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
4.18 from 41 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Chinese

Ingredients

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

Chicken

  • 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

Instructions 

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.

Chicken

  • 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

Equipment

Notes

  • 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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Reader Interactions

28 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Pat Tucci says

    So happy I subscribe to your emails and this popped in my mailbox recently. Made it last night and it was DEE-licious!

    So easy to pull together. I did the sauce earlier in the day when I had a minute. Then when hubby came home, I was able to cook the chicken and finish the dish. Fast!

    Nice distinct orange flavor from from both the zest and the juice. The ginger and sesame oil create the Asian undertone. And the crushed red pepper was just the right amount to finish with some nice heat but not crush out everything else.

    We served with jasmine rice and green beans. Thinking I’ll try same recipe but use shrimp.

    Thank you Jessica. Great dish.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      This comment made me so happy Pat! You should be a food write 🙂 I’m so glad that you enjoyed the recipe, let me know how it tastes with shrimp!

      • Pat Tucci says

        Oooooo! Yum! I made this recipe with the shrimp last night. Very, very nice.

        Just the two of us, so used a dozen large shrimp (16-20 p/p, about 9 oz.). I was careful not to overcook the shrimp when they first go in knowing they had still had some time when the sauce is added. Amount of shrimp, didn’t need to use the full quantity of the sauce…just poured enough in to coat plus have some to drizzle on our rice!

        Thank you SO much for this recipe. Versatile *and* easy. Wonder what I can try it with next? :-p

        • Jessica Gavin says

          The shrimp with the orange glaze sounds incredible Pat! I’ll definitely have to try that myself to switch things up a bit 🙂 I can’t wait to share more recipes with you!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Rachel! Science is AWESOME 🙂 I have not used it much, what questions do you have? What do you plan on adding it to and perhaps I can help.

  2. Steve says

    We made this with Cauliflower rice (made separately, toasted with sesame oil). This is gonna be a new staple because we have these ingredients most of the time and it’s so fast (actually 20 minutes). Call me amateur but I had to use more EVOO and Sesame Oil for sauteing.

  3. Cynthia V. Frickle says

    I love this Orange Chicken recipe! I didn’t have low salt soy sauce so I used regular soy sauce. I also used low sodium chicken broth and half of the salt in the recipe. I didn’t have fresh ginger so I substituted some ginger spice. I like a subtle amount of garlic so I only used 1/4-1/3 the amount called for. I also used a little more grated orange peel than called for. I didn’t want my sauce that thick so I used slightly less cornstarch.. (These were just my personal preferences and necessary substitutions to avoid a trip to the store.) Thank you SO much for a perfect choice of ingredients. The small amount of sesame oil was just perfect. I would take your healthy recipe over any take out or restaurant Orange Chicken any day. It is definitely 5 ***** in my opinion!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yay Cynthia! Thank you for sharing your substitutions, I’m so happy to hear they worked for you and saved you an extra trip to the store. You made my day 🙂

  4. Jackie G says

    Yum! This was a great recipe. I had tangeos on hand instead of oranges, but it off-set the sweetness of the honey just fine. I also added broccoli for color. (Instead of a side–I love one-pot meals!) My husband says this recipe is a keeper!

  5. Pam S. says

    Wow – this is a great recipe! Went together fast and my husband and I loved the flavors. I added some slender asparagus to the dish for some added color/nutrition and it was delicous! May try it with snow peas next time. I love that it doesn’t take any fancy ingredients, just things I had in my pantry.

  6. Kiki says

    I’m a beginner cook and I made this. It was easy and so tasty. I’m always a little scared of zest, so I used some of the pulp from the orange instead. Other than that, I followed the recipe to the T and it was marvelous.

  7. MARIAN L YAROS says

    In your original posting of this recipe, I noticed that the chicken cooked for a total of only 7 minutes. Is that sufficient time to cook the chicken thoroughly? Otherwise, the recipe looks amazing. I will be trying it and will comment after. Thank you!

  8. Patti Lownsbury says

    I had chicken tenders in the fridge that I needed to use and when I saw your recipe in my email I couldn’t wait to try it! I was able to measure out the ingredients ahead of time which allowed me to pull everything together quickly. I served it over Jasmine rice and it was delicious! Next time I’ll try adding broccoli or snap peas…

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!!

  12. 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.

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