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Air Fryer Orange Chicken

If you like orange chicken from Panda Express or any other Chinese take-out place, then you're going to LOVE this easy Air Fryer Orange Chicken recipe! You can easily make orange chicken at home once you see how simple it is to make the orange sauce with FRESH orange juice! This orange chicken recipe uses very little oil because it is air fried, which is a huge bonus in my book.

If you're looking for copycat Panda Express recipes or for "fakeaway" recipes, give this a try!

Bowl of orange chicken over rice.
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Panda Express copycat Orange Chicken

We LOVE Panda Express takeout, particularly the orange chicken, so I had to figure out how to make my own! This orange chicken recipe has all the flavor and wonderful stickiness of Panda Express orange chicken sauce, but is made with clean, easy-to-find ingredients. No MSG, preservatives, or sodium overload here!

Related recipe: Easy Bourbon Chicken - another FAVORITE Chinese takeout chicken recipe!

Bowl of orange chicken copycat recipe

Healthy orange chicken recipe

I call this my "healthy" orange chicken recipe because this chicken is AIR FRIED and barely needs any oil to get nice and crispy, thus reducing the calories in this dish. While this chicken does have a flour and cornstarch coating, air frying the chicken definitely makes this a lighter dish compared to pan-frying in oil.

The orange sauce is made with FRESH squeezed orange juice (and orange zest for flavor!) and just a little bit of soy sauce for flavor, without overloading the dish with sodium. 

I am not claiming that this orange chicken is a low-calorie meal, since the sauce does contain a lot of brown sugar to give it that super tasty finger-licking-good sticky quality... But if you're set on having orange chicken that is as good as takeout, then this is one of the healthiest recipes you can choose!

Related recipe: Orange Honey Ginger Garlic Chicken Wings

Orange chicken sauce

As mentioned above, the sauce for this recipe is made by juicing a whole orange and zesting the orange skin. If you don't have a fresh orange on hand, you can use bottled orange juice (about ⅓ cup juice), but the resulting sauce won't be as fresh tasting because you are missing out on all the orange essence from the zest, and because bottled orange juice is not as fresh-tasting as fresh squeezed orange juice.

Zesting an orange is easy and takes just a minute or two—well worth the effort to get a natural orange flavor! I use a microplane zester, and you can use the same zester to grate the garlic as well! No need to wash in between because it's all going into the same pot.

Make sure to zest the orange first, then juice it. You don't want to mess with a slippery juiced orange when using a sharp zester tool. I love this citrus juicer when I need to juice just 1 orange.

The orange sauce is seasoned with soy sauce for flavor, saltiness, and umami. It is also flavored with fresh garlic, a little vinegar for tang, and brown sugar for sweetness, and to create that sticky-sweet sauce that coats crispy chicken beautifully.

The orange sauce is thickened with cornstarch, which also helps the sauce coat the chicken and make an irresistible Chinese takeout fakeout dinner!

Ready to get started?

Related recipe: Slow Cooker Honey Chicken

Ingredients to make Panda Express orange chicken

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 lb chicken breast (2 small/medium breasts), cubed
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional, omit for no spice)
  • ½ tablespoon Morton's Nature's Seasoning (or other seasoned salt, or use a generous pinch of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper each)
  • 2 eggs
  • Oil spray for air frying (use either an oil spray or a refillable oil sprayer)

For the orange sauce:

  • 1 fresh orange, you'll need the juice and zest
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed (you can cut this down to about ¼ or ⅓, but the end result won't be as finger-licking sticky good)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Equipment and supplies:

Related recipe: Air Fryer Chicken Quesadillas

Instructions

For this recipe, you'll start simmering the sauce in a saucepan and then work on the chicken while the sauce cooks.

Step 1: Add all the sauce ingredients to a small saucepan and whisk together until no lumps remain. Heat over medium heat and bring to a slow boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the sauce sticking. Remove from heat after 10 minutes.

Making orange sauce in a pan

Step 2: In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch, paprika, cayenne, and Nature's Seasoning. In another bowl, whisk the two eggs.

Flour and seasonings in a bowl

Step 3: Coat the cubed chicken in the flour, and then dredge in egg. (Tip: use tongs to do this so your hands don't get all doughy!)

