Healthy Orange Chicken | Chinese Fake-away Recipe

healthy orange chicken

Presenting a healthy twist on the classic Orange Chicken, this recipe offers a delightful blend of flavour and nutrition. In the UK, the majority of Chinese takeaways are small, family-run businesses, each infusing their dishes with a unique, personal touch. Notably, Orange Chicken is a rare find on UK Chinese takeaway menus, distinguishing it from the more common American scene where this dish has gained fame through widespread availability, particularly at Panda Express—a renowned takeout chain. This recipe not only brings the authentic flavours of Orange Chicken to the UK but is also remarkably easy to make at home, ensuring a hassle-free and delicious culinary experience. To ensure the authenticity of this recipe, it underwent testing by Americans familiar with the iconic Panda Express Orange Chicken, resulting in a cross-cultural culinary collaboration.

What is orange chicken?

Traditionally, orange chicken is a popular Chinese-American dish featuring bite-sized pieces of chicken that are battered, deep-fried, and coated in a flavourful orange sauce. The sauce typically combines ingredients like orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sugar, creating a sweet and savoury glaze. Orange Chicken is known for its crispy texture and vibrant, tangy taste. It has become a staple in many Chinese-American restaurants and fast-food chains, with Panda Express being particularly famous for its version of Orange Chicken.

Why is this orange chicken healthier?

This homemade Orange Chicken recipe offers a healthier alternative to the Panda Express version for several reasons. Firstly, the recipe incorporates a balanced combination of fresh, whole ingredients, ensuring a more nutrient-dense meal compared to the commercially prepared dish. By using lean chicken and a carefully crafted orange sauce that includes natural sweeteners like honey, this recipe reduces the overall sugar and calorie content. Additionally, the absence of deep-frying in this homemade version makes it lower in unhealthy fats while maintaining a satisfying crispy texture through a light coating method. Furthermore, the inclusion of vibrant vegetables such as sugar snap peas, baby corn, and bell peppers not only enhances the nutritional profile but also adds a colorful array of vitamins and minerals. Overall, this homemade Orange Chicken provides a wholesome and delicious option that aligns with a healthier lifestyle when compared to the Panda Express rendition.

Do you have a diet restriction?

This healthy orange chicken recipe is:

  • Dairy Free
  • Nut Free
  • Low Fat
  • Ultra Processed Food Free

Ultra processed food free recipes are recipes that use ingredients where no additives have been used. This will include ingredients that can be made at home to be UPF free such as stock cubes, sauces and seasonings.

Making healthy Orange chicken:

Step 1: Prepare the chicken

Start by dicing up the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Toss them in a mix of flour and Chinese 5 spice. This combo not only creates a light, crispy coating during frying but also infuses the chicken with those aromatic spices. The coating ensures each piece is a perfect balance of crunchy and flavourful. You can also pre prepare your veggies now, I like to cut my peppers into chunks, cut my baby corn in half and leave my sugar snap peas whole…I love watching them inflate and pop in the pan!

healthy orange chicken

Step 2: Mix the orange sauce

Now, let’s talk about that orange sauce. Combining fresh orange juice, zest, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sesame seeds, onion powder, and arrowroot creates a symphony of flavours. The arrowroot, in particular, plays a crucial role—it’s a natural thickener that gives the sauce its delightful consistency. Its really important that the arrow root is added to cold liquids or it will not mix in at all. If you find later that you need a thicker sauce, you must mix any extra arrow root into a paste with cold water or orange juice before adding it to a warm sauce.

Step 3: Fry the chicken

Heat up your pan or wok with a small amount of oil if your diet allows. I have tested this recipe with various amounts of oil to see if I can make this an oil free recipe as most of you probably know I have a rare intolerance to cooking oils and cut them out of my diet wherever possible. Unfortunately here its not quite possible. Use at least a tbsp of oil and turn your chicken chunks carefully to avoid knocking off any of that yummy flour coating. Cooking without oil means you will loose all of your flour coating. If you would rather not use oil then consider making this dish without the flour coating, just add a teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice to the sauce mixture instead. Add in the seasoned flour coated chicken to the wok once warm .When frying the coated chicken, the key is achieving that golden, crispy exterior. This not only adds texture but also ensures the chicken retains its juiciness on the inside. Within 5-10 minutes you should have beautifully golden pieces of chicken. Toss in veggies like sugar snap peas and baby corn, letting them soak up those delicious flavours. Stir-frying the veggies quickly preserves their crunchiness and vibrant colours.

healthy orange chicken

Step 4: Heat the orange sauce

Simmering the sauce is where the magic happens. The arrowroot, when heated, thickens the sauce, transforming it from a milky orange to a darker, clearer shade. Keep stirring to prevent any lumps, and you’ll notice the sesame seeds starting to dance within the sauce. This process ensures a velvety, restaurant-quality consistency. Pro tip: If you want a thicker sauce, adjust the arrowroot to your liking but always mix the arrow root into a cold liquid like water or orange juice first. It will not mix into anything warm. Pour that luscious, thickened sauce over your crispy chicken and veggies. Let them mingle in the pan until the veggies hit that sweet spot of tenderness, absorbing all those flavourful juices. Give it a final gentle toss to ensure each piece is coated evenly before serving with rice and other Chinese sides.

healthy orange chicken

Orange Chicken Variations:

