Lighter Orange Chicken
A lighter orange chicken recipe that is much healthier than the take-out version! The chicken is coated and sautéed – not fried and the sauce has a secret ingredient that makes it just like your favorite Chinese take-out.
Not kidding here, but I literally had this for dinner for almost a week straight.
Why, you ask? Because 1.) I was recipe testing and 2.) I was obsessing. But not necessarily in that order. Asian take-out is my favorite kind of food to make and eat. Because i’m a sucker for chicken and veggies in a sweet spicy glaze. And this lighter orange chicken is just the ticket. I can consume all I want, guilt-free because the chicken is just like the restaurants fried version but it’s NOT FRIED. The sauce is tangy, sweet, and spicy and together this is just a flavor combination that is totally ?.
Like every year, i’ve made a ton of resolutions, and this recipe hits 2 of them right on the head. 1.) eat healthier meals. 2.) eat out less. Luckily for me, this is a simple, light chicken dinner in a refreshing orange sauce that’s easy to make and tastes just like take-out <– so i’ve totally got this not eating out as much thing in the bag.
Friends, can we promise each other that you’ll binge on this healthier orange chicken just as much as I did?
You may recall from an earlier post this year that another one of my resolutions is to eat more veggies. And if that’s something that you’ve got on your list as well, then let me tell you how you can make this lighter orange chicken a complete meal without the rice.
The first and second time I made this, defrosted some peas and carrots and tossed them in during the last 5 minutes of cooking. The peas and carrots pair perfectly with the tangy sweetness of the orange sauce. My favorite local Chinese restaurant always adds them in and I can’t imagine orange chicken without ’em. But I can understand that some of us may not feel the same way about peas and carrots in their orange chicken so I decided to leave them out for picture purposes. Add them in or don’t, totally your call 🙂
Imagine this for a second now, your plate starts with rice – white rice or brown or even quinoa or farro for a healthier tomorrow (sorry totally couldn’t help it). and then add golden brown chicken nuggets all tossed in that sweet and tangy orange sauce. Sauce so good that i’m willing to bet you’ll still be licking your fingers when dinner is over. It’s sticky, tangy, sweet, and zesty. Blow your mind delicious.
Okay, let’s talk about that orange sauce. The sauce is made with only a few but very imperative ingredient – chicken broth, orange zest, orange juice, white vinegar, sugar, minced garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and the most important ingredient (also known as my secret ingredient to amazing orange chicken) orange marmalade. YES! The sweet marmalade adds more orange goodness and kicks up the flavor on this whole thing a few notches. I’ve made it with and without and hands down, orange chicken made with marmalade is the clear winner. To prepare the sauce all you need to do is toss everything in a saucepan and allow the sauce to come to a boil. Add in a tablespoon of cornstarch slurry at the end to thicken it up. I left my gravy a little loose because I love having extra orange chicken sauce on rice but if you like it less saucy, just let it cook for a few extra minutes once you add the slurry.
We’re sautéing the chicken nuggets in 3 tablespoons of oil, this recipe feeds 8 so really that ends up being nothing. Since we’re not frying the chicken nuggets for this recipe, we’re simply coating them with cornstarch and salt in a plastic zip top bag. You could do this in a bowl but the zip top bag makes for easier clean up.
Also, make this right before sitting down to eat. It tastes best when fresh because the chicken is slightly crispy on the outside and just starting to soak up that orange sauce. And AND AND don’t be afraid to double the recipe if you kinda wanna eat this all we long too. Because leftover Chinese food is always good for lunch too.
And just look at that color! FLAVOR EXPLOSION IN –
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons oil
- ¾ cup low sodium chicken broth
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoons EACH: orange zest and low sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ⅓ cup sweet orange marmalade
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon EACH: ginger powder and red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ORANGE SAUCE: Combine all the ingredients for the sauce except the 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat to medium and let reduce for 7 minutes. Mix the 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl, add to the saucepan and stir until thickened, reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove from stove, allow the sauce to cool.
- CHICKEN: Add the cornstarch and salt to a ziplock bag. Zip and shake to combine the two. Add the chicken pieces, seal and continue to shake until the chicken is coated. Drizzle the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the coated chicken using a pair of tongs. Discard any remaining cornstarch. Sauté over medium heat for 7-8 minutes or until the coating browns and the chicken cooks through. Add the sauce to the pan and stir to coat well. If you'd like to add veggies, add them in now and let them heat through. Serve warm with cooked white or brown rice.
- I always like to add defrosted peas and carrots into my orange chicken, but adding veggies is totally your call. Broccoli would be a delicious addition too!
IS THIS A GOOD CHOICE FOR YOU?
*Please note: the nutritional facts calculated are an estimate based on the ingredients i’ve used. If you’d like a more accurate count, please calculate them using the ingredients/brands you’ve used to prepare the recipe. The nutritional facts are for the lighter orange chicken only and for 1/6th of the recipe. *