Orange Chicken is the best and easy chicken side dish or appetizer for any dinner party. Crispy fried chicken thighs are tossed in flavorful and finger-licking homemade orange sauce.
You can also call this dish tangerine chicken, orange peel chicken, orange-flavored chicken, etc. I wanted to copycat Panda Express but let me tell you, this recipe is better than any restaurant takeout.
About Orange Chicken
One of the best side dishes or even main dish when served with steamed rice for Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, Football or Super Bowl party, Easter brunch, tailgating events, picnic, or potluck.
I first had this dish in America at Panda Express, a popular American-Chinese fast-food chain. It was one of the popular signature items on the Panda Express menu. When I read more about this dish, I found out that this dish is purely an American invention, not a Chinese-inspired one. You will not find this in any authentic Chinese restaurants.
Does orange chicken taste like orange?
You are not alone. This was the first thought I had when I saw this item on the Panda Express menu. Yes, the orange flavor is prominent because orange juice is used to prepare the sauce. Plus, the dish is sweet and salty, with the right amount of spiciness.
What is orange chicken sauce made of? Panda Express copycat Orange sauce.
Orange sauce is a mixture of freshly squeezed orange juice and its zest to give the fresh orange flavor, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, cayenne powder or red chile powder, sesame seeds, and oil. For extra flavor I add garlic cloves and ginger.
Orange Chicken Marination
4 Chicken thighs, chopped to 1 inch thick
1 teaspoon Black pepper powder
¼ cup Orange juice, freshly squeezed (approximate one orange)
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Corn starch
2 cups Oil, for frying
For the Orange Sauce
2 tablespoon Oil
2 tablespoon Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Ginger, finely chopped
½ cup Brown sugar, packed (check tips)
½ cup Orange juice, freshly squeezed (approximate two oranges)
1 tablespoon Orange zest
1 tablespoon Honey (optional)
4 tablespoon Soy sauce
2 tablespoon Vinegar
1 teaspoon Red chile powder or Cayenne powder (optional), check tips
1 tablespoon Corn starch
1 tablespoon Water
2 Green onions, chopped (for garnish)
2 tablespoon Sesame seeds, roasted (for garnish, optional)
½ teaspoon Salt (optional)
How do you make an orange chicken from scratch?
First, you will have to marinate the chicken thighs in orange juice and keep it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Next, double fry or deep fry or air fry or stir fry the chicken according to your preference. Then, toss the fried chicken in the prepared orange sauce till it is well coated.
You can also call this dish tangerine chicken, orange peel chicken, or orange-flavored chicken.
Orange Chicken Marinade
It is recommended to marinate the chicken. Marinating chicken makes a lot of difference. Marinade prevents chicken or any meat from drying out and becoming chewy. It makes the chicken more tender and juicy.
For the marinade, I used freshly squeezed orange juice, black pepper powder, and salt and kept it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. You can also use the zest of an orange for marination if desired.
Orange Chicken Batter
I have kept the batter for frying the chicken thighs as simple as possible. In a bowl, whisk egg and corn starch together. To this mixture, add the marinated chicken and mix until well coated. Now, double fry in oil till they are crispy and golden brown in color.
Simple and Easy Homemade Orange Chicken | How to Make Orange Chicken
Orange Chicken Marination
- 400 g Chicken thighs 4 medium boneless chicken thighs chopped to 1 inch thick pieces
- 1 teaspoon Black pepper powder
- ¼ cup Orange juice, freshly squeezed approximate one orange
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 2 Eggs
- 1 cup Corn starch
- Oil for frying
For the Orange Sauce
- 2 tablespoon Oil
- 2 tablespoon Garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Ginger finely chopped
- ½ cup Brown sugar packed, check tips
- ½ cup Orange juice freshly squeezed - approximate two oranges
- 1 tablespoon Orange zest
- 1 tablespoon Honey optional
- 4 tablespoon Soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Red chile powder or Cayenne powder optional - check tips
- 1 tablespoon Corn starch
- 1 tablespoon Water
- 2 tablespoon Green onions chopped, for garnish
- 2 tablespoon Sesame seeds roasted, for garnish, optional
- ½ teaspoon Salt optional
For the chicken Marination
- In a large bowl, add chopped chicken thighs, salt, black pepper powder, and ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice and mix well. Keep this is refrigerator for 30 minutes.400 g Chicken thighs, 1 teaspoon Black pepper powder, 1 teaspoon Salt, ¼ cup Orange juice, freshly squeezed
Double Fry Chicken thighs
- In a frying pan on medium high heat, add two cups of oil and let it come to temperature.Oil
- Meanwhile, in a bowl crack in two eggs and whish until light yellow.2 Eggs
- To this add a cup of corn starch and continue whisking until there are no lumps, and the batter is smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.1 cup Corn starch
- To this add marinated chicken and mix until all the chicken pieces are coated.
