Healthy Orange Chicken
Panda Express should be very, very nervous right now. This Sheet Pan Healthy Orange Chicken and Broccoli just bested its signature entrée.
Orange chicken is an Americanized Chinese fast food classic that consists of cubed pieces of chicken breasts that are breaded and deep fried, then coated in a sweet, sticky orange sauce.
While it has its diehard fans (including my husband), orange chicken also can be cloyingly sweet, and the fast food variety certainly isn’t winning any nutritional awards.
This healthy orange chicken? It’s better tasting, better for you, and cheaper than takeout orange chicken!
It’s also quick and easy to put together; you won’t regret ditching the delivery and making this homemade version instead.
In place of the OMG what did I just do?? feelings of regret you may have experienced upon hitting the bottom of a white cardboard delivery container, you’ll feel great eating a monster portion of this lightened-up recipe tonight and (in the unlikely event of leftovers), you’ll want to do it again tomorrow too.
This healthy recipe makeover keeps the signature orange chicken crispy coating, but the chicken is baked and not fried.
Instead of brown sugar and a jar of orange marmalade (which is essentially a second round of sugar), the orange chicken sauce is made of real orange juice, soy sauce, and honey. It’s citrusy, sweet (but not too sweet), and delightfully sticky just like your fast food favorite, only better. (This Crockpot Orange Chicken uses a similar natural ingredient approach.)
And since we’re heating up the oven and need a side dish to serve with our homemade orange chicken anyway, why not take a note from this Sheet Pan Shrimp and Broccoli and throw a head of broccoli onto the sheet pan alongside the chicken as it bakes? It’s a dynamite idea, and one that this household plans to revisit on many a busy weeknight to come.
How to Make Healthy Orange Chicken
Ready for Panda Express orange chicken taste, with fewer calories and without the mess of a deep fryer? Here’s what you need.
For the Crispy Baked Chicken
- Chicken Breasts. After it’s baked, the chicken becomes the perfect combination of crispy outside and moist and tender inside. I used boneless skinless chicken breasts, but you could also try this as an orange chicken thighs recipe.
- Panko Breadcrumbs. Whole wheat Panko crumbs are the best way to help crisp up the chicken without frying it. They also absorb the sauce, giving the chicken pieces their hallmark sticky texture.
- Green Onions. One of my favorite additions to stir fry recipes. They add balance the sweetness of the sauce and give freshness and color to the dish.
For the Orange Chicken Sauce
- Orange Zest + Juice. The key to our fresh, bright orange flavor. The best part: both of these ingredients can come from the same orange (winning!).
- Honey. In lieu of using refined sugar in this recipe, I added honey. It gives the orange sauce its trademark sweetness while keeping the recipe on the healthy side.
- Soy Sauce. A star ingredient in almost every stir fry recipe. Soy sauce brings a savory, salty complement to the sweetness of the orange and honey.
- Ginger + Garlic. The Asian flavor dream team!
- Cornstarch + Water. Creates a cornstarch slurry to help thicken the sauce.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Add as much or as little as you want to reach your desired level of spiciness.
- Add the broccoli to a greased baking sheet, topping it with the oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat, then spread into an even layer, moving it over to one side of the baking sheet.
- Toss the chicken with the breadcrumbs, then add the chicken pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet next to the broccoli.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F, then flip over the pieces of chicken. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 5 to 10 additional minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
- As the chicken bakes, prepare the sauce: Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a saucepan, then add the slurry. Boil until the sauce has thickened, then stir in the red pepper flakes.
- Add the chicken and green onions to sauce, stirring to coat. Serve hot with the broccoli and rice. ENJOY!
More Sides to Serve with Orange Chicken
- Vegetables. This recipe includes a moderate portion of broccoli for each serving, so you could also include additional roasted vegetables for a larger serving. Red peppers, sugar snap peas, or mushrooms would be delicious.
- Rice. We love serving our orange chicken over a bed of brown rice or quinoa. For a low-carb option, cauliflower rice would also be tasty.
