Chinese Orange Chicken (Crispy Chicken without Deep Frying)

4.95 from 17 votes
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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}

Orange chicken close up

Every time you see those FoodPorn-style Chinese takeout pictures that have crispy chicken bites with shiny sauce, you get excited and decide to try a new recipe.  Then you 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 is a technique that Chinese restaurants use to make your favorite takeout dishes. But it’s not so practical 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…[email protected]#$%. 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).
  3. What I’m suppose to deal with the hot oil once I finish the deep frying?

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.

Why this recipe

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.

Homemade orange chicken

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.

Crispy chicken in pan

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

How to make orange chicken

  • 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.

 cooking process

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

Orange chicken in pan

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.

More delicious Chinese take-out recipes

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! 🙂

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Orange chicken close up

Chinese Orange Chicken (Crispy Chicken without Deep Frying)

4.95 from 17 votes
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}
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: takeout
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs (450 g) boneless skinless breast or thighs , cut to 2 to 2.5-cm (1-inch to 1/4-inch) pieces (*footnote 1)
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch

Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons dried tangerine peel (or orange zest)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce, or tamari for gluten free)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry for gluten free)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 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
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish (Optional)

Instructions

  • 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.

Prep chicken

  • Combine chicken pieces, vegetable oil, and salt in a big bowl. Add the beaten egg. Stir to mix well. Mix well and let marinate for about 15 minutes while preparing other ingredients.

Sauce

  • Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the bowl with the tangerine skin or orange zest. Mix well.

Cook

  • Add cornstarch to the marinated chicken. Stir to coat chicken, until it forms an uneven coating with a little dry cornstarch left unattached.
  • 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.
  • Cook without touching the chicken until the bottom turns golden, about 3 minutes. 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.
  • 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 more oil if the pan is dry. Add green onion and garlic. Cook and stir a few times until it releases its fragrance.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 411kcal, Carbohydrates: 24.2g, Protein: 26.2g, Fat: 22g, Cholesterol: 114mg, Sodium: 710mg, Fiber: 0.5g, Sugar: 7.7g
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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}

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Amy says:

    I love your version of orange chicken. I definitely give this recipe a try!

  2. Michelle @ Vitamin Sunshine says:

    Maggie, yum! I miss Chinese food because I don’t like the style that is made here in Malaysia. I am making this– and love that it isn’t deep fried. The method sounds really quick!

    • Maggie says:

      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!

  3. JP says:

    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.

  4. The-FoodTrotter says:

    It looks stunning and delicious! I need to try this recipe as soon as I can! I’m amazed by your blog 🙂

  5. Cara says:

    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.

  6. Jennifer Essad says:

    5 stars
    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

    • Maggie says:

      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!

  7. Kate says:

    5 stars
    Awesome *_*

  8. Alberta says:

    5 stars
    Found this recipe yesterday and within 2 hours my daughter and I were making it. It was as easy as you said and way tastier than I expected. Absolutely delicious!! We were so anxious to taste and eat it that we forgot to take pictures. Sorry! Next time I will try to get pictures. Now I want to try this for beef, fish, pork and shrimp. I’m not into veggies but will HAVE to try it on a few different ones. My daughters love all veggies. Also need to try chicken wings.
    Thanks Maggie!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Alberta, thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment, and I’m glad to hear the recipe worked for you! No worries about the pictures. I often forgot when I dip into a new dish I cooked 😉
      The sauce will work very well with other meat and seafood as well, so do try them out! When you add the veggies, some onions and peppers will work out great.
      Hope you have a great week ahead 🙂

  9. ez says:

    Yeow, scary result of hot oil to glass container! Thanks for posting such clear details of do’s and don’ts.

    Without, tangerine peels or zest, it still turned out really , really good. So tasty, I loved it. Can’t wait to try with missing ingredient.
    This is the best recipe and instruction for stir-fry I’ve found.