  1. Vegetarian Option:
    • Substitute chicken with firm tofu or tempeh for a meatless version.
    • Toss in a mix of colourful bell peppers, broccoli, and carrot for a vibrant veggie alternative.
  2. Citrus Twist:
    • Add a splash of lime juice to the sauce for an extra citrusy kick.
    • Garnish with fresh cilantro or Thai basil for a burst of herbal flavor.
  3. Spicy Variation:
    • Introduce heat by including red pepper flakes or diced jalapeños to the sauce.
    • For an extra kick, stir in a teaspoon of Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce.
  4. Nutty Crunch:
    • Sprinkle chopped peanuts or cashews over the finished dish for a delightful crunch.
    • Consider using almond flour in the coating mix for a nutty twist.
  5. Protein Play:
    • Swap chicken for shrimp, adjusting the cooking time for a quick-cooking protein.
    • Combine chicken and shrimp for a surf-and-turf extravaganza.
  6. Garlic Infusion:
    • Infuse the sauce with minced garlic for an extra layer of savory goodness.
    • Add roasted garlic cloves to the vegetable mix for a mellow, caramelized flavor.
  7. Low-Sodium Option:
    • Opt for low-sodium soy sauce to reduce overall sodium content.
    • Experiment with coconut aminos as a soy sauce alternative for a different flavor profile.
  8. Gluten-Free Variation:
    • Replace regular flour with rice flour or a gluten-free flour blend in the chicken coating.
    • Use tamari or a gluten-free soy sauce alternative in the sauce.
  9. Sweetener Alternatives:
    • Explore different sweeteners like agave nectar or maple syrup for a unique flavor twist.
    • Adjust sweetness to taste by experimenting with different natural sweeteners.

Feel free to mix and match these variations to create your own signature Wholesome Orange Chicken dish!


Can I make it gluten-free?

Yes, you can! Substitute regular flour with rice or almond flour for a gluten-free option. Use tamari or a gluten-free soy sauce alternative in the sauce.

How do I adjust the spice level?

Tailor the spice to your liking. Add red pepper flakes, diced jalapeños, or a teaspoon of hot sauce for an extra kick. Adjust the spice level according to your taste buds.

How do I store leftovers?

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, use a pan or microwave, adding a splash of water to maintain moisture.

Can I freeze it?

Absolutely! You can freeze both the cooked chicken and sauce separately for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.

What if I have dietary restrictions?

For a vegetarian option, substitute tofu or tempeh for chicken. Adjust soy sauce for a low-sodium version or use a gluten-free alternative. Swap honey with agave nectar for a vegan option.

What other proteins can I use?

Experiment with shrimp or try a combination of chicken and shrimp for a surf-and-turf variation.

Can I add more veggies?

Certainly! Get creative with your veggies. Consider adding broccoli, water chestnuts, or your favorite vegetables for added crunch and flavor.

How can I make it less salty?

Opt for low-sodium soy sauce or tamari to reduce overall sodium content. Adjust soy sauce levels according to your preference.

What sweeteners can I use?

Explore different sweeteners like agave nectar, maple syrup, or honey alternatives for a unique flavor twist. Adjust sweetness to taste.

Is this recipe easy to make?

Absolutely! This Wholesome Orange Chicken recipe is designed for simplicity and ease. Follow the detailed steps in the method section for a stress-free cooking experience.

How do I reheat this dish?

To reheat, use a pan on low heat or microwave with a splash of water to maintain moisture. Ensure the chicken and veggies are evenly heated before serving.

Feel free to explore these FAQs to enhance your cooking experience with this guilt-free Chinese fake-away. Enjoy the simplicity and goodness of Wholesome Orange Chicken!

healthy orange chicken

Latest Posts:

Please consider liking and following my Instagram and Facebook @ HealthyHeartyWholesome. Not only does it help you to stay up to date with all of these cool recipes but it helps support me, which means I can continue to bring you these super yummy healthy recipes for weight loss for FREE!

healthy orange chicken

Healthy Orange Chicken | Chinese Fake-away Recipe

Savour a guilt-free Chinese fake-away with my Healthy Orange Chicken recipe! It's low-calorie, packed with wholesome flavours, and a perfect alternative to takeout.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American, British, Chinese
Servings 4
Calories 350 kcal


  • 600 g chicken
  • 250 ml fresh orange juice
  • Zest from 1/2 a large orange
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup flour + 1 tbsp Chinese 5 spice for coating chicken
  • 150 g sugar snap peas
  • 150 g baby corn
  • 150 g red/orange pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1.5 tbsp arrowroot powder


  • Start by dicing up the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Toss them in a mix of flour and Chinese 5 spice.
  • Dice peppers and cut baby corn and sugar snap peas if desired.
  • Combine fresh orange juice, zest, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sesame seeds, onion powder, and arrowroot in a bowl or jug and mix well.
  • Heat up your pan or wok with a splash of oil (if your diet allows, see above if not). Add the coated chicken and fry for 5-10 minutes until golden. Add the veggies which should take around 5 minutes to cook.
  • Pour your sauce mixture into a small saucepan and heat on low. Stir continuously until the sauce reaches the desired thickness. This should take about 5 minutes. See detailed pictorial above if you need a thicker sauce.
  • Pour that luscious, thickened sauce over your crispy chicken and veggies. Give it a final gentle toss to ensure each piece is coated evenly before serving with rice and other chinese side dishes.

Related Recipes:

1 Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious dish!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating