Watch out, takeout! This homemade Orange Chicken has the same sweet, tangy, and savory flavors you love, but it’s faster and more budget-friendly than ordering out.
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Why You’ll Love This Orange Chicken Recipe
- A Healthier Version. This is a classic orange chicken recipe with that signature sticky-sweet sauce, but it’s still much lighter than restaurant-style. No brown sugar or corn syrup here—simple ingredients like orange juice and honey provide all the sweetness you need!
- It’s Faster Than Delivery. From start to finish, you can have this on the table faster than it takes to order Panda Express orange chicken from DoorDash.
- The Sauce Is a Reader Favorite. Love my Crockpot Orange Chicken and General Tso Chicken recipes? Well, you’ll love this recipe too because it’s based on those dishes!
About This Easy Orange Chicken Recipe
My baked Healthy Orange Chicken is in heavy rotation in our kitchen, but I decided that I wanted to do a more traditional take on orange chicken cooked on the stove.
Still lighter than takeout! Still ridiculously easy! And still delicious, too!
The difference is that instead of baking the chicken, I stir fry it in a wok.
- Cooking the chicken on the stovetop means this recipe comes together lickety-split.
- It still only calls for a tablespoon of oil, making it much healthier than the Chinese takeout deep-fried version.
- It also means there’s no dredging the chicken in eggs and flour, no cooking it in batches, and no draining it on paper towels. Win!
If you love other sticky-sweet dishes like Sweet and Sour Chicken, this orange chicken is destined to be a new favorite!
How to Make Orange Chicken
For the Chicken:
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts or Tenders. Tenders, or tenderloins, are a small cut that comes from the area between the breast and breast bone. You also can use boneless skinless chicken thighs.
- Honey or Pure Maple Syrup. This helps infuse the chicken with sweetness.
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce. You’ll use soy sauce to infuse the chicken with umami flavor to balance the sweetness.
- Baking Soda. A secret ingredient that helps tenderize chicken while it marinates.
- Cornstarch. Cornstarch will help your chicken achieve maximum crispiness and mimics the deep-fried version.
- Canola Oil. Or another high smoke point oil you like to cook with, like vegetable oil or peanut oil.
- Green Onions. These add a bit of color and pungent flavor to your orange chicken.
For the Orange Chicken Sauce:
- Orange. You’ll need both the orange zest and the juice; zest the orange first, then juice it. Creates the perfect orange flavor.
- Honey. No need for anything fancy here; the runny honey that comes in a bear-shaped bottle is just fine.
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce. You can use regular soy sauce if that’s what you have on hand, but I always prefer low-sodium to keep the flavor (and salt level) in check.
- Fresh Ginger. You’ll need about an inch of ginger root to yield a tablespoon grated.
- Garlic. Garlic is key for that sweet-and-savory balance.
- Water. For making a cornstarch slurry.
- Cornstarch. The other component of your slurry. This will thicken the sauce and help it cling to the chicken.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Add more or less, according to your taste preferences.
- Prepared Brown Rice. I use my Instant Pot Brown Rice. Here’s How to Make Brown Rice on the stovetop too.
- Sautéed Veggies. Broccoli is a common pairing with orange chicken, but bell peppers, onions, carrots, snow peas, and other stir fry vegetables work too.
- Marinate. Toss the chicken pieces with the soy sauce, honey, and baking soda and marinate while you get the sauce ready.
- Make the Sauce. Zest the orange right over the pot to capture the flavorful oils.
- Coat the Chicken. Toss the chicken with the cornstarch.
- Cook the Chicken. Cook on both sides until golden brown.
- Add the Sauce. Cook until the chicken is coated and sticky.
- Serve. Stir the green onions into the orange chicken. Divide the chicken into bowls of rice and veggies and ENJOY!
- Orange Tofu. Cook the tofu as described in my General Tso Tofu recipe, but use the orange sauce from this recipe instead.
