easy.

Choosing the right chicken for Soy Sauce Chicken.

I decided to do a little experiment to show you how important it is to use a good quality free-range chicken for this recipe. The photo below shows the finished result from a barn-reared chicken I picked up at a local supermarket. I could see when I opened it that the skin didn’t look anything like the free-range chicken I purchased from my butcher.

I highly recommend sourcing a good quality free-range chicken for this recipe. Free-range chicken looks and tastes better as it is no doubt a healthier and happier chicken.

Below is a photo of a barn-reared chicken. 

This tasted alright but the presentation was terrible. Go for the best quality free-range chicken you can find!

Although it looks like the skin has come off, it hasn’t. |The skin is still on but the outer layer of skin was never there because it never developed as it should. You need that out layer of skin for the chicken to colour correctly.

A discoloured barn-reared soy sauce chicken after cooking.

Notice the difference in the colouring with the barn reared chicken. It was cooked exactly like the free range chicken.

Why do you cook it like that?

Some chefs simply simmer the chicken in the marinade broth. This works and you will get some tasty chicken at the end.

Cooking the soy sauce chicken in the way I do makes the meat much more succulent. There is no chance of overcooking the chicken and getting stringy meat. As the chicken sits, four times in the hot broth, it slowly cooks through.

The meat and skin soak up all that flavour. We are talking amazing here!

How do you serve soy sauce chicken?

When the chicken is ready for serving, you transfer it to a clean chopping board. You could just slice it with a sharp knife but using a chopper is more common. Cut the meat on the bone into small pieces and then serve it with hot steamed rice, the cooking liquid and perhaps another couple of sauces. I recommend trying the sesame oil sauce in the recipe card below and crispy chilli oil

Is the chicken served hot or cold?

I prefer to serve it immediately, so hot. You can also serve the chicken cold with some of the hot cooking broth to dip it in.

How long will this keep in the fridge?

If you happen to have leftovers, you can store them in the fridge for at least three days. Although you could heat it up in your microwave, I recommend serving the leftovers cold or at room temperature.

Can you freeze soy sauce chicken?

Yes. Just freeze it in portions that are convenient for you. Then let it defrost completely in the fridge before bringing it out to come to room temperature.

You can also cool and freeze the cooking stock to use again.

Step by step photographs.

Ingredients for soy sauce chicken.

Get your ingredients together before starting.

Heating up the marinade.

Heat the marinade ingredients over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves.

The chicken marinating.

Allow the marinade to cool. Place the chicken in a ziplock back and cover it with the cooled marinade.

The chicken and marinade in a pot.

Place the chicken in a large pot with the marinade. The chicken needs to be completely submerged in liquid.

The chicken in the pot covered with the braising liquid.

Add water or unsalted stock to cover and then remove the chicken. Bring the liquid to a boil.

Placing the chicken in the boiling stock in the pot.

Place the chicken in the boiling broth. Cover the pot and turn off the heat and allow it to sit and soak for 15 minutes.

Cooking the chicken to perfection.

The process of adding the chicken to the boiling stock, covering the pot and letting it sit to soak up the broth is repeated three more time. So 4 times in total. Although I did take photos of this process, they all looked quite similar so I don’t want to bore you with those.

Soy sauce chicken. A whole chicken ready for slicing.

After four soaks in the hot soy sauce broth, I brought out this delicious chicken.

The sliced chicken

To serve it, chop off the wings and legs. Then slice between the leg and thigh. Remove the breasts and slice them into pieces as shown.

Finished soy sauce chicken.

This is the barn-reared chicken so the skin is more blotchy but the photo shows how you can serve this. The chicken was still amazing though.

If you like this Chinese-American classic, you might like to try some of the following too!

I am adding new Chinese recipes to my blog regularly so be sure to check out the Chinese section often. For now, why not try some of these?

  1. General Tso’s Chicken
  2. Crispy Chicken and Broccoli
  3. Salt and Pepper Chicken
  4. Sesame Chicken
  5. Sweet and Sour Chicken
  6. Kung Pao Chicken
  7. Dan Dan Noodles
  8. Orange Chicken
  9. Hainan Chicken
  10. Spicy Chicken Chow Mein
  11. Mongolian Beef
  12. Chinese Crispy Beef
  13. Egg Drop Soup
  14. Spicy Won Ton Soup
  15. Egg Fried Rice
  16. Potstickers

Have you tried this soy sauce chicken recipe?

If yes, please give it a star rating in the recipe card below and leave a comment. I love receiving your feedback and I’m sure other readers of my blog do too. Thank you.

Yield: 4

Soy Sauce Chicken

The sliced soy sauce chicken

Soy Sauce Chicken is known for it shiny brown appearance. It is often hung in the window of good Chinese restaurant together with Peking duck and char sui. This recipe will get you restaurant quality results!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes


  • 1 x 1.8k (3 lb.) whole chicken
  • Marinade
  • 500ml (2 cups) soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 200g (1 cup) brown sugar
  • 10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 x 5cm (2 inch) ginger, roughly chopped
  • 8 spring onions (scallions), roughly chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 x 5cm (2 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE (optional)
  • 70ml (1/4 cup) sesame oil
  • 4 spring onions (scallions) finely chopped
  • Salt to taste


  1. Marinating the chicken is optional but it will benefit the flavour. To marinate the chicken, pour all of the marinade ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved and then take off the heat to cool.
  2. Place the chicken in a large freezer bag or similar and carefully pour the cooled marinade over it. You can also do this in a large bowl but you will need to turn the chicken from time to time. Seal it shut, being careful to that there are no air pockets and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight. The longer the better. Again... this is just a bonus step. You can leave it out and still get fantastic results.
  3. When ready to cook, find a pot that is large enough to contain the chicken completely covered in liquid. Put the chicken and all the marinade in a saucepan. The chicken needs to be completely submerged with liquid so pour in some unsalted chicken stock or water until it is submerged in liquid.
  4. Transfer the chicken from the pan to a plate and then bring the liquid to a rapid boil. Carefully return the chicken to the pan, cover and turn off the heat. Allow the chicken to soak in the hot broth for 15 minutes and then transfer it to a plate with some tongs.
  5. Bring the broth back up to a boil and then add the chicken again. Turn off the heat and cover the pan and allow the chicken to sit in the hot broth for another 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate with some tongs.
  6. Repeat this process two more times. So in total, you will bring the broth to a boil 4 times and let the chicken sit in the hot broth 4 times. Check for doneness after the forth soak. If the chicken is cooked through, transfer it to a clean surface for slicing. You can test this with a fork. If the juices run clear when pricked, your chicken is cooked. If you have a meat thermometer, you’re aiming for an internal temperature of 74C/165F. Just continue simmering lightly until it is cooked. If not, gently simmer it for a little longer.
  7. By gently, I mean very gently! You should only see a couple of bubbles rising to the top and be sure to get it out quickly when cooked through.
  8. Once cooked through, transfer the chicken to a clean service and allow to cool some and then slice it or use a clever to chop it into small pieces that you can easily pick up and eat by hand. Heat up the cooking liquid until hot and serve it as a dipping sauce for the chicken. You might also like to serve this with the optional sesame oil sauce or crispy chilli oil.
  9. To make the sesame oil dipping sauce, pour the oil into a small pan. Add the chopped spring onions (scallions) and fry for about a minutes. Take off the heat and season with salt to taste.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 417Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 2626mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 3gSugar: 9gProtein: 10g

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