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This Chinese Orange Chicken is made with crispy fried chicken coated in a sticky orange chicken sauce. Just like Panda Express but even better!
Orange chicken is one of the most popular Chinese dishes, and for good reason! Panda Express made this dish famous, and it’s on most takeout menus alongside dishes like General Tso’s Chicken.
Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to make homemade orange chicken without the restaurant price tag, plus there are fewer calories than the Panda Express version. We’re simply battering cubed chicken thighs and frying until crispy before coating in a sticky homemade sauce with tangy citrus flavors!
Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Chicken: I recommend boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe as they’re moister and more flavorful. Chicken breasts also work but require extra care to avoid overcooking.
- Batter/marinade for the chicken:
- All-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil such as canola, sunflower or peanut oil
- Orange chicken sauce:
- Orange: You’ll be juicing and zesting a large orange for this recipe
- Soy sauce: low-sodium recommended
- Vinegar: rice vinegar is best or white vinegar
- Brown sugar
- Garlic: freshly minced is best but garlic powder as a substitute
- Red pepper flakes: optional if you want some heat
How to Make Orange Chicken
Marinate the chicken: Start by cutting the chicken into bite-size pieces, or 1-inch cubes. Then make the batter. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a bowl. Then whisk in the egg, oil and water until smooth (the consistency should resemble thin pancake batter). Add the chicken pieces to the batter until nicely coated. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to marinate (or just 10 minutes if you’re in a rush).
Fry the chicken: Using a medium saucepan or deep fryer, heat the oil to 350°F (177°C). While you’re waiting, line a plate with paper towels and set aside a slotted spoon or mesh strainer. Deep fry the chicken pieces in batches of 8-10 pieces at a time until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Then remove to the plate, covering with foil to keep warm.
Make the orange chicken sauce: Add the orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic to a small saucepan. Raise the heat to medium and cook until it reaches a low boil. Whisk the cornstarch and water into a slurry and into the saucepan. Stir until it starts thickening and turning glossy, anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes.
Toss with the sauce: Toss the fried chicken in the sauce to coat, and a nice glaze will form. Garnish with optional sesame seeds, green onions and red pepper flakes (for a kick).
Tips for Making Orange Chicken
- To get crispy chicken, the oil should be 350˚F (177˚C) before frying and remain above 300˚F (149˚C) at all times. Use a thermometer to monitor, as the temperature will usually drop after you add the chicken.
- Fry the chicken in batches to avoid crowding the pot or deep fryer and get even cooking. Cover the fried chicken with aluminum foil to keep warm.
- When thickening the sauce, make a cornstarch-water slurry so it dissolves easily. If the sauce seems too thick, you can whisk in a tablespoon or two of water. If it’s too thin, let it bubble for an extra minute or two to thicken further.
- Orange chicken is great to make ahead of time including for meal prep.
Baked Orange Chicken: Instead of deep-frying the chicken, you can bake it in the oven for fewer calories. Place the battered chicken pieces on a baking sheet and bake at 400˚F (204˚C) for 20-25 minutes until golden (slightly less if using chicken breast meat).
Stir-fried Orange Chicken: Skip the battering and frying steps altogether. Pat dry the cubed chicken with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Season with salt and pepper. Then stir fry with 1 tablespoon of oil in a hot skillet until lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.
What to Serve with Orange Chicken
More Chinese dishes:
More Chinese recipes
Chinese Orange Chicken
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 6 thighs, or 3 chicken breasts*
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 1 ¼ cups water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, canola, sunflower etc.
- vegetable oil , for frying depending on the size of your pan
- 1 large orange, you'll need the juice and zest
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup rice vinegar, or white vinegar
- ½ cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced, or 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 1 tbsp water
- sesame seeds
- green onions, chopped
- red pepper flakes
- Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Add the egg, oil and water, whisking until smooth.
- Add the chicken cubes to the mixture, making sure the chicken gets thoroughly coated. Cover and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. (If you're in a hurry, 10 minutes will do.)
- In a medium saucepan or deep fryer, add 2 inches of oil and heat to 350˚F (177˚C). Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.
- Add the marinated chicken cubes in batches of about 10-15 pieces, shaking off excess batter if needed. Deep fry for 2-3 minutes until golden, turning halfway through with a slotted spoon for even browning.**
- Remove to the plate and cover with foil to keep warm while you make the sauce.
Orange Chicken Sauce
- To a medium saucepan, add orange juice, orange zest, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, and garlic.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Carefully taste a few drops and adjust sugar, soy sauce and vinegar to suit your preference.
- Mix the cornstarch and water in a cup to make a slurry and pour into the sauce. Stir constantly until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. (This can take as little as 30 seconds or as long as several minutes.)
- Add the fried chicken and toss until the sauce coats it thoroughly.
- Garnish with optional sesame seeds, green onions and red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.
- * Chicken thighs are juicier and more flavorful. Chicken breasts will also work, but dry out more easily so watch carefully.
- ** To get crispy chicken, maintain the oil temperature as close as possible to 350°F. Any lower and the chicken will be greasy. Any higher and the outside will crispen too quickly before the inside is done. Also avoid crowding the pot/deep fryer.
- Make Ahead: You can make this dish one day ahead of time and reheat in the microwave. It's also well-suited to meal prep.
- Make it gluten-free: Substitute gluten-free flour and gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos.
Please read our nutrition disclaimer.
Deep fry thermometer