Chinese Orange Chicken

4.74 from 88 votes
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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.

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.
4.74 from 88 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
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 chicken with 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

YouTube 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 340kcal (17%)Carbohydrates 19g (6%)Protein 38g (76%)Fat 12g (18%)Saturated Fat 7g (35%)Cholesterol 109mg (36%)Sodium 854mg (36%)Potassium 727mg (21%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 16g (18%)Vitamin A 132IU (3%)Vitamin C 19mg (23%)Calcium 16mg (2%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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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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4.74 from 88 votes (63 ratings without comment)

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47 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Diala says

    I have made this recipe many times and we love! my problem now is that my son is allergic to sesame and I really miss making it, can you recommend any substitute to sesame oil please?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You could add peanut or walnut oil. Sesame has a distinct flavor, so it’s not the perfect replacement but will add some flavor.

  2. Michele Hyson says

    WOW! My family and I love this recipe so much! I added a little more red pepper flakes because my son LOVES spice — and, even so, it’s not overwhelming with this amazing recipe.

  3. Connie Flores says

    My husband and I really enjoyed the fresh flavors in this dish.Simple, quick and tasty.
    Jessica, Every recipe that I prepare from your culinary collection is healthy, colorful and appetizing. YOU are my ” go to chef” for all future recipies!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you, Connie! I’m so happy that your family enjoyed the orange chicken. I can’t wait to hear what you make next!

  4. Lael says

    Loved it! A delicious, healthy recipe that came together in just 30-minutes. My 8-year said it was a little too spicy so add the chili flakes after if you have someone sensitive to spice.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the orange chicken recipe, Lael! Great tip for adding in the chili flakes later in case you have eaters that prefer it not spicy.

  5. Marian Hughes says

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

  6. 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!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I often make two types of rice too for my family, haha! Great to hear that the whole family enjoyed the recipe.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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 ?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!!

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