Lightened-Up Orange Chicken

A homemade orange chicken made with less oil and sugar that will satisfy those take-out craving. It’s made with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fresh orange juice, and just a touch of sugar for sweetness. Serve it with rice to make it complete.

overehead photo of orange chicken in a bowl with rice

Tender chicken tossed in a citrusy orange sauce piled on rice with red bell peppers and sliced green onions is a bit of a take-out/fake-out that’s a whole lot lighter than the original but with the same bright tangy-sweet flavor, which is the best part, right?

You probably already know that cooking favorite take-out dishes at home means we know exactly what’s in them and, as is the case with this orange chicken, we can also lighten things up a bit…

  • For this recipe, we’re skipping the traditional breading for the chicken.
  • We’re also skipping the heavy-duty frying and cooking the chicken pieces in way less oil.
  • The sauce is made from scratch with fresh-squeezed orange juice and a bit of sugar, but not so much that it ends up cloyingly sweet.

And, as is the case with a lot of take-out favorites, homemade orange chicken really doesn’t take too long to make, so be sure to prep all of the ingredients before you get started cooking – it goes fast and you don’t want to be worried about squeezing an orange while the chicken is cooking. Get everything ready to go at the start and it will be smooth sailing.

The Best Cut of Chicken to Use

I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe because they have more flavor and don’t dry out like boneless skinless chicken breasts tend to do.

That said, feel free to substitute the same amount of boneless, skinless chicken breasts if that’s what you have on hand!

What’s in the Sauce?

  • Cornstarch: I like to lightly coat the chicken before cooking it and I also add some to the sauce so it thickens as it cooks.
  • Oranges: fresh oranges are best for this orange chicken recipe and you will need squeeze three to four to get one cup of juice. I like to use a fine-mesh strainer to catch all the pulp.
  • The sauce also has soy sauce, ginger paste, and rice wine vinegar.
  • There’s a touch of brown sugar in the sauce, too, which is way less than a regular recipe.

I also add some red bell pepper and garnish the final dish with some sliced green onions. Serve this lightened-up orange chicken on some rice and you won’t even miss the take-out.

Happy Cooking,

close-up photo of the final dish

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Orange Chicken

A homemade take-out-style favorite made with less oil and sugar. This orange chicken takes less than 45 minutes and will satisfy those take-out cravings – it’s made with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fresh orange juice, and a touch of sugar for sweetness. Serve it with rice to make it complete.

  • Author: April Anderson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Saute
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (from about 3 oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Cooked white rice, for serving
  • Sliced green onions, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Place the cut up chicken thighs in a large bowl. Add the cornstarch and toss the chicken to coat it evenly with the cornstarch.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger, orange juice, orange zest, and brown sugar. Add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and whisk until it’s dissolved into the mixture.
  3. In a large non-stick pan heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken pieces until they are cooked through, turning once while cooking. Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean plate.
  4. In the same pan, cook the bell pepper until it starts to soften, about two to three minutes. Add the orange sauce and bring it to a boil, stirring frequently. Let the sauce bubble and simmer until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the chicken back to the pan and stir to coat it in the sauce.
  5. Sever with cooked white rice and garnish with sliced green onions.

Notes

I prefer boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe because they have a lot of flavor. That said, if you prefer boneless, skinless chicken breasts you can use them in place of the thighs.

I love the ginger paste you can buy in a tube – so much easier than dealing with fresh ginger. Look for it in the produce section at the grocery store.

I like to use a fine mesh strainer when I squeeze the oranges – it catches all the pulp so it doesn’t end up in the sauce.

Nutrition estimates do not include the rice or garnish.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 339
  • Sugar: 10.4g
  • Sodium: 480.7mg
  • Fat: 14.1g
  • Saturated Fat: 7.4g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 5.1g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 16.9g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 34.6g
  • Cholesterol: 159.8mg

Keywords: orange chicken, healthier orange chicken, chicken with orange sauce

Do you love this recipe? Don’t forget to leave a comment and your recipe star rating!

This post has been updated from the archives. First published in August 2015.

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4 Comments

  1. What a fabulous dish!!! My husband just made this for me (lucky me). It is so easy, so delicious, and so healthy. April, your Orange Chicken is one of your many dishes we are eager to make for our friends. A lot of the preparation can be done ahead of time which gives us more time to spend being with our friends and family. We decided to substitute the rice for monk beans (bean sprouts). This is a good alternative if you don’t eat rice. Also, the boneless chicken thighs were soooo flavorful. Good choice over chicken breasts. Thank you!

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