Chinese Orange Chicken (Crispy Chicken without Deep Frying)

This is the only recipe you need to make extra crispy chicken without deep-frying and a scrumptious orange sauce that’s way better than takeout. {gluten-free}

The only recipe you need to create extra crispy chicken without deep-frying and a scrumptious orange sauce that’s way better than takeout. {gluten-free}

Every time you see those FoodPorn-style Chinese takeout pictures that have crispy chicken bites with shiny sauce, you get super excited and decide to challenge yourself to try a new recipe, only to find out it calls for deep-frying in the first sentence.

Don’t you just hate scenarios like this?

I do.

It is true that deep-frying the protein (sometimes even vegetables) is a technique that Chinese restaurants use to create some of your favorite takeout dishes. It works for a restaurant, but not so much for your home kitchen. (Unless you want to spend an hour just to get one dish on the table, and another 30 minutes just to clean up the mess.)

A lot of Chinese takeout recipes read like this:

“Heat 2 cups oil in a wok until 350 F, deep fry…!@#$%. Once finished, remove HOT oil and only leaves 2 tablespoons in the wok.”

It gives most people a giant headache even without stepping into the kitchen!

  1. Who wants to use 4 cups oil in a simple stir fry dish? It’s messy AND expensive.
  2. Who has the time to wait for the oil to heat up to the perfect temperature (it takes more than 15 minutes if you’re using an electric stove) , and spend another 20 minutes to deep fry everything in small batches?
  3. What I’m suppose to deal with the hot oil once I finish the deep frying? Most home cooks might not want to lift a 14-inch wok right from the stove and pour cups of smoking hot oil into a bowl that is 10 times smaller.

I once accidently poured leftover deep-frying oil into a glass bowl (it was the nearest bowl I could grab that was marked heatproof), and half the bowl immediately broke and fell apart. “Luckily” the bottom of the bowl stayed intact so I didn’t need to face 4 cups of hot oil running all over my kitchen counter.

Hot oil mess

After that accident, I was traumatized and decided to develop a recipe for crispy chicken without deep frying.

The only recipe you need to create extra crispy chicken without deep-frying and a scrumptious orange sauce that’s way better than takeout. {gluten-free}

How to create that restaurant-style crispy orange chicken without deep-frying

Now here is the trick to create crispy chicken with a crunchy coating that is like the takeout you order from Chinese restaurants, without making a mess.

  • The Golden ratio: 340 to 450 grams (12-oz. to 1-lbs) meat + 1 tablespoon oil + 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1 large egg + 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • Choose your favorite cut of chicken and cut to 1-inch to 1 and 1/4-inch pieces. The size of chicken pieces matters because you want the surface to turn crispy and have the inside just cooked through at the same time. It doesn’t matter if you use breasts or thighs. I’ve tried both and they all turned out awesome.
  • Mix the chicken with salt and oil, let it marinate for 10 to 15 minutes. You can skip marinating if you’re short on time. Here I use salt instead of soy sauce or any liquid seasoning, which prevents oil splatter during cooking.
  • Beat an egg and mix to coat the chicken. It works as the glue that holds the batter together. Plus, it’s delicious and creates wonderful texture.
  • Add cornstarch. Keep mixing until there is little dry cornstarch left on the bottom of the bowl, and most chicken pieces are covered in a semi-dry coating. It doesn’t matter if the chicken is not coated evenly. The uneven batter creates AMAZING texture.

The only recipe you need to create extra crispy chicken without deep-frying and a scrumptious orange sauce that’s way better than takeout. {gluten-free}

That’s is! Now you’re ready for the pan frying.

  • Heat up just enough oil to coat the pan. I used a 24-inch deep skillet. You can use any large skillet or a dutch oven.
  • Add ALL the chicken and immediately spread them by using a spatula. The chicken pieces will stick together, but it’s fine.
  • If you’re using a nonstick or carbon steel pan, separate the chicken pieces by using a pair of tongs (or a pair of chopsticks). If you’re using another type of pan, the meat might stick at first. Let the chicken cook for 1 minute before moving the pieces, so the meat will detach from the pan easily.
  • Brown both sides of the chicken. If the pan gets too hot and the oil starts to bubble too vibrantly, remove the pan from the stove for a few seconds and turn down to medium low heat.
  • One last step (very important): transfer the chicken to a big plate and give it 2 to 3 minutes to cool down. The coating will get crispier. Remove the hot pan from the stove to cool off a bit, so it won’t burn the sauce and herbs the second you add them into the pan.

Chinese Orange Chicken Cooking Process

The best part of this method is:

  1. NO deep-frying and pouring hot oil required. You can use a thin layer of oil that is just enough to cover the bottom of a frying pan.
  2. You can add the chicken all at once. No need to dip each piece in batter and fry one piece at a time.
  3. The batter is designed in a way that creates a super crispy texture that STAYS crispy after mixing in sauce, and even the chicken turns a bit cold.
  4. The coating sticks well to the chicken, so it won’t fall off and cause a mess in the pan.
  5. The batter causes almost no (or very minimal) oil splatter during cooking. You will not have any oil splatter on your stove by using a pan with a higher edge or a dutch oven. (Yes, you can make the whole dish in a dutch oven!).
  6. Lastly, you only need 5 to 6 minutes to cook a batch of crispy chicken – that is 4 times less than deep-frying.

