Chicken Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)

Learn how to make easy Chicken Karaage, Japan’s take on crispy fried chicken with typical Japanese flavours like umami, sweet and salty.


Chicken karaage recipe at home

In This Post:

What Is Chicken Karaage?

Chicken karaage (pronounced “kah-rah-ah-geh”) is a Japanese crispy fried chicken dish. The word karaage refers to a Japanese cooking technique in which a vegetable or meat is lightly coated with cornflour or potato starch and deep-fried in oil.

The chicken pieces are golden brown and crispy, perhaps not as crunchy as cornflake-coated American fried chicken, but it’s not just about the crunch. The chicken karaage marinade is what sets it apart! It creates a harmony of umami, sweet, and salty, all in a bite-sized, can’t-stop-at-one-piece chicken.

Karaage chicken is perfect for a family dinner (served with rice, noodles or ramen), in a lunch bowl or salad, as a quick snack, or as finger food at a party.

The best part? You can create an authentic Japanese fried chicken experience with ingredients you can find at your local supermarket.

Karaage chicken on a plate with cucumber and sprouts

👉 If you’re looking for more Asian chicken recipes, check out Bang Bang Chicken with mango salad, healthy chicken broccoli stir-fry, sticky honey chicken cashew, or the super easy, baked honey soy chicken wings.

What You’ll Need

Here is what you need to make this chicken karaage recipe:

  • Chicken Thighs: I use 1.5 lbs (about 680 g) boneless, skin-on thighs for the juiciest results. Chicken thighs are your best bet for moist and flavourful karaage.
  • Cornstarch: The secret to that perfect crispy coating. Got no cornstarch? No problem! Potato starch or even rice flour can be great alternatives. Tapioca flour or cassava flour are also good options.
  • Virgin Olive Oil or Avocado Oil: Great for frying and healthier than traditional options like vegetable or canola oil. The smoking point of virgin olive oil is about 200 C/400 F and it’s even higher for avocado oil. We’re not going to exceed 200 C so you’re safe to use olive oil (don’t use extra virgin olive oil, it’s wasteful for this recipe).
  • Chicken karaage marinade: Fresh ginger and garlic for punch, soy sauce for depth, cooking sake, and mirin for a balance of sweetness and tang. No cooking sake? Dry sherry or a light white wine can pinch-hit. And if mirin’s not on hand, a mix of white wine and sugar will do the trick.
chicken karaage ingredients

How To Make Chicken Karaage

Find the full list of ingredients, nutritional info, and instructions in the recipe card below. Here are some step-by-step pictures to guide you along.

  1. Marinate: Combine grated ginger, crushed garlic, soy sauce, cooking sake, and mirin in a bowl. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and let it swim in this flavor bath for 30 minutes.
  2. Coat: Once marinated, remove the chicken from the marinade, allowing any excess liquid to drip off. Then, coat each piece evenly with cornstarch. shake off any excess.
  3. Fry to Perfection: Add 1-inch of oil into a heavy-bottom saucepan and bring it over high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, you can test it by dropping a piece of chicken or cornflour and see if it bubbles. Reduce heat to medium and add chicken pieces. Fry them for a minute or until nicely golden.
  4. Note: The oil is too hot if they gets dark brown too quickly. On the contrary, the oil needs to be hotter if it remains plaid after a minute. If using a kitchen thermometer, maintain the oil temperature around 350°F (175°C) while frying. Too hot, and the chicken can burn quickly; too cool, and it won’t get crispy. Fry the in batches for better results.
  5. Remove the chicken; place it onto a plate and cover it with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Let it rest for a minute to lock in the juices, making the chicken even more succulent.
how to make chicken karaage step-by-step collage of images

Chicken Karaage in Air Fryer

For an even healthier twist, try making chicken karaage in an air fryer – less oil, same deliciousness.

  1. Follow the same initial steps of marinating your chicken pieces and coating the pieces in cornflour.
  2. Set your air fryer to 400°F (about 204°C). It’s important to let it heat up for a few minutes before adding the chicken. This ensures a nice, even cook and helps achieve that desirable crispy texture.
  3. Place the coated chicken pieces in the air fryer basket. Make sure to leave some space between each piece to allow for proper air circulation. This is key for achieving an evenly crispy coating. Spray the top of the chicken pieces with some olive oil.
  4. Cook the chicken for about 10-12 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, open the air fryer and flip the chicken pieces to ensure they crisp up evenly on all sides. You can give them another quick spray with the oil.
  5. The chicken should be golden brown and crispy when done. Remove the chicken from the air fryer and let it rest for a couple of minutes to lock in the juices.

Recipe Tips

  • Marinate ahead: Don’t skimp on the marinating time. A good 30 minutes to an hour allows the flavours to deeply penetrate the chicken, but if you’re in a rush, even a brief 15-minute marinade can make a difference. Overnight is best!
  • Coat just before frying: This ensures the crispiest outcome.
  • Maintaining the right temperature of the oil (around 350°F or 175°C) is crucial. If it’s too hot, the chicken will brown too quickly without cooking inside. If it’s too low, the chicken won’t be as crispy. The way I do it is that I add 2-3 pieces at a time, then wait for 10 seconds for the oil to heat back up and add a few more pieces, and so on. You can also increase the heat slightly while adding the chicken (as it will cool it down), then once all the pieces are in and the temperature is back to sizzling, turn the heat to medium.
  • Avoid overcrowding the pan. Cooking in small batches ensures each piece cooks evenly and gets sufficiently crispy.

