Put down that takeout menu! This easy Chinese orange chicken recipe is a healthier homemade option. Lean chicken breast stir-fried and simmered in a sweet and tangy orange sauce. A tasty dinner the whole family will enjoy, ready in just 20 minutes!
Panda Express orange chicken may be a popular favorite for some, but I have a quick and just as flavorful recipe without needing to deep fry the ingredients. Let’s be honest, eating takeout on a regular basis is both expensive and unhealthy. I want to give you a healthier option that’s skinner on your wallet too. Win-Win!
Orange chicken is easy to prepare. Using a large pan or wok, pieces of white meat chicken and fresh citrus sauce simmer together to make a stir fry. High heat and small even-sized cubes of chicken helps for efficient cooking. Not to mention, a shorter sear will prevent that terrible dried out taste.
Ingredient tips and choices
Do not move the chicken for the first 2 minutes to allow the surface to properly brown before stirring for an additional 2 minutes to fully cook. Saute the ginger and garlic for 30 seconds. Adding these later in the process will make the dish fragrant and prevent the garlic from burning. Rice vinegar balances the sweetness of the orange glaze with tangy notes that pairs nicely with the lean protein. For an optional spicy element, add chili flakes.
How do you make orange chicken?
- Whisk together sauce ingredients
- Dice the chicken breasts
- Stir fry chicken in a wok with vegetable oil
- Add ginger and garlic
- Pour orange sauce over chicken and simmer
- Add cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce
How do you make healthy orange chicken sauce?
To make a healthier version of the orange sauce use fresh-squeezed orange juice and honey. Start by grabbing the ripest oranges you can find, then zest and squeeze for the sauce base. Store-bought orange juice can also be used, but look for the all-natural option with no added sugars or chemicals.
Then instead of using refined sugars like brown or granulated, use honey as a natural sweetener. Honey tends to be sweeter than sugar, so you don’t have to add as much for a similar taste. I also recommend unsalted chicken broth to cut down on the sodium.
How do you thicken the orange chicken sauce?
A cornstarch slurry is used to thicken the sauce at the very end of cooking, which adds body and shine. It’s a combination of 1 part cornstarch to 2 parts cool water. I like to keep an eye on the thickening process because it happens very quickly.
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. To check and see if the sauce thickened, you want it to coat the back of a spoon. If you are on the Whole30 or Paleo diet, arrowroot powder is a good substitute for cornstarch.
What should I serve this with?
To make this a complete meal, I like to serve the chicken with white or brown steamed rice, or if you’re feeling adventurous try cauliflower rice or broccoli rice. For additional nutrients add more vegetables like carrots, broccoli or snow peas to the mix.
More Chinese recipes
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. This step allows the starch molecules to separate and become soluble for thickening. Add the mixture at the end of the cooking process and heat to just below its boiling point. The liquid bubbles then increase in thickness with constant stirring, this only takes about 1 minute.
Chinese Orange Chicken
- ½ cup (120 ml) orange juice
- 1 teaspoon (1 g) orange zest, optional
- ⅓ cup (79 ml) unsalted chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) honey
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) rice vinegar, or lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon red chili flakes, add more if you like it spicy
- 2 teaspoons (6 g) cornstarch
- 4 teaspoons (20 ml) water
- 1 ½ pounds (681 g) boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoons (10 g) minced garlic
- 1 tablespoons (8 g) minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon (1 g) sliced green onions
- ½ teaspoon sesame seeds
- 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.
- Combine chicken, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and ½ teaspoon sesame oil in a medium-sized bowl.
- 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 sauce to the pan and allow 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 brown rice and vegetables.
- Wok Spatula
- MAKE IT PALEO: Use maple syrup instead of honey. Use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Use 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder/starch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water instead of cornstarch.
- MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: Use gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.