Give Sweet And Sour Chicken A Kick With Red Peppers

Though it may not top the list of most popular Chinese takeout dish in America, sweet and sour chicken still rates pretty high. And with good reason. Sweet and sour chicken is chock full of sticky deliciousness that makes the salivary glands shift into overdrive, with a sauce that hits both sweet and tangy notes by way of sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and pineapple juice. The crispy fried chicken — thighs or breast — sits atop a mound of white rice that acts as a palate cleanser for all that flavor. But there are times when you may want to give it a bit more kick — enter red peppers.

Though chunks of bell pepper, in general, are often included in sweet and sour chicken along with onions, they're not always present, and when they are, they're not always red ones. But when making sweet and sour chicken at home, you should consider regularly including them. Not only do they lend a vibrant splash of color to this dish, but they also provide some additional citrusy sweetness that their more biting green counterparts do not have, as well as some crunch to help vary the texture of the meal.

Conversely, red pepper flakes (a mix of jalapeño, Fresno, and Anaheim peppers, with cayenne taking the lead) are not a common element in sweet and sour chicken, but make an excellent addition if you want to kick up spiciness.

How to use red peppers to elevate sweet and sour chicken

The double inclusion of red pepper is absolutely yummy, and it's a super easy upgrade to incorporate into this dish. For the fresh red pepper, just chop it into bite-sized chunks and heat it on low with some onion in a little bit of oil until slightly softened. In the same pot, add your sauce and fried chicken which are each cooked separately, as well as optional pineapple chunks. Mix it all together so the sauce thoroughly coats the veggies, fruit, and chicken before spooning it over the rice. You can also include green, orange, and yellow bell peppers to vary the flavor even more — creating a bell-peppery melange of bright colors and flavor.

About ¼ teaspoon of red pepper chili flakes can be worked into the sweet and sour sauce as you cook it on the stovetop, or sprinkled directly and liberally atop the dish at the end, along with sesame seeds or chopped green onions.

If you enjoy the increased heat, which fans of the spicier General Tso's might, you could also try integrating ground white pepper or red Sichuan peppercorns next time for a spicier Sichuan vibe. With a little practice, you can master this popular dish and cross one more item off of your "takeout only" list.