Empress Chicken Vs General Tso – What’s The Difference?

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When it comes to choosing different foods from a menu, it can be so hard to know what you will or will not like.

When it comes to Chinese food, some of them are very similar while others might seem similar and be very different. There are a lot of options to choose from and the sauces are all made differently. 

One such comparison that you might wonder about is Empress chicken and General Tso chicken. While these two dishes might seem very similar to some people, they are actually pretty different when you break it down. 

What is the primary difference between Empress chicken and General Tso chicken? The difference between Empress chicken and General Tso chicken is Empress chicken is made to be just spicy while General Tso’s is both spicy and tangy. It’s a subtle difference to some and different people will have different preferences in the end. 

In this guide, we will walk you through the differences between these two dishes and break it down for you so you know just exactly how they measure up to each other. 

Stick with us to learn more about Empress chicken and General Tso chicken! 

Empress Chicken

Let’s talk about Empress chicken first. This particular dish is made to be spicy and it really takes that spiciness seriously.

This flavor difference is one of the most noticeable differences from General Tso dishes as those are made to be spicy but also tangy. 

The sauce for Empress chicken is rice-based and is designed to be spicy on the intense side. There isn’t really anything added to it or altered to tone down the spice or add sweetness or tanginess to Empress chicken. 

When you order an Empress chicken dish at a Chinese restaurant, you should also know that the dish as a whole will be different than General Tso chicken.

In fact, Empress chicken comes with more veggies and even a slight assortment of veggies as opposed to mostly just onions and peppers in General Tso chicken

Did you know that even the chicken is slightly different in Empress chicken? Generally speaking, Empress chicken is made with all white meat from chicken and no dark meat.

This means the meat has a slightly lower fat content but also that the meat is gentler to consume, which is great since it’s pretty hot when it is sauced up! 

The sauce for Empress chicken contains ginger, garlic, soy sauce, white vinegar, diced hot peppers, and green onion. 

General Tso Chicken

Now, let’s look at General Tso. You might actually be more familiar with this one as it tends to be a fan favorite.

Where Empress chicken uses only white meat from chicken, General Tso does not make that difference in their process. This chicken could be a combination of white or dark meat.

When it is cooked, General Tso’s chicken is actually deep-fried so that the chicken takes on a crisp texture. This is another difference from Empress chicken. 

General Tso chicken is made to be spicy but the heat of this dish is toned down with an addition of a little bit of sugar. That makes the dish both tangy and spicy rather than just packing in the heat for your taste buds. 

General Tso chicken has some of the same ingredients but not completely. The sauce for this particular dish includes hoisin, sesame oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and chilies.

The chilies give you some spice and the brown sugar gives you some sweet so it’s a good middle ground. 

General Tso’s chicken really doesn’t have any vegetables in it, aside from some onions and peppers. This also sets it apart from Empress chicken. 


When you compare the two dishes in this format, you see quickly that they are really very different. Empress chicken is made to be spicy while General Tso chicken is a good blend of sweet and spicy at the same time. 

These dishes are prepared using slightly different cooking methods and the ingredients of the sauce itself do vary slightly to impact the flavor.

Empress chicken is only white meat while General Tso chicken might have white and dark meat. 

These are the most noteworthy differences of the dishes but they are certainly big differences when you really consider the two dishes side by side. General Tso and Empress chicken are both very good and yet very unique in their own ways. 

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