- Fry the chicken for the first time for 4 to 5 minutes in two or three batches. The fried batter will look pale yellow, but that is okay.
- Rest the fried chicken for at least 10 minutes before frying them again in two batches for the second time. The frying time will be about 5 minutes per batch, or until the chicken is golden brown and crispy. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
For Orange Sauce
- In a large pan or wok on medium heat, add oil and finely chopped ginger and garlic and saute until it is fragrant, about 2 minutes.2 tablespoon Oil, 1 tablespoon Ginger, 2 tablespoon Garlic cloves
- Add freshly squeezed orange juice, zest, brown sugar, honey, and simmer for 5 minutes.½ cup Brown sugar, ½ cup Orange juice, 1 tablespoon Orange zest, 1 tablespoon Honey
- To this, add soy sauce, vinegar, chilli powder, salt, corn starch slurry (mix 1 tablespoon of corn starch with 1 tablespoon of water), and mix well. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened.4 tablespoon Soy sauce, 2 tablespoon Vinegar, 1 teaspoon Red chile powder or Cayenne powder, 1 tablespoon Corn starch, ½ teaspoon Salt, 1 tablespoon Water
- Add double fried chicken thighs into this thickned sauce and toss until well coated.
- Your dish is now ready. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions, and serve. Enjoy.2 tablespoon Green onions, 2 tablespoon Sesame seeds
- You can use red pepper flakes instead of chile powder.
- You can add orange zest, about 1 tsp, to marinade for fresh flavor if desired.
- Brown sugar can be substituted with fine sugar.
- Please go through this post above to check how to make ahead or freezer orange chicken and then reheat the same.
Traditionally, this chicken recipe is deep fried. If you want a healthier version, you can stir-fry the chicken thighs or use an air fryer. It tastes excellent both ways.
This chicken dish is generally sweet and sour with a savory glaze. It is not spicy or hot because the red chilies or cayenne powder used in this dish is an optional ingredient.
All three dishes are pretty similar: chicken is fried and coated in a sauce, but all the difference comes in sauce with adding or subtracting just one ingredient. In this dish below, the sauce is mainly based on the flavor of orange. General Tso's chicken is chile based, i.e., it is sweet but with a little more heat from chiles and served with broccoli and carrots. In sesame chicken, the sauce contains sesame oil which gives the dish a unique nutty aroma.
Yes. All vegetarians and vegans can now enjoy this orange sauce. Substitute chicken with tofu or a combination of veggies like mushroom, cauliflower, and tofu, along with some onions and bell peppers. For the batter, instead of egg, use milk or non-dairy milk. The rest of the ingredients and steps remain the same. You can add this version to your menu for Thanksgiving vegan sides and surprise your guests.
Orange Chicken is one of the best make-ahead sides for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Holiday gatherings, your next football party, or game night. Simply add all the ingredients mentioned under orange sauce in the recipe below and whisk so that there are no lumps. This can be kept in a container or jar for up to 3 days. Or you can simply put the sauce in a sealed bag or freezer container and keep it in the freezer. Place the cooked and fried chicken in another freezer bag. Use as and when required. For cooking or reheating instructions, see the following section.
Thaw the frozen sauce mix and fried chicken. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the thawed chicken onto a baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until it is heated thoroughly.
Pour the thawed orange sauce into a pan. Bring it to boil, stirring it continuously. Reduce heat to low and simmer till the sauce is thickened. Pour the sauce over reheated fried chicken and enjoy.
Other interesting recipes
Don't miss to check out Vienna bread which garnered more than a million page views and makes a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving dinner. Also, check out other delicious side dishes recipes you can serve for lunch or dinner.
- Best 50+ Thanksgiving Side Dishes
- Cheesy potato casserole
- Garlic butter shrimp
- Vienna Bread
- Parker House Rolls
- Cranberry Chicken
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes
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