Orange Chicken

If you’re looking for a healthy meal, keep on looking.  But if you want to see one of my very favorite dinners, look no further.  Since this is essentially fried chicken in a sticky, sweet sauce over a bed of refined carbs, I only make this a couple of times a year.  But I enjoy it immensely every.single.time.  (I also guard the leftovers fiercely.)  Actually, I had only every tried orange chicken making this version at home.  This is supposed to be a knock-off version of a popular take-out meal.  When I finally got around to trying the “original”, I was sorely disappointed.  It doesn’t even compare.  So if you happen to like that take-out dish, then I think you will really enjoy this.  I particularly love how the cayenne pepper provides slight spicy counterbalance to the sweetness.  Can’t wait for the next six months to pass so I can justify eating this again 🙂

Orange Chicken
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For the marinade and sauce:
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
6 tbsp. white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar (dark or light)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1½ lbs. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)

For the coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut or canola oil (I like a combination)

To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well.  Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zipper lock plastic bag.  Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well.  Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer.  Place the saucepan with the remaining mixture on the stove and heat over medium-high heat.  Bring to a simmer.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth.  Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce.  Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using.

To prepare the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy.  In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend.  Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels.  Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat.  Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess.  Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in a 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350˚ F.  Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through cooking.  Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  Return the oil to 350˚ F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces.  Serve over rice, if desired.

Source: Joelen’s Culinary Adventures, originally from Cooking at Home With America’s Test Kitchen

52 Responses

  1. This combo of flavours sounds perfect!

    • All I can say is WOW! I made this tonight and I have to say everyone was impressed. I think this is the best chicken recipe I have ever made. So great, it’s puts take out to shame.

  2. Delicious Annie! The sweet/sour orange marinade is a winner…would work well with pork too!

  3. Wow… I have to try this! I’ve been looking for a good orange chicken recipe!!!!

  4. My husband and I discovered that Cook’s Illustrated orange chicken a few years ago and fell in LOVE with it!

    We don’t make it very often, though – but it’s been far too long since the last time. Thanks so much for the reminder – I’m pretty sure I’ve got a bunch of chicken thighs in the freezer. 🙂

  5. Hahaha I love your anticipation with eating this again in six months. Sometimes it necessary to splurge with cooking your favorite dish wether it be healthy or not. I probabaly do it at least once a month 🙂

  6. It’s hard to find good orange chicken at a restaurant. This really looks like it hits the spot!

    I’m trying to be healthy at the moment, but next time I’m in the mood for a treat, I’ll consider this. Bookmarked!

  7. I agree that the take-out version of this isn’t that great at all… Your homemade version looks delicious!

  8. Is it a really strong orange flavor? All the recipes I’ve tried seem to really punch the orange flavor, unlike the takeout versions?

  9. Good heavens! I cannot wait to make this. Thank you so, so much for all the amazing recipes you post. I have come to rely on your site for delicious recipes, both sweet and savory. Your recipes never disappoint. Thank you for all your time and effort–you & PW are my favorite food bloggers.

  10. Orange chicken is one of my favorites. I hadn’t been able to find a good orange sauce before. This sounds wonderful!

  11. I would serve this with some steamed broccoli and then call it healthy! 😉
    It looks delish!

  12. I made Sesame Chicken last night, for the first time. I wasn’t all that thrilled with it, and I told my son that I want to make Orange Chicken, some time. So your recipe is perfect timing! I will definitely give this a try!

  13. We love orange chicken! This is a MUST TRY! Hopefully I have the control to make it only twice a year:)

  14. When you posted this recipe a few years ago (I’m a long-time reader), I made it for my (then) boyfriend. Shortly thereafter he proposed, and I credit it in part to this recipe :-D. We’re blissfully married now, and eat this every few months (in lieu of the once delicious but now disgusting chemical taste ew Panda Express version).

    It seems like no matter what I do to it, it always turns out delicious! It’s a very forgiving recipe.

  15. This sounds like something we would really like. However, if I make it, I’ll use the broiler. We do so little deep frying, and the oil, once having been used for chicken, ends up getting thrown out. Of course I could strain and refrigerate it. But – it don’t happen.

  16. Such a yummy meal. I make a version of this with a couple adjustments and I think it is better than anything you can get at a restaurant. But most home cooked food is!

  17. i love orange chicken! i’m sure this homemade version is WAYY better than takeout!

