Crockpot Orange Chicken

This simple Crockpot Orange Chicken takes the Chinese restaurant favorite, gives it a healthy makeover, and turns it into an easy, hands-off slow cooker meal. Instead of sugary ingredients like orange soda or marmalade, this healthy crock pot recipe uses natural sweeteners and everyday ingredients. You can make it with chicken breasts, thighs, or drumsticks and add sesame if you are feeling fancy, and the sweet, sticky, fruity sauce turns every bite into fork-licking gold.

dinner plate of healthier orange chicken, made in a crockpotPin it on Pinterest!

My food-loving husband has a longstanding weakness for Chinese fast food. We used to live within walking distance of a Panda Express, and on weeks when he’d had a rough time at work, he’d sweet talk me into heading over there for lunch or dinner.

^^I’m not going to pretend like this was hard to do—I’m a sucker for sweet, tender bites of chicken in sticky sauces as much as the next sane individual, as this Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli, this Crock Pot Cashew Chicken, this Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken, and this Pineapple Chicken can all attest.

slow cooker full of homemade orange chicken

A Delicious Recipe for Simple Crockpot Orange Chicken

Orange chicken is a staple on many Chinese takeout menus. It typically consists of chicken that is breaded, deep fried, and tossed in a sticky, sweet orange sauce. While a favorite of many, I’ve found most I’ve tasted (even on those fun runs) to be overly sugared and unnecessarily heavy on calories.

This Crockpot Orange Chicken recipe is my healthier, lightened-up version. The sweet, citrusy flavor is reminiscent of a crockpot orange chicken with Panda Express sauce, but the ingredients are far better for you.

It’s also much more economical to make your own orange chicken at home instead of ordering out. Your wallet AND your waistline are going to thank you for making this healthy Crockpot Orange Chicken recipe!

skinny (healthy) plate of orange chicken made in a slow cooker

Skip the Marmalade for Skinny Orange Chicken

Almost every other recipe I’ve read for an easy version of homemade orange chicken calls for copious amounts of orange marmalade. Don’t get me wrong; I adore orange marmalade.

I also know that dumping an entire jar of it into the slow cooker would likely send me into a sugar coma and detract from my goal of making this a healthy orange chicken recipe.

Instead of orange marmalade, this is a recipe for Crockpot Orange Chicken with a few simple ingredients.

  • Orange Juice. Nothing like a real orange for some real-deal orange chicken.
  • Soy Sauce. The salty counterpoint.
  • Rice Vinegar. For balance and punch.
  • Honey. Sticky sweetness, done more naturally.
  • Lots of Garlic and Ginger. To make the Crockpot Orange Chicken sing and zing!

The orange juice mixture makes the chicken flavorful and fall-apart tender, then thickens into that signature sweet and sticky orange chicken sauce, a.k.a. the reason you were likely craving it in the first place.

plate of healthy orange chicken made in a crock pot

A Few Crockpot Orange Chicken Recipe Twists

  • Slow Cooker Orange Chicken Drumsticks. Swap the breasts for chicken drumsticks. Remove the skin from the drumsticks, then place the drumsticks in the slow cooker. Stir to coat with the sauce, then cover and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone, 2 to 3 hours on HIGH or 4 hours on LOW. Reduce the sauce as directed.
  • Slow Cooker Orange Sesame Chicken. After the sauce is reduced (Step 3), stir 1 teaspoon sesame oil into the sauce. Sprinkle the finished chicken with toasted sesame seeds.
  • Crockpot Orange Chicken Thighs. Swap the boneless, skinless chicken breasts for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat, 2 on HIGH or 4 hours on LOW.

Recommended Tools to Make Crockpot Orange Chicken

plate of Crockpot Orange Chicken
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Crockpot Orange Chicken

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time:
10 mins
Healthy Crockpot Orange Chicken. WAY BETTER than takeout! Easy, healthy orange chicken recipe made with simple ingredients like orange juice and honey.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts — (about 4 medium breasts)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup reduced-sugar orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon  rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic — about 2 cloves
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes — or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Prepared brown rice — for serving
  • Sliced green onions — optional for serving
  • Sliced or slivered toasted almonds — and/or toasted sesame seeds optional for serving

Instructions

  1. Coat the bottom of a 4-quart or larger slow cooker with nonstick spray. Arrange the chicken in the bottom, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the orange juice, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Pour over the chicken. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours on high or 5 to 6 hours on low, until the chicken registers 165 degrees F and is cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the slow cooker and let cool slightly. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
  3. With a mesh sieve, strain the sauce into a bowl or measuring cup. Discard the solids, then return the liquid to the slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker heat to high. Mix the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons water to create a slurry, then stir it into the slow cooker sauce. Cover and cook on high until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring it often. Return the chicken pieces to the slow cooker and stir to coat with the sauce. Serve with prepared rice, sprinkled with green onions and toasted almonds or sesame seeds as desired.

