Balsamic Sesame Chicken


Continuing the chicken theme, here is another very simple recipe using boneless chicken thighs. This time I have used skinless meat. The thighs are cut into pieces, marinated in balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, and coated with sesame seeds. The balsamic vinegar adds tang and a little sweetness. They are then simply pan=fried in a non-stick frying pan that is barely coated with oil. I’ve used both black and white sesame seeds for a little added color, but you could use all-white (light brown) sesame seeds. (Using all black seeds might make them look carbonized!)

Recipe: Balsamic Sesame Chicken

  • 4 small or 2 medium-large chicken thighs, skinned, any excess fat removed, and cut into small pieces
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. sesame seeds
  • A little cooking oil

Combine the chicken pieces, vinegar and soy sauce, and stir around to help the flavors permeate the meat. Leave to marinate for at least 10 minutes.

Heat up a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, and add just a litte oil (or use a cooking spray) to coat the bottom.

Drain off the chicken, and coat with the sesame seeds. Press with your fingers so that the sesame seeds stick as much as possible. Arrange the pieces as flat as possible in the frying pan. Pan-fry for about 4-5 minutes on medium-high heat, then turn over and cook for another 4-5 minutes or so. The chicken should be cooked through, and the sesame seeds should be crispy rather than soggy. (Alternatively you can cook them in a toaster oven for 6-8 minutes at 200°C / 400°F or on ‘high’ (or equivalent setting), on aluminum foil.)

Cool before putting into your bento box.

Different cuts for different countries

It was pointed out in the comments to the salted chicken thighs recipe that boneless chicken thighs there usually come with the skin removed too. It’s interesting how the types of cuts of meat offered in various countries differ. Here in Switzerland, I couldn’t even get chicken thighs by themselves until a few years ago - it was the whole leg or nothing. Even now, boneless thighs are not that commonly seen prepackaged at the supermarket, though it is getting easier to find them. When they offered boneless though, the thighs usually come with the skins attached.

In Japan, boneless and skin-on chicken thigh is a standard cut, so you see it used in a lot of recipes. On the other hand, split bone-in chicken breast, a standard cut in the U.S., is not seen at all in Japan (or in Switzerland either)! Neither is the ‘quartered’ chicken, with two thighs-and-legs and two breast halves with the backbone still attached.

Anyway, to deal with my chicken dilemmas, soon after I started living in Switzerland I got a good boning knife and taught myself how to joint a whole chicken, so I could get the exact cuts I wanted. This is a very useful skill to learn for anyone, but expecially for the hungry and confused expat!

(Two other types of meat cuts that are very cheap and commonly used in Japan are thinly sliced (usugiri) and roughly chopped (komagire). Both are usually made from medium-fat (not lean) parts of pork or beef. Both are quick-cooking cuts that are really useful in bento, but frustratingly are not that commonly seen here in middle Europe, or in the U.S., unless you go to a speciality Japanese grocery store. I do try to keep these cuts of meat differences in mind when I post recipes here, but that does mean that there are whole categories of bento recipes that would be a bit too much work to use outside of Japan.)

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I miss being able to buy

I miss being able to buy usugiri and komagiri meat. When I was living in DC there was an Arab butcher who was willing to produce those cuts for me, once I described what I wanted, but I haven’t found a butcher in Boston who will do the same.

I know it doesn’t help

I know it doesn’t help much, but when she lived in NY my mother got a German butcher to cut meat the way she liked (thinly cut beef for sukiyaki, etc) Eventually word got around that that butcher could cut meat for Japanese tastes (she helped to spread the word) which was good for them too! (It was Schaller and Webber in case anyone in NYC is reading this)


I recently bought some shinkiang dark rice vinegar for a recipe and found it oddly similar to balsamic. Given the assumed oriental inspiration I guess this might add an authentic touch, even if it tastes the same :)

Actually I think the

Actually I think the original recipe used french dressing ^_^ But the dark rice vinegar would fit here very well! (I didn’t use dressing since I never have bottled dressing around)

What do you call “french

What do you call “french dressing” ? is it what we call “vinaigrette” (a blend of vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, sometimes mustard ?) ?

