Orange chicken is usually pretty naughty, but this recipe is healthier with sautéed chicken instead of fried, tossed into a mouthwatering orange sauce, so you can enjoy this takeout favorite as often as you’d like!
What is Orange Chicken?
Orange chicken is a classic Chinese-American dish featuring bite-sized pieces of chicken bathed in a sweet and tangy orange-infused sauce. This dish blends savory and sweet flavors, with zesty citrus notes from orange marmalade or juice, along with the umami richness of soy sauce, complemented by aromatic ginger and garlic.
While orange chicken is typically deep fried, this recipe is lightened up, by sautéing juicy chicken breast until tender and then tossing in warm, homemade orange sauce.
Served over a bed of steamed rice and garnished with sesame seeds and scallions, this beloved staple in Chinese-American cuisine is complete!
Speaking of, Filipino Chicken Adobo is another not-to-miss Asian chicken dish!
Orange Chicken Ingredients
- Boneless skinless chicken breast – chicken breast is a healthier choice of meat. Sautéed in a pan instead of fried, this orange chicken is lightened up! You can also use boneless skinless chicken thighs if preferred.
- Orange marmalade – orange marmalade is a citrusy fruit preserve with a sweet and tangy flavor, made from oranges, sugar, and orange peel…the perfect base for orange chicken.
- Unflavored oil – canola oil is a great unflavored oil to help sauté the chicken. You can also use avocado oil or vegetable oil. I don’t recommend olive oil.
- Soy sauce – soy sauce adds salt and umami.
- Rice vinegar – rice vinegar adds a slight tang.
- Fresh ginger – ginger adds a bit of spice, warmth, citrus, and floral notes.
- Garlic – garlic…because garlic!
- Red pepper flakes – if you like a little heat, add some red pepper flakes!
- Scallions (optional) – scallions are a perfect pop-of-green garnish.
- Sesame seeds (optional) – sesame seeds are a great toasty garnish.
- Rice, like brown, sushi, or jasmine rice (optional) – rice is the classic base for orange chicken! I like sticky rice but any rice you like can be used.
How to Make Orange Chicken
Full instructions in the recipe card; this is just an outline!
In a bowl, mix marmalade, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
(Optional) Start steaming rice per package instructions.
Cut chicken into roughly 1-inch cubes.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken 3 minutes on one side, flip, and cook for 3-5 more minutes on the other side until chicken reaches 165°F. If needed, sauté for 1-2 more minutes.
Transfer chicken to a bowl. Drain the pan.
Add sauce and let it reduce for 4-6 minutes over medium-high heat until it thickens to a syrup. Stir occasionally; keep in mind that the sauce will thicken more as it cools.
Combine chicken and orange sauce. Serve over rice if desired. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.
Here are some fun sides and serving ideas to complete your orange chicken dish!
- Steamed white (or other) rice: orange chicken pairs perfectly with steamed white rice, which provides a neutral base to soak up the flavorful orange sauce. It’s the classic way to serve orange chicken!
- Fried rice: opt for fried rice as an alternative to steamed rice. Its savory and slightly nutty flavor complements the sweet and tangy notes of the orange chicken.
- Noodles: serve the orange chicken alongside cooked noodles like rice noodles.
- Stir-fried vegetables: add a side of Asian Cucumber Salad, stir-fried or steamed vegetables like broccoli, snow peas, bell peppers, or baby corn to bring a colorful and nutritious element to the dish.
- Asian salad: serve this orange chicken recipe with a side salad tossed in Creamy Asian Salad Dressing.
- Sliced scallions: garnish the orange chicken with thinly sliced scallions for a fresh and oniony kick.
- Sesame seeds: sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top for a nutty crunch and added flavor.
- Fresh orange slices: serve the dish with fresh orange slices or wedges for an extra burst of citrus.
- Cilantro: a few fresh cilantro leaves add color and more flavor.
- Chili flakes or sriracha: chili flakes or sriracha sauce add a kick!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You can absolutely use boneless skinless chicken thigh meat instead of chicken breast!
Yes, you can use store-bought or homemade crispy chicken bites if preferred.
Orange chicken sauce is a sweet and tangy sauce typically made with orange juice or marmalade, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, sugar, and often a touch of red pepper flakes for a hint of spice, creating the signature flavor of this popular Chinese-American dish.
To store orange chicken, allow it to cool, place it in airtight containers, and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
Reheat orange chicken on the stovetop, gently, until warm. Loosen with a bit more marmalade and a splash of soy and rice vinegar to rejuvenate if needed. You can also microwave orange chicken, in increments of 30 seconds, in a pinch!
Yes, orange chicken can be frozen, and it typically freezes well. For the best results store it in airtight containers or freezer bags, removing as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. When reheating frozen orange chicken, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator before reheating to maintain its texture and flavor.
General Tso’s chicken is characterized by its savory, slightly spicy, and dark brown sauce, while orange chicken features a sweet and tangy orange-flavored sauce, creating a distinctive contrast in flavor profiles between the two popular Chinese-American dishes.
More Asian Recipes You’ll Love!
- Creamy Asian Salad Dressing
- Easy Asian Cucumber Salad
- Asian Salmon Rice Bowl
- Easy Peanut Noodles
- Filipino Chicken Adobo (So Easy!)
- Large skillet
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
- ¾ cup orange marmalade
- 2 tablespoons unflavored oil like canola oil
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger minced
- 1 large garlic clove minced
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- Salt to taste
- Scallions finely chopped to garnish (optional)
- Sesame seeds to garnish (optional)
- 1 cup rice like sushi rice (optional)
- In a bowl, combine marmalade, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes to taste. Set aside.
- (Optional) Start steaming rice according to the back of package instructions.
- Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces that are roughly 1-inch (or a little smaller) cubes.
- Add oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Preheat pan until hot. Add chicken cubes and cook on one side for 3 minutes. Flip chicken cubes to the other side and let cook for 3-5 more minutes until chicken reaches at least 165℉. If chicken isn’t quite done, sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon, placing in a bowl to rest. Drain any juice out of the pan.
- Add sauce to the skillet and let reduce for 4-6 minutes over medium-high heat until orange sauce darkens and thickens to a syrup. Stir often. Keep in mind that the sauce will thicken more once cooled!
- Toss chicken into orange sauce. Serve over rice if desired. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.
- Look for orange marmalade that has orange peel in it!
- Other unflavored oil examples include avocado oil or vegetable oil.
- You can use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead, if desired!
- Purchase 1.75-2 pounds of chicken for this recipe.
- I typically simmer sticky rice, covered, for 20 minutes. Other types of rice may take longer to cook.
- If you halve the recipe, the cook time for the sauce will be a few minutes less. Conversely, if you double the recipe, the sauce cook time will be a few minutes more!