Vietnamese Spicy Lemongrass Chicken (Gà Xào Sả Ớt)

Gà xào sả ớt is an aromatic blend of chile sauce, lemongrass, tender chicken, and veggies, but more importantly it’s a fast and easy, one-pot dish that you can make during the week.

Also known as Vietnamse spicy lemongrass chicken, this dish is more commonly made at-home in Vietnam vs. restaurants (even though it was the most popular dish at my mom’s Vietnamese restaurant).

plate of Vietnamese spicy lemongrass chicken with steamed rice

The lemongrass

Lemongrass (sả), also known as citronella grass, is an herb with a flavor similar to its namesake with a mixture of spicy ginger notes and very popular in South Vietnam. While it’s known for its medicinal uses in southeast Asia, it’s also known for its unique flavor. This distinct, strong, aromatic flavor pairs well with lots of shallots, garlic, and onion to balance it out.

To choose lemongrass at the grocery store, find stalks that are nice and firm with a yellow colored base and bright green husks at the top. When you prepare the lemongrass, you need to clean your stalks and peel the tough outer layers to reveal the bottom yellow leaves on the inside.

steamy pot from sauteing aromatics

The yellow bottom portion is more tender. You want to grind the yellow leaves until they’re smooth and fine, then add them into the chicken. For soups and stews like bò kho or chicken curry, you can simply trim the leaves off and smash the roots for quicker prep.

Usually you throw away more than 50% of the lemongrass stalk to use only the bottom part. You can save the tops on the freezer if you want for the recipes above. But these are cheap, about four stalks for $1.00.

If you can’t find this fresh in the store, many markets sell lemongrass in various forms: pre-ground, frozen, and in plastic cans or bags. While fresh lemongrass smells a lot better, the frozen option is still pretty good when you’re in a pinch.

Preparation tips

sauteing shallot, garlic, onion

To make this dish, we need to unlock the aromatics by sauteing in a pan. We’ll do it in order by starting with the items that take longer to brown (ones with more water content) and slowly adding others the the pan as they brown.

When that sweet aroma of lemongrass floods your kitchen, add the chicken to brown, then add the sauce and simmer on medium until fully cooked. You can adjust the spiciness level in this dish to your own taste.

The chile sauce

bottle and spoonful of Sambal Oelek

This spicy stuff is used in all sorts of Vietnamese food because it’s premade, and it tastes great. It’s often used to add a quick hit of spice to like adding a quick hit of spicyness to prepared fish sauce (nước chấm), rice porridge (cháo), and certain, but not all soups.

For this recipe, it gives us that amazing, deep red color in the marinade.

The chicken

In Vietnam, this dish usually includes bone-in chicken because that is the easiest, most natural form to serve meat–you don’t get a choice to waste any parts of the chicken! However, In my mom’s old restaurant this recipe was the most popular item amongst the Silicon Valley locals because it was very accessible. 

For this recipe, my ideal combination is thigh and chicken breast to get the best of both worlds. Another option if you’re vegetarian and needing that lemongrass high is using crispy fried tofu instead of chicken.

ga sao xa ot, vietnamese lemongrass and chile chicken


I like to add green onion to the pan at the final moments just to slightly soften then and add a pop of green. Otherwise, you just have a single color of chicken and sauce (which tastes great, if you don’t otherwise care about looks). Spicy lemongrass chicken is best served with this sweet and acidic mango salad and a simple side of rice.

Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Pinterest Image
spicy lemongrass chicken and rice

Vietnamese Spicy Lemongrass Chicken (Gà Xào Sả Ớt)

4.91 from 22 votes
Spicy lemongrass chicken is an aromatic and easy, one-pot recipe that is perfect for a shared family meal.
BY: Hungry Huy
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes


Chicken & marinade

  • 1 lb chicken cut into bit-sized pieces
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • tsp MSG or chicken bouillon optional


  • 4 tbsp neutral cooking oil
  • 3 tbsp shallots minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced
  • 4-5 tbsp lemongrass minced

Chile Sauce

  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sambal
  • ½ c coconut juice or lemon-lime soda, or water


  • ½ medium onion cut into slivers optional
  • 1 stalk green onion cut into 2 inch pieces optional


  • Marinade: Combine chicken and marinade ingredients, and let it sit to marinate for 15 minutes.
  • Mince aromatics: Clean the lemongrass, remove the outer layers of rough leaves and find the yellow leaves inside. Slice the lemongrass roots into ⅛” slices first, then add to a food processor to finely mince and set aside. Mince/process the garlic then set aside. Mince/process shallots and set aside.
  • Make the chile sauce: Combine fish sauce, sambal, and coconut juice and mix to combine.
  • Pat dry your chicken, cut into bite size pieces.
  • In a pan over medium-high heat, add four tbsp of oil and add the shallots and saute until light brown. Add the garlic and saute until light brown. Add lemongrass and stir until fragrant. Add the chicken and brown it a little.
  • Lower to medium heat, add the Chile Sauce. Stir to mix, taste and adjust as necessary, then cover with a lid. After about five minutes, stir a bit, retaste and reseason if necessary, add more cooking time if needed.
  • Add the garnish about 1-2 minutes before the chicken finishes cooking to soften a bit. The dish is done once the chicken reaches an internal temp of 165 °F, or until the center of the chicken is no longer pink.
  • Serve with a side of rice.
Nutrition Facts
Vietnamese Spicy Lemongrass Chicken (Gà Xào Sả Ớt)
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: lemongrass chicken, spicy chicken, Vietnamese lemongrass chicken
Did you cook this recipe?Tag @HungryHuy or #hungryhuy–I’d love to see it!

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14 comments on “Vietnamese Spicy Lemongrass Chicken (Gà Xào Sả Ớt)

  1. Abithy says:

    4 stars
    We like the flavor a lot, however; we doubled the recipe and the sauces but next time we’ll add less fish sauce or msg. Great with a side of broccoli and the spiciness is more on the mild medium. Definitely wouldn’t let someone who is sensitive to spice eat a lot of this because they may think it’s spicy level 10! Thanks again for the recipe Bryan! Until the next recipe

    1. Huy Vu says:

      Abithy! Glad ya liked and thanks for the tips. Def add some veg on the side this thing is all meat 🙂

  2. marta mohan says:

    Have a quick question; you just discard the marinade right? you do not add it to the chicken to the chicken while you cook?

    1. Huy Vu says:


  3. Lu says:

    My lemongrass when I put in the food processor is really pulpy. Is this ok??

    1. Huy Vu says:

      Yeah lemongrass is very fibrous, you can’t really avoid that. If you mean the chunks are very large, it may just be the food processor.

  4. hanh says:

    Novice Vietnamese cook here! I’m so glad I found your blog!

  5. Alisha C Nguyen says:

    5 stars
    It’s amazing how some Vietnamese recipes can be labor intensive and time consuming. But then there are recipes like this one which can be made with minimal effort in minutes instead of hours. The end result is still magical though! This is such a great recipe if you want to eat well but are pressed for time. To save even more time, keep a tube of lemongrass in your fridge.

    1. Hungry Huy says:

      I feel ya on that Alisha. Some have like 20 ingredients, while some are ~5 and still taste amazing.

  6. Phil says:

    5 stars
    This rocks. Excellent lemon grass flavor with the saltiness of fish sauce.

    1. Hungry Huy says:

      Thanks Phil!!

  7. Gretchen says:

    4 stars
    Very good website, so glad I found you!!

  8. May says:

    5 stars
    My husband is Vietnamese, and I have no idea how to cook any Vietnamese food. Please upload more Vietnamese home cooking like this. I have cooked some of your recipes, and he really likes it! I am looking forward new recipes from you.

    1. Hungry Huy says:

      Oh, so cool to hear May, and that your Vietnamese hubs approves 🙂

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