Three Cup Chicken

Three Cup Chicken

For the summers, my kids and I pile into my parents’ house – the house where I grew up – so I can escape the heat and humidity of the south and give my kids some quality time with my family and the great outdoors of New England. We try to eat dinner together every night with my parents – sometimes one of my siblings pops by as well – and since my parents are at work during the week, I cover dinner on the weekdays and my dad cooks for all of us on the weekends. It’s a pretty nice arrangement.

Three Cup Chicken
Three Cup Chicken

For our big family meals during the summer, I am always on the lookout for a recipe that will feed a crowd without requiring too much kitchen time for me. A few weeks ago, I saw a link to a recipe for Three Cup Chicken in the New York Times Cooking newsletter. I was intrigued because I had never heard of Three Cup Chicken before but after reading up on it a bit, it seemed just right for a family meal at Camp Brighton.

This recipe for Three Cup Chicken is perfect for a weeknight meal – lots of flavor, not too much work. If your family likes Chinese food as much as mine does, this recipe will be a big hit at your house. My oldest son exclaimed that this was the best meal of 2015. You can’t argue with the taste buds of a 10 year old, right?

Three Cup Chicken refers to the fact that there are basically three ingredients in the sauce – and, if you were making a large quantity of this meal, you would use one cup each of the key ingredients – rice wine (mirin), soy sauce, and sesame oil. In addition to these three ingredients for the Three Cup Chicken sauce, you will need A LOT of garlic (don’t be scared!), a thinly sliced pepper and about an inch of fresh ginger. I sent my kids out to collect 20 basil leaves and a bunch of green onions from the garden to add to the dish at the very end. That’s it. Not very many ingredients at all. We served our three cup chicken over rice and with crispy sauteed broccoli from the garden and a large plate of sliced cucumbers to tide the little gremlins over while I was serving.

Easy peasy. I hope you enjoy it!

Three Cup Chicken

This might be your new favorite dinner ... Just a few ingredients but lots of flavor.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Erin Brighton


  • 2 lbs . chicken , cut into chunks
  • 20 cloves of garlic , thinly sliced
  • 1 serrano pepper (or other thin green pepper), no seeds, thinly sliced
  • 1 inch ginger , thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup tamari (or gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 1/3 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 bunch scallions , chopped
  • 20 basil leaves , chopped or left whole


  1. Combine thinly sliced garlic, pepper, and ginger in a large heavy duty pan or wok with 1/3 cup of sesame oil. Cook over medium high heat until garlic, peppers and ginger are softened.
  2. Add chopped chicken and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Combine soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Whisk together.
  4. Pour over the chicken. Bring heat up to high until the sauce boils. Reduce the heat to about medium high so that the sauce can thicken - about 20 minutes.
  5. When the sauce is cooked down, add the basil and scallions.
  6. Serve over your favorite rice. with a side of sauteed broccoli or kale.


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Erin Brighton

I am a native New Englander now living in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina and enjoying summers in sea-breezy Scituate, Massachusetts with my five small kids and two large dogs. I love to cook easy, local, and gluten-free for friends and family.

8 thoughts on “Three Cup Chicken”

    1. Thanks, Emily! It really does taste like “real” Chinese takeout. It has been such a hit in my house this summer.

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