Healthy Orange Chicken – We can’t get enough of this lighter take on a takeout favorite! This orange chicken skips the deep-frying, has more protein AND it’s gluten free and paleo friendly!
Gluten free eating sometimes means doing more from-scratch cooking. It’s things like making your own gravy or seasoning blends or pie crust. It’s figuring out how to make your own crispy chicken tenders instead of the frozen ones, or making gluten free stuffing for Thanksgiving.
Other times, it’s as simple as a few no-fuss swaps. Like using gluten free tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce, certified gluten free oats, or simply buying a bag of brown rice pasta instead of the white flour stuff.
Those quick and easy recipes have become my (gluten free) bread and butter over the last (almost) 5 years. We eat a lot more simple meals than we used to, in large part because it saves time. When we spend more time in the kitchen cooking from scratch, any time savings really feels like it adds up.
This healthy orange chicken is one of those “doesn’t taste gluten free” recipes that doesn’t involve a lot of extra work. It’s on the table in less than 30 minutes (whaaaat!?). It’s easily paleo and can be served on it’s own with a generous side of veggie stir fry or steamed veggies, or can be piled on a bed of rice or cauliflower rice.
Let’s jump in!
It’s got the flavors I love from our old take-out favorites and doesn’t involve a lot of extra work on my part to make it at home. So, basically? It’s a match made in heaven.
The chicken is still crispy (even without deep frying) and the sauce is bright, tangy, and flavorful. It’s good enough to eat by the spoonful! So much so that my husband wants me to double the sauce next time so he can cover his veggies in it too.
And, if you’re wondering “is this really healthier than takeout?” I’ve got a nutrition comparison below. The KIND of calories are much different. My recipe has more protein and lower fat and carbs than the takeout version:
- PANDA EXPRESS: Calories: 380 // Fat: 18g // Protein: 13g // Carbs: 44g
- MY RECIPE: Calories: 306 // Fat: 10g // Protein: 28g // Carbs: 24g
Whether you make this for a quick weeknight dinner or a cozy date night in, this healthy orange chicken is SURE to please!
Notes on Healthy Orange Chicken:
Paleo Notes – I’ve been able to get a good crispy coating using arrowroot (a grain free/paleo-friendly) thickener, but I do find that I REALLY need to keep the pieces of chicken from touching in the pan so they can get a good crispy sear. Arrowroot is also a little more finicky when it comes to thickening sauces. If it boils too long, it can actually lose it’s thinking powers, so as soon as your sauce thickens, be sure to turn off the heat and mix in your chicken. If it’s just not thickening, you can sometimes get away with adding a second round of arrowroot mixed with water. Lastly, you for sure want to use cider vinegar in place of the rice vinegar and coconut aminos in place of the GF Tamari or soy sauce.
Cornstarch vs. Arrowroot – If you read the note above, you’ll know that arrowroot will absolutely work in this recipe, but it will be more finicky to work with. Cornstarch is REALLY reliable and will give you restaurant-quality sauce every time. If you avoid corn products or need a grain-free option, I suggest arrowroot.
Veggies, Beef, and More – This orange sauce is SO GOOD you’ll want to eat it with a spoon. The sauce itself is vegan/vegetarian so if you’re looking for an awesome meatless meal one night, try this over veggie stir-fry. It’s AMAZING! Other (non-vegan) options are to use it over stir-fried beef or shrimp.
Calling all sauce lovers! If you REALLY love extra sauce, you may want to 1.5 or double this sauce recipe so you have plenty leftover for drizzling over your veggies or mixing into your rice/cauli rice. As it’s written, there’s plenty to coat the chicken and some to soak into your rice/cauli rice.
Got Leftovers? They reheat like a dream. I love packing them in meal prep containers with broccoli and rice/cauliflower rice for lunches!
Love this? You might also love…
- Easy Egg Drop Soup (GF, Paleo & Whole30 friendly friendly)
- Chicken Lettuce Wraps (GF, Paleo & Whole30 friendly!)
- Healthy Beef & Broccoli (GF, Paleo & Whole30 friendly)
- Healthy Cashew Chicken (GF, Paleo Friendly)
Healthy Orange Chicken
This recipe is absolutely DELICIOUS! It's gluten free and easily paleo. See the notes for the simple swaps!
**ALSO: Recipe nutrition facts do not account for low sodium tamari/soy sauce. The sodium count is actually less the listed amount**
For the chicken:
- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot)
- 2 Tbsp. low sodium gluten free tamari (or soy sauce/coconut aminos)
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil (or other high-heat oil)
For the sauce:
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
- 1/3 cup orange juice (use best quality)
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar (or cider vinegar)
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp low sodium gluten free tamari (or soy sauce/coconut aminos)
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot)
- 1 Tbsp water
PREPARE THE CHICKEN. In a large zip-top bag or a small bowl, combine chicken, cornstarch and tamari/soy sauce). Stir or mix until chicken is well coated.
Mix up your sauce (see below), then heat avocado oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook chicken in batches, careful not to overcrowd the pan.
Cook chicken 4-5 minutes on one side, then another 3-4 minutes on the second side, or until crisped and cooked through.
Remove cooked chicken to a clean plate and repeat until all chicken is cooked.
MAKE YOUR SAUCE:
In a medium bowl, whisk together garlic, ginger, orange juice, vinegar, syrup, and tamari/soy sauce/aminos.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp cornstarch with 1 Tbsp water. Set cornstarch mixture aside.
When the chicken is done cooking, pour the sauce mixture into your pan.
Add cornstarch mixture.
Whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens.
Turn off heat and stir in cooked chicken to coat with sauce.
FOR PALEO SWAPS:
Use arrowroot in place of cornstarch
Use coconut aminos in place of GF tamari/soy sauce
Use cider vinegar in place of rice vinegar
PALEO NOTES - I've been able to get a good crispy coating using arrowroot (a grain free/paleo-friendly) thickener, but I do find that I REALLY need to keep the pieces of chicken from touching in the pan so they can get a good crispy sear. Arrowroot is also a little more finicky when it comes to thickening sauces. If it boils too long, it can actually lose it's thinking powers, so as soon as your sauce starts to thicken, be sure to take it off the heat and mix in your chicken. If it's just not thickening, you can sometimes get away with adding a second round of arrowroot mixed with water. Lastly, you for sure want to use cider vinegar in place of the rice vinegar and coconut aminos in place of the GF tamari or soy sauce.
CORNSTARCH VS ARROWROOT- If you read the note above, you'll know that arrowroot will absolutely work in this recipe, but it will be more finicky to work with. Cornstarch is REALLY reliable and will give you restaurant-quality sauce every time. If you avoid corn products or need a grain-free option, I suggest arrowroot.
IF NOT GLUTEN FREE/PALEO: You can absolutely use soy sauce. I recommend low-sodium.
|Amount Per Serving||As Served|
|Calories 306kcal Calories from fat 91|
|% Daily Value|
|Total Fat 10g||15%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs:
|Total Fat||Less than||65g|
|Sat Fat||Less than||25g|