Healthy Sesame Chicken and Broccoli Bowls & Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
Lunch Meal Prep for the Week – 1 Protein, Served 2 Ways!
Sweet-and-savory, deliciously juicy, and SO much umami goodness—this healthy sesame chicken recipe is everything I want and more! Honestly, it’s hard to believe that a nutritious, protein-packed lunch can taste THIS irresistibly good… But, with a little creativity, we can create the crave-able flavors and textures that we love using healthy ingredients, too!
This health-ified recipe is just as flavorful and satisfying as the classically indulgent honey sesame chicken recipe, but I’ve lightened things up by cutting down on the added sugars. Per 3-oz serving, my healthy sesame chicken has just 3g of sugar! And, I’ve kept the ingredients clean and simple—cutting out the refined and ultra-processed junk in favor of real, whole foods.
That is the kind of FUEL that our bodies need and appreciate! Which makes this healthy sesame chicken a great choice to include in easy lunches for work or school. Not only is it amazingly delicious, but those fuel-filled ingredients will keep you energized and satisfied rather than crashing by mid-afternoon!
First, one of the irresistible
trademarks of honey sesame chicken is the thick, rich, sweet-and-savory sauce. You
could stick with the traditional cornstarch to thicken up your sauce, but I
made this healthy sesame chicken recipe with tapioca starch instead for a
cleaner alternative. (Or, you can also use arrowroot starch if you like!)
So, I start by whisking together the tapioca starch with water to create a
paste. This is what will help to give our healthy sesame chicken sauce that
rich texture, and mixing it together beforehand prevents it from getting clumpy
in the pan. Once mixed, set that aside for a moment.
Then, add a bit of oil to a wok or skillet over medium-high to high heat. Once the oil is warm, add your chopped chicken to cook for about 4-6 minutes. You’ll want to cook it all the way through, until it’s browned and crisp!
Personally, I chose to make my healthy sesame chicken with chopped chicken thighs, but you could also use chicken breast. I just love the added flavor and juiciness that chicken thighs retain after cooking, thanks to their higher fat content—and those fats are highly nutritious!
Once cooked, you’re going to
remove the chicken from your pan and set it aside. Now, it’s time to get the
sesame chicken sauce going!
With your skillet or wok still over heat, add a drizzle of sesame oil, followed by minced garlic, fresh ginger and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Saute for 20-30 seconds, until it’s nice and fragrant.
You could use a different oil if you prefer, but I am a huge fan of the rich, savory flavor that sesame oil brings. (And, this is a healthy SESAME chicken recipe after all!)
Then, pour a splash of broth into the pan, along with honey, soy sauce, and the mixture of tapioca starch and water that you made earlier. Since that soy sauce is going to be plenty salty (even if you’re using a low-sodium variety), you don’t even need to add any salt!
Mix well to integrate, and continue stirring for 1-2 minutes or so
until it thickens up.
Once you notice your healthy sesame chicken sauce has gotten thicker and stickier, you can add your cooked chicken back into the pan. Again, mix well to combine and make sure that all of that chicken gets coated in the honey sesame goodness!
As you stir, if you notice your
healthy sesame chicken seems too sticky
or the sauce looks too thick, just
add another splash of broth or two to help thin it out. Continue to mix and
cook over low heat, until it’s as smooth as you like it.
Last but not least, can’t forget the sesame seeds! Sprinkle a generous helping into the pan and stir well
until every piece of sesame seed chicken has a bit of crunchy coating.
Then, you can serve as desired immediately to enjoy, or portion and store your healthy sesame chicken for meal prep. I cooked 2 pounds of chicken thighs when I made this recipe, which I portioned out into 10 servings—perfect for my weekly meal prep lunches for two!
1 Tbsp tapioca starch/flour (or arrowroot powder, or cornstarch) 1 Tbsp water 1-2 Tbsp avocado oil or coconut oil 2 lbs chicken thighs, cubed 1½ tsp sesame oil 4 cloves garlic, minced 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced pinch of crushed red pepper flakes ⅓ cup chicken broth (+ additional, if needed) 2 Tbsp honey 2 Tbsp soy sauce (or coconut aminos + salt, to taste) 1-2 Tbsp sesame seeds
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine or tapioca starch/flour (or arrowroot powder, or cornstarch) with water. This will help to thicken the sauce, and mixing it with water first helps it to integrate more easily without getting clumpy.
To a skillet or wok over medium-high to high heat, add a drizzle of oil. Add cubed chicken and cook until browned and crisp, 4-6 minutes.
Remove chicken from the skillet/wok and set aside.
