Make Air Fryer Orange Chicken as a healthier weeknight dinner option! No artificial flavors, excess oil, or expensive takeout bill. Have it ready in just 35 minutes and serve it with my Chicken Fried Rice and Chinese Chicken Dumplings.
📋 About the Recipe
- Better than deep-fried takeout in every way! Healthier ingredients, lower in sodium, cheaper, and quicker than ordering delivery.
- An easy air fryer Chinese chicken recipe that will please the whole family. Try my General Tso's Chicken, Air Fryer Almond Chicken, or Sweet and Sour Pineapple Chicken Meatballs too!
- Can be made in both the air fryer and oven.
- Perfect balance of sweet and savory! Tastes just like Chinese take-out!
For the Crispy Air Fryer Chicken
For the Orange Sauce
A few notes about the ingredients:
- Chicken - I use boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 2" cubes. I don't recommend cubing the chicken any smaller than 2" as smaller pieces will be more likely to dry out and over cook in the air fryer.
- Orange juice - It is important to use freshly squeezed orange juice when making homemade orange chicken! It's naturally sweeter and has a fresh taste that you just can't get with a store-bought orange juice. You'll need about 3 to 4 naval oranges to get a cup full of orange juice.
- Orange zest - Boosts the flavor of this orange chicken tremendously! A little goes a long way.
- Cane sugar - Sweetens this homemade orange sauce to taste just like the classic orange chicken you love from Chinese restaurants.
- Soy sauce - In keeping the overall sodium level of this orange chicken down, I use low sodium soy sauce. You can also use a low sodium tamari.
- Unseasoned rice vinegar (rice wine vinegar) - Adds the best tangy, acidic flavor to the sauce. Be sure to use an unseasoned rice vinegar, as seasoned rice vinegars contain several added ingredients like sugar, MSG, salt and more. Use a rice vinegar that only contains rice and water.
- Cornstarch - Essential for making crispy takeout style chicken at home, as well as a rich, thick sauce!
- Fresh ginger - Makes the sauce super fresh tasting, while balancing the sweetness! I recommend finely chopping it as opposed to grating, as grated ginger burns very quickly in the skillet.
- Add the cubed chicken breasts to a large bowl and coat with the cornstarch, onion powder, garlic powder, kosher salt and black pepper.
- Spray the air fryer basket with nonstick spray then add a single layer of coated chicken pieces to the bottom. Spray the tops of the chicken with more non stick spray to help make them crispy, then air fry at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Repeat in batches until all chicken is cooked.
- Prepare the sauce! In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, cane sugar, unseasoned rice vinegar, soy sauce, water, and cornstarch.
- In a large skillet over low heat, pan fry the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes in olive oil for 30 seconds, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
- Increase the heat to medium, pour in the sauce and simmer for 3-5 minutes, until slightly thickened. You know it's ready when the sauce will coat the back of a spoon.
- Once the orange sauce has thickened, add in the crispy air fried chicken pieces and toss to coat. Garnish the orange chicken with sesame seeds and green onion and serve immediately while hot!
⁉️ Substitutions and Alterations
- Boneless chicken thighs can be substituted for the recommended chicken breasts. If using chicken thighs, cut them to about the same size and cook for the same amount of time.
- I do not recommend substituting the cane sugar with any substitute or alternative. Doing so would greatly change the flavor and consistency of the sauce.
- If making this orange chicken for kids, feel free to omit the red pepper flakes and reduce the fresh ginger as needed.
❄️ How To Store
To store: Orange chicken is really best served fresh, but can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Just note that it will not be as crispy as it first was.
Freezing is not recommended as it would make the chicken soggy from the added moisture.
To reheat: Although it won't be as crispy, you can reheat the orange chicken in the microwave until warmed through.
General Tso's chicken and orange chicken are very similar in the sense that both are breaded, fried chicken tossed in a sweet and savory sauce. General Tso's sauce is spicier because it is made primarily with hot red chili paste, whereas orange chicken is mild and sweet from the orange juice and sugar.
Yes! To make orange chicken in the oven, follow the same instructions, bake the chicken on a sheet pan at 400 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes. Just make sure to spray the coated chicken with the nonstick spray to help it turn crispy.
While the chicken is in the oven, prepare the sauce. Once the chicken is done, either pour the sauce on top or place it in a bowl to coat.
To get the best crisp on air fryer chicken, it is important to thoroughly coat in the cornstarch mixture and give the chicken enough space to crisp up in the air fryer.
If the air fryer basket is over crowded, the air will not be able to circulate properly and your chicken will not get nearly as crispy. Make sure to also spray the tops of the chicken in addition to the air fryer basket with non stick spray.
💭 One More Tip
Don't overcrowd the air fryer basket! It may be tempting to overcrowd the basket to get dinner on the table faster, but it is not worth it! Air fryers need enough space to properly circulate the air to crisp the chicken. If it is overcrowded, there will not be enough air circulation and your chicken will likely steam as oppose to crisp!
Cook the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer with ample space between.
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Share your cooking with me! If you make this recipe, I'd love to know! Tag @yourhomemadehealthy on Instagram or leave a comment with a rating and some feedback at the bottom of this page!
Air Fryer Orange Chicken Recipe
For the Air Fryer Chicken
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- nonstick spray
For the Orange Sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoons orange zest (from 1 medium-sized navel orange)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 3 to 4 medium-sized navel oranges)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 garlic cloves)
- ¼ teaspoon minced fresh ginger (about a ½-inch piece)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional, if you don't like spice
- Cube the chicken into 2-inch cubes. Don't cut them too small, as this will cause them to dry out in the air fryer.
- Add cubed chicken to a large mixing bowl. Top with cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Mix together to fully coat all sides of the chicken.
- Spray the air fryer basket or tray with nonstick spray. Add chicken in a single layer. Spray the tops of the chicken with more nonstick spray.
- Air fry at 400 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the outside of the chicken is golden brown and the inside reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Repeat until all of the chicken is cooked.
- Meanwhile, in a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients, besides the olive oil, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Whisk thoroughly until it is smooth and there are no clumps of cornstarch remaining. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly so the garlic and ginger do not burn.
- Pour in the sauce, increase the heat to medium, and simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Add the chicken to the skillet and fully coat it in the thickened sauce.
- Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onions. Serve with a side of white or brown rice.
- Make sure you finely chop both the garlic and ginger. Grating them instead will cause them to stick and burn to the bottom of the skillet.
- Make sure to zest the orange before cutting it and juicing it. This makes it much easier to zest!
- If you’d prefer to make lemon chicken instead, just substitute the orange juice and orange zest for lemon juice and zest.
- To make orange chicken in the oven, follow the same instructions, making sure to spray the tops of the chicken with the nonstick spray. Then, bake the chicken on a sheet pan at 400 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes. While the chicken is in the oven, prepare the sauce. Once the chicken is done, either pour the sauce on top or place it in a bowl to coat.
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