Chinese Orange Chicken

5 from 6 votes
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This restaurant-quality homemade Chinese orange chicken recipe is so much better than takeout – combining super tender yet crispy fried chicken pieces in a sticky sweet and sour orange sauce. Perfect for those times when you’re craving Chinese food!

A serving of orange chicken with rice

Let’s be honest – making homemade versions of your favorite takeout dishes, like chicken veggie stir fry, sesame chicken, and this orange chicken, is a win-win-win. Aside from having to spend time preparing it, homemade “fakeout” is usually more cost-effective and has the same (if not better) flavor of the dish you love. Plus it can be easily tweaked to your flavor and dietary preferences.

What is Chinese orange chicken?

This recipe is a popular Chinese-American dish that’s a favorite choice for fast food takeout. It’s a Western version of traditional Chinese flavors and is more popular in the U.S. than in China. It consists of deep-fried chicken pieces in a sweet and tangy orange-flavored sauce, thickened into a wonderful glaze. The sauce gives it a mix of sweet, sour, and savory flavors with a hint of spice.

Fried chicken with orange sauce topped with scallions

Ingredients

This simple orange chicken recipe doesn’t have the shortest ingredients list but is made with plenty of simple, pantry-friendly ingredients and kitchen basics.

Ingredients for orange chicken
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast. Pre-chopped will save you even more time. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs also work well (note that cooking time may vary).
  • Chicken marinade: A simple combination of egg white, soy sauce, and cornstarch will help to flavor, tenderize, and produce a crispy chicken recipe.
  • The chicken coating: Combining all-purpose flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder makes for a light, super crispy orange chicken batter.
  • Vegetable oil: Or another neutral, high-heat cooking oil like grapeseed or canola oil.

For the Sauce

  • Orange: fresh orange juice and orange zest. Avoid concentrate.
  • Sugar: Regular sugar, or a sugar substitute if preferred. Adjust to taste.
  • Soy Sauce: Low-sodium soy sauce
  • Sesame Oil: Adds a nutty, toasty depth to the dish.
  • Aromatics: Fresh ginger and garlic are preferred, but paste or powder can be used.
  • Red pepper flakes: to taste, or sriracha/hot sauce as an alternative.
  • Cornstarch: This will help thicken the orange sauce.
  • Vinegar: White vinegar, or substitute with white wine or rice vinegar.

Step-by-step instructions

While several steps are required to prepare this dish, it’s much easier than you think. Especially if you gather all the ingredients/tools into their required “stations” in advance. A single bite of this, and you’ll never need the takeout version again!

Prepare the Chicken: First, if the chicken isn’t pre-cut, cut it into bite-size pieces around 1/2-3/4 inches big.

Chopped chicken breasts on a cutting board

Marinate the chicken: Then, whisk the egg whites into a foam, add the soy sauce and cornstarch, and whisk well again. Tip the chicken pieces into the marinade. Stir and set aside while preparing the sauce. Set it aside for at least 15 minutes or up to overnight when left covered in the refrigerator.

Steps for marinating chicken

Make the Orange Chicken Sauce: Zest, then juice the orange, making sure to only zest the orange peel and no white pith (which is bitter). Also, mince the garlic and ginger. Then, combine the cornstarch and soy sauce, mixing well until it’s lump-free. Then stir in the orange juice, zest, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and red chili flakes.

Prepared orange sauce in a bowl

Meanwhile, heat a small pan with vegetable oil, stir-frying the garlic and ginger for 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the remaining mixed sauce ingredients. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the cornstarch and sugar from the bottom of the bowl if needed. Increase the heat to bring the sauce to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, constantly stirring, until the sauce thickens. Then, set it aside.

Steps for making orange sauce

Coat the Chicken: First, combine the dry coating ingredients (flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt) in a large bowl/plate. Then coat the chicken in the mixture, shaking off any excess.

Steps for breading chicken with flour

Fry the chicken: Meanwhile, heat at least an inch of oil in a large wok/skillet over high heat.

When deep-frying, the oil should reach 375ºF/175ºC. If you don’t have a thermometer, dip a wooden skewer into the oil. It should bubble immediately. If it smokes, it’s too hot.

Carefully transfer the chicken to the pan, being careful not to overcrowd it (cook in batches if necessary). Cook for about 4 minutes, until it’s entirely cooked through, golden brown, and crispy on the outside. Then, transfer the chicken from the oil to layers of paper towel to drain any excess oil.

Steps for frying chicken

Toss the Chicken in the Sauce and Serve: Finally, toss the fried chicken into the pan with the sauce and stir well to coat. Simmer the chicken in the sauce for a minute or two if it isn’t hot enough.

