How to Make Orange Chicken

Updated: Jul. 26, 2023

It's easier than you think to make this takeout-inspired sweet and spicy orange chicken!

What are your favorite Chinese restaurant indulgences? One of the very best is an order of sticky-sweet orange chicken: fried chicken pieces coated in a rich sauce and served over rice. Well, there’s some fantastic news for fans of this dish—it’s easy to whip up at home and tastes even better than take out.

Don’t miss all of our Chinese restaurant favorites that are delicious and homemade.

What Is Orange Chicken?

This staple of sit-down and takeout Chinese restaurant menus has tender pieces of fried chicken that are tossed in a sauce made with fresh orange juice, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes for a little heat. The sauce also has brown sugar which makes it thick and sticky enough to cover every last bite of chicken. Diced scallions and sesame seeds add more flavor, color and crunchy texture to the dish.

It may surprise you to learn that orange chicken is actually not an authentic Chinese dish. The restaurant chain Panda Express takes credit for inventing this entree back in 1987. It’s adapted from another favorite, sticky-sweet Chinese restaurant item—General Tso’s Chicken.

Orange Chicken Recipe

ingredients for Orange Chicken on a white wood tableNancy Mock for Taste of Home

This recipe makes enough to feed about six people, and is ready in roughly 40 minutes once all the ingredients are prepared and gathered.


  • 2 pounds boneless chicken breast, sliced into 1-1/2-in. pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  • 1 cup orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons diced scallions
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (blended with 2 tablespoons cold water)


  • 1/2 cup diced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (white, black or a mixture)


Step 1: Coat the chicken

coating chicken in breadingNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Have the boneless chicken pieces ready to go along with a plate to hold them once they’re coated. Whisk the egg together with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Working in batches, coat the chicken pieces first in the egg mixture and then in the flour mixture. Transfer the coated chicken pieces to the plate.

Step 2: Heat the oil

Pour vegetable oil into a large frying pan or Dutch oven to a depth of 2-3 inches. Heat the oil over medium-high heat; use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and heat the oil to 350°F.

Step 3: Fry the chicken

heating oil on the stove to fry the chickenNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Line a tray or plate with paper towels. Add four to five pieces of chicken to the hot oil and fry them for 4-5 minutes, using tongs or a metal spatula or skimmer to turn the pieces. Once they’re lightly browned on the outside, remove them to the paper towel-lined tray. (Cut into one of the pieces to make sure they’ve cooked through.) Check the temperature of the oil between batches to make sure it stays at 350°.

Continue until all of the chicken is fried; cover them with a kitchen towel and hold them aside.

Step 4: Make the sauce

sauce for orange chickenNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Pour the orange juice, zest, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, lemon juice, diced scallions, minced garlic, sesame oil, grated ginger, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper into a large skillet. Whisk everything together over medium-high heat until the sauce reaches a simmer. Continue simmering for about five minutes, stirring the sauce often. Pour in the cornstarch blended with cold water, and simmer for 2-3 minutes longer until the sauce has thickened.

Step 5: Combine the chicken and sauce

skillet with Orange ChickenNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Add the fried chicken pieces to the sauce, and toss everything together to completely coat the meat. Simmer for 3-4 minutes until the sauce is thick and sticky.

Step 6: Serve

Spoon the hot orange chicken and sauce over white or fried rice in shallow bowls. Garnish each dish with diced scallions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

Editor’s Tip: For a nuttier flavor and some crunch, the sesame seeds can first be briefly toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat, until they’re fragrant and just beginning to brown.

How to Store Orange Chicken

We highly doubt there’ll be any orange chicken left uneaten—it’s just so good. However, if you do have some leftovers, seal them in an airtight container and store in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. The chicken will soak up the sauce and will still be delicious when gently reheated on the stove or in a microwave.

Tips for Making Orange Chicken

How can you tell when the chicken is done?

The easiest way to be sure is to fry a test piece of chicken; when it’s browned on the outside, remove it and cut it in half. There should be no pink left in the middle. Keep your oil at 350°F, checking the temperature between each batch, to ensure that the chicken pieces cook through in the time they take to brown.

Can you make this orange chicken recipe gluten-free?

This orange chicken recipe can easily be made gluten-free. Just substitute a general-purpose, gluten-free flour blend for regular flour in the coating for the chicken. Soy sauce and rice wine vinegar often contain gluten, so look for those specifically labeled as gluten-free.

Can you bake orange chicken instead of frying it?

Yes: once the chicken pieces are coated in the flour-cornstarch mixture, arrange them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush or spray the pieces with a little vegetable oil. Bake them at 375° for 15-20 minutes, flipping them over about halfway through the bake time, until they’re cooked through.

Can you make orange chicken ahead of time?

Orange chicken tastes the best when served immediately after cooking. However, the sauce can be made in advance to help save time making the final dish. Prepare the sauce ingredients, except for the cornstarch and water, and simmer them together as directed. Let the sauce cool, then store it in a sealed dish in the fridge for up to three days. When you’re ready to make the recipe, heat the sauce back up on the stovetop and add in the cornstarch-water mixture to thicken it.