This easy Caramel Chicken is one of my favorite chicken recipes. A popular Vietnamese dish made with a sweet, lightly spicy, and savory caramel sauce.
You only need a few ingredients and a wok, and you’re good to go!
Serve this with some rice, and enjoy!
Why you will love this Vietnamese Caramel Chicken
- Vietnamese caramel chicken has a distinct flavor thanks to the tangy Asian sauce that creates a sweet and umami-rich flavor.
- Easy enough for beginners to make, has impressive cooking time, and requires only simple ingredients.
- This fantastic 30-minute meal is the perfect dinner for busy weeknights and a unique dish for entertaining.
- The savory and sweet caramel sauce is really great with steamed rice and vegetables like green beans or broccoli.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Chicken thighs: Most recipes call for boneless skinless chicken thighs as they are the juiciest and most flavorful cut of chicken. You can also use chicken breast if you prefer, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Neutral oil: For browning the chicken. You can use just about any cooking oil, but neutral-flavored ones like avocado or canola oil are the most common.
Garlic: Freshly minced garlic is best for this caramel chicken recipe, but you can also use garlic powder.
Chili: Optional but recommended for a bit of heat. You can use anything from red pepper flakes to chili red peppers. Some use jalapenos. You do you, boo!
Sugar: Light or dark brown sugar both work perfectly, but you can substitute white sugar or molasses.
Fish sauce: Essential ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine that gives this dish its signature flavor, so don’t skip it! You can find fish sauce in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores. I love the 3 crab brand. Look for a bottle with 3 crabs.
Dark soy sauce: This was not just for flavor but also for color. Sweeter than the lighter version. You can also use low-sodium soy sauce to keep the dish from becoming too salty, but you must adjust the sugar level.
Black pepper: For seasoning.
Green onions: White is for sautéing, and green is for garnishing.
Cilantro: For garnishing. It adds a lovely freshness to the dish.
Tips for making the best Vietnamese Caramel Chicken
- Use chicken thighs for the most flavorful and tender meat. I like to brown the skin side of my chicken as well.
- Use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken before taking it off the heat.
- When heating the caramel sauce, simmer it over medium heat, so it doesn't burn.
- Add more chili for a spicy caramel sauce or more sugar for a sweeter version.
- Reduce the sauce for a few minutes to allow it to thicken and intensify in flavor.
- Make sure to use a good-quality fish sauce like Red Boat Fish Sauce or the 3 Crabs Brand for the best flavor.
Storage and Reheating Tips
STORE – store the leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge.
REHEAT – reheat in a microwave oven or wok to retain the best flavor and texture.
FREEZE – freeze the cooked boneless chicken thighs in the freezer for up to 3 months.
what to serve with Vietnamese Caramel chicken
- Jasmine rice
- Cauliflower Fried Rice
- Garlic Braised Kale
- Sesame Braised Cabbage
- Air Fryer Eggplant Recipe
- Sesame Cucumber Salad
more chicken thigh recipes
2 lbs boneless chicken thighs (5-6 pieces)
3 tbsp of neutral oil (I used avocado oil)
5 cloves of minced garlic
1 Fresno chili
cilantro for garnish
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
¼ cup of water
- Add your chicken to a medium size bowl. Add the marinade ingredients and marinate your boneless chicken for 5-10 minutes while you prep the rest of your ingredients.
- Mince the garlic, and slice the green onions. Separate the white from the green parts. Mince your chili. You can keep the seeds in if your dish is extra spicy.
- In another bowl, combine the caramel sauce ingredients and set it aside.
- In medium heat, add a tiny bit of oil to the wok. Brown your chicken pieces. Don't brown too much, as it will burn. Just a slight char would be perfect. Do it in batches. Remove and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil and the aromatics (garlic, white part of the green onions, and chili). Saute until fragrant - 1 minute.
- Add back the chicken and the caramel sauce mixture in the wok. Cover the wok with a lid and let it simmer for 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
- Remove the lid, bring the to medium-high heat and let the sauce reduce and caramelize. 3-5 minutes.
- Add the rest of your garnish. Serve and enjoy!
Garnish ideas: more chilis, cilantro, and green part of the green onion.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: mains
- Method: wok
- Cuisine: vietnamese
Keywords: vietnamese caramel chicken, caramel chicken, easy caramel chicken