ORANGE CHICKEN RECIPE THAT IS BAKED, NOT FRIED, SMOTHERED IN AN IRRESISTIBLE SWEET AND TANGY ORANGE SAUCE ON YOUR TABLE IN 35 MINUTES!
This homemade Orange Chicken recipe is quick and easy to make but tastes better than your favorite orange chicken at Panda express! Plus, it’s healthier than fried without the hassle or mess. To make this easy orange chicken recipe, the bite-size chicken gets tossed in a simple breading then is baked and broiled to crispy perfection then is bathed in the most-lick-the-plate alluring, multidimensional orange sauce ever! It’s sticky, sweet and tangy infused with orange juice, orange marmalade and a splash of lemon juice for plenty of citrus punch all balanced by sugar, soy sauce, hoisin, garlic and ginger. The layered complex flavors combined with the crispy, juicy chicken is out of this world! Serve this Orange Chicken with rice and stir fried vegetables and you have an easy weeknight meal your whole family will love!
Orange Chicken Recipe
Raise your hand if you love Chinese food! Chinese food is one of my favorite cuisines and I love that it is easy to make at home. From my General Tso’s Chicken, Beef and Broccoli, Mongolian Beef, Sweet Fire Chicken, Kung Pao Shrimp, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Szechuan Chicken and on and on, I love recreating Chinese favorites at home – and now I am ecstatic to bring you this homemade Orange Chicken recipe!
BAKED. This Orange Chicken recipe can be on your table in less time than it would take you to get takeout! Plus, it’s much easier to make than you might think – especially this baked version – and nothing beats fabulously fresh without all the fat. Now, I am not opposed to frying when I think the results are substantially better or for special occasion apps like crab rangoons and egg rolls, but this easy Orange Chicken tastes just as awesome baked – winning!
EASY. The simple breading of eggs plus flour and a few seasonings means all you have to do is dredge the chicken, line the chicken on a baking sheet then it’s hands off baking for 10 minutes (plus broil time) while you make the sauce. Easy, right?
BEST ORANGE SAUCE. Now the sauce, the amazing, drool-worthy, tantalizing sauce. I first posted a version of this sauce in my Orange Chicken Tenders recipe which took many attempts to get right – from playing with brown sugar or white sugar, rice vinegar or red wine vinegar, orange juice and/or orange marmalade and the correct ratio of each of the ingredients until it was perfect. In the end, I landed on this irresistible, wonderfully sweet and tangy orange sauce. It truly makes this baked Orange Chicken recipe the spectacular homerun that it is.
PANTRY FRIENDLY. Finally, don’t let the ingredients for the orange sauce intimidate you – each ingredient has a specific role in weaving the sticky, sweet and tangy tapestry – and all you do is whisk the ingredients together while the chicken is baking and simmer – that’s it. You should have almost all of the ingredients stocked except perhaps the orange marmalade, which can be found at most grocery stores.
FAMILY FAVORITE! Everyone loves Orange Chicken from adults to kids to toddlers alike! This Orange chicken recipe will be one of those recipes that becomes a family repeat favorite AKA it’s one for the recipe binder!
Now, you can use the “Jump to Recipe” button at the top of the page under the title or read on while I go into further detail with tips and tricks for this homemade Orange Chicken recipe.
Looking for more Chinese favorites?
- Sesame Chicken
- Cashew Chicken
- Honey Lemon Chicken
- Hoisin Chicken Stir Fry
- Szechuan Beef
- Egg Roll in a Bowl
- Pineapple Ginger Chicken
- Coconut Cashew Chicken just to name a few!
WHAT IS ORANGE CHICKEN?
Orange Chicken is a popular American-Chinese recipe in which battered chicken is deep fried and tossed in a thick, sweet, tangy, savory orange sauce. It is often compared with General Tso Chicken because both are deep fried and sweet and savory but Orange Chicken is not nearly as spicy.
This Orange Chicken recipe stays true to the sweet and tangy sauce and crispy chicken but the chicken is baked instead of fried to achieve its delightfully crispy results.
WHAT IS THE TASTE OF ORANGE CHICKEN?
This easy Orange Chicken recipe is mouthwatering delicious. I set off to create a lighter breading that was thinner and not as thick, heavy and clunky for a more appetizing chicken to breading ratio which means you get more juicy chicken in every bite. Done and done. The thin breading also means the chicken stays crispier longer and reheats more successfully.