  18. I just found out yout site, you are such an inspiration! Congratulations, the photos are beautiful.

  19. This definitely just went on the list… my husband would love it!

  20. This sounds great…but my hubby is on a diet and won’t let me fry things anymore. =) I may try marinating and cooking the chicken pieces without deep frying and tossing with the sauce – I’m sure it won’t be quite as delicious, but I need some new inspiration for dinner. Thanks for another great idea!

  21. Looks amazing, way better than that frozen bag I get from Trader Joes! Can’t wait to try it, thanks for sharing!

  22. A dish like this shouldn’t be healthy.. sounds delicious!

  23. I’ve made this ATK recipe and can say it is amazing EVERY.SINGLE.TIME! 🙂

  24. Forget health. This looks amazing!

  25. I’ve made this several times before and love it as well. The cornstarch coating really hooks it up!

  26. Does it have to be real fershly squeezed orange juice or can it be from a carton?

  27. I don’t think I could go 6 months between this dish. I don’t have that kind of will power. Sweet and spicy makes such a great combination. I’m a little leery of deep frying. As I learn to cook more, I slowly start to attempt things that seemed really scary (deep frying) only a short time ago. Deep frying you are next! Now, excuse me, I must go buy a hot oil thermometer. Any recommendations?

  28. Annie! Wow! I saw this recipe this morning and made my shopping list and came home and cooked it for dinner as fast as I could. Delicious! This is definitely going in the family favorite section of my recipe box!

    You’re blog is fabulous! Love it!

  29. This was absolutely delish. Thank you for all of your great recipes. My family has loved every one of your recipes that I’ve tried!

  30. Totally agreed that orange chicken in restaurants is not always what it’s cracked up to be. If you ever find yourself in Vermillion, SD (can’t imagine why) you must try it at Chae’s. It is absolutely to die for! Recently became vegan and will definitely be trying your recipe with some tofu, thanks for sharing!

  31. I found an orange chicken recipe that I LOVE! It actually doesn’t have any orange in it at all but it tastes just the take out to me! I’ll have to try this recipe and see how they compare!

  32. Orange chicken is my boyfriend’s favorite! I will be making this very, very soon!

  33. This looks super yummy! I love orange chicken!

  34. Looks addicting – just saved the recipe 🙂

  35. This recipe looks amazing! I came over from the nest looking for your apple compote recipe, but I’ll be trying this one also for sure! Question… can you make the marinade up a day or so before and keep in the fridge? Time is a little short after work and I like to prep things for dinner the night before. Would that work for this recipe?

  36. Just wanted to let you know my husband and I made this last night and we absolutely loved it! We added extra crushed red chili to up the heat a bit, and we skipped the egg whites. Instead, we just coated the chicken in the cornstarch while it was still wet with marinade. It was delicious! Thanks so much for the great recipe.

  37. We tried this last night and my husband said, “If you can make Kung Pao Chicken like THIS, we won’t ever have to go to a Chinese place again.” It was absolutely amazing!!!

  38. Made this last night. My four year old was nervous about eating it. After he tasted it he exclaimed, “Mommy! You saved my life!” Needless to say, he liked it.

  39. Oh my goodness – we made this last night and it is absolutely worth every single solitary second of the 3,600 on the elliptical it’ll take to burn this off. It is incredible! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe with all of us.

  40. Annie, THANK YOU THANK YOU SO MUCH for your blog i cook your orange chicken yesterday and it was AWESOME i have tried a few of your recipes and you have not fail me… thank you again for and amazing blog!

  41. This was so good! My first recipe from this site and I will be trying many more!

  42. This was wonderful. I made it yesterday and even my picky two year old ate it. I will surely be making it again, but like you said…not for another 6 months 🙂

  43. Made this yesterday since I called out of work and had some extra time. Restaurant quality… simply fabulous! Thank you!

  44. I made this for my in-laws who aren’t big fans of Asian food nor are they adventurous eaters….I thought this would be a great way to ease them into these flavors. I added some blanched snow peas. It was a great hit! Thanks!

  45. I made this last night, it was by far the best meal I have ever made. Even my 2 year old who won’t eat ANYTHING ate it! Far better than any Chinese take out I’ve ever had! I also added snow peas and red bell pepper for some veggies. Thanks!

    I think to make it a little bit healthier I may not fry the chicken next time, and just sautee it…probably won’t taste as yummy though!

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