Recipe Notes

  • Cooking times can vary widely based on the model and size of your slow cooker. Be sure to check the chicken early, especially if you are using a larger-size slow cooker, to make sure it does not overcook.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Crockpot Orange Chicken, Easy Crock Pot Dinner, Healthy Chinese Food Recipe

Nutrition Information

Amount per serving (1 (of 4), with 1/2 cup brown rice) — Calories: 416, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 130mg, Sodium: 749mg, Carbohydrates: 43g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 13g, Protein: 50g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

titled photo collage - Skinny Crock Pot Orange Chicken

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About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

35 comments

  1. Picking out paint colors is the worst!! I think you should just pick out of a pillowcase like you said. “Egg shell white” and “Column white” are probably the same thing. ;) This recipe looks absolutely wonderful! Can’t wait to try it out! :)

  2. Thank you for doing this without the orange marmalade. I don’t like it, and should not eat it on a low oxalate diet. Your version looks good, easy, tasty, and best of all, I can have it. 

    Good luck with your kitchen. I was going to paint mine after New Years, but 2 attacks of bronchitis and 1 of walking pneumonia have scotched that-so far. Mine’s yellow, and Home Depot matched the paint exactly, so I’m lucky. No decisions are involved, other than whether to start it or not. 

    • You’re welcome, Kathy! I’d love to know what you think if you give the recipe a try. Good luck on your kitchen as well—I hope the bronchitis and pneumonia are fully behind you and that you’ll be able to start soon!

      • Erin: I tried it today. I thought it turned out really well. I liked that I couldn’t taste the soy sauce. I used fresh oranges,  and since I also don’t like breast meat, I used two chicken leg steaks that I got at my local Vallarta. It was only 1-1/4 pounds of skinless, boneless meat, so I put it in the 1-1/2 qt crock pot with the full sauce recipe, and cooked it on high for 4 hours. It was fall-apart tender and I will put the recipe in my Cook’n recipes. 
        Thanks. This is a very nice recipe, and not a lot of work. 
        Kathy

        • Kathy, thank you so much for taking the time to share your tweaks to the recipe and how it went. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  3. What kind of orange juice did you use?  The last time I looked at a reduced sugar orange juice label it had artificial sweeteners in it so I just went with the real stuff and added water ?

    • Marci, I think that it was Minute Maid, but your suggestion of using regular orange juice with a bit of water would work just fine too!

  4. Check “White Dove” by Benjamin Moore. 

  5. Shawnna Griffin Reply

    hey girl- this looks so good! Good luck on picking the color for your cabinets! Have a great weekend!

  6. Melissa "Dahmer" Bistrican Reply

    Hi Erin! Could I use freshly squeezed orange juice? Thanks!

  7. We just did our White Dove by BM and they are gorgeous. It’s also the color trim in my entire house. It’s so crisp.  I really recommend it. 

  8. Could I add onions and broccoli to the slow cooker or should I cook that separately?

    • Hi Emily, I think that would be fine! I’d suggest sautéing the onions first to mellow their flavor, then adding the broccoli about halfway through the cooking time so that it doesn’t get too mushy. I hope you love it!

  9. This recipe was really good. We used chicken thighs and added frozen Asian veggies during the last few minutes of cooking. We topped it with cilantro – delicious! Our 15-month-old loved it, too!

    • I love the addition of the veggies, Kacie! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe, and I really appreciate your taking the time to report back!

  10. Made it today but cooking chicken whole makes it impossible to cut into bite size pieces it shreds. Next time I will cut raw chicken into bite sized pieces first lol 

  11. Yummmmmmmmmmy!

  12. If I quadruple the amount of chicken (it’s for a party), should I also quadruple all of the other ingredients?

    • Hi Karen, I haven’t made quite that big of a batch before, but yes, I think you’d want to quadruple the whole recipe. Just make sure your slow cooker is big enough, or make sure to have a second one handy in case it fills up!

  13. For some reason I tried this recipe, even though orange chicken isn’t my favorite and anything with “Skinny” in the title makes me think I’ll put a lot of work into cooking something that won’t have any flavor; however, I had a bunch of frozen chicken breasts that I had to use, so I tried this and doubled the recipe.  It was shockingly tasty for a “skinny” recipe.  My parents liked it too.  I’m making another double batch this weekend because I ran out of my new favorite homemade frozen meals.  Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!!  

    • Elena, I am so pleased you enjoyed this, and I promise that ALL of my recipes are big on flavor (lightening up recipes without losing their flavor is my favorite way to cook!). Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful review!

  14. This was SO good and didn’t lack for flavor, just a few calories! Win, win!

  15. So much flavor and love that it doesn’t have orange marmalade!

  16. Hubby and I made this last weekend! I was so flavorful! Thanks for the great recipe!

  17. My whole family enjoys this!

  18. Erin, to make this Lemon Chicken as alternate; substitute lemon juice or lemonade?

    • Hi Sandy, I haven’t tried this so you’d be experimenting, but I would suggest lemon juice. You’d want to decrease the amount and also increase the honey. You may also be interested in this lemon basil chicken recipe too. I hope that helps! https://www.wellplated.com/lemon-basil-chicken/

      • Hi Sandy, I’d actually recommend trying with additional honey, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar. I’m not sure if you saw my prior response, but after thinking through it more, I think this is a better route, but again, I haven’t tried it myself yet!

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