    • Frank says:

      Use pyrex glass containers. Put a piece of silverware in first to take up the heat.

  10. Stuart says:

    Tried this recipe again just cause I love Orange Chicken and the first time I skimped out on the cornstarch. I only use organic cornstarch which seems to be five times the price as conventional. This time I followed the recipe exactly with the proper amount of cornstarch and we were all pleased with the crispy texture of the chicken, Ms. Zhu’s aka Maggie orange sauce, and the shallow fry technique. Gonna try this with thin fish fillets with the leftover orange sauce. This is definitely a five star recipe.

  11. Dan says:

    Love your authentic Sichuan recipes. My wife has an intolerance for corn products, and corn starch. I’ve been using potato starch as a thickener. Will this work in your recipe?

  12. Santos E. Padilla says:

    Excellent recipe. I may stop visiting Chinese restaurants but I will visit Chinese markets more frequently. It is worth the time spent. This will be the first of many recipes tried at my kitchen. I dried the orange peels myself and it made a big difference in taste vs using fresh orange zest (tried it in the past). I love the way you have embedded lints to allow me to better understand fundamental details (e.g. details about wines and what is the purpose of the alcohol).

    You provided with not just a recipe but real instruction. You are a great teacher. I am getting your book and will continue to study your blogs.

  13. Emily says:

    Maggie,

    I made this a while ago and my husband and I loved it. What would you recommend as a good side to go with this dish? Something veggie-heavy. Thanks 🙂

  14. Barbara says:

    A big yum! It’s very easy as you say. and delicious. So many of your recipes are exactly that. Why would anyone ever order out? Cooking at home one controls what ingredients go into one’s food- very important. I have been a huge fan of Cook’s Illustrated for many, many years and now Milk Street but if I want something simple to make and good I turn to your blog! Thanks so much Maggie! Keep the good food coming.

  15. Marlene Myers says:

    Hi! Thank you!! I just read this recipe and hope to try the orange chicken and marinade. I was looking at ingredients of orange chicken Sauce from Panda Express bottle and wondered how to do it by scratch, to make a healthier and cheaper product. I googled a receipt and was lead to your recipe. I’ll let you know how it turns out once I try yours. Once again, Thank you!
    Marlene Myers

  16. Donna says:

    Oh my. This was WONDERFUL!! I made a half batch of the orange sauce because I wasn’t sure I’d use/want the rest. That was a mistake. Next time I will make a full recipe of the sauce and enjoy it’s ease for multiple meals. The crispy chicken technique was an eye opener too. When I first added the cornstarch it just looked like a gluey mess, and I thought emergency takeout was going to be needed. Wrong again. It really did fry up crisp and delicious with a minimum amount of oil. To round out the meal I also used about 1 lb of broccoli, pre-blanched, which I added to the pan after the chicken was cooked, then added the sauce to it all. End result – delicious, crispy, orange chicken and broccoli, with just the right balance of sweet/sour. Thank you for this – I’ll be making this over and over again.

  17. Tiffany Cheng says:

    Thank you for making this recipe, you make many of the deep fried dishes become even healthier like this. Keep up your effort, I support and appreciate your effort.

  18. Mariam says:

    5 stars
    I made this recipe last night and it was truly amazing. My boyfriend was shocked that it tasted like takeout except better!

  19. J says:

    Hi Maggie
    Thank you for the delicious recipe.
    I have one question. Do we use the whole egg or just the egg white? Your YouTube video showed only the egg white used.
    Thanks
    J

    • Maggie says:

      I used the whole egg. The YouTube video actually shows a different recipe that uses a similar method. Sorry for the confusion!

  20. Melanie Sparkes says:

    5 stars
    Excellent recipe. I couldn’t believe how good this tasted and how well it came out 1st time. I had it with a salad and your black sesame dressing!