Place skillet or wok back onto the heat and add sesame oil. Once heated, add garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 20-30 seconds, until fragrant. (No need to add salt because the soy sauce will be salty enough! If using coconut aminos instead, you’ll want to add salt.)
Add chicken broth, honey, soy sauce, and tapioca starch mixture to the skillet/wok. Cook until thickened, about 1-2 minutes.
Return cooked chicken to the skillet/wok and mix well to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more broth and cook over low heat until integrated and smooth to your liking.
Finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds, serve as desired, and enjoy!
Yields 10 servings healthy sesame chicken or ~30 oz total cooked.
Protein also tends to be the most expensive weekly meal prep component, but we don’t need different proteins for every single meal. Instead, buying one type of meat in larger quantities (especially if it’s on sale) is a solid budget meal prep strategy! And, you’ll cut down on the time spent meal prepping by cooking one tasty protein, and basing multiple unique meals around it.
Whether I’m serving it as part
of a sesame chicken rice bowl or an Asian sesame chicken salad or on top of a
veggie stir fry, it always makes for a healthy lunch that I look forward to
eating! Here, I’m sharing two of my
favorite options: my healthy sesame chicken meal prep lunch bowls with broccoli
and rice, and meal prep salads with a homemade vinaigrette.
Both are budget friendly
lunches, super simple to prepare, and perfect for taking on the go. But, these
are just two of my meal prep lunch
ideas for how to use this recipe. Feel free to get creative and design YOUR
ultimate healthy sesame chicken lunches!
Honey Sesame Chicken and Broccoli
Lunch Bowls with Brown Rice
These Asian-inspired chicken and rice bowls are SO simple but far from boring. Basically, you’re just throwing some brown rice, chicken and broccoli together in a bowl—but it’s all about the flavors in this meal!
I like to roast up my
broccoli with a bit of sesame oil, coconut aminos or soy sauce, sesame seeds,
garlic powder and a bit of salt (if using coconut aminos instead of soy sauce). It’s a simple veggie to prep
ahead of time, and all of those salty, umami flavors pair perfectly with this
healthy sesame chicken recipe!
Whenever you cook your honey sesame chicken for your weekly meal prep purposes, you can get that broccoli roasted AND your rice cooked all in the same day. I went with long-grain brown rice, which I bought in bulk to keep my costs low. But, as always, you can use any rice or other grain that you like.
Asian Sesame Chicken Salad with Homemade Vinaigrette
My other favorite easy meal prep lunch idea, using the same protein as my meal prep lunch bowls, is this Asian sesame chicken salad with a simple homemade vinaigrette! These are even easier to throw together, and they’re great meal prep lunches for work or school that you can enjoy cold.
Since your honey sesame chicken is already cooked, the only real ‘prep’ is assembling your salads and making your dressing. I threw together a simple Asian-inspired vinaigrette, which I just shook together in a mason jar and portioned into individual meal prep dressing containers. But, you can use any dressing that you want!
For my salads, I start with baby kale, but use any greens that you like. Then, I’ve got some cherry tomatoes—which are best left whole for meal prep—some red onion, and mandarin slices. You can use fresh mandarins, or I went with canned mandarins for budget meal prep purposes. And, for a bit of crunch, I add some sliced almonds with my baby kale!
Healthy Sesame Chicken Meal Prep Salads with Asian-Inspired Vinaigrette
Prep Time:15 minutes
Total Time:15 minutes
Ingredients per 1 Sesame Chicken Salad
(multiply ingredient amounts by desired # of servings)
~3 oz healthy sesame chicken (see earlier recipe) 2 cups baby kale (or greens of choice) 2-3 Tbsp red onion, sliced 5-10 cherry tomatoes, whole (small are best for meal prep!) 2-3 Tbsp canned mandarins, drained & rinsed (or fresh) 2 Tbsp slivered almonds ½ avocado, sliced (best to add the day of eating) 2 Tbsp Asian inspired vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Add all ingredients to a mason jar and shake well to combine. (Or mix together in a bowl if preferred.)
Store in the fridge until ready to serve, or portion into single-serving dressing containers for on-the-go lunches.
Lasts 2 weeks stored in the fridge.
Yields ~½ cup homemade vinaigrette or 4 servings.
To assemble meal prep salads with healthy sesame chicken
Assemble salad components in desired meal prep containers, keeping wet components separate from dry.
I recommend storing baby kale together with slivered almonds, and then storing red onion, cherry tomatoes, and mandarins together. Keep sesame chicken separate to prevent it from getting soggy or making greens soggy.
(If you have compartmentalized containers, those are great for meal prep salads like this. Or, you can use multiple containers—whatever works best for you!)