If you have a craving for Chinese food, but don't have a lot of time to cook and don't want to spend money on takeout, this easy orange chicken is for you! This recipe uses just five simple ingredients (not counting salt and pepper) and takes only 15 to 20 minutes to make.
My husband loves orange chicken and when we do get Chinese takeout, he always orders a double serving of orange chicken. When I first made this recipe, I wondered if it would get his stamp of approval. It certainly did! He loved it and went back for seconds, and sometimes even thirds. I love this recipe because it's not only delicious, it's also the perfect quick and easy weeknight dinner. You can never have too many of those!
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Why You'll Love This Recipe
❤️ Quick and easy. This recipe is straightforward and doesn't require extensive cooking skills. It involves simple steps like coating the chicken in cornstarch and frying it briefly, making it accessible for both beginners and experienced home cooks who want a fast and easy meal.
❤️ Budget friendly. Making orange chicken at home can be more cost-effective than ordering it from a restaurant. With readily available ingredients and no need for special equipment, you can enjoy a restaurant-quality dish without the added expense of dining out or getting takeout.
❤️ Delicious sweet and savory flavor. The orange sauce made from marmalade, soy sauce, and rice vinegar offers a delightful combination of sweet and savory flavors.
Detailed Ingredient Notes
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are used for this recipe because they are lean and cook quickly. Make sure they are properly thawed if frozen, and cut them into bite-sized pieces to make sure they cook evenly.
- Cornstarch. Cornstarch creates a crispy, golden exterior when fried. It's a common thickening agent in Chinese cooking and helps the sauce adhere to the chicken.
- Vegetable oil (for frying). This recipe calls for vegetable oil for frying the chicken. If you want to substitute, you will want to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as canola or peanut oil, for deep frying. The oil should be heated to around 350-375 F (175-190 C) for the best results.
- Orange marmalade. Orange marmalade provides the primary orange flavor and sweetness for the sauce. It's an effective shortcut for making this easy orange chicken!
- Soy sauce. Soy sauce adds a salty and savory element to the sauce. It's a common ingredient in many Asian recipes like this one and gives this dish its distinctive umami flavor.
- Rice vinegar. Rice vinegar adds a tangy and slightly sweet flavor to the sauce. It helps balance the sweetness of the marmalade and the saltiness of the soy sauce.
Step-By-Step Instructions With Photos
- Chicken. Instead of chicken breasts, you can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- Soy sauce. You can use low-sodium soy sauce if you want to reduce the overall saltiness of the dish. You can also substitute it with tamari for a gluten-free version.
- Rice vinegar. If you don't have rice vinegar, you can use white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar as a substitute. It will add a slightly different flavor, but it will work.
To refrigerate. Place the leftovers in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. Eat within 3 to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave on high for about 1-2 minutes, depending on the amount you are reheating.
To freeze. Allow it to cool completely. Then place portions of orange chicken in airtight, freezer-safe containers. You can also use heavy-duty resealable freezer bags. Make sure to remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Place them in the freezer. When you're ready to enjoy, move the portion you plan to eat to the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Then, reheat it using the above microwave method, making sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F (74 C).
- Use the right cooking temperature. When frying the chicken, make sure the oil is hot enough (around 350-375 F or 175-190 C) to create a crispy crust on the chicken pieces. It's important not to overcrowd the pan, as this can cause the chicken to steam instead of fry properly.
- Don't overcook. Be careful to not overcook the chicken. About 1-2 minutes per side should be about all the time you need. However, the timing can vary depending on the temperature of your oil, your stove, and your pan. I used this non-stick skillet and a gas stove. If you are cooking on an electric stove, the chicken may take a bit longer to cook. I highly recommend an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken.
- Adjust the sauce to your taste. You can adjust the orange sauce to your taste. If you prefer it thicker and sweeter, add more marmalade; if you want it saltier, add more soy sauce; and for more tang, increase the rice vinegar.
Frequently Asked Questions
While frying gives the chicken a crispier texture, you can bake the coated chicken pieces in a preheated oven at 375 F (190 C) for about 15-20 minutes, turning them halfway through for even cooking.
Yes, you can prepare the orange sauce in advance and store it in the refrigerator. Reheat it before serving, and if it thickens too much, you can thin it out with a bit of water or orange juice.
If the sauce is too thin, you can mix a small amount of cornstarch with water and add it to the sauce while stirring until it reaches the desired thickness. You can also add a bit more marmalade if you don't mind it a little sweeter.
More easy weeknight chicken dinner recipes!
Easy Orange Chicken
For the Chicken:
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts Cut into bite-sized pieces. Note 1.
- salt and black pepper To taste.
- ½ cup cornstarch Note 2.
- vegetable oil For frying
For the Orange Sauce:
- ¾ cup orange marmalade Store-bought
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar Note 3.
- Season the chicken pieces with salt and black pepper to taste.1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, salt and black pepper
- Add the cornstarch to a shallow bowl. Dredge each chicken piece in the cornstarch, shaking off any excess.½ cup cornstarch
- Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to fully coat the bottom of the pan. It should be about ¼ inch deep from the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the coated chicken pieces about 1 inch apart. Do not add too many chicken pieces at once. Fry them until they are golden brown and fully cooked, typically taking about 1 to 1.5 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook the chicken. Remove them from the skillet and drain on paper towels. Repeat with any remaining chicken pieces. Note 4.vegetable oil
- In a small bowl, add the orange marmalade, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Whisk until it's well combined. Heat it in the microwave on high for 40 seconds to 1 minute until it is heated through. If the sauce is too thin, mix some cornstarch with water and stir it in until thickened or you can add a bit more marmalade. Note 5.¾ cup orange marmalade, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- Pour it over the chicken and toss to coat. Serve it over cooked rice or noodles.
- Traditionally, orange chicken recipes use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If you prefer chicken thighs, you can substitute an equal amount of those instead. Cut the chicken into relatively evenly sized, bite-sized pieces. This helps the chicken cook faster and more evenly.
- Cornstarch is the key to a crispier crust. I don't recommend substituting all-purpose flour.
- Rice vinegar has a light, subtle flavor. If you don't have this on hand, you can substitute white wine or apple cider vinegar.
- Add enough oil so it is about ¼ inch deep from the bottom of the pan and then allow the oil to heat to about 350-375 F (175-190°C) before adding the chicken. This will ensure that the chicken gets crispy without absorbing too much oil. Also be sure to space the chicken pieces about 1 inch apart. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to cook it in a couple of batches. It usually takes less than two minutes per side to cook the chicken (mine took only 1 minute per side on a gas stove). It is done when it turns a light golden brown. Be careful not to overcook!
- I love the convenience of the microwave here. By heating the sauce in the microwave, rather than returning the chicken to the skillet and tossing it with the sauce over heat, you avoid the risk of overcooking the chicken. If you find that the sauce is too thin, you can combine some cornstarch and water and stir that mixture into the sauce to thicken it up. You can also add a bit more marmalade if you don't mind a sweeter sauce.