Once you have tried this method, you won’t need to hunt down another recipe to create crispy chicken!

The only recipe you need to create extra crispy chicken without deep-frying and a scrumptious orange sauce that’s way better than takeout. {gluten-free}

If you like the orange chicken sauce in this recipe, check out this post to see how to make a big batch ahead of time so you can save prep time later.

If you cooked this recipe, leave a comment, rate it, and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see your work! 🙂

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chinese Orange Chicken with Pre-made Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This recipe used the pre-made orange sauce. If you didn't make the sauce, scroll down to see the other recipe below.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 2 to 3
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (430 grams) boneless skinless breast (or 2 thighs), cut to 2-centimeter (1-inch) pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
Stir fry
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil (or grapeseed oil, or vegetable oil)
  • 1 cup homemade orange sauce
  • (Optional) 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine chicken pieces, vegetable oil, and salt in a big bowl. Mix well and let marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add the beaten egg into the bowl with the chicken. Stir to mix well. Add cornstarch. Stir to coat chicken, until it forms an uneven coating with a little dry cornstarch left unattached.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add chicken all at once and spread out into a single layer in the skillet. Separate chicken pieces with a pair of tongs or chopsticks.
  4. Cook without touching the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bottom turns golden. Flip to brown the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer chicken into a big plate and remove the pan from the stove. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Whip the extra oil from the pan by using a few layers of paper towel attached in front a pair of tongs.
  6. Add chicken back to the pan and pour in the sauce. Stir to mix well.
  7. Transfer to a plate and serve hot over steamed rice.

 
5.0 from 2 reviews
Chinese Orange Chicken (Crispy Chicken without Deep Frying)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 2 to 4
Ingredients
Marinade
  • 1 large boneless skinless breast (or 2 thighs), cut to 2 to 2.5-cm (1-inch to 1/4-inch) pieces (*footnote 1)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dried tangerine peel (or orange zest)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar (or distilled white vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce, or tamari for gluten free)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry, or rice wine, or chicken stock)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Stir-fry
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil (or grapeseed oil, or vegetable oil)
  • 3 green onions, sliced (white part for cooking and the green part for garnishing)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • (Optional) 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Instructions
Sauce
  1. While marinating the chicken, prepare the sauce.
  2. Add dried tangerine skin in a small bowl and add hot water to cover. Let soak for about 20 minutes, or until the tangerine skin softens. Drain and finely slice. Transfer 2 tablespoons sliced tangerine skin into a bowl, and save the rest in an airtight container in the fridge for next time. If you do not use dried tangerine skin, grate orange skin to make 2 tablespoons orange zest instead.
  3. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the bowl with the tangerine skin. Mix well.
Prep chicken
  1. Combine chicken pieces, vegetable oil, and salt in a big bowl. Mix well and let marinate for 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Add the beaten egg into the bowl with the chicken. Stir to mix well. Add cornstarch. Stir to coat chicken, until it forms an uneven coating with a little dry cornstarch left unattached.
Cook
  1. Heat oil in a heavy duty skillet until hot, until it just starts to smoke. Add chicken all at once and spread out into a single layer in the skillet. Separate chicken pieces with a pair of tongs or chopsticks.
  2. Cook without touching the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bottom turns golden. Flip to brown the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer chicken into a big plate and remove the pan from the stove. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Place the pan back onto the stove and turn to medium heat. You should still have 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in the pan. Add green onion and garlic. Cook and stir a few times until it releases its fragrance.
  4. Stir the sauce again to dissolve the cornstarch completely. Pour into the pan. Stir and cook until it thickens, when you can draw a line on the bottom with a spatula without the sauce running back immediately.
  5. Add back the chicken pieces. Stir to coat chicken with sauce. Add the rest of the green part of the green onions and garnish with sesame seeds, if you’re using them.
  6. Transfer to a plate and serve hot over steamed rice.
Notes
1. You can use this recipe to cook 340 to 450 grams (12-oz. to 1-lbs) chicken.

 

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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my Austin, Texas kitchen.

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10 thoughts on “Chinese Orange Chicken (Crispy Chicken without Deep Frying)

    1. Maggie Post author

      I’ve never been to malaysia. What is the Chinese food there look like?
      Yes the crispy chicken is one of my favorite parts. It is way less messy and the result is as delicious!

      Reply
  1. JP

    I’m averse to recipes involving deep frying for all the reasons mentioned here. I was delighted to find an alternative that sounds wonderful. I’m definitely making this.

    Reply
  2. Cara

    Dang this looks good. Im not a chicken eater but curious to give it a go with tofu! Your pictures and step by step instructions are so great as well.

    Reply
  3. Jennifer Essad

    Yum – I keep putting off recipes that are deep fried, I’ve got to get over the fear of the mess and heating of the oil. Especially when I’m usually disappointed with take out sweet/sour chicken

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I don’t like deep frying either, especially for a simple stir fry recipe. I hope you like the orange sauce in this recipe 🙂
      Happy cooking and let me know how the dish turns out!

      Reply