How To Serve Chicken Karaage

Serve it hot with a side of sliced cucumbers, lemon wedges, and a dollop of Japanese mayo. Want to jazz it up? Try these:

  • Chicken karaage Don: Over a bowl of steamed rice, lay your fried chicken and drizzle with a bit of soy sauce or teriyaki. It’s comfort in a bowl. For a low-carb version, try it with my coconut cauliflower rice.
  • Chicken karaage ramen: Add crispy fried chicken pieces into a bowl of ramen for an extra protein punch. For my GF readers, check out this gluten-free ramen with rice noodles.
  • In a salad bowl: Think of a salad or veggie bowl topped with karaage chicken for a crunchy twist.
  • With a curry: Serve with a side of Japanese curry sauce or vegetable curry and rice.
Chicken karaage recipe with sauce and cucumbers

More Japanese-Inspired Recipes


Full Recipe 

Find the full list of ingredients, instructions, and a nutritional breakdown below. If you have questions or cook this recipe, please let me know in the comments, and make sure to rate this recipe so it’s easy for others to find.

Karaage chicken on a plate with cucumber and sprouts

Chicken Karaage Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinating time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4 servings
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese
Print Pin Save
5 from 5 votes
Calories: 545kcal
Let's make Chicken Karaage – a Japanese favorite known its crispy texture and distinctive blend of umami, sweet, and salty flavors. You'll be surprised just how easy it is to make karaage chicken in your kitchen with supermarket ingredients.

Ingredients 

  • 1.5 lb chicken thighs boneless, skin-on (about 700 g)
  • 1 cup cornstarch about 125 g
  • 1/2-2/3 cup Virgin olive oil or avocado oil

Chicken Karaage Marinade:

  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • ¼ cup soy sauce about 60 ml
  • 1 tbsp cooking sake or Chinese cooking wine, about 15 ml
  • 2 tbsp mirin about 30 ml

To Serve:

  • Sliced cucumber lemon wedges, and Japanese mayonnaise

Instructions

  • Mix the ingredients for the marinade into a bowl. Set it aside.
  • Cut chicken thighs into 1.5-inch pieces. The best way was to use kitchen scissors, as chicken skin can be slippery under a knife. Then, marinate the chicken pieces for 30 minutes.
  • Remove chicken pieces from the marinade to drain excess liquid from them. Place them into another bowl or plate, spread the cornstarch evenly over the chicken pieces, and toss to coat. You want a thin, uniform layer. Excessive cornstarch can make the coating thick and heavy.
  • Add 1-1.5-inch of oil into a heavy-bottom saucepan and bring it over high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, you can test it by dropping a piece of chicken or cornflour and see if it bubbles. Reduce heat to medium and add chicken pieces. Fry them for a minute or until nicely golden. Note: The oil is too hot if the chicken gets dark brown too quickly. On the contrary, the oil needs to be hotter if it remains plaid after a minute. If using a kitchen thermometer, maintain the oil temperature around 350°F (175°C) while frying. Too hot, and the chicken can burn quickly; too cool, and it won’t get crispy. Fry the in batches for better results.
  • Place chicken pieces into a plate and cover with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  • Serve chicken karaage with rice, cucumber slices, and Japanese mayo.

Notes

  • Opt for boneless, skin-on chicken thighs, which are juicier and more flavourful. Thigh meat stays tender and succulent even after frying.
  • For fewer calories, go for skinless chicken thighs. 
  • Consider adding a sprinkle of sesame seeds, chopped green onions, or shichimi togarashi (Japanese spice blend) for extra flavour and visual appeal.
  • Mirin – replace with some white wine mixed with sugar
  • Cooking sake – Chinese cooking wine, dry sherry or a light white wine can be used.
  • Soy sauce – swap fpr gluten-free Tamari or coconut aminos if you wish.

Nutrition

Calories: 545kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 20g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 167mg | Sodium: 1008mg | Potassium: 384mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 133IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 2mg
Keywords: asian chicken recipes, Chicken Recipes, fried chicken, japanese chicken, karaage chicken
Tried this recipe?Mention @cookedandloved or tag #cookedandloved
Dipping the chicken into mayonnaise
Irena Macri
By Irena Macri

About the author: Hi, I’m Irena Macri. I share delicious recipes that I have cooked and loved. I am a published cookbook author, have been food blogging for over 10 years and have a Diploma in Nutrition. You will find many healthy recipes as well as my favourite comfort food. More about me here | Subscribe to my newsletter and freebies

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Comments

5 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    I made this chicken karaage for dinner last night and it was delicious! Perfectly crispy and my family loved it!

  2. 5 stars
    This Chicken Karaage looks delicious!!!! and so crispy, we love chicken and will make it like this to try something new. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    My mouth is watering just reading this recipe, and I love how easy it is to make this! I’ll be trying this myself instead of ordering takeout next week, thanks so much for sharing!

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