Karaage Chicken is one of the most popular Japanese dishes not only within Japan but abroad as well. The chicken is marinated with soy sauce, sake, ginger and mirin to give a touch of sweetness. Chicken pieces are deep fried twice to make them crunchy on the outside and juicy inside – a little known secret outside of Japan!
I originally posted this recipe in September 2016 but now I have added a recipe video and a new section, Meal Ideas with updated post contents!
Karaage Chicken is my children’s long standing no. 1 favourite dish within my repertoire. Whenever I suggest that I will cook a Japanese meal for them, Karaage Chicken is their first request.
Some people might be thinking that ‘karaage’ is Japanese fried chicken. But this is not correct. The word “karaage” (唐揚げ) is a generic word for deep fried food coated with or without flour. It does not have to be chicken.
So karaage chicken is called “tori no karaage” (鶏の唐揚げ, fried chicken) in Japanese, qualifying that it is chicken (tori, 鶏).
Karaage originally meant deep fried meat or fish without any marinating. If you marinate the meat/fish with some flavourings such as soy sauce before coating with flour, the dish becomes “tatsutaage” (竜田揚げ), which I will introduce to you another time with fish.
But these days, both methods are called karaage, and often it refers to fried chicken since chicken is the most popular karaage.
My karaage chicken is marinated before frying. I used thigh fillets with skin on, but you can remove the skin if you wish. You can also use chicken breast, although the fried meat might not be as juicy as thigh fillets. The fillets are cut into large bite size pieces – about 5cm x 4cm / 2″ x 1½”.
Unlike American-style fried chicken, Japanese Fried Chicken is cut into large bite size pieces, about 5cm x 4cm (2″ x 1½”), so that you can eat them with chopsticks.
The marinade is just a mixture of soy sauce, sake, mirin and freshly grated ginger. The ginger eliminates the chicken smell from the karaage and gives a great refreshing flavour. Marinating time is only 30minutes to 1 hour.
Many karaage chicken recipes you find on the internet or cookbooks add garlic to the marinade. I don’t use garlic because that’s not how I remember the taste of authentic karaage in Japan and how I have been cooking it. Come to think of it, very traditional Japanese dishes rarely use garlic.
Secret to Crispy Karaage Chicken
I used cornflour/corn starch to coat the chicken pieces this time but I often use plain flour instead. You could also use equal parts corn flour and plain flour. I find that corn flour makes the coating lighter when deep fried.
A tip for making extra crispy karaage is to deep fry the chicken twice.
- Half cook the chicken pieces by deep frying them at lower temperature (about 160-165C/320-329F).
- Rest for 3-4 minutes.
- Deep fry the chicken pieces for the second time at about 190-200C/374-392F for 1-2 minutes.
Frying twice as above ensures that the outside of the karaage chicken is crunchy and golden brown while the inside is juicy.
Recipe Video Above. One of the most popular Japanese dishes, not only within japan but abroad, karaage chicken is pretty easy to make as long as you don't mind deep frying. Just marinate the chicken, toss in flour and deep fry. Simple as that. The key is double frying so that the chicken becomes crunchy outside and juicy inside.
Prep time does not include 30 min-1 hour to marinate chicken.
- 350g/12.3oz chicken thigh fillets , cut into large bite size pieces (Note 1)
- 20g/0.7oz corn flour (corn starch)
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1/2 tsp mirin (Note 2)
- 2 tsp freshly grated ginger including juice
- Shredded lettuce or cabbage
- Parsley stem
Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towel. Put the chicken and the Marinade ingredients into a zip lock bag or a bowl.
Toss chicken inside the bag well ensuring that all pieces are coated with the marinade. Marinate for 30 min-1 hour.
1. Heat enough oil in a deep pot or pan to 160C/320F (note 3). The depth of oils is about 3-4cm/1¼-1½”.
Meanwhile, drain excess marinade from the chicken, place the chicken pieces on paper towels to remove excess liquid and put in a bowl. Sprinkle over the corn flour and turn chicken to coat every piece.
Fry chicken in batches. Add several chicken pieces to the oil one by one and fry for about 2.5-3 minutes (note 4).
Take the chicken pieces out of the oil and rest for at least 3-4 minutes (note 5) on paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
Skim any flour crumbs from the oil if there are any and increase the temperature of the oil to 190-200C/374-392F (note 3).
Put the chicken pieces back into the oil in batches and fry for 1-2minutes until golden brown and crunchy. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
Serve immediately with shredded lettuce and parsley for decoration if using.
1. I cut chicken thigh into about 5 x 4cm/2 x 1.6". You can make it smaller or slightly larger. Then cooking time would need to be adjusted.
2. Sugar can be substituted for mirin. The sweetness of sugar vs mirin is 2:1 so use 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. Make sure you mix the marinade well to dissolve.
3. I don't normally use a thermometer to check the temperature of the oil. I dip a pair of chopsticks in the oil and check the approximate temperature. If tiny bubbles are quietly forming around the chopsticks, then it is about 160-165C/320-329F, if larger bubbles are quickly coming up, it is 180-190C/356-374F.
4. To maintain the temperature of the oil do not over crowd the oil with too many chicken pieces. I used a 20cm/8" pot and deep fried in 2 batches with no more than 5-6 chicken pieces at once.
5. While resting, the chicken continues to cook slowly resulting in tender juicy chicken.
6. If you are making a large amount of karaage chicken, hold the fried chicken in the oven. Before frying the chicken, turn the oven on to around 80-100C (176-212F). As you finish frying the chicken pieces for the second time, keep them on the tray in the oven while you fry others.
7. Nutrition information assumes that the vegetable oil absorbed into the fried chicken is about 8% of the weight of the chicken. Garnish is not included.
Originally published in September 2016. The video added and contents updated to focus on cooking. The new section Meal Ideas is also added.