Healthy Orange Chicken

DF GF

This healthy orange chicken is a lightened-up take on the classic Chinese take-out dish. It’s loaded with flavor, easy to make and absolutely delicious especially when paired with rice and a side of veggies.

Whenever Isaac and I order takeout (which isn’t that often) it’s usually either Indian or Chinese food. I love recreating our favorite dishes at home and while most of my versions aren’t super traditional (like this kung pao tofu) I thought it was time to remake a classic, which also happens to be one of Isaac’s favorite meals… orange chicken!

Most orange chicken dishes that you would get at a Chinese restaurant are fried and drenched with a sugary, sweet sauce, so in true EBF fashion I set out to make a lightened up version that was still full of flavor. And if I do say so myself, I think I nailed this recipe. It tastes just like the real deal, but is made with whole ingredients, less oil and no processed sugar. It’s seriously SO good!

An overhead photo of a bowl of rice with healthy orange chicken. A fork rests in the rice.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Enjoy all the flavors of traditional orange chicken, just with less sodium, sugar and calories!
  • It’s cheaper then ordering takeout!
  • It’s baked and lightly sautéed on the stove top instead of fried.
  • The sauce is refined sugar free. We’re using honey instead of white sugar.
A closeup overhead photo of healthy orange chicken served over a bed of rice.

Is Orange Chicken Healthy?

Traditional Chinese Orange Chicken is loaded with lots of excess fat, salt, carbs and sugar thanks to the batter, frying oil and sweet orange-flavored chili sauce, so it’s not necessarily the healthiest option. Don’t get me wrong, I will still indulge at a restaurant occasionally, but I love making healthy versions of restaurant favorites. And with a homemade version like this one, you can feel good about eating it multiple days in a row if you want (which is exactly what we did). 

This simple, lightened up version is perfect and won’t leave you feeling heavy or overstuffed. For the sauce we’re swapping sugar for a touch of honey and instead of frying the chicken we’re baking it and then crisping it up on the stove top for a few minutes!

Ingredients measured out to make healthy orange chicken: eggs, baking soda, ginger, arrowroot powder, orange juice, garlic, rice vinegar, chicken, spices, oil, tamari, sesame oil, honey, water, orange zest, green onions and flour.

Ingredients Needed

  • tamari, soy sauce or coconut aminos – a star ingredient in the sauce! Tamari, soy sauce or coconut aminos all work well here. The savory, salty component complements the sweetness from the honey and orange juice.
  • rice vinegar –another key ingredient in the sauce! I prefer rice vinegar, but white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar would also work.
  • sesame oil – adds a robust flavor to the sauce. If you don’t have sesame oil on hand olive or avocado oil are good substitutes.
  • arrowroot powder – a thickening agent for the sauce and part of the coating for the chicken! Cornstarch will work as a substitute.
  • orange juice and orange zest – can’t have orange chicken without the orange! I like using freshly squeezed orange juice (added bonus you can use the same orange for the juice + zest!) for the best flavor but store-bought orange juice works as well.
  • fresh garlic and fresh ginger – two flavor enhancers for the sauce!
  • honey – instead of white sugar we’re using honey in the sauce, which keeps this dish refined sugar free!
  • chicken breasts – boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces.
  • all-purpose flour – for the breading. You can also use gluten-free all-purpose flour.
  • baking soda – we’re adding this to the breading mixture. It helps the chicken to crisp up when sautéing!
  • eggs – helps bind the breading to the chicken.
  • sea salt, ground pepper, and cayenne pepper – to season the dish.
  • avocado oil or olive oil – for sautéing the chicken after baking.
  • green onions – I love serving this dish with fresh green onions. Fresh herbs pack so much flavor!
  • optional toppings – sesame seeds and red pepper flakes.
Six photos in a collage with steps how to make orange chicken, making the sauce, breading the chicken, cooking the chicken in a skillet and adding the sauce.

How to Make Orange Chicken

Start by preheating your oven to 425°F and coat a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Add all of your sauce ingredients to a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set this bowl aside.

In a separate small mixing bowl whisk together arrowroot powder, flour, baking soda, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

In a shallow bowl crack eggs and whisk. Dredge each chicken chunk in the egg bowl, wiping off any access and then dip each into the flour mixture. Roll until each piece is covered completely. Place the coated chicken on the prepared baking sheet with parchment or a wire rack that fits on a baking sheet, without parchment. If you use the wire rack, be sure to spray it with cooking spray or the chicken will stick terribly and be a pain to clean.

Bake chicken for 15 minutes.

When baking timer only has a few minutes left, add oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When chicken is done in the oven, add to warm skillet and allow chicken to crisp up for about 2 minutes per side. Once chicken is golden brown and completely cooked through, add chicken to a plate and set aside while heating the sauce.

Pour sauce mixture into the same skillet over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let sauce thicken up until it coats the back of a spoon, about 5-6 minutes. Once sauce has thickened up, add chicken back to the skillet and toss until all the chicken is coated. Remove from heat and serve!

An overhead photo looking at a bowl of healthy orange chicken served over rice. A fork has a piece of chicken on it.

