Mandarin Orange Chicken is a quick and easy weeknight Asian inspired dinner. Chicken is stir-fried with a slightly spicy, sweet and savory mandarin orange sauce then sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Instead of ordering takeout from your local Chinese fast food restaurant, try this lighter and healthier version of Orange Chicken.
If you like the deep fried Orange Chicken from the Panda Express fast food restaurant but want something lighter, healthier and easier to make at home, you will enjoy my Mandarin Orange Chicken. There are plenty of Panda Express copycat recipes on the internet but we all know that deep frying chicken is a lot of work and a mess to clean up afterwards. It is also more calorie laden than my quick and easy stir-fry version. I can have this delicious Mandarin Orange Chicken on my table, hot and fresh, much faster than a having a takeout order delivered to my home and so can you.
What makes the chicken special is the savory, sweet orange sauce. Made with orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, vinegar, ginger, garlic and crushed chili that adds it a little spiciness, it’s so flavorful that I suggest that you might want to double the recipe, especially if you are serving the chicken with rice or noodles, as I did.
Mandarin Orange Chicken
Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 2 breasts, sliced thinly into bite size pieces (about a 1/4 lb. a person)
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp. rice wine, white wine or water
Combine chicken, cornstarch and wine in a bowl, stir to coat and marinate for 30 minutes.
- juice of 1 large orange plus 1 Tbsp. orange zest (you can use 1/2 c. store bought juice and eliminate the zest if you wish)
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce (I used low sodium gluten free San-J Tamari Sauce)
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 c. chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar or honey
- 1/4 tsp., more or less, crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 – 3 tsp. grated fresh ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
Pour the orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and broth into a bowl. Add the brown sugar, red pepper flakes, ginger and garlic, mix until the sugar has dissolved. Taste and adjust the seasonings for a balance of sweet, sour and spiciness, to your liking, then set aside.
- 1 Tbsp. peanut or other neutral high-heat cooking oil
- 1 small 8 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
- 2 – 3 green onions (scallions), sliced on an angle
- 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds, garnish
Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat and when hot add the peanut oil. Add chicken in an even layer and quickly cook, stirring until the chicken is golden and almost done, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside. Add the sauce to the pan and cook until it reduces and thickensd. Add the chicken back to the pan and stir-fry until the sauce coats the chicken. Add the mandarin oranges and green onions and cook until just heated through. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.
Stir-frying is a fast cooking method so all the ingredients should be prepped, measured and within reach before you start to cook.
I suggest using thigh meat but if you use chicken breasts, be careful not to overcook.
If your sauce is thin, you can make a slurry of 1 tsp. cornstarch and 2 tsp. water to thicken, if necessary.
If you want a spicer sauce, 1 or 2 tsp. of sweet chili sauce is a good addition.
If sweet tangerines are in season, you can use them instead of using canned mandarin oranges.
I like to serve the chicken with rice or noodles as well as a quick stir-fry of snow peas or broccoli for added color and texture.Notes From The Cook
If you want a healthy but delicious Chinese dinner, homemade is always going to be better so put away that takeout menu from your local Chinese restaurant and give this sweet, savory Mandarin Orange Chicken dish a try. What makes it special is the zesty orange sauce that is flavorful without overpowering the chicken. While my stir-fry chicken recipe is different from the famous orange chicken you may have tried, I believe you and were family will enjoy this richly flavored healthier recipe. It is a quick and easy meal that doesn’t have any artificial flavorings, preservatives or binders that are typically found in most takeout orders.