Homemade orange chicken. There’s no way it could ever be as good as takeout, right?
Orange chicken is one of those dishes that hubby and I get a craving for every now and then. But, rather than going down the street and eating at Panda Express and loading up on salt, MSG, soybean oil, canola oil, etc., why not make it at home? It is much easier than I once thought and I don’t know if I want to eat takeout orange chicken ever again! Served with steamed rice and veggies, you’ve got a meal that is sure to satisfy! Honestly though, the chicken is delicious on it’s own and I often just snack on it by itself!
A couple notes about this recipe. First, you can use whatever flour you have on hand, but I have found that brown rice flour and sprouted quinoa flour yield the crispiest chicken pieces. The palm shortening is a great fat for frying because it is very stable at high heats and has a neutral flavor that is not transferred to the chicken. Also, if you don’t want to use corn starch, you can use arrowroot, tapioca, etc., but, please note that I have not tried those, so they are merely suggestions. My family tolerates non-GMO corn just fine, so that’s what I prefer to use, but I know some of my readers have to avoid corn.
The key to crispy fried chicken is the process of coating it. You want to do dry > wet > dry. In my recipe’s instructions, that would be corn starch > egg > flour. Also, some people have seemed concerned about the amount of sugar in this recipe. Let’s not forget that a dish like this should be considered a treat and is not one you want to consume regularly. If you want to reduce the sugar, you can reduce the amount of honey. Since we don’t consume high-sugar foods often, I don’t mind eating extra honey for this meal.
Better Than Take Out: Homemade Orange Chicken
1 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1/2 cup mild honey (clover or wildflower is nice)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 1/2 tbsp. gluten free tamari
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. fresh ginger grated or minced (or more, if you like it gingery, like me!)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
pinch of red chili flakes
zest of one orange
zest of one lemon
3 tbsp. GMO-free corn starch, mixed with 2 tbsp. cold chicken stock or cold water
1. In a medium sauce pan, combine all ingredients, except the corn starch and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, while whisking regularly to keep the honey from burning.
2. In a small bowl or cup, mix the corn starch with the chicken stock or water. Mix well until there are no clumps.
3. Slowly pour the corn starch mixture into the orange sauce, while whisking vigorously. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to stir. Once the sauce has reached your desired thickness, you can reduce the heat to low, or turn the burner off. If you leave the burner on, make sure you stir it regularly. I usually turn off the burner and let the sauce stand while I am preparing the chicken. It will stay hot for quite some time! If it has cooled off too much by the time you have your chicken ready, just re-heat over low heat and stir often.
Make Ahead Tip: You can make this sauce in large batches ahead of time and freeze for fast dinners. The key is to prepare the sauce as directed, except do not add the corn starch. Portion and freeze. When you’re ready to prepare it, re-heat and add the corn starch as directed above.
Crispy Fried Chicken
1 pound chicken breasts cut into bite-sized chunks and dried off
4 tbsp. GMO-free corn starch
2 cups flour (your choice – I use sprouted quinoa flour or brown rice flour)
3 pastured eggs beaten well
2 tbps. cultured buttermilk
Palm shortening for frying
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Skin of one orange, most of the white removed, and sliced into small slivers (optional)
1. In a large frying pan, start heating two cups of palm shortening over medium to medium-high heat.
2. Cut your chicken into bite sized peices and dry off.
3. Place the corn starch in a Ziploc bag and add the chicken. Toss the chicken pieces around until they are completely coated. Like I mentioned above, you don’t have to use corn starch. I find that tossing the chicken in corn starch first yields a much crispier breading. If you don’t want to use corn starch, you can substitute whatever flour you want.
4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and buttermilk together.
5. In a separate bowl, mix your flour, sea salt, and pepper together.
6. Remove about 1/3 of the chicken pieces from the Ziploc bag and place them in the egg mixture. Coat each piece of egg and then place in the flour mixture. Coat each piece in the flour.
7. Shake off any excess flour and place chicken in the hot oil, careful not to overcrowd the pan. I usually fry mine in 3 batches to ensure each piece gets crispy and golden.
8. Flip each piece and allow to cook until the outside is golden brown. You may need to adjust your burner, depending on your stove. I sometimes have to lower my burner down to medium from medium-high. The pieces should be pretty small, so they will cook through in just a couple minutes.
9. Remove the chicken from the pan and repeat for the rest of the chicken pieces. If I’m making a really big batch, I’ll keep my cooked chicken on a sheet pan in a warm oven.
10. If you want, when you’re done frying the chicken, you can fry the slivers of orange peel. That is one thing that sometimes sets take out orange chicken apart. You get these crunchy bits of fried orange peel and I really enjoy those somewhat bitter morsels. My husband doesn’t like them, so this is totally an optional step!
11. You’re ready to serve! We like to just add the sauce over our chicken, rice, and veggies. You can toss the chicken in the sauce if you’d like, but it will get soggy rather quickly.