As far as the orange sauce, it is sweet, sour, savory with a hint of heat AKA it is ORANGE perfection. I ordered Orange Chicken at a restaurant a while back and I could barely taste the orange – it was more like a disappointing hoisin chicken. I did not want to commit this same grievance, so this homemade Orange Chicken recipe is layered with citrus. First, orange juice which provides a base of orange flavor but not enough to stand alone, next orange marmalade which boats concentrated sweet and zippy orange flavor, and finally lemon juice enhances the orange flavors and really makes them shine without you ever tasting the lemon.
Next, the Orange Chicken is sweet due to the granulated sugar, savory due to the soy sauce and hoisin sauce, tangy due to both the orange, lemon and red wine vinegar and mildly spicy due to the chili sauce and punches of garlic, ginger and the zippy marmalade. It is an intoxicating dance of flavor you will have to taste to believe!
Is Orange chicken From China?
Orange Chicken is inspired by Chinese cuisine but it is not authentic to China. You will not find our sweet version of Orange Chicken served at authentic restaurants in China. Instead, Orange Chicken was developed by Chef Andy Kho in 1987 specifically for the Panda Express restaurant chain! He was inspired by the flavors of the Hunan Province in China which uses dried tangerine peels.
Panda Express Orange Chicken has been one of the most popular items on the menu ever since. There are many “copycat” recipes, but we owe Panda Express thanks for the invention! This Orange Chicken recipe boasts the same flavors as the Panda Express classic made in the comfort of your own kitchen – minus the frying.
What’s Is the Difference Between Orange Chicken and General Tso’s Chicken?
It is no surprise that two of my favorite Chinese recipes are two of the most popular Chinese American recipes – Orange Chicken and General Tsos’s Chicken! While they are similar, they are also very different. Both recipes were invented in America and begin with bite-size chicken that is breaded and deep fired then finished in a sticky sauce.
The main difference between the two favorites comes from the flavor of the sauces. General Tso Chicken is chili and ginger based which makes it sweet and spicy while Orange Chicken is citrus based which makes it orang-y, sweet and tangy. Now you have two different fake out takeout recipes to try!
WHAT CUT OF CHICKEN SHOULD I USE TO MAKE ORANGE CHICKEN?
Now that we know all about Panda Express Orange Chicken, let’s get into the recipe details. Homemade Orange Chicken can be made with either boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs. They are both delicious, so it comes down to personal preference and whether you prefer light or dark meat.
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts: are leaner than chicken thighs and are what I usually use for this recipe. Just make sure you don’t cut the pieces too small or they will overcook and dry out. If you are worried about your chicken breasts not being as tender as thighs, then you can use my easy velveting technique outlined below.
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs: are dark meat and therefore inherently juicier and hard to overcook or dry out.
How do I make baked orange chicken crispy?
Baked Orange Chicken won’t be as crispy as fried, but it is pretty close and once you add the sauce, they both become more sticky than crispy anyway. To make baked chicken crispy:
- Heat your baking sheet first. We first line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray then place this baking sheet in oven. This allows the baking sheet to get hot so when we add our chicken, it immediately begins to crisp up. In my original baked General Tso Chicken recipe, I placed the chicken on a greased baking rack on top of a baking sheet, which you are still welcome to do, but I find that method super tedious when adding and flipping the chicken to make sure they don’t fall in between the cracks. This new method gets them just as crispy as long as you broil both sides of the chicken.
- Dab off excess egg. We don’t want extra egg clinging to the chicken as it dives into the breading because it will cause gooey pockets instead of a thin binding layer. To quickly remove excess egg, I dump the chicken onto a wad of paper towels before adding to the breading.
- Broil chicken: The chicken will be somewhat crispy after baking but broiling takes it to another level. I broil my chicken for almost 4 minutes on the top layer and 2 minutes once I flip the chicken over. You need less time on the second, bottom side because the broiler is all warmed up. Just watch closely so the chicken doesn’t burn!
WHAT IS IN ORANGE CHICKEN SAUCE?
After researching and experimenting with many different orange chicken sauces, I finally landed on this unapologetically delicious version. It is made with pantry staples in perfect proportion. You will need:
- Orange juice: you can use either freshly squeezed orange juice or fresh, no sugar added store-bought orange juice.
