Orange Chicken has been my Chinese food order for as long as I can remember. The tangy orange sauce makes it a delicious meal. One if the issues is that I add in an egg roll and wonton soup, eating three days worth of calories or more in a single meal. This brings the question: Is Orange Chicken Healthy?
Orange chicken can be an unhealthy meal depending on how it’s made. Traditional orange chicken uses large amounts of brown sugar and is deep fried in vegetable oil or canola oil – packing on the calories and making it a high fat meal.
Fear not! We can still lose weight, hit our fitness goals and enjoy our favorite Chinese takeout at home with this healthy orange chicken recipe!
CALORIES / NUTRITION FOR HEALTHIER ORANGE CHICKEN
You’ll be packing on the calories whether you get classic orange chicken from mom and pop Chinese restaurants or from a national fast food chain like panda express. Since it’s nearly impossible to calculate the calories or macros from a mom and pop restaurant I’ll be using the nutrition information from panda express for comparison:
Panda Express Orange Chicken Calories / Macros: 5.7 oz serving is 490 calories, 23 g fat, 51 g carbs and only 25 g protein.
This doesn’t sound too bad right? until you get the tiny container of chicken from panda express and go: That’s it? I could easily eat two of these (and if your ordering from a small local restaurant you are probably eating at least two servings of the panda express calories).
Our healthy homemade orange chicken has much better volume, calories, and macros.
For the Orange Chicken: 279 Calories, 2 grams of fat, 31 grams of carbs and 35.5 grams of protein.
We’ve increased the volume, cut the calories by over 150 and nearly doubled the protein! This means you can easily serve this over white rice or brown rice for an extremely filling meal that will help you with your weight loss journey.
Because I’m not a low carb queen I’ll eat this with 100g of cooked white rice for a total of: 409 calories, 38g protein, 59g carbs and 2.5g fat. Still way under the takeout orange chicken calories and you get rice! (their calories don’t include rice – rude, right?)
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO MAKE THIS EASY ORANGE CHICKEN RECIPE
Boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into cubes) – You can swap this out for chicken thighs but because this is one of the main ingredients the calories will be a little higher, just make sure to trim any excess fat.
Salt & Black pepper
Paprika – I prefer to use regular paprika in this recipe, I find smoked paprika adds a bit too much spice and overpowers the classic orange flavor.
Corn Starch – don’t overdo the corn starch and don’t exceed medium heat when cooking the chicken. It will burn on high heat and you’ll have black chicken stuck to your pan while you curse me. If you don’t have corn starch you can use tapioca starch or arrowroot starch as an alternative.
STICKY ORANGE SAUCE INGREDIENTS
Orange Juice -Make sure you use normal orange juice, no low sugar, no trop 50, regular old orange juice. Since were not using sugar in this recipe we need the sweetness to come partly from the orange juice. If you use any form of reduced sugar / low calorie orange juice this will turn out bitter.
Low Sodium Soy Sauce – regular soy sauce is okay too! If you don’t want the extra sodium from soy sauce you can use coconut aminos instead just note it will add extra sweetness to the dish.
Honey – Instead of brown sugar or granulated sugar we’re going to get our sweetness from honey and the orange juice, it adds moisture to the sauce and sweetness without significantly upping the calories.
Corn Starch – This is going to help bind everything together and thicken up the healthy orange chicken sauce
Water – You’ll mix this with the corn starch before adding it to the sauce. Mix corn starch and water before adding otherwise the cornstarch will clump.
Red Pepper Flakes – If you don’t have these you can use chili flakes. In a bind you could also substitute this with paprika but red pepper flakes give this dish a much better flavor profile.
Garlic, Minced – if you don’t have fresh garlic just an equal amount of garlic powder.
Ground Ginger – If you have it use fresh ginger but I’m not going to send you out to buy fresh ginger that you’ll only use in this recipe and then it will rot in your fridge.
Green Onions / Scallion
Optional Serving Ideas:
100g cooked white rice or cauliflower rice per serving
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY ORANGE CHICKEN
Start by cubing chicken pieces – These should be bite sized pieces of chicken breast.
Season chicken with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and corn starch. Mix until the chicken is fully coated.
Cook chicken in a large skillet for 4-5 minutes on each side over medium heat. Once cooked remove from heat and set aside
In the same pan add in orange juice, minced garlic, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and honey. stir together, let lightly boil then reduce heat.
Mix corn starch with water then add into the pan, stir and let it thicken (2-3 minutes).
Add in cooked chicken and mix until chicken is fully coated in the orange sauce.
Optionally top with sesame seeds and green onions to serve!
Orange Chicken is traditionally coated in batter and deep fried. This increases fat content and increases the caloric density of the dish. In this recipe I stir fry the orange chicken which cuts out all of the calories from oil allowing you to retain the orange chicken flavor you know and love.
Orange chicken is a yummy dish with sweet and tangy flavors, plus a little bit of spice. The chicken is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The sauce has a tasty orange flavor mixed with a bit of saltiness, making it super enjoyable to eat.
A 5.7 ounce serving of orange chicken is 490 calories, with 25 grams of protein, 23 grams of fat and 51 g of carbs if ordered from a popular fast food chain. If ordering from a chinese restaurant the calories can be over 1600 per serving. Following the recipe and portions below this homemade version is only 279 calories per serving.
Orange chicken pairs well with sides such as steamed or fried rice, stir-fried noodles, and a variety of veggies like broccoli or bell peppers. Including egg rolls, spring rolls, or a light soup adds variety, while a fresh green salad offers a crisp contrast to the dish’s bold flavors. Mix and match to create a delicious and balanced meal.
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Low Calorie / High Protein Heathy Orange ChickenCourse: DinnerCuisine: American, ChineseDifficulty: Easy
Making this healthy orange chicken recipe will curb your delivery cravings for a fraction of the calories – making this a super filling, healthy meal.
- CHICKEN INGREDIENTS
10.5 oz chicken breasts (cut into cubes) (300g)
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Paprika
2.5 tbsp Corn Starch (20g)
- STICKY ORANGE SAUCE INGREDIENTS
5 fl oz Orange Juice (150g)
1.5 tbsp Low Sodium Soy Sauce (25g)
2 tsp Honey (15g)
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
2 tsp Fresh Garlic, Minced
1 tbsp Ground Ginger (8g)
2 tsp Corn Starch (5g)
2 tbsp Water (30g)
- Cube chicken into bite sized pieces.
- Season chicken with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and corn starch. Mix until the chicken is fully coated.
- Cook chicken in a large skillet for 4-5 minutes on each side over medium heat. Once cooked remove from heat and set aside.
- In the same pan add in orange juice, minced garlic, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and honey. Stir together, let lightly boil then reduce heat.
- Mix corn starch with water then add into the pan, stir and let it thicken (2-3 minutes).
- Add in cooked chicken and mix until chicken is fully coated in the orange sauce.
- Optionally top with sesame seeds and green onions as garnish. Serve over 120g cooked rice.
- Don’t put the pan heat too high when cooking the chicken, Shoot for medium heat.
LOVE THIS RECIPE?
If you loved this recipe I’m certain you’ll fall in love with some of my other Asian-inspired recipes, like this Quick Easy Honey Garlic Shrimp Stir Fry Recipe that my family made every single night for two weeks straight or this Teriyaki Chicken Meal Prep – Only 398 Calories that reminds me of mall chicken I used to get every weekend as a teenager! (obviously in the form of free samples).