  21. Susan A says:

    5 stars
    Great recipe. Made this tonight, and added snow peas to make a one-dish meal, with steamed rice. Excellent sauce.
    I really like your method, alternative to deep-frying. Batter is crisp,chicken is moist and tender. Sauce was excellent. (I used a fresh orange, all the zest, and the juice.)
    Thanks for all the great recipes, and images.

  22. Caroline says:

    Maggie,
    Thank you very much for posting this recipe. I made this and my family really enjoyed it. I’m an American and my husband is Chinese. I find Chinese cooking to be very difficult ( frying, long and confusing ingredient lists, often no recipe, etc.) Your website has really helped me understand Chinese cooking. I cannot tell you how appreciative I am! Additionally, I look forward to cooking the other recipes listed on this site.

    24 The LORD bless you and keep you;
    25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
    26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26

  23. Louise Samson says:

    5 stars
    Turned out exactly as described.
    Thank you!

  24. Andrew Yip says:

    5 stars
    I really enjoyed this recipe and I hope a lot of traffic is directed to your site during this time. I actually thought it tasted a little more on the orange side than I’m used to – I did use orange peel. Is the recommended tangerine peel more subtle?

    • Maggie says:

      Yeah the tangerine peel is less pungent a bit more roundup. Fresh orange should work too, but if tastes too much for you, you can halve the grated orange peel next time.

  25. Miss B says:

    What kind of sugar do we use… brown or white? Can’t wait to try this with the no deep frying technique.

    • Maggie says:

      This recipe uses regular white sugar. Happy cooking!

  26. Sierra Constantinides says:

    Your recipes look so good! I would love to try this method for crispy chicken, however my son is allergic to egg. Is there something I can substitute for the egg? Or could it still work without the egg??

  27. CL says:

    Just discovered your website and I’m excited to try this soon! Just wondering, does this recipe also work if you want to cook the chicken in an air fryer?

    • Maggie says:

      The batter is not the dry type so you might need to place the chicken in the air fryer tray (not the basket). I’ve never tried but I think it should work.

  28. Don Dine says:

    4 stars
    Great tasting meal. I added eggplant and zucchini to make a complete meal in one dish. The sauce adds a lovely taste has a pleasant after taste. Mmm
    Mm

  29. Emily says:

    5 stars
    We just made this recipe tonight. The marinating/frying technique is spot on. Don’t skimp on the corn starch. I would decrease the orange zest just a bit next time. Thank you for a delicious way to make orange chicken at home!

  30. Betty says:

    5 stars
    The orange sauce really tasted restaurant-made. Very delicious.

  31. Maggie says:

    5 stars
    Just made this for dinner and it was outstanding. I was a little doubtful that the chicken would turn out as crispy as fried, but it did! I used tangelos from our tangelo tree (zest and juice) and it was better than takeout. I will definitely be making this again 🙂

  32. Frank says:

    5 stars
    Made this last night. This along with the crispy tofu/shrimp dish which I just made, makes four straight days of Maggie recipes. I do wish that people sending in comments would do so AFTER they try recipes, otherwise the comments are not particularly valuable.

  33. Tom B says:

    5 stars
    This was fun to make and delicious! It was fun zesting 2 oranges (I doubled the recipe).
    I ran out of rice wine vinegar so I used half aged sherry vinegar. Chicken came out crispy and my deep cast iron skillet wasn’t coated with cooked batter. Sauce was delicious –added 1 tsp of crushed red pepper for a touch of heat.

    I am a photographer –like seeing the Nikon slung around your neck.

  34. Ana says:

    5 stars
    This recipe was fantastic! Thank you!

  35. Virginia Ferguson says:

    5 stars
    This was fast, easy & delicious! And held up well as left-overs as there are only two of us.

  36. Jennifer says:

    Dear Maggie, thank you so very much for taking the time to share your recipes! I can’t wait to try them. 🙂 Have a super day! Romans 10:9-10; John 3:16-17

  37. Jane Doe says:

    5 stars
    I loved this recipe so much!

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