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Caramel-Braised Chicken with Ginger and Lime

4 Servings

45 minutes

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Vietnamese caramel chicken is a dish with multiple layers of flavors: salty, sweet, smoky, bitter and meaty. For our take, we used coconut water as the cooking liquid; it added a subtle salty-sweet richness that brought even more complexity to the dish. The generous amount of ginger, cut into matchsticks, mellows and softens as it cooks, and it adds a brightness that perks up the deeper flavors.




Don’t get distracted once you begin cooking the caramel. Have the fish sauce measured out and at hand so that when the caramel turns mahogany in color, it can be added immediately to stop the cooking.

45 minutes


  • ½

    cup plus 1 tablespoon coconut water, divided

  • ¼

    cup white sugar


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Jeffrey C.
April 16, 2024
Pretty Good
Pretty good was indeed salty with sweet and smokey. I would make a vegetable side dish with it next time.
Timothy S.
November 13, 2022
Too salty
I really like the flavors and techniques in this recipe, but it was far too salty. Must be 2x too much fish sauce, at least.
sylvia M.
October 3, 2023
I really enjoyed this dish and I will make it again!
Rachal C.

I don't recall seeing this dish on a menu on any Vietnamese restaurant in Houston where I spent most of my adult life, (GREAT city for amazing Vietnamese food), and have not yet had the chance to travel to Vietnam, so I don't know how authentic the flavor is, but it definitely tasted Vietnamese, and I love that it uses ingredients I always have in my kitchen and uses an inexpensive meat! I will add into the rotation. I actually used chicken breast tenders cut into the same size chunks as indicated (hubby not a dark meat) and it was still very tender, although I do think thigh meat would be tastier, myself with thigh meat. I think this could easily be done vegetarian, although you won't get exactly the same effect, for my husband's family with pan-fried tofu cubes (done ahead or while developing the first stages of sauce and drained a bit on paper towels before adding in), and using a good vegetarian fish sauce substitute, although I would probably reduce the sauce down half of the way or so before throwing it in the pan instead of while it is still full liquid as in the recipe with raw chicken so it has some time to absorb the sauce, but does not become soggy and lose the crispiness. I am a becoming a big fan of this resource, and had a lot of fun making this easy weeknight dish that was not small on flavor! Thank you!!

Huyen P.

I am Vietnamese and my mom makes this dish and I wanted to make it too. But if you know Asian moms they cook with a “recipe” so I was pleasantly surprised to find it here. Can’t wait to make it!

Anne G.

Not my favorite Milk St. recipe, and the fish sauce smell was too strong for my husband.

Laura L.

could not get a caramel sauce using this recipe possibly because I used organic sugar and 1/2 coconut milk 1/2 water. oh well.

Roberta K.

Is there no way to email or print this recipe? New subscriber and getting frustrated. :0/

Lynn C.

Hi Roberta -

You can print this recipe by clicking the "Print" button to the left of the Ingredient list.

The Milk Street Team

Jason H.

This is a super popular dish in our house with four kids, commonly referred to as "stinky chicken" for the smell when you add the fish sauce to the hot sugar. (Turning the vent fan on high before that step helps.) I typically make a 2x or 2.5x batch split across two Dutch ovens. If you try to cook that much chicken in a single pot it is hard to evaporate all of the liquid in step 3. I use more shallots than the recipe calls for to add a bit more veg, and have successfully subbed red onion when I don't have shallots on hand. I shred the ginger on a ceramic ginger grater rather than cutting it into matchsticks. For me that's faster, and I prefer having the ginger dispersed in the food. I threw some scallions into my last batch since I didn't have any cilantro on hand and thought that was another fine substitution.

Susan B.

This is absolutely one of my favorite dishes of all time. I rarely make the same thing twice but I make this frequently.