- Salad. Try serving your leftover orange chicken on top of a green salad, like this Ramen Salad.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
- To Make Ahead. Cut the chicken into pieces, and chop all vegetables up to 1 day in advance. Store each in a separate container in the refrigerator.
- If you want to make extra broccoli, it can be chopped up to 2 days in advance or fully roasted 1 day in advance; this lightening-fast Roasted Frozen Broccoli is great to make a day ahead then reheat in the oven towards the end of the chicken’s baking time.
- To Store. Place leftover orange chicken in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. To help the chicken recrisp, rewarm this recipe on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F until hot. In a pinch, you can also reheat it in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Store orange chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. The chicken may not be as crispy once thawed, but it will still taste delicious.
More Homemade Healthy Versions of Takeout Recipes
- Korean Beef Bowl
- Crock Pot Pepper Steak
- Crockpot Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken
- Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry
- Crockpot Beef and Broccoli
- Crock Pot Cashew Chicken
- Instant Pot Beef and Broccoli
- Healthy Beef and Broccoli
Recommended Tools to Make This Recipe
- Baking Sheets. These are heavy-duty and will last for years to come.
- Small Whisk. Ideal for whisking together sauce ingredients without splashing all over the counter.
- Nonslip Cutting Board. Great for chopping, and it’s easy to clean if you are cutting meat.
Swap the takeout menu for your trusty sheet pan, pick up your chopsticks (or a fork, I won’t judge!), and let this healthy orange chicken and broccoli be your weeknight winner.
If you try this recipe, please leave a comment to let me know how it goes. Your comments and 5-star ratings really help my blog and are so helpful to other readers too!
Healthy Orange Chicken
FOR THE BROCCOLI:
- 1 medium head broccoli — cut into florets (about 4 cups florets)
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
FOR THE CHICKEN:
- 1/3 cup whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts — cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 small/medium breasts)
- ¼ cup chopped green onions
FOR THE SAUCE:
- Zest of 1 medium orange — about 2 tablespoons
- ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice — from the same 1 medium orange
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 cloves minced garlic — about 2 teaspoons
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes — to taste
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
- Prepare the broccoli: place the broccoli on the baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then spread into an even layer on one side of the sheet pan.
- Prepare the chicken: Place breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper into a large ziptop bag. Shake a little to combine. Add the chicken pieces, seal, then shake to coat the chicken evenly. Place the chicken pieces in a single layer on the open side of the baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven and turn the chicken pieces over. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 5 to 10 additional minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. When a piece of chicken is cut, the juices should run clear.
While the chicken cooks, prepare the sauce: In a medium saucepan (one large enough to hold the sauce and the chicken), whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, honey, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and corn starch, until it is very smooth. Add to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the sauce is thickened and reduced, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Taste (be careful; it will be hot!) and adjust the seasoning as desired.
- Add the baked chicken to the pot and stir to coat with the sauce. If the broccoli is not yet as crisp as you would like, spread it out over the surface of the entire pan (including the open side where you were previously roasting the chicken) and return it to the oven until it is as baked as you like (I left it in for about 3 more minutes). Stir the green onions into the pot with the chicken. Serve hot with the roasted broccoli and rice.
- TO STORE: Place leftover orange chicken in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: To help the chicken recrisp, rewarm this dish on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F until hot. In a pinch, you can also reheat it in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Store orange chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. The chicken may not be as crispy once thawed, but it will still taste delicious.
- On 3/12/20 recipe was updated to reduce cornstarch to 2 tablespoons based on feedback that the sauce became too thick; if you like a super duper thick sauce, feel free to use the original 3 tablespoons.
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 (of 4); without rice) — Calories: 309, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 73mg, Potassium: 811mg, Carbohydrates: 30g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 13g, Protein: 28g, Vitamin A: 775%, Vitamin C: 104%, Calcium: 73%, Iron: 2%
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