Cooked chicken tossed in orange sauce

Serve this easy orange chicken hot and optionally garnish it with scallions (green onions) and sesame seeds. Enjoy it with fluffy white rice, fried rice, or noodles. Optionally, you can also add cooked veggies like broccoli, bok choy, green beans, etc.

A serving of orange chicken with rice

If you try this homemade orange chicken recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Chinese Orange Chicken

5 from 6 votes
By: Samira
This restaurant-quality homemade Chinese orange chicken recipe is so much better than takeout – combining super tender yet crispy fried chicken pieces in a sticky sweet and sour orange sauce. Perfect for those times when you're craving Chinese food!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 
 

  • 27 oz boneless skinless chicken breast 3 medium-big; chicken thighs also work
  • 8 cups vegetable oil or other for frying the chicken (more or less depending on pan size)

For the Marinade

  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce or gluten-free tamari/ coconut aminos
  • 1 egg only the white

For the Dry Coating

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or a GF all-purpose blend
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the Orange Sauce

  • 1/2 cup orange juice from 2 medium oranges
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest from 1 orange
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar regular or an alternative (like erythritol) – adjust the amount to taste
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar or white wine vinegar/rice vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil or other for pan-frying
  • 2 cloves garlic about 2 tsp minced
  • 0.2 oz ginger about 2 tsp minced

Instructions 

Prepare the chicken

  • If the chicken isn't pre-cut, cut it into bite-size pieces around ½-¾ inches big.

Make the marinade

  • Whisk the egg whites into a foam, add the soy sauce and cornstarch, and whisk well again.
  • Tip the chicken pieces into the marinade, stir, and set aside while preparing the sauce (for at least 15 minutes or up to overnight when left covered in the refrigerator).

Make the sauce

  • Zest, then juice the orange, making sure to only zest the orange peel and no white pith (which is bitter). Also, mince the garlic and ginger.
  • Combine the cornstarch and soy sauce, mixing well until it’s lump-free, before stirring in the orange juice, zest, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and red chili flakes.
  • Heat a small pan with vegetable oil, stir-frying the garlic and ginger for 2 minutes over medium-high heat.
  • Add the remaining mixed sauce ingredients (use a silicone spatula to scrape the cornstarch and sugar from the bottom of the bowl if needed) and increase the heat to bring the sauce to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, constantly stirring, until the sauce thickens. Then, set it aside.
    Add more cornstarch slurry for a thicker sauce or more water or orange juice for a thinner one.  

Fry the chicken

  • Combine the dry coating ingredients (flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt) in a large bowl/plate. Then coat the chicken in the mixture, shaking off any excess.
  • Heat at least an inch of oil in a large wok/skillet over high heat.
    When deep-frying, the oil should reach 375ºF/175ºC. If you don't have a thermometer, dip a wooden skewer into the oil. It should bubble immediately. If it smokes, it's too hot.
  • Carefully transfer the chicken to the pan, being careful not to overcrowd it (cook in batches if necessary). Cook for about 4 minutes, until it's entirely cooked through, golden brown, and crispy on the outside.
  • Transfer the chicken from the oil to layers of paper towel to drain any excess oil.

Toss the Chicken in the Sauce and Serve

  • Toss the fried chicken into the pan with the sauce and stir well to coat.
    Simmer the chicken in the sauce for a minute or two if it isn’t hot enough.
  • Serve the orange chicken, optionally garnished with scallions (green onions) and sesame seeds. Enjoy it with fluffy white rice, fried rice, or noodles, optionally also with cooked veggies like broccoli, bok choy, green beans, etc.

Notes

Use a thermometer: This will ensure the frying oil is heated to the correct temperature so the chicken cooks properly and without soaking up additional oil.
Tweak to taste: You can adjust this sauce recipe to your liking. I.e., more or less sugar, vinegar, orange juice, red pepper flakes, etc.
Make ahead: You can prepare the sauce 2-3 days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Also, if you prefer, you can just fry the chicken in advance and reheat it in a pan with a little oil to bring back the crispiness.
To store: Once fully assembled, the chicken is crispiest when enjoyed immediately. However, you can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating. Reheat the chicken in a skillet over low heat, adding water to loosen up the sauce. The chicken won’t be crispy, but it’s still delicious.
Course: Main
Cuisine: American
Freezer friendly: 3 Months
Shelf life: 3-4 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 329kcal, Carbohydrates: 35g, Protein: 30g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 0.03g, Cholesterol: 109mg, Sodium: 905mg, Potassium: 567mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 149IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 41mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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