Healthy Orange Chicken is the answer to all your Chinese takeout cravings. This super delicious and healthy version is loaded with classic flavours and a deliciously sweet and sticky orange sauce, no one will know it’s not the original recipe!
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Recreating recipes to be more nutrient-dense is my jam and this healthy orange chicken recipe is one of my favourites. If orange chicken is one of your go-to takeout recipes then you’re going to love this Asian-inspired, gluten-free, low-carb version made without MSG, refined sugar, deep-frying, or breading!
Ready in 30 minutes, this super delicious meal is easy to make when you’re craving takeout but would rather save money and make it yourself. It tastes so much better, especially when served on a bed of quinoa or brown rice and a side of crispy air fryer broccoli!
What Makes This Orange Chicken Recipe Healthier?
- Skinless chicken breast: Unlike the take-out version, there is no heavy breaded coating and deep frying, but instead juicy skinless pieces.
- Maple syrup: A non-refined sugar alternative to the usual white sugar that gets used but has the same sweet orange glaze we all love with added nutritional benefits.
- Low sodium: No MSG, no added salt, and only low sodium ingredients. Using liquid aminos or coconut aminos helps to keep it gluten-free.
- Tastes like takeout: Even with the healthy changes, this healthy orange chicken recipe still tastes exactly like our favorite take-out item. Maybe even better!
- Quick and easy: This 30-minute dish couldn’t be easier. Cook the chicken, make the sauce, simmer, and serve; a weeknight dinner win!
Ingredients for Healthy Orange Chicken
- Chicken: I use boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1” pieces. It’s lean, juicy, and biting into plump chicken coated in a sweet and sticky orange sauce is the best.
- Liquids for the sauce: Orange juice, chicken broth, soy sauce (or Bragg’s liquid aminos), honey or maple syrup, and toasted sesame oil.
- Seasonings for the sauce: Garlic powder, ground ginger, ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, and orange zest.
- Cornstarch: This is what takes the sauce from a thin runny sauce to a thick, velvety glaze.
- Oil: Needed for frying up the chicken pieces. Olive oil is healthy and neutral in taste.
- Garnishes: Topping off the dish with green onion and sesame adds a fresh pop of color and a nutty element just like they do at restaurants!
How to Make Healthy Orange Chicken
- Combine ingredients for the sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange juice, chicken broth, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, garlic powder, ground ginger, black pepper, red pepper flakes, orange zest, and cornstarch. Set it aside.
- Cook the chicken: To brown the chicken, you’re going to want to use a cast-iron skillet if you have one. If not, any large skillet will do. Preheat it on high heat and add a bit of oil to coat. Add pieces of chicken to the hot skillet and cook uncovered for 7 minutes. Stir a few times to make sure all sides are evenly browned.
- Add sauce to chicken: Grab your sauce that you have set aside and give it a good whisk. Pour it on top of the chicken and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Stir a few times throughout.
Serve it up! Healthy orange chicken is best served hot, sprinkled with a few slices of green onion and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Enjoy on a bed of rice or quinoa with a side of crisp veggies!
Optional Add-In’s and Variations
- Add some veggies into the dish itself. Crispy broccoli florets or bell pepper can be cooked along with the chicken and simmered in the sauce.
- If you don’t have any maple syrup or honey, you can also use white or brown sugar the same way traditional orange chicken does.
- Use fresh ginger and fresh garlic. Replace both powders with 2 minced garlic cloves and 2 tsp of grated fresh ginger.
- Replace the chicken broth with more orange juice if you don’t have any on hand.
- Swap the low sodium soy sauce for some great alternatives like coconut aminos or tamari.
- Rice wine vinegar: Just a splash added to the sauce adds another sweet layer of flavor.
- Sriracha: Love spicy? Right before serving add a dash of hot sauce!
If you’ve got a few extra minutes, toast the sesame seeds before adding them on top of your healthy orange chicken. Just a little something extra!
Tips for Best Results
- Cut chicken into uniform sizes: So it all cooks and gets done at the same time.
- Fresh squeezed orange juice: Depending on where you are in the world, or what season it is, using fresh oranges may be possible and a great idea! It’s a bit of extra work, but totally worth it. Either way, use as fresh orange juice as possible.
- It’s not a stir fry: So there’s no need to move as quickly, however, once it’s done, serve it up. Don’t let it sit around for too long.
- No toasted sesame oil? No problem! Just skip it. It’s the toasted sesame oil that gives us the delicious flavour. Regular sesame oil won’t do much.
- Sauce thickened too fast? Add a splash of orange juice to get it back to the correct consistency.
You can use chicken thighs if you’d prefer. Just make sure to remove the skin and as many extra fatty bits as possible.
If you’ve forgotten to add cornstarch with the other sauce ingredients, you can always make a cornstarch slurry afterward and add it to the simmering chicken. Keep in mind it will also thicken as it cooks and cools.
There are a couple of dark ingredients in this recipe like soy sauce, maple syrup (or brown sugar) which may be why that is. Depending on what you use in yours, that’s what will determine the colour at the end.
As an alternative to cornstarch, you can also use arrowroot powder and use it the same way.
How to Serve Skinny Orange Chicken?
- The classic way is on top of steamed white rice, which you can absolutely do. It’s great!
- Whole grain: Try brown rice, or quinoa instead.
- A delicious low-carb alternative would be cauliflower rice or cauliflower fried rice.
- Side veggies: Air fryer broccoli or cauliflower, garlic green beans, sautéed zucchini, or Instant Pot steamed veggies would all make a great side dish.
- Extra garnishes: For fun, serve some extras like sliced green onions, sesame seeds, some more red pepper flakes, and even some orange slices.
How to Store Homemade Orange Chicken?
Make-Ahead: Store the uncooked chicken and combined sauce in separate containers for up to 24 hours in advance. Cook as directed when you’re ready!
To store: Any healthy orange chicken leftovers can be kept in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
To freeze: Transfer to the freezer in an airtight container or freezer-friendly bag. Keep frozen for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy it again, thaw in the fridge overnight. Simmer on the stove on low heat until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of water or broth to thin it out as it cooks.
More Healthy Chicken Recipes to Try
Healthy Orange Chicken
- 2 lbs boneless and skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 1/2 cups orange juice
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 3 tbsp soy sauce I use Bragg’s liquid aminos
- 4 tbsp honey or maple syrup
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Zest of 1 large orange
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp oil for frying
- Green onion and sesame seeds for serving
- Quinoa or brown rice for serving
- Air fryer broccoli for serving
- In a medium bowl, add orange juice, chicken broth, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, garlic powder, ground ginger, black pepper, red pepper flakes, orange zest and cornstarch. Whisk very well.
- Preheat large skillet (cast iron skillet is the best for browning) on high heat and swirl 1 tbsp of oil to coat. Add chicken and cook uncovered for 7 minutes, stirring a few times.
- Whisk the sauce in a bowl once again and add to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium-high, cook for about 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened, stirring a few times.
Make ahead: You can store uncooked chicken and whisked sauce in separate covered bowls for up to 24 hours and cook then.
Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
Freeze: In an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat in a pot with a splash of water or broth, simmering on low while covered. Stir a few times.
- Fresh ginger and garlic: Feel free to use 2 minced garlic cloves and 2 tsp grated fresh ginger instead of powders.
- No toasted sesame oil? Just skip it. Regular sesame oil won’t do much. It’s the toasted sesame oil that adds that oriental flavor.
- No chicken broth? Just replace with more orange juice.
- Soy sauce alternatives: Coconut aminos or tamari sauce will work too.
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