This Orange Chicken is made with crispy fried chicken pieces coated in the most lip-smackingly tangy, sweet, and delicious orange chicken sauce. Way better than takeout, this incredible homemade orange chicken recipe takes just 40 minutes to make!
Crispy bite-size nuggets of fried chicken coated in a sweet and tangy orange sauce – gosh, orange chicken is just so darn good. Admittedly, it’s one of my favorite Chinese takeout dishes and easy to see why Panda Express orange chicken is so popular.
What is Orange Chicken
Orange chicken is a popular Chinese-American dish often found in North American Chinese restaurants and buffets. It is characterized by chunks of chicken that are battered and deep-fried until crispy, then coated in a sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy orange-flavored sauce.
The sauce is typically made using a combination of orange juice, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and red chili flakes, although recipes can vary. Some versions of orange chicken – like this one – may also include the zest of an orange to enhance the citrus flavor.
This dish is often served with steamed white rice and vegetables. Despite its popularity in the United States, orange chicken is not traditionally found in Chinese cuisine as consumed in China. It’s an example of a dish adapted and created to suit the tastes of the American population.
Orange Chicken Sauce
The sauce for orange chicken typically contains:
- Orange Juice: Freshly squeezed orange juice is ideal for the best flavor, although store-bought can also work. This recipe also includes orange zest for a more intense orange flavor.
- Sugar: White granulated sugar or brown sugar are the usual sweeteners. Some recipes may use honey as an alternative.
- Vinegar: Adds tanginess to the sauce. This recipe includes rice vinegar, but white vinegar or apple cider may also be used.
- Soy Sauce: Adds a savory, salty, umami flavor to the sauce.
- Fresh Garlic and Ginger: Although we’re sautéing the ginger and garlic in oil first rather than adding it directly to the sauce, it will still add huge flavor to the overall flavor of the dish. Fresh garlic and ginger are best, but garlic powder and dried ground ginger will work in a pinch.
- Red Chili Flakes or Hot Sauce: This ingredient is optional and used to add heat to the sauce. Adjust the quantity to your preference.
- Cornstarch: Added to thicken the sauce.
How to Make Orange Chicken
1. Combine the orange sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, and orange zest until smooth and clump-free, then set aside. Optional: Add a pinch of red chili flakes or 1-2 teaspoons of chili sauce for a spicier orange chicken sauce.
2. Mix together the batter for frying: Combine the flour, cornstarch, water, egg, salt, pepper, and baking soda in a large bowl until just combined.
3. Preheat the frying oil and coat the chicken in batter: Add the chicken pieces to the batter and toss to coat. Meanwhile, heat a deep frying skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add enough oil so that the oil is 3-4 inches deep.
4. Fry the chicken (first fry): Remove the chicken, one piece at a time, allowing any excess batter to drip off. Carefully fry the chicken in several batches. Fry for about 5-6 minutes until the chicken is crispy but still pale. Remove the chicken from the oil and place them on a baking rack with a sheet pan underneath to catch the excess oil. Repeat until all of the chicken has been fried.
5. Fry the chicken (second fry): Reheat the frying oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and fry the chicken in batches again, a second time, until golden brown and crispy. Remove the chicken to the baking rack and set aside.
6. Sauté the aromatics: Head the oil in a large wok set over medium heat. Quickly sauté the garlic and ginger for 30 seconds or until fragrant, then stir in the red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
7. Heat the orange sauce: Re-mix the orange sauce, then pour it into the wok. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 3-4 minutes until it begins to thicken and become glossy.
8. Combine the chicken: Add the crispy chicken to the sauce and toss to coat.
9. Garnish and serve: Serve over rice and garnish with freshly chopped green onion and sesame seeds, if desired.
What to Serve with Orange Chicken
I typically serve this orange chicken with a side of cooked white or brown rice – especially when I make an extra side of orange sauce. Other delicious sides include,
- Fried rice or cauliflower fried rice
- Chow mein, Asian garlic noodles, or Yakisoba noodles
- Chinese broccoli (gai lan)
- Garlic bok choy
- Egg drop soup
Storage and Freezing
- Leftovers: Keep leftovers stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
- Freezing: For best results, freeze the fried chicken pieces separately from the sauce. This will help maintain the texture of the chicken and prevent it from becoming soggy. Place the chicken and sauce in separate freezer-safe containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. Freeze for up to 2-3 months.
- Reheating: If frozen, thaw the sweet and sour chicken in the refrigerator overnight. Next, reheat the chicken in the oven or in a frying pan to help it regain some crispiness. The sauce can be reheated in a saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave. Be sure to heat the food to an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C) to ensure food safety.
More Chicken Stir-Fry Recipes:
- Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Hunan Chicken
- Kung Pao Chicken
- Easy Szechuan Chicken Recipe
- Cashew Chicken
- Easy Chicken Stir Fry Recipe with Bok Choy
If you try making this Orange Chicken Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
Orange Chicken Recipe
For the Orange Sauce
- 1 orange - juiced, approximately ½ cup fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
For the Orange Chicken
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ½ cup water
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs - cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic - peeled and minced
- 1-inch thumb fresh ginger - peeled and minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, and orange zest until smooth and clump-free, then set aside.
- Combine the flour, cornstarch, water, egg, salt, pepper, and baking soda in a large bowl until just combined.
- Add the chicken pieces to the batter and toss until they are coated evenly.
- Heat a deep frying skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and pour in enough oil so that the oil is 3-4 inches deep.
- Toss the chicken in the batter, then remove one piece at a time, allowing any excess batter to drip off. Carefully fry the chicken in several batches. Fry for about 5-6 minutes until the chicken is crispy but still pale.
- Remove the chicken from the oil and place them on a baking rack with a sheet pan underneath to catch the excess oil. Repeat until all of the chicken has been fried.
- Reheat the frying oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and fry the chicken a second time, in 2-3 batches, until each piece is golden brown, crispy, and fully cooked. Remove the chicken and set aside on the same baking rack, allowing any excess oil to drip onto the baking sheet.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large wok over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and ginger for 30 seconds or until fragrant, then stir in the red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- Pour the orange sauce into the wok and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 3-4 minutes until it begins to thicken and become glossy.
- Add the cooked chicken to the pan and toss to coat in the sauce.
- Serve over rice and garnish with freshly chopped green onion and sesame seeds, if desired.
- Chicken breasts may be used in place of chicken thighs.
- Keep leftovers stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in a skillet over medium heat with a teaspoon or two of oil until heated through and crispy, about 5 minutes.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)
Leave a Reply