This homemade orange chicken is so much better and healthier than takeout! It’s a quick and easy dinner that the whole family will love!
Chinese take out is one of my guilty pleasures, and I only say guilty because I usually end up feeling bloated or bordering on a food coma. But this healthy orange chicken recipe is one that you can feel good about!
Last year, I made a paleo, gluten-free and Whole30 approved mango chicken with cauliflower rice that basically broke the internet. I still have you making it, loving it, snapping all kinds of hip-foodie Instagram pics of it and generally just being obsessed with it. So, I thought it would only make sense to mix it up (just a little) and bring you a REINVENTED, healthy, whole food version of your favorite Panda Express pick: Orange chicken! Or orange tofu for my vegetarian friends!
This recipe has it all! A mega-punch of crispy-golden-brown goodness on the outside, that ends with your teeth sinking into juicy, tender chicken yumminess on the inside. Not to mention the classic glossy, sticky-sweet sauce that every good Asian dish has. You don’t want to miss out on this one!
Is Orange Chicken Healthy?
Contrary to what you might expect when you first think of orange chicken, this homemade version is absolutely healthy! This recipe includes heart-healthy fats in the form of avocado oil, and of course it’s also packed with lean, mean chicken protein!
The delicious flavors all come from natural ingredients like orange zest, ginger and garlic. And guess what? You can easily make this dish without gluten, grains, dairy or MSG!
What is the Sauce on Orange Chicken Made Of?
What’s the secret to that perfectly sticky, sweet, citrusy tastiness that coats your tender chicken pieces? Well here’s what you need for the orange chicken sauce recipe:
- Orange juice
- Orange zest
- Coconut aminos if you’re gluten-free, or good old soy sauce if you’re not
- Rice vinegar
- Fresh garlic
- Fresh ginger
- Red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper
- Avocado oil
- Tapioca starch
What Does Orange Chicken Taste Like?
Orange chicken is the perfect balance between sweet and sour, but it’s not the same as the dish known as sweet and sour chicken. While sweet and sour chicken is made with sugar, orange chicken recipes get their sweetness from the fruit and have a more subtle, tangy sweetness.
Is Orange Chicken a Chinese Dish?
Orange chicken is actually an American-Chinese dish. Panda Express have claimed it as their invention from back in 1987 and, no surprise, it’s one of their best-selling dishes! Although you’re unlikely to find orange chicken as you know it in China, the recipe was adapted from traditional Chinese recipes that used tangerine and lemon peel. The orange chicken recipe is also an adaptation of another well-loved American-Chinese dish, General Tso’s Chicken.
How to Make Orange Chicken
This orange sauce takes a little extra effort to perfect, but I promise it’s worth it!
First, mix together the orange juice, orange zest, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then, heat your avocado oil in a pan and add the fresh ginger and garlic to cook for a minute.
Add your orange juice mixture to the pan and stir it with the ginger and garlic, then bring the sauce to a boil. Once it’s boiling, you’ll add a couple spoonfuls of the sauce into a bowl containing a teaspoon of tapioca starch, and whisk this until it’s smooth. After that, you’ll pour the tapioca mixture back into the pan with the rest of the sauce.
Boil the sauce for a couple more minutes then turn down the heat and cook for 3-4 minutes until the sauce is thick and glossy. Now your sauce is done! Transfer it to a bowl, cover and let it stand while you prepare your chicken.
For the chicken, first cut the meat into 1 inch pieces, then put them in a ziploc bag with tapioca starch, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Heat some more avocado oil in a frying pan and add the chicken pieces to the hot oil, cooking for a few minutes per side until they’re golden and crispy.
When they’re done, place them on a plate over paper towels to remove any excess oil. Finally, add the chicken to your bowl of sauce and stir until all the pieces are covered. Garnish with sesame seeds or green onions and serve over rice. Yum!!
More Gluten Free Recipes
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What to Serve With Orange Chicken
Well, let’s start with the obvious, whether it’s take out or homemade orange chicken, it should always be served with rice!
- If you’re doing Whole30, low carb or following a paleo diet, cauliflower rice is a great option and you can find instructions here for different methods of cooking it.
- Or, go with my personal favorite, coconut rice which is easy to whip up in an instant pot.
I also like to have some greens on the side with my orange chicken.
- This Chinese spicy zucchini stir fry goes great with orange chicken
- Or go for a super simple sauteed broccolini instead!
- If you’re looking for more contrast, this coleslaw with asian dressing is refreshing and crunchy.
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For the sauce:
For the chicken:
- 1 medium orange, segmented
- Green onion, sliced
- Sesame seeds
- Hot cooked white rice or cauliflower rice
- In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a medium, high-sided frying pan heat the avocado oil (for the sauce) up on medium heat. Add in the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add in the orange juice mixture, stirring so the garlic/ginger mix into it. Additionally, place the 1 tsp of Tapioca starch into a medium bowl.
- Turn the temperature up to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add 2 tsp of the hot sauce into the tapioca starch and whisk until smooth. While whisking, pour the tapioca mixture into the sauce and stir in well.
- After you add the tapioca, boil the sauce for 2 minutes. Then, turn the heat down to medium/low and cook an additional 3-4 minutes until the sauce is thick and glossy. Transfer to a large bowl, cover, and let stand to thicken up more while you make the chicken.
- In a large frying pan over medium/high heat, heat the avocado oil. NOTE: you do not want to crowd the chicken, so I fry mine in 2 batches, using 1 Tbsp of oil each time. Adjust according to the size of your pan.
- While the oil heats, place the tapioca starch and a pinch of salt and pepper into a large Zip-loc bag. Add in the chicken cubes, seal the bag and toss until the chicken is coated in the starch.
- Place the chicken into the hot oil (again, don't crowd them) and cook until golden brown and crispy about 2-3 minutes per side, flipping once. If your chicken cooks too quickly, reduce the heat a little bit. Repeat with the 2nd batch of chicken if necessary.
- Once cooked, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and gently press out any excess oil. Place the chicken into the bowl with the sauce. Add in the orange segments and toss until the sauce coats everything.
- Serve over top of cauliflower rice, or white rice, garnish with green onion and sesame seeds, and DEVOUR.
Tips & Notes:
Recipes written and produced on Food Faith Fitness are for informational purposes only.
FOR THIS RECIPE, I RECOMMEND:
Weight Watchers Points Per Serving: SmartPoints: 11 Points+: 11. Old Points: 10
(Per serving – not including rice/cauliflower rice)
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