- Orange Cauliflower. Another plant-based option is to simply replace the chicken with an equal amount of small cauliflower florets. Marinate them, dust them with the cornstarch, and follow the rest of the recipe as written.
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover orange chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Reheat orange chicken in a skillet set over medium heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze orange chicken in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator, then reheat according to the instructions above.
What to Serve with Orange Chicken
- Grains. Rice isn’t your only option here! Quinoa or farro are great too.
- Veggies. I love this orange chicken with Cauliflower Fried Rice.
- Other Takeout Favorites. Do a restaurant-style dinner at home with Homemade Fried Rice and Asian Cucumber Salad.
- Salad. Asian Cabbage Salad and Asian Noodle Salad would both complement this orange chicken recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Small Whisk. A large whisk in a small saucepan is a recipe for disaster! I love this smaller size for just about everything.
- Nonslip Cutting Board. This set comes with three different size boards for all your slicing and dicing needs.
- Wok. While you can use a skillet, if you stir fry often, a wok is a worthwhile investment.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Use a Big Skillet. Or, even better, a wok. It’s important for the chicken to have ample space in the pan so it gets crispy instead of steaming.
- Zest the Orange in the Saucepan. Not only will this help you catch the oils from the orange, it will also make less of a mess!
- Don’t Skip Whisking the Slurry. Although it’s tempting to have one less bowl to clean up, if you don’t whisk the water and cornstarch separately, you’ll end up with lumps in your sauce—and it won’t be as sticky.
- Stir Fry Some Veggies. You can sauté some veggies for your orange chicken by adding them to the skillet or wok after the chicken is done and cooking them in a tablespoon of oil with soy sauce, then adding the chicken and sauce back to the pan to finish.
For the Chicken:
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon honey or pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions about 3 medium/large or 4 small
For the Orange Sauce:
- Zest of 1 medium orange
- 1/3 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
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes to taste
- Prepared brown rice for serving
- Sautéed veggies for serving (see notes)
- Add the chicken to a medium bowl. Top with the soy sauce, honey, and baking soda. Let sit 15 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- Meanwhile, prepare the orange sauce: In a small saucepan, whisk together the orange zest (I recommend zesting directly into the pan so you catch the flavorful oils), orange juice, honey, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and cornstarch to create a smooth slurry. Stir into the orange mixture. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Removed from the heat and set aside.
- Sauté the chicken. In a wok or large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons cornstarch over the top of the chicken. Stir to evenly coat, using a spoon to separate the pieces and ensure each is nicely coated.
- Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the chicken to the pan in an even layer, a few pieces at a time (discard any remaining marinade). If any of the pieces are stuck together, use a spoon to break them back apart. Cook the orange chicken on the first side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. With tongs, flip and cook on the remaining sides, stirring periodically, until the chicken is deeply golden brown on all sides and completely cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Reduce the heat to low and pour in the orange sauce. Stir to coat the chicken evenly. The sauce will loosen up a tiny bit as you stir, then coat the chicken to make it deliciously sticky. Stir in the green onions. Serve hot with rice.
- If you’d like to serve with sautéed veggies: Remove the cooked chicken to a plate after Step 4. Saute your vegetables of choice in 1 tablespoon oil with a few dashes of soy sauce until crisp-tender. Add the chicken back to the skillet and proceed to Step 5.
- Adapted from my Healthy Orange Chicken
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover orange chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Reheat orange chicken in a skillet set over medium heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze orange chicken in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator, then reheat according to the instructions above.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Orange chicken has a tangy citrus flavor that General Tso chicken lacks. General Tso has more umami in the sauce and it’s also spicier.
Orange chicken is usually mildly spiced, but when you cook it at home you can make it as spicy (or not spicy) as you like!
Orange chicken does taste a little bit like sweet and sour chicken in that they both have sweet, tangy sauces, but the tanginess in sweet and sour chicken comes from rice vinegar, while in orange chicken, it comes from the orange juice. This means orange chicken is a little less acidic and a lot more citrusy.