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Orange Chicken {Better than Takeout}

Orange Chicken made easy at home, color adapative

by Shirley
Published: Last Updated on
Orange Chicken Recipe {Better Than Takeout}

Orange chicken featuring juicy chicken bites wrapped with silky sweet orange sauce is appetizingly yummy. No wonder it is among the most popular Chinese take-out food. With this recipe, you can make a delicious better than take-out orange chicken from scratch easily anytime you want. Pick cooking wine and vinegar choices to aim for a lighter or darker color.

Orange Chicken

What is Orange Chicken?

Like Mongolian Beef, Orange Chicken is another popular Chinese food invented in the west. Chicken bite-size chunks are usually deep-fried first and then toss in a velveting sweet orange sauce that has a hint of vinegary, garlicky, peppery, and spicy flavor.

How to prepare bite-size chicken chunks for deep frying for Chinese food?

Marinate the chicken chunks with a tiny bit of Himalayan pink salt and then dip them in egg liquid. Right before you are ready to deep fry the chicken, coat the chicken with equal portions of all-purpose flour and arrowroot flour mixture. By the way, arrowroot is my go-to gluten-free superfood starch.

It is important not to coat the chicken too early, this is because the flour and arrowroot mixture will absorb the moisture from the chicken over time and turn into a paste. We want the chicken to stay powdery for a crispy chicken texture. The powdery chicken also absorbs less oil during the frying, making the chicken healthier and having a more refreshing taste.

how to prepare chicken chunks for deep frying for Chinese food

I usually do two layers of coating. Do it all at once right before the oil is about to be ready. Then do the second layer of coating in small batches for each batch of deep-frying. This ensures chicken chunks are absolutely powdery when they are placed into the hot oil.

How to make a tasty Orange Chicken Sauce?

A cup of orange juice along with a splash of sake and rice vinegar make the base for the sauce. Minced garlic, cane sugar, along with a tiny bit of ginger powder, white pepper, and crushed chili pepper all contribute to the mouth-watering flavor. The arrowroot flour helps thicken the sauce and convey a velveting and silky appearance.

Orange Chicken Ingredients

Cook the sauce in a small hard-anodized fry pan which can endure high heat and has a superb non-sticky function. Heat the sauce until the sugar in the sauce started to burn. You will notice the color change. Remember to stir and whisk the sauce from time to time during the cooking.

Leave the orange zest out when cooking the sauce, but mix them in when the sauce is cooked.

Orange Chicken Sauce

Mandarin Oranges are the secrete to a super tasty Orange Chicken

Use mandarin oranges for Orange Chicken Recipe if you can. They have a unique sweet citrus aroma that elevates the orange chicken to another iconic level.

mandarin orange

Two Factors determine the color of Orange Chicken

When it comes to the color of classic Chinese take-out food Orange Chicken, you probably have seen two versions. One has a pure bright orange color, like the one shown in this recipe. The other version has a dark color hue. Two factors contribute to the color of this dish.

The first factor is the ingredient choice of cooking wine and vinegar

In this recipe, I intentionally used sake and rice vinegar, both are translucent, to aim for a bright light orange color. By the way, rice vinegar is the one used in making sushi rice. Because they are both clear, they wouldn’t alter the color. Therefore the color is mainly from mandarin orange juice and burnt sugar.

If you like a dark-colored Orange Chicken, then use Shaoxing wine and Zhenjiang vinegar instead, both are much more dark-colored.

Taste-wise, they are similar. However, Shaoxing wine and Zhenjiang vinegar have much stronger and sharp flavors and tastes, compared to sake and clear rice vinegar. When I cook seafood, I like to use sake in lieu of Shaoxing wine for a more subtle and refreshing taste.

better than takeout Orange Chicken

The second factor is the oil for the deep frying

I use avocado oil for deep frying at home. Avocado oil is a superfood oil that also has a much higher smoking point. For instance, deep-fried chicken at the restaurant usually has a darker color compared to homemade because of the oil difference.

