Chinese Orange Chicken

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Put down that takeout menu! This easy Chinese orange chicken recipe is a tasty dinner the whole family will enjoy, and it’s ready in just 30 minutes or less! Lean pieces of chicken breast stir-fry and simmer in a delicious citrus sauce, no deep-fry required.

Orange chicken cooking in a wok

People love to talk about Panda Express orange chicken as their favorite Chinese chicken dish, but the calories from the deep-fried coating and sugary sauce add up quickly. This inspired me to create a healthier homemade version that’s quick and just as flavorful. Making this recipe at home is also skinner on your wallet too. Win-Win!

Orange chicken is easy to prepare in a large wok or skillet. Pieces of lean white meat sear and simmer in a fresh citrus sauce to make a stir fry. High heat and small even-sized cubes of chicken help efficiently cook the protein. The size allows for a shorter sear-time that will prevent it from drying out. The naturally sweet and tangy sauce clings to the chicken and is bursting with delicious orange flavors.

Pouring liquid into a wok with diced chicken

Ingredient tips and choices

Lean chicken breasts are the protein of choice, but chicken thighs that have a little more fat can also be used. I season the meat with sesame oil, salt, and pepper before cooking. For more flavor development and browning, add the chicken in a single layer so all the pieces make contact with the surface of the pan. Avoid moving them for the first 2 minutes then mix and stir-fry until cooked through.

Garlic and ginger provide instant pungency and some spicy notes. I add these ingredients after cooking the chicken to make the dish more fragrant and this order prevents the garlic from burning in the hot vegetable oil. Using the stir-fry method makes each bite more tasty, even without a deep-fried coating.

Making the flavorful orange sauce

Start by grabbing the ripest oranges you can find, then zest and squeeze out the juice for the sauce base. I like to mix the zest in the liquid because the essential oils in the skin add a ton of extra citrus notes. For convenience, you can use store-bought orange juice but look for the all-natural option with no added sugars or chemicals. Add chicken stock and soy sauce for their rich umami flavor.

For a natural sweetener, I use honey. The sweetness level is higher than sugar even at the same amount, so you don’t have to add as much for a similar taste. Rice vinegar balances the sweetness of the orange glaze with tangy notes. For a spicy element, I like to use red pepper flakes.

Person pouring a cup of cornstarch slurry into a wok with chicken

Cornstarch thickens the consistency

I use a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce at the very end of cooking. The mixture is a combination of 1-part cornstarch to 2-parts cool water. Once you add the slurry to the sauce, make sure to stir it in until it fully thickens.

The stirring motion helps to evenly distribute the starches for even cooking and only takes a minute. Keep an eye on the thickening process because it happens very quickly.

What to serve with this

To make this a complete meal, I like to serve the orange chicken with brown or white steamed rice. For a truly healthy meal try using my cauliflower rice or broccoli rice. For additional nutrients, you can add more vegetables like carrots, broccoli, or snow peas to the stir-fry. Right before serving, garnish with fresh orange slices, green onions, and white sesame seeds.

More classic Chinese recipes

Top down photo of a bowl of orange chicken and white rice

How does cornstarch thicken the sauce?

Cornstarch has incredible thickening powers when added to a liquid and heated up. Just add cold water to hydrate and whisk before using to create a slurry. This allows the starch molecules to separate and become soluble for thickening. Add the mixture to the orange sauce and heat to just below its boiling point. While the liquid bubbles, constant agitation or stirring increases the thickness of the sauce. When ready, the sauce should be able to coat the back of a spoon.

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Chinese Orange Chicken

Easy Chinese orange chicken recipe that's a healthier version. Lean chicken breast stir-fried and simmered in a sweet and tangy citrus sauce.
Pin Print Review
4.3 from 58 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Chinese


Orange Sauce

  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, optional
  • cup unsalted chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, or lemon juice
  • teaspoon red chili flakes, add more if you like it spicy
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons water


  • 1 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sliced green onions
  • ½ teaspoon sesame seeds


Orange Sauce

  • Whisk together orange juice, zest, chicken broth, soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, and chili flakes in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Whisk together 2 teaspoons cornstarch with 4 teaspoons water in a small bowl to make a cornstarch slurry.


  • Mince 1 tablespoon garlic and 1 tablespoon ginger. Set aside.
  • Cut the chicken breast into 1-inch cubes. In a medium bowl, combine 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and ½ teaspoon sesame oil.
  • Heat a large saute pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, once hot, add the chicken in a single layer in the pan. Cook without moving for 2 minutes, and then stir and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add garlic and ginger, stir-fry until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the sauce to the pan and allow it to simmer and bubble, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix the cornstarch slurry and then gradually add it to the pan, constantly stirring to combine. Cook until the sauce thickens, 1 minute. Season with more salt and pepper as needed.
  • Garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds. Serve with your choice of sides like rice and vegetables.