How to Serve Healthy Orange Chicken

This healthy orange chicken recipe can be served so many different ways! I love serving it over rice with a side of veggies but feel free to get creative! Here are some ideas:

A closeup of healthy orange chicken served over a bed rice.

How to Store Leftovers

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. For reheating, warm the chicken on a skillet over the stove top or in the microwave.

I haven’t tried freezing this chicken, but I bet you could freeze it with no issues! To defrost, take the chicken out of the freezer and place it in the fridge to thaw the night before you’re wanting to eat it.

More Asian Inspired Recipes to Try

Popular Chicken Recipes to Try

Be sure to check out all of the chicken recipes here on EBF!

Healthy Orange Chicken

5 from 9 votes
This healthy orange chicken is a lightened-up take on the classic Chinese take-out dish. It’s loaded with flavor, easy to make and absolutely delicious especially when paired with rice and a side of veggies.
An overhead photo of a bowl of rice with healthy orange chicken. A fork rests in the rice.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4

Ingredients

Sauce

  • cup tamari, coconut aminos or soy sauce
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder, or cornstarch
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Chicken

  • ½ cup arrowroot powder, or cornstarch
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons avocado or olive oil
  • Sliced green onions, for garnish
  • Sesame seeds , for garnish (optional)
  • Red chili flakes , for garnish (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425°F and coat a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Add all your sauce ingredients to a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
    Tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, water, arrowroot powder, orange juice, orange zest, garlic, fresh ginger, honey, sea salt, black pepper in a bowl being whisked together.
  • Place arrowroot powder, flour, baking soda, cayenne, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Crack eggs into another shallow bowl and whisk.
    Chicken breast chunks in a bowl next to a bowl of egg wash and arrowroot powder and flour mixture.
  • One by one, dredge each chicken chunk in the egg bowl, wiping off any access and then dip each into the flour mixture. Roll until each piece is covered completely.
    Coating chicken in flour after the egg wash.
  • Place the coated chicken on prepared baking sheet with parchment or a wire rack that fits on a baking sheet, without parchment. Be sure to spray the wire rack with cooking spray or the chicken will stick! Bake chicken for 15 minutes.
    Pieces of chicken on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet after being dipped into egg and then flour mixture.
  • When baking timer only has a few minutes left, add oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When chicken is done in the oven, add to warm skillet and allow chicken to crisp up for about 2 minutes per side.
    Baked chicken in a skillet to crisp up.
  • Once chicken is golden brown and completely cooked through, add chicken to a plate and set aside while heating the sauce. Pour sauce mixture into the same skillet over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let sauce thicken up until it coats the back of a spoon, about 5-6 minutes.
    Pouring orange chicken sauce into a skillet to warm it up.
  • Once sauce has thickened up, add chicken back to the skillet and toss until all the chicken is coated.
    Chicken tossed in orange sauce in a skillet.
  • Serve chicken over rice and garnish with green onions. Serve with a side of broccoli or another green veggie.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 recipe Calories: 491kcal Carbohydrates: 44g Protein: 47g Fat: 14g Saturated Fat: 2g Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g Monounsaturated Fat: 7g Cholesterol: 191mg Sodium: 1706mg Potassium: 160mg Fiber: 1g Sugar: 29g
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: healthy orange chicken

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe Rating




    9 comments
    1. Anne
      June 6, 2022 AT 9:28 pm

      4 stars
      Love the taste but wow did it take a long time to get everything mixed and prepped.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        June 7, 2022 AT 10:29 am

        Hey Anne! I’m glad you enjoyed this recipe. Thanks for making it! To save some time in the future, you can always prep the sauce the day before so when you’re ready to make this recipe all you have to do is prep your chicken and cook!

    2. Shirley
      March 14, 2022 AT 3:01 pm

      5 stars
      Brittany, you must have read my mind! I recently got take-out from a local Chinese restaurant, and since I have to eat gluten free, I had to settle for the Chicken, rice, and snow peas dish. Not much flavor there! Orange chicken is my favorite, but I hadn’t found a recipe that I really like, so I started looking for recipes that are gf and have healthy ingredients. Then I received your Orange Chicken email. Even though it takes a while to make, it was delicious! Not too sweet and just the right amount of spice! I will certainly make this again!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        March 15, 2022 AT 8:51 am

        Yay! I’m so glad to hear this recipe was a hit for you, Shirley!! Thanks for coming back to leave a review and star rating, I really appreciate it.

    3. Mandy
      February 26, 2022 AT 1:51 pm

      5 stars
      Gorgeous and tangy! Used firm tofu instead of chicken and found the flour coating stuck to it well without the egg. Also made a batch of your tahini protein balls today. Love your recipes, thank you so much!

    4. Sarah
      February 23, 2022 AT 4:59 pm

      Do you think cassava flour would work alright?

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 24, 2022 AT 10:37 am

        Hi, Sarah! I haven’t tried it, but it seems like it might be a good alternative! If you try it, let me know how it turns out for you.

    5. Veronica
      February 22, 2022 AT 11:02 pm

      This looks so yummy!! Do you think a flax egg would be ok to use in place of eggs?

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 23, 2022 AT 9:59 am

        Hi, Veronica. I haven’t tried it but it should work no problem! Let me know if you try it and how it turns out.

Parchment paper lined with protein balls.

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