Orange Chicken Recipe {Better Than Takeout}

Orange Chicken Recipe {Better Than Takeout}

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Orange Chicken is a popular Chinese restaurant takeout food. With this recipe, you can make mouth-watering Orange Chicken easy and healthy at home.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • Oil for frying the chicken, avocado oil is preferred
  • 1 stalk of green onion for garnishing, chopped

For Marinating the Chicken:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, organic unbleached preferred
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot flour, or other types of starch

For Orange Chicken Sauce:

  • 1 cup of orange juice, freshly squeezed from 5 mandarin oranges is preferred
  • 1 tbsp sake, or Shaoxing wine, see notes
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar, or Zhenjiang vinegar, see notes
  • 3 tbsp cane sugar, organic unrefined preferred
  • 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp crushed chili peppers
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp arrowroot flour
  • 1 tbsp orange zest, from two mandarin oranges

Instructions

Marinating the Chicken and Prepare Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • Gather ingredients.
    Orange Chicken Ingredients
  • A compact food processor is very handy to mince garlic. I usually mince a bulb, store it in an airtight stainless steel container, and use it the following week.
    Minced Garlic Using a Compact Food Processor
  • Wash and rinse the chicken thighs well and cut the chicken into small cubes and add to a glass mixing bowl. Add 1/4 tsp salt, toss and mix well.
    marinate chicken thigh chunks with salt
  • Whisk the egg well until fully blended and then add to the chicken, toss and mix well. Set aside while you prepare other ingredients.
    marinate chicken thighs chunks with egg
  • Wash and rinse well 5 mandarin oranges. Use a zester to zest 2 mandarins and then cut all oranges into halves. Use a hand juicer to juice them. You get about 1 cup of mandarin orange juice. Remove any seeds. Set aside.
    freshly squeezed mandarin orange juice using a hand juicer
  • Drain the chicken and place it on a large plate.
    chicken marinated with salt and egg on a plate

Fry the Chicken:

  • Add 6-8 cups of avocado oil into a cast iron wok or dutch oven. Turn the heat to medium-high, and heat the oil until the oil temperature reaches about 350 Fahrenheit degrees or 177 Celsius degrees. This takes about 12 - 15 minutes. See notes.
  • While waiting for the oil, coat the chicken chunks with flour and arrowroot flour mixture. Mix the flour and arrowroot in a large bowl. Then pour most of them, about three quarters onto a large deep plate. Save some for the second round of coating later right before the frying.
  • Use a pair of chopsticks or kitchen tongs to pick a few pieces of chicken at a time and then dip into the flour/arrowroot mixture, and flip a couple of times to make sure all sides are covered.
    bread marinated chicken cbite-size chunks
  • Lay them on a dry plate. Repeat this until you've done all of the chicken chunks.
    chicken chunks coated with flour and arrowroot mixture on a plate
  • Use a cooking thermometer to check the oil temperature. If the oil is ready, then turn the heat to medium.
  • Pour the remaining flour and arrowroot mixture into the deep plate. Visually divide the chicken chunks into 4-5 equal portions and recoat one portion ready for deep frying. Each portion represents one batch for the deep frying. See notes.
    Recoat the chicken chunks with flour and arrowroot right before frying
  • Gently add the re-coated chicken chunks into the oil, use a stainless steel skimmer to separate them, and cook for 2 minutes. Use the same skimmer to flip the chicken half time through.
    deep fry chicken chunks in the cast iron wok
  • Remove the chicken from the oil using the skimmer, shake to drain the oil, and then place on a plate. Repeat till you've fried all chicken chunks.
    freshly deep fried chicken chunks on a plate

Make Orange Chicken Sauce:

  • Add everything under "For Orange Chicken Sauce" except for the orange zest into a small hard anodized fry pan. Whisk well until fully blended.
    Blend ingredients of Orange Chicken Sauce in a small hard anodized fry pan
  • Turn the heat to medium-high, and cook the sauce while stirring from time to time. Cook for about 6 minutes or till the sugar is burnt. When this happens, you will notice the color changes and the sauce bubbles & thickens. Turn off the heat and then fold the orange zest into the sauce.

Plate Orange Chicken:

  • Add the fried chicken chunks to a deep plate or a large bowl, and pour the sauce in. Toss and mix using a pair of bamboo spatulas. Garnish with the chopped green onion. Enjoy a super yummy better than takeout Orange Chicken.
    Orange Chicken

Notes

  • Use sake and clear rice vinegar for bright light orange-colored orange chicken and a more refreshing taste. Use Shaoxing wine and Zhenjiang vinegar to aim for a darker-colored orange chicken.
  • Use mandarin oranges if you can, they have a unique sweet appetizing flavor, which elevates the orange sauce to another level.
  • If you don't want to deep fry chicken, you can pan-fry instead. Heat a hard-anodized pan that endures heat well and has a superb nonstick function. Turn the heat to medium and heat the pan for 2 minutes and then add 2 tbsp avocado oil, lay flat the chicken, and cook for 2 minutes. Then flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Then turn the heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, flip every 3 minutes or so.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 745Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 212mgSodium: 336mgCarbohydrates: 90gFiber: 8gSugar: 51gProtein: 38g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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