Recipe Video



  • For a thicker sauce: Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water.
  • Make it Whole30 or Paleo diet: Substitute 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder for 2 teaspoons cornstarch.

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Nutrition Facts
Chinese Orange Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 340 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Fat 12g18%
Saturated Fat 7g35%
Cholesterol 109mg36%
Sodium 854mg36%
Potassium 727mg21%
Carbohydrates 19g6%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 16g18%
Protein 38g76%
Vitamin A 132IU3%
Vitamin C 19mg23%
Calcium 16mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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38 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Maria Terry says

    Made this for dinner last night. Amazingly I had all the ingredients on hand and included snow peas. Loved the fresh orange flavor coming through. The oranges on my tree are really sweet and juicy. Husband loved it. As I was eating I thought this would also be good with the 21/25 shrimp I keep in my freezer. Next time. My wok is getting a workout lately. Glad I bought it. Love the emails for inspiration. This one is going in the binder with the others.

  2. Ronke says

    This was such a delicious meal, I miss Chinese take out and usually have the Asian seasonings at home to create the flavor. When I saw this recipe I was excited, I Nigeria we love chicken and meat so I knew my family would love it. The burst of citrus as you bite into the chicken is amazing, the sweetness from the honey, spiciness from the garlic and ginger were all balanced. I threw in some broccoli and it was just perfect. who knew orange zest could cut through chicken so perfectly😀. Thanks for sharing. I skipped the soy sauce because of my son’s gluten allergy, I was concerned it wouldn’t look brown line yours and the take out one but it tasted soooo good! Thanks again for sharing.

  3. JJ says

    Wonderful recipe…hubby loved that it wasn’t fried/deep-fried chicken, as seen in most Chinese take-outs. I went ahead and zest-ed the whole navel orange, which doubled the zest required, but stellar on the palate.
    I’ve read the others’ comments; liked the idea of cauliflower rice, toasted w/ some sesame oil. And others who’ve made this w/ shrimp…all to try.
    I had ~3/4″ chunks, and found that adding the sauce ingredients to the chicken chunks while they were still slightly pink, allowed them to continue cooking with the sauce (especially when cornstarch-thickening) and resisting letting this cook too long while getting thicker. It seemed to continue thickening when plated, and the chicken was amazingly melt-in-your-mouth tender.
    A real keeper. Good job, Jessica!!

  4. Jeannie Smith says

    I love this recipe. However, one correction – not really a correction – is that it doesn’t make enough orange sauce. I love a lot of sauces or gravies, depending on the entree, so I had to double or triple the sauce recipe, which required a lot of orange juicing. Otherwise it is an absolute favorite.

  5. janet says

    This looks delicious! Just wondered if you have to use fresh squeezed orange juice from oranges or if you can use store bought orange juice from a carton? Thank you.

  6. Surati says

    This looks so good ! And I can tell by your combination of ingredients that it’s going to be great – but only one thing gives me reason to pause – 3 Tbs of honey, seems like a LOT of honey. I guess tho’ it is a sweet and sour chicken dish ?

  7. Michael J. Kraemer says

    Agree with all the above comments. A stellar recipe. I am curious why the switch from Sesame oil to vegetable oil. I used peanut oil as I like the flavor.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thanks Michael! Do you mean why I use both sesame and vegetable oil for cooking the chicken? I like a little sesame oil for a roasted flavor and aromatics, but it has a low smoke point so I also use some vegetable oil to cook the meat. Peanut oil like you used works great too.

  8. Madeline says

    Made this last night for me & my partner, and it’s definitely a keeper for us! Since we already cook a lot of other Asian-inspired cuisines, we had pretty much everything we needed on hand already to put this together. We used chicken thighs instead of chicken breast and used zest from a large orange, which made the flavor of the sauce really pop! I also appreciated that this recipe isn’t deep fried and quick to pull together. I’ve already sent it along to a few friends who got excited about my Instagram picture of it! Thanks so much for making such a delicious recipe!

  9. Jesi Jury says

    I made this for my family last night and it was a hit! We served it with some fried rice from Trader Joe’s, and white rice for one of my boys. I love that this was full of fresh ingredients and spices!

  10. Marian Hughes says

    Wondering if I could use lemon juice instead of orange? – have about 4 lemons in my fruit basket 🙂

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