Easy air fryer karaage [Japanese fried chicken]

Air fryer

With a crispy coating and tender chicken pieces, these Japanese karaage are so moreish. And with this air fryer recipe, there's no need to deep fry them for perfect results.

Rating: 5.00
(3)
24 January 2024

If you love fried chicken and deep-fried food like I do, then prepare to be blown away by this Japanese karaage chicken recipe. Japanese fried chicken, or karaage, is a really popular dish known for its crispy coating and tasty bite-sized pieces. Think of them as crispy chicken nuggets but with Japanese and Asian flavours. I mean, what’s not to love? 

My kids ask for chicken karaage regularly – and I tend to always have the ingredients to hand in the fridge and the store cupboard. Of course, I would always rather make them crispy chicken from scratch. And this chicken karaage recipe is easy to make.

Air fryer chicken karaage - Cook Simply

However, karaage is traditionally deep-fried, so I wanted to make this recipe healthier and use less oil, which is why this air fryer recipe is a great alternative and air fryer version. You can still achieve crispy golden perfection with tender chicken with minimal oil and maximum flavour, and absolutely no deep frying.

What ingredients are needed for this easy air fryer karaage?

The great thing about this easy recipe is its simplicity – as you don’t need many ingredients. And I am certain if you’re a keen home cook, you’ll have all of them to hand. 

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs 
  • Corn flour/ cornstarch
  • Sesame oil
  • light soy sauce
  • garlic
  • ginger paste/puree
  • rice wine vinegar
  • vegetable oil

Can you use chicken breasts instead?

Yes of course. I like to use chicken thighs as I find the meat is more flavourful, juicy, and tender when cooked. White cuts of meat such as breasts are leaner, but they will still work for this air fryer chicken karaage. 

Coating chicken in cornstarch - Cook Simply

Can I use an alternative to cornflour?

Yes, you can. Plain flour/all-purpose flour won’t work on its own, as it will be a denser, heavier type of coating. If you need an alternative, use potato flour/potato starch or tapioca starch/tapioca flour. 

What if I don’t have rice wine vinegar?

Rice wine vinegar is widely available in all good supermarkets, however, if you don’t have any, you can substitute it with apple cider vinegar or mirin.

How to make this air fryer karaage recipe

Marinate the chicken

Using a sharp knife, slice the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and put them in a large bowl. Now it’s time to marinate the chicken. Gather your marinade ingredients – the minced garlic, ginger paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar – and add them to the boneless chicken pieces.

Combine thoroughly, making sure all the meat is coated in the marinade. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavours penetrate the meat. If you’re short on time, half an hour is enough, however, the longer you leave the chicken to marinate, the tastier they’ll be. I like to leave my chicken marinating overnight – for around 24 hours for best results.

marinating chicken pieces with soy sauce, ginger and garlic - Cook Simply

Prepare the chicken coating

Once the chicken has marinated, it’s time to coat the chicken with corn flour/cornstarch – which will give the delicious karaage its crispy texture when air-fried. There’s no need for any egg mixture – you can dip the chicken pieces straight into the cornflour, making sure every part of it is coated generously. Put the coated marinated chicken pieces to one side and continue with the rest, until they’re all done

Preheat your air fryer

My air fryer preheats for five minutes at 200°c (390F). Preheating ensures that the chicken cooks evenly and gets that golden brown exterior.

Place the coated chicken pieces in the air fryer basket in a single layer. Avoid overcrowding to ensure that each piece gets crispy. You’ll need to cook in batches depending on the size of your air fryer. 

Chicken pieces coated in cornflour in a single layer - Cook Simply

If you use cooking spray or an oil mister, lightly mist the coated chicken pieces with vegetable oil. I find that once you air fry them on one side, after 10 minutes of air frying, you will want to mist the other side of the chicken and continue cooking. This step helps in achieving a golden brown and crispy coating while using minimal oil. If you don’t have cooking spray, don’t worry, you can use a brush and lightly dab the top of the chicken instead – this works just as well. 