- Orange marmalade: amps up the orange flavor. It adds multidimensional fruity sweetness and intense orange flavor with just the right amount of zip from orange peel. Orange marmalade is sometimes called sweet orange marmalade and should be easy to find at your grocery store located with the other jams/jellies.
- Lemon juice: is my secret ingredients to brighten and enhance the orange flavor. You may use either freshly squeezed or bottled.
- Sugar: granulated (plain white sugar) is just the ticket to sweeten the sauce. I experimented with half brown sugar and half granulated sugar as well as all brown sugar. In the end, all granulated sugar lets the pure citrus flavors shine. You may need more or less depending on personal taste.
- Red wine vinegar: adds a fruity tang which complements the orange juice.
- Soy sauce: use low sodium soy sauce so we can control the salt.
- Hoisin sauce: is like an Asian BBQ Sauce and can be found in the Asian section of any grocery store. I use it in tons of my Asian recipes, so I promise it will not go to waste! Please use only Kikkoman or Lee Kum Kee brands hoisin sauce because they taste 1000X better!
- Cornstarch: helps thicken the sauce to a glossy, luscious consistency without a raw flour taste.
- Seasonings: garlic powder, ginger powder, onion powder, salt and pepper flavor the sauce and give it dimension.
- Asian chili sauce: just ½ teaspoon adds a nice kick or you can use a pinch of red pepper flakes.
orange chicken sauce is easy!
I know there are quite a few ingredients for this Orange Chicken Sauce but I promise it is EASY can be whisked together in minutes and SO worth it!
- QUICK. It probably takes 3 minutes to whisk together – that’s it. Then just simmer until thickened.
- Make ahead. Orange Sauce can be whisked together ahead of time and stored in an airtight container or mason jar in the refrigerator for up to three days. When ready to use, add to a saucepan and simmer until thickened to desired consistency.
- Adaptable. While Orange Sauce is just right for us, you can adjust it to make it just right for YOU and your family’s personal tastes. Just keep a note of your adjustments then whip out the perfect stir fry sauce every time.
HOW DO I THICKEN THE SAUCE?
The cornstarch in the Orange Sauce will thicken the sauce it as it simmers. If you still would like a thicker sauce, then just keep simmering until it reaches desired consistency.
HOW DO I THIN THE SAUCE?
The Orange Sauce will become thicker the longer it is simmers and the longer it sits before being added to the chicken. If it gets too thick don’t worry! It is easy to thin by whisking in water, a little at a time over low heat.
IS ORANGE CHICKEN GLUTEN FREE?
As written, this Orange Chicken recipe is not gluten free. To make it gluten free, use gluten free flour, gluten free soy sauce or tamari. You will also want to double check that your hoisin sauce and chili sauce are gluten free. The rest of the ingredients are gluten free.
HOW TO MAKE ORANGE CHICKEN
Now for the main event! This homemade Orange Chicken recipe is very easy to make. Simply bread the chicken, bake the chicken, simmer the sauce while the chicken is baking then combine! Here’s how:
Prepare baking sheet. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick mat or foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Place baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
Make breading. Whisk flour, salt and pepper together in a freezer bag. You can whisk the ingredients together in a bowl, but a bag is SO easy! Whisk eggs together in separate freezer bag or a shallow bowl.
Bread chicken. Add chicken to eggs and turn/stir to coat. Working in batches, remove coated chicken from bag, dabbing off excess egg wash with paper towels then add chicken to Breading bag. Seal bag and toss until chicken is evenly coated.
Bake chicken. Carefully place chicken on the hot baking sheet in an even layer and spray generously with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes then move the baking tray to the top oven rack and broil until crispy, watching closely so the chicken doesn’t burn (about 2-4 minutes). Flip chicken pieces over and broil another 2-3 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
Make orange chicken sauce. While the chicken is baking, make the Orange Sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together in a medium saucepan and simmering until thickened.
Coat chicken in orange sauce. Add baked chicken to a large bowl then pour sauce over chicken. Stir until evenly coated. Serve over rice and garnish with green onions if desired.
Do I have to use all of the sauce?
The orange chicken sauce recipe makes a little extra sauce so you can add some stir-fried vegetables. If you aren’t adding vegetables then you might not want to use all the sauce and instead, store it in an airtight container. It comes in handy for leftovers as they tend to soak up the sauce and benefit from a refresher.
