General Tso vs Sesame Chicken: They Aren’t the Same!

When it comes to Chinese cuisine, two popular dishes often take the spotlight on menus across the globe: General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken. While they may appear similar at first glance, a closer look reveals that these two dishes possess distinct characteristics that set them apart. From their preparation methods to the flavor profiles they offer, General Tso’s and sesame chicken each have their own unique identity. We will explore the differences between these two beloved Chinese dishes, delving into their origins, ingredients, and taste profiles to help you appreciate the nuances that make them distinct culinary experiences.

General Tso’s Chicken: A Spicy and Tangy Delight


General Tso’s chicken is a beloved dish in American-Chinese cuisine. The key characteristic is its bold, spicy flavor. The chicken is typically deep-fried to achieve a crispy texture and then stir-fried with a combination of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, vinegar, and dried red chili peppers. This results in a dish that is savory, tangy, and a little bit sweet, with a noticeable kick of heat.

Sesame Chicken: Sweet and Nutty Perfection


Sesame chicken, on the other hand, is known for its sweet and nutty flavor profile. This dish is believed to have originated in Shanghai, China, and gained popularity in Chinese-American restaurants. It is named after the sesame seeds that are used as a garnish and give the dish its distinctive taste.

The preparation involves coating bite-sized chicken pieces in a batter made from flour, cornstarch, and egg. The chicken is then deep-fried until golden brown. The final step involves tossing the fried chicken in a sauce made from soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, garlic, and ginger. The dish is typically garnished with sesame seeds, adding a nutty flavor and a delightful crunch.

Ingredient Variations

While both dishes feature chicken as the main ingredient, the components that make up the sauces differ. General Tso’s chicken sauce relies on soy sauce, vinegar, and dried chili peppers to create a spicy and tangy taste. Sesame chicken sauce, on the other hand, incorporates soy sauce, honey, and rice vinegar for a sweeter and milder flavor.

Another noticeable difference lies in the garnishes. General Tso’s chicken is often garnished with chopped scallions, adding freshness and a touch of color. Sesame chicken, as the name suggests, is adorned with sesame seeds, enhancing its nutty aroma and appearance.

Flavor Profiles and Taste

Each dish offers a unique and delightful culinary experience. General Tso’s chicken, with its fiery and tantalizing flavors, is known for its ability to excite the taste buds. The spiciness of the chili peppers provides a bold kick that is balanced by the tanginess of the sauce. The slight sweetness adds a pleasant contrast, creating a well-rounded flavor profile that keeps you coming back for more. It’s a dish that appeals to those who enjoy a bit of heat and crave a complex taste sensation.

However, sesame chicken offers a different yet equally satisfying taste adventure. The combination of honey and soy sauce results in a glossy glaze that coats the crispy chicken pieces. The sweetness of the honey brings out the savory notes of the soy sauce, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. The addition of sesame seeds adds a delightful crunch and imparts nutty undertones, enhancing the overall texture and taste of the dish. Sesame chicken is a perfect choice for those who appreciate the balance between sweet and savory, and enjoy the delightful contrast of textures.

Embrace the Differences!

While General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken may appear similar at first glance, their distinct flavors and histories set them apart. General Tso’s chicken is known for its spicy and tangy profile, while sesame chicken delights with its sweet and nutty taste.

Next time you visit your favorite Chinese restaurant, make sure to try both dishes and savor the unique culinary experiences they offer. Embrace the differences and expand your palate as you explore the diverse world of Chinese cuisine and its rich flavors.

In addition to their distinctive tastes, General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken also have their own cultural significance. General Tso’s chicken, despite its name, is not a traditional Chinese dish. It was created by Chinese immigrants in the United States and has since become a staple in American-Chinese cuisine. The popularity can be attributed to its bold flavors and satisfying combination of spices.

On the other hand, sesame chicken has its roots in Shanghai cuisine. The use of sesame seeds as a garnish not only adds visual appeal but also brings out the nutty undertones that are characteristic of this dish. Sesame chicken is often enjoyed in Chinese-American restaurants, where its sweet and savory flavors have captivated the palates of many diners.

When it comes to choosing between the two, it ultimately boils down to personal preference. If you enjoy spicy and tangy flavors with a kick of heat, General Tso’s chicken is the way to go. Its robust sauce and crispy texture make it a favorite among those who crave bold flavors.

If you have a penchant for sweetness and appreciate the nutty aroma of sesame, sesame chicken will satisfy your cravings. Its sticky glaze and crunchy sesame seed garnish create a delightful combination of textures and flavors.


General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken may share some similarities in appearance, but their flavors, ingredients, and cultural origins set them apart. Whether you prefer the spicy tanginess of General Tso’s chicken or the sweet nuttiness of sesame chicken, both dishes offer a unique culinary experience worth exploring.

Embrace the opportunity to try both dishes and discover the diverse and wonderful flavors that Chinese cuisine has to offer. Remember, General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken are not the same, but they are equally delicious in their own right.

So, the next time you’re ordering takeout or dining at your favorite Chinese restaurant, be sure to choose wisely between General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken. Take a culinary adventure and savor the distinct flavors and histories of these iconic dishes. Your taste buds will thank you for the delightful journey through Chinese-American cuisine!