Now it’s time to air fryer the karaage 

Cook the Japanese karaage chicken in the air fryer for 20-25 minutes at 200°c (390F), flipping the pieces a few times throughout the cooking time. The hot air circulating in the air fryer creates a crispy coating on the chicken without the need for deep-frying. Cooking times may vary depending on your air fryer, so keep an eye on the chicken to avoid overcooking and burning. Once cooked, place the air-fried karaage on a wire rack or board, and cover it with foil to keep it warm, while you continue to air fry the other batches.

Lemon wedges and mayo with karaage chicken - Cook Simply

What to serve with this Japanese karaage

Serve your air fryer karaage hot with lemon wedges on the side for a squeeze of lemon juice, it’s a fantastic combination. Pair it with a dipping sauce made with Japanese mayo – which is just regular mayo mixed with a splash of rice wine vinegar. You can also serve these alongside rice and vegetables or even with noodles.

Can you keep leftovers?

If you have any leftovers, well done! You can put any in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to three days. Reheat them in the air fryer for around 10 minutes at 180°c (350F). You can also freeze them for up to three months – and air fry from frozen for 20 minutes at 180°c (350F).

Easy air fryer karaage - Cook Simply

​Tips for the perfect air fryer Japanese chicken

Choose the right chicken – Opt for boneless chicken thighs for a juicier and more tasty result. However, chicken breast can also be used as a leaner option.

​Single layer only – Placing the chicken karaage in a single layer in the air fryer basket ensures even cooking and a crispier texture.

Preheat the air fryer – Preheating is crucial for achieving the golden brown exterior. It kickstarts the cooking process and ensures the chicken cooks evenly.

Mist or brush with cooking oil – Although air fryers use hot air for cooking, misting the chicken with cooking oil helps enhance the crispiness of the coating.

Serve with lemon wedges – Pair these crispy chicken air karaage with lemon wedges and a dipping sauce made from mayonnaise and a splash of rice wine vinegar.

Try these other air fryer recipes

Air fryer Chinese chicken wings
Air fryer Chinese char siu pork
Air fryer Chinese soy chicken thighs
Air fryer Chinese crispy pork
Air fryer sesame prawn toast
Air fryer diced potatoes

Easy air fryer karaage [Japanese fried chicken]

5 from 3 votes
Enjoy karaage Japanese fried chicken that has been marinated in soy, ginger, garlic and rice wine vinegar, cooked to crispy perfection in an air fryer
Servings 4
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 kg skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or substitute with apple cider vinegar or mirin
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons of ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 100 g of cornflour or cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil spray or use around 2 tablespoons of oil and a brush

Instructions
 

  • Using a sharp knife, slice the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and put them in a large bowl.
  • Gather your marinade ingredients - the minced garlic, ginger paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar - and add them to the boneless chicken pieces.
    marinating chicken pieces with soy sauce, ginger and garlic - Cook Simply
  • Combine thoroughly, making sure all the meat is coated in the marinade. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavours penetrate the meat. You can leave to marinate for 24 hours.
  • Once the chicken has marinated, it's time to coat the chicken with corn flour/cornstarch.
  • Preheat your air fryer to 200°c (390F) for five minutes while you coat the chicken.
  • Dip the chicken pieces straight into the cornflour, making sure every part of it is coated generously.
  • Place the coated chicken pieces in the air fryer basket in a single layer. You'll need to cook in batches depending on the size of your air fryer.
    Chicken pieces coated in cornflour in a single layer - Cook Simply
  • Using your cooking spray, mist vegetable oil over the chicken pieces, or use a brush to lightly coat the chicken in oil.
  • Air fry the karaage chicken in the air fryer for  20-25 minutes at 200°c (390F), flipping the pieces a few times throughout the cooking time, and coating them with oil on the other side. You'll need to do this in batches.
  • Once cooked, place the karaage on a wire rack or board, and cover it with foil to keep it warm, while you continue to air fry the other batches.
  • Serve with lemon wedges and mayonnaise.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 386kcalFat: 17g
Author: cooksimply
Calories: 386kcal
Course: Appetizer, Dinner, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Japanese

Did you follow this easy karaage recipe?

If you made this crispy air fryer karaage chicken, please leave me star ratings and a comment below or tag @cooksimplyathome on Instagram. You can find other delicious ideas here.

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