Home > Comparison > Foodies Beware: Sesame Chicken vs. General Tso’s Will Change How You Dine!

Foodies Beware: Sesame Chicken vs. General Tso’s Will Change How You Dine!

When it comes to dinner options, sometimes your cravings tell you exactly what you want, and sometimes you need a little help in making a decision.

Chinese cuisine has a pretty wide variety of offerings for when you want chicken.

Still, it is pretty easy to overlook some of the significant differences between different dishes within this cuisine style.

So, when you’re trying to decide if you’re going with Sesame Chicken vs General Tso’s chicken, keep these differences in mind to help you make the best choice for your lunch, dinner, or even midnight snack. We won’t judge.

General Tso Chicken vs Sesame Chicken: Similarities

The common factors that link Sesame Chicken and General Tso’s chicken are actually few and far between.

However, they’re related enough that some people have a hard time when it comes to telling the differences between the two dishes.

Both are chicken dishes, and both have Chinese origins. What’s more, they’re both increasingly popular in American-Chinese cuisine. You’ll find them both at just about any Chinese restaurant you visit.

So, what’s the big difference between these two dishes?

Differences Between General Tso and Sesame Chicken

To understand what makes these two recipes unique, let’s talk about what they are.

1. What is General Tso’s Chicken?

general tsos chicken

Like you expect, General Tso’s chicken was invented around 1950 and named after a Chinese general [1]from the Qing dynasty, although nobody’s sure why.

Still, the dish has enjoyed a rich history in America. Even though we don’t know where it got its name, we know its primary ingredients.

The distinctive sauce in General Tso’s chicken is made from rice wine, sugar, sesame oil, ginger root paste, garlic, and soy sauce.

The chicken itself is fried, stir-fried along with vegetables, and then served with a carbohydrate base, usually white rice or noodles.

Overall, the sauce is thick, reddish in color, and gives the dish a sweet but slightly spicy taste.

2. What’s Sesame Chicken?

sesame chicken

On the other hand, Sesame Chicken actually originated in Taiwan and has become especially popular in America.

You’ll find many similar ingredients in Sesame Chicken as in General Tso’s, but the end product is definitely unique.

What is Sesame Chicken sauce made of?

Sesame Chicken also uses fried chicken tossed in a sauce made from garlic, soy sauce, ginger root, brown sugar, honey, and vinegar.

If you get a more traditional form of the dish, the chicken is served alongside vegetables or sometimes alone as finger food or appetizer.

While it uses a lot of the same ingredients, Sesame Chicken is sweeter [2] and less heavy than General Tso’s chicken.

3. Health Differences

sesame chicken vs general tso chicken
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If you’re watching calories or looking for a more health-conscious meal, Sesame Chicken is the way to go.

Even though both Sesame Chicken and General Tso chicken are fried and have added sweetness, Sesame Chicken has less sugar and fewer calories in general.


Although both dishes are firmly in the American-Chinese cuisine territory (they aren’t likely to be found prepared the same way in China), and this style of food is notorious for being somewhat unhealthy, both dishes are often served with vegetables.

If you get Sesame Chicken as an appetizer or finger food, chances are that you’ll be going lighter on carbs as it’s often served without rice or noodles in this form.

General Tso’s chicken, on the other hand, is known for being a heavier dish. When it comes to the use of deep-fried chicken, we have to put this under the comfort food category.

The thicker sauce in General Tso’s chicken has a higher fat content than Sesame Chicken and really packs a punch. So maybe don’t choose this option every day, but for a special occasion, why not?

4. Taste Profiles

general tso sesame chicken

As mentioned before, the two dishes use similar ingredients. Both have sauces with sweet and spicy notes that use ginger, soy, and garlic, which are all popular flavors in this style of cuisine.

If you squint, these two dishes even look similar. However, the cooking process and a few special ingredients make these dishes night and day different from each other in terms of taste.

What does Sesame Chicken taste like?

Sesame Chicken is the sweeter option because it includes brown sugar and honey in its sauce.

It plays between sweet and salty, and it’s usually served coated with its namesake sesame seeds, which add a peppery taste that contributes to the overall lightness and kind of bright flavor of the dish.

What does General Tso Chicken taste like?

General Tso’s chicken is the spicier cousin of Sesame Chicken.

How spicy is General Tso Chicken?

Many chefs who prepare this dish include dried red chiles, which play off the hot flavor profile of the ginger root in the sauce. The consistency of the sauce, which is pretty thick, helps to lock in that spicy flavor that characterizes the dish.

But General Tso’s Chicken is not so spicy-hot since the red chiles aren’t used as heavily in it.

Making These Dishes at Home

Even though Sesame Chicken is the healthier option of the two, you’re highly unlikely to find a truly healthy take-out option.

If you’re craving one of these dishes and want a less guilt-inducing version, you can always try your hand at making them at home.

Making Sesame Chicken to your taste at home is similar: stir fry some of your favorite vegetables, add in the chicken meat and cook, and then prepare the sauce.

You can play with proportions to suit your tastes. The most important thing to remember is to let the sauce simmer, and don’t forget to thicken it with cornstarch.

For General Tso’s, you have to bread the chicken first before moving on to making the sauce and then frying the chicken.

Next, you’ll stir-fry the veggies with an extra chili flake kick and then let all the ingredients simmer together to meld the tastes.

Note: when your chicken smell like eggs, you’d better not use it.

FAQs About Sesame Chicken & General Tso

Is Sesame Chicken sweet or spicy?

Sesame Chicken is sweet since it’s tossed in a sweet and savory honey sesame sauce. Although it’s also a little spicy, it’s more sweet than spicy.

Is General Tso’s Chicken sweet or spicy?

Just like Sesame Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken is both sweet and spicy (not too much) because of the sauce used in it.

What is better Sesame Chicken or General Tso?

It all depends. While both dishes have crispiness that comes from the equal use of fried chicken, the lighter-tasting dish is Sesame Chicken, while the spicier and darker flavor profile comes from General Tso’s.

Just make the choice according to your favor.

Is Sesame Chicken healthy or bad for you?

Sesame Chicken is not a healthy food since it’s deep-fried and coated with a sauce that is 75 percent sugar which may lead to cardiovascular diseases.

It’s a bad idea for diabetes and obesity patients.

Final Thoughts

If you’re having trouble deciding which dish you want, remember the basics: Sesame Chicken is a lighter, sweeter American-Chinese chicken. For a heavier dish with hotter flavors, General Tso’s is the better choice.

While the two are similar at first glance, they’re pretty unique dishes that each deserve their own spotlight.


I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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