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Orange chicken

Sat, 16 March, 2024

You don’t need a deep frying pan for this, or even a wok. My orange chicken recipe has all the flavour and none of the hassle of the otherwise popular American Chinese orange chicken.

orange chicken

How Chinese is orange chicken?

The dish from American Chinese restaurants is probably delicious, but not the healthiest, lightest or easiest to make at home.

It is actually a variety of General Tso chicken dish, where chunks of chicken are first coated in batter, then deep fried till crisp and finally dunked in a sticky, rich sauce.

Orange chicken known to US takeaway customers is possibly vaguely related to tangerine chicken from the Hunan region of China.

The key ingredient of that dish though, dried tangerine peel, is normally absent from the American version and the flavour of the dish veers towards sweet and sour rather than fresh and spicy. Which obviously, like all the ‘immigrant song’ type of recipes is destined to please American taste.

orange chicken stir fry

How orange is my orange chicken?

My version is simpler and lighter than that from the US Chinese restaurants. It is sweet and spicy, sour and fresh, with no deep frying or batter.

It is still probably not quite close to the original Hunanese dish because I use fresh orange rather than dried tangerine peel. But why should it matter if it’s so deliciously tasty?

orange chicken ingredients

How to prepare chicken for a juicy stir fry

This is a trick I’ve learnt from Kenji Lopez-Alt and his invaluable book, The Wok. Any meat for a stir fry should be washed before marinating.

Wait, what? That’s exactly it, and as I’m not Kenji I can’t quote the scientific justification for why it works, but I can certainly vouch for the results. Pork, beef or chicken, if you wash it before mixing in a marinade, it will be succulent and tender like you’ve never had before.

Cut the meat into strips or dice, then plunge into a bowl of cold water and toss about with your fingers. Drain and try to squeeze as much moisture from the pieces as you can, pressing them against the sides of a sieve or a colander.

washing chicken

The marinade for this dish is simple and one I always use, because it serves only to tenderise the chicken; the flavour will come in the sauce. Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, a pinch of bicarbonate of soda for plumping up the chicken pieces and some cornflour to make it all stick.

marinated chicken

Sauce and aromatics

As you might expect, ginger and hot birds eye chilli flavour the dish, with zest grated from the orange and some mixed candied peel from the Christmas reserves which works here surprisingly well.

The sauce is a mix of orange juice, sugar, some chicken stock and the usual stir fry suspects: Shaoxing wine, rice vinegar and soy sauce. If you want to skip the sugar from the sauce, feel free. It will still be delicious.

orange and aromatics

Stir fry is all

Once you’ve prepared the aromatics and mixed the sauce, it’s the matter of minutes, if not seconds. Stir fry the chicken pieces, and remove them from the pan or wok.

cooking chicken

Next, briefly cook the ginger, zest, chillies and orange peel. Pour in the sauce and cook vigorously until it thickens and reduces.

The chicken now can return into the pan and finish cooking through in the sauce.

cooking orange chicken

The extra orange segments

The topping on this stir fry is caramelised orange segments, if you can be bothered.

To do that, don’t juice the orange but rather filet the segments, collecting all the juice in a bowl. Then, after the chicken is cooked, fry the orange chunks in foaming butter or ghee, until caramelised.

cooking orange segments

They need to be handled very gently to keep them whole, but the result is truly wonderful.

The presentation needs just some freshly cooked plain rice, the orange segments if you prepared them, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds on the chicken.

fresh and spicy orange chicken

More chicken stir fry recipes

Chicken yu xiang, chicken breast pieces cooked in Sichuan ‘fragrant fish’ sauce which has seafood only in the name. With addition of dried cranberries for the sweetness and almonds for crunch.

Gochujang chicken, spicy and sweet Korean stir fry with gochujang, fermented chilli paste based sauce. Gochujang is your next go-to store cupboard ingredient, and this stir fry will become a firm fixture in your menu.

Chicken chow mein takeaway style with crispy noodles: 'chow mein' means 'fried noodles'. With stir fried chicken and a salty touch of smoked ham, it's actually much better than a takeaway.

More orange flavoured recipes

Five-spice butternut squash in cheesy custard, with orange rayu (Japanese chilli oil) is precisely the treatment the squash needs to be a great dish. No surprise, it’s a recipe from Ottolenghi.

Pan-fried wood pigeon breast is a great starter. It's an easy and quick recipe for very underrated, tasty, cheap and sustainable meat. Serve it with orange caramel and pomegranate seeds.

Homemade candied mixed orange and lemon peel is so gorgeous you might want to nibble on it instead of putting it into a fruitcake. So make twice as much!

orange chicken no deep frying

Orange chicken

Servings: 2Time: 20 minutes plus marinating


  • For the chicken:
  • 300g (10 oz.) skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • For the sauce:
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chicken stock or water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • To finish:
  • 2cm (1 inch) fresh ginger
  • 1 Thai birds eye chilli
  • 1 tbsp chopped mixed candied peel
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • sesame seeds, for sprinkling


1. Cut the chicken into bite-sized dice. Place it in a bowl with cold water and agitate to wash it. Drain and squeeze the chicken pieces against a sieve or colander to remove the water. Transfer it to a clean bowl and add all the marinade ingredients. Stir with your fingers to coat every piece.

2. Wash the orange and grate zest. Fillet the orange into segments with a sharp knife, working over a shallow bowl in order to collect all the released juice. Place the orange segments in a small bowl and squeeze the orange centre into a cup, adding all the collected juice. There should be about 100ml (13 cup) of juice.

3. Add the remaining sauce ingredients to the cup, stir and set aside.

4. Peel and finely chop the ginger. Deseed and finely slice the birds eye chilli. Place in another little bowl with the ginger, grated zest and the candied peel.

5. When ready to cook, heat a wok or a sauté pan until lightly smoking. Add the oil and when it’s shimmering, add the chicken pieces. Cook over high heat, stirring, until browned. Remove from the wok and keep aside.

6. Add the butter to the wok. When it’s foaming, gently add the orange segments and cook, turning carefully, until caramelised. Remove back to the bowl.

7. Add the ginger, orange zest, peel and chilli into the wok and cook for half a minute until fragrant. Pour in the sauce and cook until reduced and thickened, about a minute. Scrape the chicken back into the sauce and simmer, stirring, until cooked through and the sauce is as thick as you like it.

8. Serve the chicken with steamed rice, sprinkled with sesame and topped with orange segments.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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