Orange chicken is a classic Chinese-American food staple. Orange is interesting to work with because it combines sweetness and tang — and because different types of oranges contain different amounts of each. I find that the trick to a good orange chicken is to find the right balance, so it tastes both tangy and sweet without letter either one dominate and while keeping it “orange forward.” That said, this is a great recipe for modifying on your own to achieve your family’s favorite flavors.
Orange chicken is often served with chicken that is breaded and deep-fried, but there’s no rule that says it must be that way. Feel free to substitute in a healthier cooking method. You could even skip cutting up the chicken into small pieces and simply pour the orange sauce over whole chicken breasts.
- 1 lb. chicken breast or thigh
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp Shaoxing (unsweetened) cooking wine
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 Tbsp chicken broth
- 2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp. sesame seed oil
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 tsp grated navel orange zest
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp. canola oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. grated ginger root
- 2 tsp. green onions, thinly sliced
Cook the chicken: grill, pan-roast, stir-fry, batter or deep fry/air fry. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Set aside. Or substitute in a different protein.
In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, wine, vinegar, chicken broth, sugar, sesame oil, orange juice, orange zest, and cornstarch. Stir until the cornstarch is entirely dissolved. Make sure all of the ingredients are at room temperature or colder, otherwise the corn starch will clump up. We want it fully dissolved before we start heating it.
In a large skillet or wok, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and scallions and cook until just softened. Give the sauce mixture one more stir to ensure all the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved, then add it to the skillet and stir. Cook while stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and begins to bubble. Once the mixture approaches a boil, it will thicken quickly.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in the cooked chicken and stir to coat. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes to reheat the chicken. Everything is cooked at this point; we’re just mixing it all together and reheating the chicken if necessary.
Tips and suggestions:
- You can finish it off with sesame seeds (white or black) or sliced green onions.
- If you want to boost the “orange-ness” I would recommend adding more orange zest, rather than more orange juice. Adding more juice will thin the sauce and will also make it sweeter.