In college, orange chicken was my weakness. I loved Chinese food and frequently ordered other menu items, but the crispy chicken tossed with vegetables and a sweet and spicy orange glaze was my favorite. I ate it many late nights while studying. Healthy? Not so much. Delicious? Absolutely.
These days I prefer to make restaurant favorites at home with healthier ingredients. I’ve overhauled many Chinese favorites, including kung pao chicken and beef and broccoli. Now, for all you other orange chicken lovers out there, here’s how I make it.
Homemade Crispy Orange Chicken
As with practically all foods, I’ve found that healthy versions made at home can actually taste better than the original. Even without the MSG and chemical flavoring agents, something about real whole foods just wins out.
To make the chicken crispy, I bread it in a mix of almond flour, arrowroot powder, and spices. Then I fry it. I like to use coconut oil or tallow for frying because of their healthy fat profile, mild flavor, and high smoke point. If you’ve never tried frying, don’t be intimidated. It’s a lot easier than it seems. Just make sure your oil is nice and hot before you start, and let it heat up again between batches.
However, if you don’t love the texture of crispy, fried chicken or just don’t want the bother of frying, you can absolutely just saute the chicken pieces until they’re cooked through. I’ve done it that way myself on busy nights, and I promise the end result is still delicious.
Making a Flavorful Orange Sauce
While the chicken is cooking, I make the zesty orange sauce to pour over it. I use the juice and zest of three whole oranges and one lemon and add some coconut aminos for salt, chili garlic sauce for a little heat, and arrowroot for thickening.
I let it all simmer for a good while to let the flavors meld and the sauce thicken. If you decide to saute the chicken rather than fry it, you can just whisk the sauce ingredients (minus the arrowroot) into the sauteed chicken and let it all simmer together for a while. Add the arrowroot at the end to thicken.
I like to serve the finished orange chicken over some cauliflower rice or fresh steamed broccoli. It’s delicious, filling, and nutritious. If you like Chinese food, try this recipe! Maybe next I’ll try making a veggie lo mein with shirataki noodles.
Healthy Orange Chicken Recipe
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)
- 1 cup coconut oil (or tallow, or lard for frying)
- 2 eggs
- 1 TBSP water
- ½ cup almond flour
- ¼ cup arrowroot powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
- 3 oranges
- 1 lemon
- ¼ cup coconut aminos
- 1 TBSP chili garlic sauce (optional)
- ¼ cup honey (optional)
- 1 TBSP arrowroot powder
To Cook the Chicken
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil, tallow, or lard over medium-high heat.
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the water and set aside.
- In a medium-size bowl, mix together the almond flour, the ¼ cup of arrowroot powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and ginger.
- Dip the chicken into the egg mixture, then into the flour mixture, shaking to remove excess flour.
- Test the hotness of the oil by dropping a small bit of chicken in. If it immediately starts foaming and bubbling vigorously the oil is ready.
- Carefully drop the breaded chicken pieces into the hot oil, cooking about 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through. Do not stir or move chicken except to flip once during cooking as it may knock off the breading.
- Carefully remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate to cool.
- Repeat with all the chicken until cooked.
To Make the Sauce
- While chicken is cooking and cooling, zest and juice the oranges and lemon into a medium-sized saucepan.
- Add the coconut aminos, chili garlic sauce, and honey.
- Stir well and whisk in the 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder.
- Bring to a simmer and continue simmering over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes or until it reaches desired thickness. Do not let it boil or burn! If you want a thicker sauce, add a little more arrowroot.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken and lightly toss to coat.
Ever made healthy versions of your favorite foods? How did they turn out?
Discussion (19 Comments)
This was amazing!!! My husband who doesn’t usually love the healthier version of popular dishes loved it!!
Just made this for lunch. Only had one orange in hand, so I used 5 lemons. Wow! Tart and delicious! Sautéed snow peas from the garden and tossed it together. Will make this version again!!
How many does this serve?
Could I use coconut flour instead? I’m allergic to almonds. Thanks for the [email protected]:disqus
Yes, but the texture will be slightly different…
Thanks. Yeah almond flour sounds great here! I’m bummed since my pregnancy I have developed an allergy to almonds and various other things. I always appreciate your recipes. 🙂
At what temperature if I want to bake them in the oven?
Love love love this recipe. I skipped the breading and my whole family loved it. I had left over sauce so we used it as a dip for bacon wrapped shrimp the next night!! AMAZING!!!
This was amazing! I think I got too much pith in it or too much rind as I had to add more honey.
The Good Calorie
Hi there, I have some Registered Dietitian colleagues thinking that the “Healthy” here in the title may be trumped by the 1 cup of saturated fat (coconut oil – about 1900 calories and 220gm fat-, tallow, or lard) that the recipe calls for. While the recipe looks DELICIOUS, what do you think could substituted here to make it healthy? Thanks for any feedback
I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I’m of the mindset that saturated fats from good sources (coconut oil, grassfed meats, etc) is healthy and good and fats like Canola oil and vegetable oil should be avoided at all cost. If you consider those franken oils healthy, by all means, you could sub vegetable oil.
Made this tonight. Followed recipe exactly but used my fry daddy to fry chicken. Wow, this was a knockout! Served it over spaghetti squash and a side of steamed broccoli. Plan to make this sauce in bulk and freeze it so it’s ready at a moment’s notice!
I made this the other night, it was great, but it was super sweet. What can i do to tone down the sweetness? I did use the honey which i’m sure made it sweet, but it helped to thicken it up as well.
You could omit some of the orange or just use more arrowroot to thicken instead of the honey.