Homemade Orange Chicken Variations:
If this easy Orange Chicken recipe isn’t exactly how you want it, MAKE it how you want it! It is easy to customize the sauce by:
- sweeten it up with additional granulated sugar
- add sweet heat with sweet chili sauce
- spice it up with additional chili sauce or red pepper flakes
- make it tangier by adding additional red wine vinegar
- amp up the orange flavor by adding orange zest
- amp up the garlic and/or ginger for a stronger punch of flavor
- add vegetables by stir frying veggies then adding to the chicken and the sauce and stirring to coat
WHAT VEGETABLES CAN I ADD TO EASY ORANGE CHICKEN RECIPE?
Orange Chicken pairs beautifully with stir fried vegetables. You can add cooked veggies directly to the Orange Chicken and stir to combine or serve them on the side. As far as what veggies to use – that is up to you! You can mix and match the stir fry vegetables based on what’s in your fridge, your favorites, what’s in season or what’s on sale. If I’m adding veggies directly to the chicken, then I like to go with a green, less sweet vegetable. If I’m stir-frying vegetables to serve on the side then anything is fair game. Here are some favorite vegetables to stir fry:
- Bell Peppers
- Snow Peas
- Baby corn
- Bok choy
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR HOMEMADE ORANGE CHICKEN
- Don’t chop chicken to small. The chicken should be chopped 1” thick, erroring on the side of larger so that it doesn’t overcook and dry out.
- Bread the chicken in small batches. By adding only half of the chicken to the flour, it is able to move around and shake around better to become fully coated. If you notice any of the chicken isn’t fully coated when you’re removing it, give it another toss in the flour with a clean hand.
- Use clean hands. I love using a bag to shake the chicken in the breading because it keeps the chicken from becoming a gooey mess. Just make sure your hands are clean and dry when you remove the chicken.
- Remove excess flour. Even if you shake the chicken as you remove it from the breading, a lot of flour can end up on the baking sheet. To remedy this, I like to place the chicken in a strainer after dredging to help shake off any excess.
- Don’t let chicken touch. Space the chicken apart on the baking sheet so the pieces aren’t touching – chicken will never get crispy if it’s hidden/touching other chicken.
- Broil chicken. Don’t skip broiling the chicken because that is what makes it truly crispy.
- Keep on eye on the chicken. Don’t walk away from the chicken while it is broiling become it can turn from crispy to burnt in a flash!
- Serve immediately. Whether Orange Chicken is baked or fried, it can get soggy if left to sit for too long once combined. To prevent soggy chicken, serve immediately or store the chicken and sauce separately, then combine when reheating.
- Use quality ingredients. Only use QUALITY hoisin sauce like Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman because you can taste the difference!
- Customize! Make this YOUR Orange Chicken by making it sweeter, tangier, or spicier if desired.
Do I have to bread the Chicken?
Classic Panda Express Orange Chicken and subsequent copycats are dredged in flour to create a crispy exterior but you can skip the battering and opt for simple skillet Orange Chicken if you like. If you skip the breading, then I highly recommend you opt for velveting which I use in all of my stir fries. Velveting is the technique Chinese restaurants use to attain such smooth, tender chicken – you will be AMAZED at how velvety tender the chicken is – just like your favorite takeout!
There are a few different velvetting techniques, but by far the easiest and just as effective is to add the chicken to a bowl and combine with the following ingredients for preferable 30 minutes, but no more:
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon rice wine
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
The baking soda tenderizes the chicken by breaking down the chicken fibers so the chicken emerges softer on the inside like “velvet” – hence the name. You can taste the textural difference but not the baking soda! The cornstarch acts as a binder and helps our soy sauce and rice wine come together and bind to the chicken for more flavor. It also helps protect the chicken from high heat. The salt in the soy sauce also helps break down the proteins for a more tender texture as well as add flavor along with the rice wine and sesame oil.
How to make Skillet Orange chicken
- Whisk velveting ingredients together in a large bowl (see above section). Add chicken and stir to coat; let sit 30 minutes, no more.
- To cook the chicken, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or peanut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.
- Once very hot, add chicken in a single layer and cook until golden; flip chicken over and cook an additional minute (it won’t be cooked through).
