Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken is one of our favorite quick meals to pick up but here’s the BEST homemade version! You’ll never doubt what kind of chicken or ingredients are in your take-out or frozen orange chicken when you make it at home. This recipe is easy and delish!
When ordering Chinese take-out, I feel like there are two schools of thought regarding that ridiculously long menu:
1. You have your regular favorite that you order every time, or
2. You’re either adventurous or completely indecisive and always order something different.
I’m of the first school. We have a standing order for our favorite Chinese food place that I could recite in my sleep.
But!! I would love to be more adventurous when ordering.
Take orange chicken, for example. Our favorite Chinese food place offers a dish called House Special Chicken.
It’s described as, “Sliced chicken with mixed vegetable in orange flavor sauce.” Do I assume this is the orange chicken I’d be looking for?
And in all honesty, the orange “flavor” in the description didn’t sound all that appealing to me. Is the dish flavored with actual orange? Or with something like imitation orange extract?
So when I came across this recipe months ago, I was all over it like…white on rice. Ha!
Orange Chicken Sauce
In my opinion, the sauce for orange chicken should be thick, sticky, and bursting with spicy orange flavor. And does this sauce ever deliver on all of those things!
It’s an OUTSTANDING sauce that beautifully coats the chicken pieces, just as I hoped it would.
And let me tell you, it’s WAY WAY better than Trader Joe’s orange chicken or what you can get at your favorite Chinese food restaurant.
There is plenty of natural orange flavor that combines with just the right amount of heat from some cayenne pepper and while I don’t usually eat any rice when we order Chinese, I loved having it with this meal to soak up some of the sauce’s goodness.
Homemade Orange Chicken Ingredients
Here’s the shopping list for this orange chicken recipe. Be sure to keep scrolling to check out the full ingredient list in the recipe card below.
If the list seems a little long, I’m willing to be that you probably already have almost everything you need in your kitchen already. I usually just have to pick up some fresh ginger and a couple of oranges when I want to make this recipe.
- low-sodium chicken broth
- white vinegar
- low-sodium soy sauce
- brown sugar (dark or light)
- fresh garlic
- fresh ginger
- cayenne pepper
- boneless chicken thighs or breasts (or a mix of both)
- cold water
- egg whites
- baking soda
- peanut and canola oil
Kyle and I both flipped out over this take-out fake-out orange chicken! We almost fought over the leftovers!
Given this reaction to this meal, I promise you that it will definitely satisfy any Chinese take-out craving you have. And what’s better than being able to make a restaurant meal at home?
And speaking of cooking restaurant meals at home…
If you’re looking for more ideas for take-out fake-out meals you can cook at home, I have a bunch on the site!
For Indian food meals to cook at home, I’ve got you covered with butter chicken, chicken tikka masala (in the crock pot!), and easy homemade naan or garlic butter naan. The spicy level in both of the chicken dishes can be adjusted to your preferences and they’re both really kid-friendly!
Mexican and Tex-Mex Food
I might lose you if I go down the Mexican take-out route because I have SO many awesome meals on the site. So, I’ll point you to my full Tex-Mex recipes page and highlight a few of our very favorite meals: the best chicken enchiladas ever, Mexican street corn, grilled corn guacamole, and queso fundido with chorizo.
And finally, for Italian take-out, our biggest faves to cook at home are penne alla vodka, 3 cheese rosemary and pepperoni pizza, fettuccine alfredo, and garlic bread spicy meatball parm subs. Some garlic knots on the side would be perfect for any of these meals! We’ve made these recipes more times than I could possibly count!
For the marinade and sauce:
- ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 ½ tsp finely grated orange zest
- 6 tbsp white vinegar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup brown sugar (dark or light)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ lbs boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 8 thin strips orange peel (optional)
For the coating and frying:
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 cup cornstarch
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ cups each peanut and canola oil
- To make the marinade and sauce: Combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well. Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zipper lock plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well. Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer.
- Add the remaining mixture to a saucepan on the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce. Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using.
- To prepare the coating: Place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy. In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend. Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
- To fry the chicken, heat the oil in a 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350˚ F. Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through cooking. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Return the oil to 350˚ F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
- Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces. Serve over rice, if desired.
adapted from Cooking at Home with America's Test Kitchen via Everyday Annie
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Cooking at Home With America's Test Kitchen
Cuisinart Pulp Control Citrus Juicer, Brushed Stainless
Microplane Premium Classic Series Zester Grater, Green
All-Clad 1-quart Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Dishwasher Safe Saucier Pan / Cookware
Lodge 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet
Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen Stainless Steel Spider Strainer with Natural Bamboo Handle, 5-Inch Strainer Basket