Collage of pictures showing how to coat cubed chicken in flour then eggs

Step 4: Return the chicken back to flour and fully coat.

Dredging chicken pieces in seasoned flour before air frying

Step 5: Place the flour-coated chicken in an air fryer basket (spray the basket with oil, if your manufacturer's instructions call for it). Spray the chicken lightly with oil.

Chicken pieces in an air fryer

Step 6: Preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, if your air fryer requires preheating. Air fry at 375F for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through to 165F and the outside is golden and crispy. Keep an eye on the chicken because every air fryer cooks at a different rate.

Step 7: Toss the cooked chicken in the sauce, either right in the saucepan or in a heat-safe bowl. Serve hot over rice, or with your favorite sides.

Homemade orange chicken over rice.

Related recipe: Air Fryer Tandoori Chicken

What to serve with orange chicken

You can't not have rice with orange chicken, right?? We always make rice in the Instant Pot while cooking the chicken.

But I always need a veggie on the side as well. For a flavorful dish like orange chicken, I keep it simple. A little steamed or roasted broccoli, a little bit of sautéed or roasted zucchini, or steamed or boiled sugar snap peas. You'll have a little bit of extra sauce with this recipe to spoon over the veggies and give them that same amazing flavor that the chicken has.

Another option is to toss the lightly steamed veggies in extra sauce, kind of like I do with the broccoli in this hot honey shrimp recipe!

If you enjoyed this recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

Homemade orange chicken over rice.
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Air Fryer Orange Chicken

This copycat Orange Chicken recipe is a healthier version compared to Chinese takeout because it is air fried! The orange sauce simmers on the stove while you air fry the chicken, making this a super quick weeknight dinner recipe!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Chinese
Diet: Kosher
Servings: 4
Author: Kate

Ingredients

For the chicken:
  • 1 lb chicken breast (2 small/medium breasts), cubed
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional, omit for no spice)
  • ½ tablespoon Morton's Nature's Seasoning (or other seasoned salt, or use a generous pinch of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper each)
  • 2 eggs
For the orange sauce:
  • 1 fresh orange zested and juiced (you need both the zest and the juice)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar packed (you can cut this down to about ¼ or ⅓, but the end result won't be as finger-licking sticky good)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Instructions

  • Add all the sauce ingredients to a small saucepan and whisk together until no lumps remain. Heat over medium heat and bring to a slow boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the sauce sticking. Remove from heat after 10 minutes.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch, paprika, cayenne, and Nature's Seasoning. In another bowl, whisk the two eggs.
  • Coat the cubed chicken in the flour mixture, and then dredge in egg. (Tip: use tongs to do this so your hands don't get all doughy!)
    Collage of pictures showing how to coat cubed chicken in flour then eggs
  • Return the chicken back to flour and fully coat.
    Dredging chicken pieces in seasoned flour before air frying
  • Place the flour-coated chicken in an air fryer basket (spray the basket with oil, if your manufacturer's instructions call for it). Spray the chicken lightly with oil.
    Chicken pieces in an air fryer
  • Preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, if your air fryer requires preheating. Air fry at 375F for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through to 165F and the outside is golden and crispy. Keep an eye on the chicken because every air fryer cooks at a different rate.
  • Toss the cooked chicken in the sauce, either right in the saucepan or in a heat-safe bowl. Serve hot over rice, or with your favorite sides. Garnish with diced scallions and/or sesame seeds, if you like.

Notes

Tip: zest the orange, the cut it in half to juice it. You can use the same zester to grate the garlic, no need to wash the zester because it is all going in the same saucepan.

Nutrition

Calories: 384kcal (19%) | Carbohydrates: 56g (19%) | Protein: 29g (58%) | Fat: 4g (6%) | Saturated Fat: 1g (5%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 113mg (38%) | Sodium: 911mg (38%) | Potassium: 591mg (17%) | Fiber: 2g (8%) | Sugar: 30g (33%) | Vitamin A: 342IU (7%) | Vitamin C: 19mg (23%) | Calcium: 57mg (6%) | Iron: 2mg (11%)

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