Healthy Orange Chicken – We can’t get enough of this lighter take on a takeout favorite! This homemade orange chicken recipe 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 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 about 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!
Why This Healthy Orange Chicken Recipe Is So Great:
IT’S EASY! This healthy orange chicken has 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.
IT’S DELICIOUS. 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.
IT’S HEALTHIER! And, if you’re wondering “is this orange chicken 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: 303 // Fat: 10g // Protein: 27g // 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!
FAQ + Tips For The Best Healthy Orange Chicken:
PALEO ORANGE CHICKEN 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 healthy orange chicken 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 IDEAS – This orange chicken 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.
LOVE LOTS OF SAUCE? READ THIS! 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? This reheats pretty well! I love packing them in meal prep containers with broccoli and rice/cauliflower rice for lunches!
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Originally shared Jan 2018. Updated Feb 2022.