Sticky and sweet, with extra tender chicken breast and a flavor-punched sauce, this recipe for Air Fryer Orange Chicken is as good as its take-out cousin.
I love to be able to create some of my favorite take-out meals in the comfort of my kitchen. And if I can make it a little healthier, even better.
This recipe for Orange Chicken is a lighter version of the take-out version thanks to the air fryer. Rather than being battered and fried, a light dusting of cornstarch covers the chicken, giving a bit of texture and helping the sauce to really cling to every bit.
Ingredients For Orange Chicken
Chicken – Traditionally, orange chicken is made with chicken breasts, so that’s what we’ll use for this recipe. My little flavor secret is to sprinkle a good amount of salt over the chicken pieces and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. It adds flavor and helps the chicken stay juicy while cooking. The 10 minutes is the perfect amount of time to prep the rest of the ingredients.
Cornstarch – This is the ingredient that is going to create a nice exterior on the chicken, so some is used to lightly coat the chicken before cooking. This coating also helps the sauce stick well to the chicken and really coat it. In addition, you’ll use a bit of cornstarch mixed with orange juice to thicken the orange sauce. It’s using cornstarch as the thickener that gets you that glossy look to the sauce.
Orange Juice – You can use whatever kind of orange juice you have. I find that fresh-squeezed is often sweeter than bottled juice, so you might want to adjust the amount of honey you use accordingly. This is easy to do since you add the honey near the end of making the dish.
Soy Sauce or Tamari– I tend to buy low-sodium tamari rather than soy sauce. Tamari is simply a gluten-free version of soy sauce. I find that the lack of gluten as a filler leads to a fuller flavor.
Honey – here’s where the sticky sweet comes from :)
Seasonings – Garlic powder and ground ginger are the extra flavorings in the sauce. Fresh minced garlic and fresh minced ginger could also be used, but since this is meant to be a quick weeknight kind of dinner, I figured we’d make this part a bit simpler to do. Just get out your measuring spoon and go.
Making Orange Chicken Sauce in the Microwave
I really love that I’ve figured out how to make this sauce in the microwave. I heat it in the same measuring cup that the ingredients are measured into and combined in, so there is really no mess. The trick to microwaving the sauce is to do it in short increments so that the cornstarch doesn’t start clumping up from uneven heating.
What you do is measure two teaspoons of cornstarch into a 1-cup glass measuring cup (or something microwave safe). Then add half of the orange juice and mix it well until the cornstarch is no longer in clumps. The liquid will look cloudy and brownish.
Then you add in the rest of the orange juice, some tamari or soy sauce, and the garlic powder and ground ginger. Give it a stir and then put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Give it a stir and then put it in for another 30 minutes.
At this point the mixture will be quite warm but still cloudy. I like to add the honey now because the liquid is warm enough for the honey to melt in. I fill a tablespoon with honey and then dip it right into the warm mixture and stir so that it comes off the spoon. The repeat twice more. This way the honey is all in the sauce and not stuck to your spoon.
Now the liquid with the honey in it goes back into the microwave 20 seconds at a time. But watch it. If it starts really foaming up on top, it’s done. What you’re looking for is that foaming/boiling action. At that point, take it out and give it a stir. The sauce should be much much thicker than it was, and it should have a nice shine to it and should no longer be cloudy. Fantastic, right?
I give the sauce a taste then and often add a pinch of salt. It somehow brings it all together.
Then once your chicken is cooked, transfer it to a serving plate and add the sauce. Stir to coat it all, and top it with sesame seeds and green onions to serve.
Making Orange Chicken Sauce on the Stove
If trying to decide whether to make the sauce on the stove or in the microwave, here’s what you need to know. On the stove, everything is added at once, which is really just one step of measuring and stirring. So that makes it easier than the microwave version. However, you pretty much need to stand and stir it the whole time it’s cooking. It happens quickly, but you do need to be there. For the microwave, you put the cup into the microwave for short increments that let you check on other things.
Really, I think both are really easy. I typically do it in the microwave mostly because I don’t have to dirty a saucepan. I do the entire sauce in a microwave-safe glass 1-cup measuring cup. On the stove, you need the measuring cup to measure things, and you also need the saucepan.
If you’d like to cook the sauce in a saucepan on the stove, here’s what you do. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Whisk over low heat until the honey is melted in and the sauce is smooth. Increase heat to medium-high and stir until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. The sauce should be thick with that nice gloss to it. See, it’s pretty easy no matter how you cook it.
Enjoy! -Christine xoPrint
The sauce for this orange chicken is made in the microwave. The key is to heat it in small increments so that the cornstarch doesn’t clump up from uneven heating. If you’d like to make it on the stove, simply combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk over low heat until smooth. Then increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute until thick and shiny.
Listen to me briefly explain how this chicken is made, with great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:
- 1 and ½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 and ½ tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
- ½ cup orange juice, divided
- 2 tsp. soy sauce
- ¼ tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. ground ginger
- 3 Tbsp. honey
- 1 tsp. sesame seeds
- ¼ cup chopped green onions
- Place the chicken on a large plate and sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat the chicken. Arrange in a single layer on the plate and allow to sit for 10 minutes, no more and no less.
- Pre-heat air fryer to 4ooF.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cornstarch over the chicken and stir to coat. Then sprinkle another tablespoon of cornstarch over the chicken and stir again.
- Add the chicken to the air fryer basket in a single layer. Cook for 7 minutes. Open the air fryer and take out a piece of chicken and cut it open to make sure it is cooked through. If not, cook for another 2 minutes. It will most definitely be cooked through by then, but you should check again anyhow.
- While the chicken is cooking, measure the remaining 2 teaspoons of cornstarch into a microwave-safe 1 cup measuring cup or bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the orange juice and stir until well-combined. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of orange juice along with the soy sauce, garlic powder, and ground ginger. Stir well.
- Put measuring cup of juice mixture into the microwave to cook for 30 seconds. Stir. Cook for another 30 seconds. Stir again. Measure the honey into the juice mixture, stirring with the measuring spoon after each addition so that all of the honey melts off of the spoon.
- Return juice mixture to the microwave and cook 20 seconds at a time, watching carefully while it cooks and stirring in between each increment, until sauce is really frothing. Take it out of the microwave before it overflows, and stir. Sauce should be thick and shiny.
- Transfer the cooked chicken to a serving dish. Add the hot orange sauce and stir to coat. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and green onion over top.