‘French dressing’ in

‘French dressing’ in Japan is salt, vinegar (usually just rice vinegar), vegetable oil, pepper, sugar and mayonnaise. Here’s a basic recipe -

1/3 tsp. salt 1/3 tsp. sugar a little pepper 1/2 tsp. mayonnaise 6 Tbs. vegetable oil (any flavorless oil) 4 Tbs. vinegar

Shaken all together

Oh, those look delicious!

Oh, those look delicious! Three of my favorite flavors, all in one place. I will definitely give this recipe a try.

(Since I’m here—I made your soy & butter corn on the cob recipe last night, and it was brilliant. Thanks so much for sharing all of these lovely recipes!)

You’re welcome - glad you

You’re welcome - glad you enjoyed them! :)

Time in the toaster oven?

An absolutely delicious looking recipe. I’m drooling over the photo. Thanks!

I’m just beginning to teach myself how to cook, so I’m sorry if this is a stupid question. If I try to make this in a toaster oven, what settings and for how long should I cook these at?

You can cook it for about 8

You can cook it for about 8 minutes in a toaster oven. Sorry I omitted that!

Re: You can cook it for about 8

hi there maki!

8 minutes at what temperature though? ;)

Re: You can cook it for about 8

You people and your fancy toaster ovens with temperature settings....grumble...

(I kiiid, I keeed! Actually my toaster oven only has a timer and 'one rack' 'both racks' and 'bagel' settings :o)

200°C or 400°F should do it (or..'bagel', hehe)

Recipe alternatives

I’ve had something like this before and it was AMAZING. My boyfriend still talks about it. I think the sesame seeds make the dish.

The only differences is I marinated with soy and dry sherry/shokoshu and also made a sauce to dip one side of the cooked pieces (wings work best) with before sesame seeding them.

1/4 cup soy sauce 3 tblspoons superfine sugar 2 tblspoons dry sherry 1 star anise

Heated together in a pan till thick.

If you have any chicken left you should try it out!

That sounds really really

That sounds really really good!

I think I know what’s for

I think I know what’s for dinner tonight now!

Re: Balsamic Sesame Chicken

hahaha. thank you very much maki. ;)

and i just LOVE your blog! =)

Re: Balsamic Sesame Chicken

I made this last night for my husband and toddler. They both loved it. The toddler is especially picky. I think he might love Japanese food, especially the combination of sweet and savory that's in this dish.

Thanks so much for your blogs. I've been trying to figure out how to make sushi with brown rice for years! You've cracked it!


Re: Balsamic Sesame Chicken

Hi, my name is Lynh and I am a rusher... (hangs head in shame) I am happy to report that even dumping in the seeds with the marinade didn't affect the crispiness. Probably because I had a high seed to chicken ratio, but everything still came out crispy and delicious. Thank you not so much for this specific recipe but a simple cooking philosophy that I can apply to a lot of my meals. If your site were a cookbook, it would be splattered from so much use. Please, Maki - Look me up if you're ever in new york city - in need of a couch, a meal, or both!

Re: Balsamic Sesame Chicken

Is there a difference between usugiri and "shaved" commercial lunch meat cuts? I know a lot of delis nowadays in the US will also slice their deli meat "shaved", I was wondering if that might be a good substitute for those kinds of recipes...

Re: Balsamic Sesame Chicken

Can I marinate the chicken overnight? will it make a difference in taste if I omit the sesame seeds?

Re: Balsamic Sesame Chicken

Love this recipe! I made it and drizzled honey before I served it for added sweetness--super delicious!!!

Re: Balsamic Sesame Chicken

This is so simple and Delicious!

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