Air Fryer Orange Chicken

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Air fryer orange chicken is better than 🥡 Chinese takeout. It’s a restaurant-style dish with the perfect taste and texture. Crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside, it’s coated in a delicious sweet/savory orange sauce. Enjoy this tasty entrée for lunch or dinner.

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Air fryer orange chicken served in a bowl with rice.

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🧑🏼‍🍳 Why We Love Air Fryer Orange Chicken

  • It’s a healthy feel-good meal. Because it’s cooked in an air fryer, there’s no pan frying in oil. And clean-up is easy.
  • This 30-minute recipe is simple to make. It cooks faster than a pot of rice. For a complete takeout meal in about 35 minutes, start the rice on the stovetop before beginning this recipe.
  • You can prep this main dish in advance. Assemble the orange sauce. Bread and cook the chicken. Transfer them to separate airtight containers and refrigerate. When ready to enjoy, warm the sauce and chicken separately. Add them to a bowl and toss to combine.
  • It tastes just like Chinese takeout orange chicken. It has that sweet tangy flavor and delightful crisp texture you’ve come to love at places like Panda Express, or the Chinese takeout counter at the mall.
Air fryer orange chicken being lifted from a bowl with chopsticks.

🛒 Ingredients

🍊For the Orange Sauce

  • Orange Juice: Provides the orange chicken with a fresh orange taste.
  • Orange Zest: For a maximum burst of fresh orange flavor.
  • Soy Sauce: Adds a salty, umami flavor to the sauce. I recommend low-sodium soy sauce, if you have it on hand.
  • Light Brown Sugar: Adds a bit of sweetness to the sauce.
  • Rice Vinegar: The acidity of this ingredient enhances the natural acidity of the orange juice and balances out the sweetness of the brown sugar.
  • Grated Ginger: It has a warm, fiery taste with a kick of heat. A classic addition to orange sauce.
  • Grated Garlic: It has a bold rustic taste with a hint of nutty flavor.
  • Cornstarch: We use it to create a slurry to thicken the orange sauce.
  • Water: Provides the liquid needed to create a slurry for thickening.
  • Sesame Oil (optional): While this ingredient can add a rich nutty flavor to the orange chicken sauce, using too much sesame oil can overpower the more subtle orange flavor that’s meant to be the star of this dish.
Ingredients for a classic orange sauce.

🐓 For the Mandarin Chicken

  • Chicken Breasts: We prefer boneless skinless breasts for air fryer orange chicken. But chicken thighs will also work.
  • Large Eggs: Help the flour mixture stick to the pieces of chicken to create a crispy breading.
  • All-purpose Flour: An essential ingredient for a crisp, crunchy breading.
  • Cornstarch: Contributes to an extra-crispy coating. Helps prevent gluten development in the all-purpose flour, and helps absorb any excess moisture during cooking.
  • Kosher Salt: Enhances the flavor of the recipe so it doesn’t taste bland.
  • Garlic Powder: Seasons the breading so the chicken tastes delicious.
  • Olive Oil Spray: For air frying. We’ll spritz the the coated pieces of chicken to help them crisp up while cooking.

🥢 For Garnishing

  • Sesame Seeds: A classic garnish for Asian dishes. They add delicious texture – a mild nuttiness and tasty crunch. Feel free to use white seeds, black seeds, or a mix.
  • Green Onion: Adds color and freshness to the air fryer orange chicken.
Ingredients for air fryer orange chicken.

📖 Recipe Steps

🍊For the Orange Sauce

  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine orange juice, orange zest, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, ginger and garlic. Microwave for 2 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is hot.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water. Add the slurry to the orange sauce and stir to combine. Microwave again in 1 minute intervals, stirring between each interval, until the sauce has thickened into a glaze (about 3 to 4 minutes total). If using sesame oil, start by adding 1/2 teaspoon and stir it in. Do a taste test. If desired, add another 1/2 teaspoon. We want to make sure it doesn’t overpower the more subtle orange flavor.
  3. Set the sauce aside to cool completely while you prepare the chicken. 👉🏻 Note: It’s very important to let the sauce cool completely before saucing the crispy chicken. If the sauce is hot, the steam will make the chicken soggy.
Homemade orange sauce in a large, glass microwave-safe bowl.

🐓 For the Mandarin Chicken

RECIPE PREP: Preheat the air fryer to 400ºF for 5 minutes.

  1. In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, salt and garlic powder. Bread the chicken: toss the pieces in the flour mixture until evenly coated. Dip the flour-coated chicken into the beaten eggs. Roll the egg-coated chicken pieces back in the flour mixture. Make sure they’re breaded well on all sides. Shake off any excess coating.
  2. Arrange the chicken in a single layer inside the air fryer basket, leaving a bit of space between each piece. Lightly spray the chicken with olive oil. To prevent overcrowding the basket, you may need to cook the chicken in batches.
  3. Cook the chicken at 400ºF for 6 minutes. Then flip the pieces over. Cook for an additional 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden and crisp, and the internal temperature reaches 165ºF.
  4. Once the sauce has cooled completely, add the crispy cooked chicken to the bowl of cooled orange sauce and toss to combine. Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onion. Serve and enjoy immediately.
How to make air fryer orange chicken recipe, step by step.

👩🏻‍🍳 RecipeFAQ

These are the most commonly-asked questions when making air fryer orange chicken, and the most helpful answers for recipe success.

Is orange chicken an authentic Chinese recipe?

No. It’s actually an American-Chinese takeout dish that’s very popular in the USA. It’s a staple offering at US restaurants like Panda Express.

Should I spray the air fryer basket with non-stick cooking spray?

No. It’s not recommended. Nonstick cooking spray can damage the nonstick coating on the air fryer basket and create a build-up of thick, orange-colored gummy residue that’s very difficult to remove. Use parchment paper to protect your basket and for easy clean-up.

Why dredge chicken in flour before cooking?

It helps seal in moisture to protect the chicken from drying out during high-temperature frying. Dipping dredged chicken into egg (or another liquid) and again into flour (or another dry mixture) creates a crisp, delicious coating with a fabulous texture on the fried chicken.

How to add a bit of heat to orange chicken?

Add some red pepper flakes or a bit of ground cayenne pepper to the flour/cornstarch mixture.

Can I make orange chicken a vegetarian recipe?

If you can eat eggs, then yes – you can make this a vegetarian recipe. Cut a block of extra-firm tofu into cubes and use it to replace the chicken.

How to make gluten-free orange chicken?

For the orange sauce, use gluten-free soy sauce. When breading the chicken, omit the flour. Instead, just use cornmeal, garlic and salt. [But as a precaution, always check the nutrition labels on all ingredients to make sure everything you’re using is gluten free.]

An individual serving of air fryer orange chicken garnished with sesame seeds and green onion.

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Mandarin orange chicken served over rice.

Rate This Recipe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Flavor testers rated this the BEST orange chicken recipe. They enjoyed the sweet/savory flavor of the orange sauce, and the crisp tasty coating on the mandarin chicken. They loved making this classic dish in the air fryer.

If you agree this recipe’s a keeper, give it a 5-star rating in the comments. Then be a recipe hero. Share it with friends. 📌 Pin it to Pinterest.

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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Air fryer orange chicken served in a bowl with rice.

Air Fryer Orange Chicken


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5 from 15 reviews

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Description

Air fryer orange chicken is better than Chinese takeout. Tender chunks of breaded chicken are fried until crisp, then coated in a delicious sweet/savory orange sauce.


Ingredients

Units Scale

🍊 For the Orange Sauce

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)

🐓 For the Mandarin Chicken

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

🥡🥢 For Garnishing

  • Sesame seeds
  • Green onion, sliced

Instructions

🍊 For the Orange Sauce

  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine orange juice, orange zest, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, ginger and garlic. Microwave for 2 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is hot.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water. Add the slurry to the orange sauce and stir to combine. Microwave again in 1 minute intervals, stirring between each interval, until the sauce has thickened into a glaze (about 3 to 4 minutes total).
  3. If using sesame oil, start by adding 1/2 teaspoon and stir it in. Do a taste test. If desired, add another 1/2 teaspoon. We want to make sure it doesn’t overpower the more subtle orange flavor.
  4. Set the sauce aside to cool completely while you prepare the chicken. 👉🏻 Note: It’s very important that the sauce is completely cooled before saucing the crispy chicken. If the sauce is hot, the steam will make the chicken soggy.

🐓 For the Mandarin Chicken

RECIPE PREP: Preheat the air fryer to 400ºF for 5 minutes.

  1. In a shallow bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, salt and garlic powder.
  2. Bread the chicken: toss the pieces in the flour mixture until evenly coated. Dip flour-coated chicken into the beaten eggs. Roll egg-coated chicken pieces back in the flour mixture. Make sure they’re breaded well on all sides. Shake off any excess coating.
  3. Arrange the chicken in a single layer inside the air fryer basket, leaving a bit of space between each piece. Lightly spray the chicken with olive oil. To prevent overcrowding the basket, you may need to cook the chicken in batches.
  4. Cook the chicken at 400ºF for 6 minutes. Then flip the pieces over. Cook for an additional 5 to 6 minutes, or until chicken is golden and crisp, and the internal temperature reaches 165ºF.
  5. Add the crisp cooked chicken to the bowl of cooled orange sauce and toss to combine. Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onion. Serve and enjoy immediately.

Notes

Parchment paper liners: I highly recommend these for air frying. They protect the nonstick surface of your air fryer basket, and make clean-up easier. Use according to package directions.

How to add a bit of heat to orange chicken: Add some red pepper flakes or a bit of ground cayenne pepper to the flour/cornstarch mixture.

About sesame oil: While it can add a rich nutty flavor to the orange chicken sauce, using too much can overpower the more subtle orange flavor that is meant to be the star of this dish. Additionally, some people may avoid or limit sesame oil in their cooking due to dietary restrictions such as nut allergies.

  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 Minutes
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Air Fryer
  • Cuisine: Chinese
Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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17 Comments

  1. Excellent chicken recipe! I’m new to the air fryer life and honestly have no idea what I am doing, but I made this and it turned out great! Very easy and clear steps, I really appreciated that. I think I prefer this over actual take out… is that crazy to say?
    Needless to say I will be making this again






  2. This is the BEST tasting orange chicken recipe. It’s so delicious, and healthier than other pan fried recipes. I loved the coating and the yummy sauce. I served mine with rice and broccoli.