- Whisk sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl then pour into skillet with the chicken.
- Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until thickened, about 5-7 minutes.
WHAT DO YOU EAT WITH ORANGE CHICKEN?
Orange Chicken is traditional served with rice because it soaks up the flavorful sauce and offers a neutral textural component. That being said, you still have a few options:
- Rice. I like jasmine rice or brown rice but any rice will work. Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for a hands’ off, easy side. You can also use microwave rice pouches if you’re making a serving for one or meal prep.
- Low carb. Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options. You can also use low carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
- Noodles. Ramen, soba noodles, rice noodles or even linguine are a fun way to mix things up!
In addition to rice, you can serve Orange Chicken with:
- Appetizers: You can turn Orange Chicken into a feast by pairing it with Chinese appetizers such as Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Pineapple Cream Cheese Wontons, Sesame Chicken Egg Rolls, Sweet and Sour Chicken Egg Rolls or Chinese Chicken Wings. It is also delicious with potstickers, even though they are technically Japanese and not Chinese.
- Soup: Let the Chinese feast continue with soup! I love to warm up to Egg Drop Soup which is SUPER easy and always a sultry, satisfying favorite.
- Veggies. You can stir fry any veggies your heart desires from broccoli, to bell peppers, to mushrooms, to carrots, etc. or you can serve with roasted veggies such as my favorite Honey Sriracha Roasted Brussels Sprouts – so good! You can also serve with Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Broccolini, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Carrots, or Roasted Squash. When roasting veggies to serve with Asian dishes, I like to add a ginger, garlic, salt, pepper and Chinese 5 spice.
- Shortcut Veggies. You can purchase pre-chopped veggies perfect for stir fries or use a frozen stir-fry blend or steam-in-the-bag microwavable frozen veggies.
- Salad: If you opt out of stir fried veggies, this Orange Chicken pairs wonderfully with a fresh, crunchy salad such as Crunchy Asian Salad, Chinese Salad, or Asian Pineapple Salad.
Make Ahead ORANGE CHICKEN RECIPE
Even though this homemade Orange Chicken is quick to make, you can still prepare it in stages if that works better for you.
- Orange Sauce: Whisk the orange sauce ingredients together but do not simmer/thicken. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Breading: Whisk the flour breading ingredients together in a Ziploc freezer bag. You can store the breading for weeks or proceed to dredge chicken then refrigerate.
- Chicken: Prepare chicken through dredging but instead of placing on a baking sheet, place on a greased cooking rack placed on a baking sheet. The elevated cooking rack will help crisp up the chicken when it’s time to bake since we are eliminating the step of heating the baking rack before adding the chicken. Cover the chicken tightly with foil or plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.
HOW TO STORE HOMEMADE ORANGE CHICKEN
This Orange Chicken recipe is best served fresh because it is at peak crispiness, sauciness and the chicken is the juiciest. You will find leftover chicken is not quite crispy or as flavorful.
- How to store: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- How to reheat on the stove: Leftovers are best reheated on the stove, even if they are small portions. To reheat, heat a drizzle of vegetable, canola or peanut oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken, stirring occasionally until warmed through.
- Reheating in microwave: Microwaving leftovers is not advised as the chicken can become rubbery and the breading will definitely not be crispy. It is better to reheat in the skillet.
CAN I FREEZE ORANGE CHICKEN RECIPE?
If you are making Orange Chicken specifically to freeze, then I recommend freezing the chicken and sauce separately so the chicken doesn’t get soggy.
TO FREEZE CHICKEN WITHOUT ORANGE SAUCE:
- Cook chicken according to directions.
- Let chicken cool to room temperature (on the baking sheet) then transfer baking sheet to the freezer.
- Let freeze for 1-2 hours or until the chicken is solid. This prevents the chicken from clumping together.
- Add chicken to a freezer size bag, squeeze out excess air and label.
- Add orange sauce to a separate airtight container.
- When ready to use, defrost chicken and sauce in the refrigerator overnight.
TO FREEZE CHICKEN IN ORANGE SAUCE:
- Let Orange Chicken cool completely.
- Transfer chicken to either a large freezer size bag or divide into smaller size bags. Alternatively, transfer to airtight container(s).
- Press air out of the freezer bag, seal, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
- When ready to eat, defrost in the refrigerator.
- Heat on the stove until warmed through.
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