There's much to love about Healthy Orange Chicken! The grated ginger, orange zest, and red pepper flakes all make it a beloved classic. This post will show you how to skip the unwanted calories and create your own version, at home!
I don't think I've shared this with you yet, but I love Asian food. I know...groundbreaking as that may be. "Wow, did you hear that? Lacey likes another type of food. Shocking."
And you may also be wondering, "Well Lacey, where are all the Asian cuisine recipes?"
I have a few! And am quite proud of my Cauliflower Fried Rice and Spring Roll recipes. Then there's my famous Stir Fried Beef with Broccoli. But when it all comes down to it, I love to eat Chinese, Japanese, Thai food and the like. I'm just slightly less comfortable with the actual cooking part.
That's what makes this Easy Orange Chicken so fantastic. Not only quite simple to make but you probably have most, if not all, of the ingredients already. Plus, it's healthier than the takeout version (very fresh and vibrant)!
And if you are looking to swap a lunch or dinner from the meal prep for weight loss then this is a great option.
So whether you're a seasoned chef or total beginner, this Healthy Orange Chicken recipe is for you!
Where Did Orange Chicken Come From?
Orange chicken is originally from China and looks quite different from what you might expect. It had no breading (yup, none) and the sauce was mostly made from leftover orange peels cooked with soy sauce, chilis, and garlic. The sauce had a citrusy flavor, but it wasn’t as sweet are your favorite takeaway.
Our American-Chinese restaurants have transformed the recipe, creating a fusion of the East and West. Nowadays when you order orange chicken, you'll be served breaded pieces drenched in an orange sauce (with some broccoli on the side).
It's undeniable tempting.
But because I'm dedicated to healthy (and yummy) recipes, I'm returning Orange Chicken closer to it's original form!
Is Orange Chicken Healthy?
Orange chicken can be healthy if you make it at home. But if you go the takeout route, it begins to look more like an unhealthy comfort food (that crispy fried texture we love is packed with calories). And that's not the only reason why takeout orange chicken has a whopping 490 calories for a single serving.
Can you guess why? Well, it's because of all the sugar (19g specifically!) you will find in that famous orange sauce.
But as I always say, there's a pathways towards healthier versions. Follow me!
What is Orange Chicken Sauce Made Of?
When I make my healthy orange chicken glaze, I use vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, orange zest, and crushed red peppers. My kids absolutely love this flavor! Which is a huge plus because it deters them from requesting the unhealthier takeout version. Which, by the way, typically uses ¼ cup sugar and another ¼ cup of brown sugar for the sauce alone. Yep. That's ½ cup of sugar. Pretty much cake for dinner if you ask me!
Do I Use White Or Dark Meat for Orange Chicken?
Most of the time, dark meat - specifically the thigh - is used for orange chicken. But for this recipe I'm using chicken breasts because they are higher in protein, have less fat, and it will keep you full longer!
Healthy Ingredient Swaps
I know everyone has a different definition of healthy. What I may consider clean-eating, might not be the same for you. To help healthy orange chicken accommodate your dietary preferences, here's a quick swap list you may find useful:
- Paleo: As soy sauce isn't one of the Paleo approved foods, try using Coconut Aminos as a substitute. It's made of coconut sap and gives you that signature umami flavor- with a WAY lower sodium content (just 90 mg per tsp). You don't have to worry about switching the thickener because I already use arrowroot starch.
- Keto: Where my Keto people at? If you want to use this recipe but lessen the number of carbs, you can try cutting the recipe sauce in half.
What's A Good Side Dish For Orange Chicken?
There's nothing more satisfying than eating your orange chicken with stir-fry veggies! My personal favorites are broccoli, bell peppers, and red onion, but you can substitute them with any of your go-to veggie sides. Others that pair with Orange Chicken wonderfully include carrots, peas, cauliflower, and even mushrooms.
How Can I Store My Orange Chicken?
Storing your orange chicken is easy as cooking it up! All you have to do is pack your leftovers in an air-tight food container and pop it in the freezer. Just make sure that the dish has already cooled down before you store it, that way you don't get any excess moisture build up.
How Do I Reheat My Orange Chicken?
To reheat your orange chicken, first allow it to thaw (if frozen) for around 2-3 hours. Doing so will allow it to reheat better and closer to it's original form. Then, reheat it in the oven for around 10-12 minutes at 325 degrees. Don't forget to cover it up with foil!
More Healthy Chicken Recipes
- Healthy Oven Roasted Chicken
- Healthy Baked Chicken Parmesan
- 7 Best Marinades For Juicy Chicken
- Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Meal Prep
- Healthy Nashville Hot Chicken
Healthy Orange Chicken
*This post may contain affiliate links for products I use often and highly recommend.
For the Chicken:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb boneless and skinless chicken breast boneless and skinless
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, to coat chicken
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, to coat chicken
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced (for topping)
For the Sauce:
- ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. water, divided
- ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 2 ½ tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- 2 tablespoon coconut sugar
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp arrowroot starch
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds for garnish
- 1 cup brown rice for serving
- In a mixing bowl, combine ½ cup water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, orange zest, coconut sugar, and red pepper flakes, and then set this aside while we prep the chicken.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Dice Chicken into 1-inch cubes, and season with salt and pepper.
- Once the oil is hot, add the chicken in a single layer into the pan, and cook, without moving, for 2 minutes, and then stir and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Then, add minced garlic and minced ginger, and stir-fry until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute.
- Now, add the orange sauce to the pan and allow to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Top chicken with sliced green onions, sesame seeds and serve with brown rice.
This post contains affiliate links for products I use regularly and highly recommend.