Karaage Chicken makes a perfect weeknight dinner and it’s a favourite in our house. Small pieces of twice-fried chicken bursting with flavour, it’s also great as an appetiser or game day snack.

You’ll find loads of recipes on Sugar Salt Magic that are Asian inspired – things like these Crunchy Korean Fried Chicken Wings and Crispy Asian Chilli Beef Mince are absolute favourites.

A black bowl filled with salad, rice and fried chicken, on a wooden platter

Despite being deep-fried, Karaage chicken is very light and it isn’t greasy. It’s even quick enough to make during the week.

I first started making this back when we did a family “my kitchen rules” competition and has since been affectionately known as garage chicken in our house.

What is Karaage Chicken?

Pronounced ka-ra-ag-eh, essentially, this is Japanese Fried Chicken. Flavourful chunks of chicken thigh, marinated, then coated in cornflour / cornstarch (though traditionally potato starch is used) then deep fried.

Don’t be put off by the frying, it’s much easier than it sounds.

What you’ll need

You’ll be amazed at the depth of flavour you can get from just the few ingredients in this dish.

Ingredients for karaage chicken laid out on a marble surface
  • Soy Sauce: I use the light version, but you can use the regular sushi style soy sauce.
  • Mirin: This is a Japanese sweet rice wine which adds a little sweetness and acidity. It’s available in most supermarkets or you can get it from oriental supermarkets. You could substitute with dry sherry if you absolutely need to.
  • Cornflour (cornstarch): traditionally potato starch is used and this is to coat the chicken right before frying.
  • Garlic and ginger: These two ingredients give this chicken so much flavour without it every really tasting like either.
  • Oil: I use rice bran oil almost exclusively in cooking since it can handle high temperatures and it’s perfect for deep frying too. You can also use Vegetable, Canola or Sunflower oil.

And of course, chicken

The best chicken for karaage

Karaage can be made with breast meat but, thigh is definitely best. Breast meat will tend to be drier and doesn’t have the amount of flavour that you’ll get from thighs.

You can trim any excess fat off first if you prefer, then each thigh gets cut into 6-8 pieces depending on their size. Also, feel free to leave the skin on if you like. I remove it only to make the dish a bit healthier (aka so I can eat more of it) but traditionally it would be fried with the skin on.

How to make it – step by step

The trick to making a beautiful, crispy Karaage Chicken is the double fry and it’s that second fry that makes it super crispy (some people even triple fry it).

A piece of fried chicken between chopsticks being dipped into mayonnaise
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl, then add the chicken pieces. Let that sit for 15 minutes while you organise a salad to serve with the chicken.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan, then coat the chicken pieces in cornflour and gently place them in the oil.
  3. Cook for about one and a half minutes then set them aside on a rack to drain while you repeat with the rest.  
  4. Now fry them all again for another minute.

This whole process doesn’t take long at all and the chicken stays perfectly moist and juicy, while the coating gets nice and crispy.

Small pieces of fried chicken on a rack over some paper towel

Tips and Tricks

  • Cut the chicken pieces all the same size so they cook evenly.
  • You don’t want to marinate the chicken for any longer than 20 minutes. I generally stick to the 15 minute mark. That gives me just enough time to get some accompaniments ready and heat the oil.
  • Get everything set up before you start frying. A baking tray lined with paper towel with a rack over the top to one side and a small bowl with cornflour to the other.
  • Don’t coat the chicken in the cornflour until you’re ready to fry it or it will become a gluggy mess.
  • And don’t over-coat the chicken. Just dip it enough to make sure it’s covered but you don’t need to press on heaps of cornflour.

What to serve with Karaage Chicken

Karaage Chicken can be served as an appetiser or as a main meal. To serve it as a main meal, I like these accompaniments;

  • Rice – perfect for making it a complete meal and the soft texture is perfect with the crispy chicken
  • Sliced fresh cucumber – cool and refreshing, it’s a lovely contrast in texture but a light flavour that doesn’t mess with the full flavoured chicken.
  • Pink pickled onionsI make my own but Japanese pickled vegetables or even just some pickled ginger on the side are also lovely.
  • Kewpie mayonnaise –  This is a Japanese mayonnaise that you can buy from most supermarkets. Don’t skip the Kewpie! It’s so so good.
  • Togarashi spice – this is a Japanese peppery spice mix of things like dried chilli, pepper, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, dried citrus peel & sesame seeds. Totally optional, however, I love the little kick of spice on top.

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A piece of chicken between chopsticks showing the inside

This has to be the quickest fried chicken to make as well. It just keeps getting better and better doesn’t it. Cut up the chicken and pour your oil into the saucepan earlier in the day and you can be serving up this flavourful chicken dish in ½ an hour.

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A black bowl filled with rice and fried chicken

Karaage Chicken

5 from 5 votes
Crunchy, juicy and full of flavour, Karaage Chicken is the lightest and most delicious fried chicken you'll ever eat. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to make this Japanese fried chicken which can be eaten as a appetiser or a main dish.

Ingredients

  • 500 g chicken thigh (cut into 4cm pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger (notes)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (notes)
  • cup corn flour (cornstarch)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • togarashi spice (optional)

Equipment

Instructions
 

  • Mix together the ginger, garlic, soy sauce & mirin in a bowl, then add the pieces of chicken & coat thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10-20 minutes.
  • Cover a plate or oven tray with absorbent paper towel and place a wire rack over the top. Place the cornflour in a bowl and heat the oil in a high sided saucepan to 180C / 350F.
  • Remove the chicken from the fridge and one by one, take out pieces of chicken, coat in cornflour and place gently in the hot oil. It’s best to do the chicken in 4-5 batches depending on the size of your saucepan. Don’t overcrowd the pot as it will cool the oil down too much and won’t give you nice crispy chicken bits.
  • Deep fry each batch for 1 1/2 minutes, then remove and place on the wire rack. Once all batches are complete, starting with the first batch again, place the chicken back into the oil and deep fry a second time for another minute. Remove and place on the wire rack until all the chicken is done.
  • Serve with Kewpie mayonnaise for dipping.

Notes

  1. I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon
  2. A deep frying thermometer is very handy to keep an eye on the oil temperature. They are relatively cheap and useful in candy making as well.
  3. I most often serve this as a main meal with steamed rice, cucumber, pink pickled onions and a sprinkling of togarashi.

SPECIALTY INGREDIENTS

  • Mirin is a Japanese sweet rice cooking wine. Great to have on hand as it will last for a long time and is used in many Japanese dishes including sushi rice and Japanese pickled vegetables
  • Togarashi spice is a Japanese peppery spice mix of things like dried chilli, pepper, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, dried citrus peel and sesame seeds. It is optional in this dish but does add a nice spicy kick
  • Kewpie mayonnaise is a Japanese mayonnaise that you can buy from most supermarkets and grocery stores. Don’t skip the Kewpie in this dish.
 
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