Orange Chicken – Chicken is fried in tempura batter and then tossed in a homemade sticky orange sauce to make for a yummy Chinese dish
As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m taking a little break from sweets and using this month to bring you more savory recipes. Today, I’ve got another great savory dish for you guys. This one comes from my desire to make more Asian foods at home but without needing fancy tools like a wok. In the past, I’ve achieved this by making my Asian Steak Skewers or Wasabi Soy Wings. But today I’m focusing on a Chinese dish that I’ve loved forever – Orange Chicken.
I’ve always wanted to make orange chicken from scratch but none of the recipes I found came close to achieve the same results as takeout. But then I stumbled on this incredible recipe from Jet Tila on the Food Network. I loved that I had most of the ingredients and didn’t need a wok to make it. Everyone tells me a wok is easy to use but it’s still a new appliance for me so I am hesitant to try it. Maybe I’ll take a cooking class with it one day. But until then, I’m gonna stick to what I know.
I took Jet’s recipe and adapted it to make it easier to follow. His recipe doesn’t give much help for frying the tempura chicken so I wanted to make sure to add more detail to that part of the recipe.
Without further ado, check out my adaptation of Orange Chicken!
How to make orange chicken
Orange chicken gets its name from the orange sauce it is tossed in. Therefore, it’s super important to use fresh oranges for this recipe so that orange flavor is strong and bright. You don’t want to use concentrated orange juice or orange extract for this recipe or else the orange flavor won’t taste right.
To make the sauce, you combine all the ingredients and cook them in a sauce pan until the sauce begins to bubble. Then, it cooks for a few more minutes so it can thicken up. I finish off my sauce with fresh orange zest to give the sauce extra orange flavor. The soy sauce and oyster sauce that we use in the sauce are pretty powerful so the orange zest helps bring the orange flavor back to the forefront.
The other component to orange chicken is the chicken. Duh. But not just any chicken – in this recipe, we use tempura chicken. The crispy yet fluffy coating absorbs the sauce so well (and reheats perfectly for leftovers!).
To make tempura chicken, you need to purchase tempura batter. You can make your own but there is not shame in taking the easy route and buying the batter and simply adding water to activate it. With all the ingredients required in the orange sauce, you’ll be happy you did.
Before making the batter, you need to season the chicken with salt & pepper. I like to do this before dipping in the batter to ensure the seasoning is “sealed” inside. Seasoning the chicken after frying is harder because the crispy coating doesn’t hold the seasoning too well.
After the chicken is dipped in the batter, it’s fried to golden perfection.
Assembling the orange chicken
Once the sauce is made and the chicken is fried, it’s time to assemble them both into one marvelous dish. You simply do this by cooking them both over high heat so that the chicken is coated in the sticky sauce. Once the chicken is completely coated, it’s ready for consuming! I like to finish off my chicken with more fresh orange zest to add extra orange color.
Tips & Tricks
- Make sure the oil is hot before adding the chicken. The tempura crust will get oily and soggy if it’s not fried in hot oil. I suggest using a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the hot oil.
- Make sure you are not crowding the pan with too many pieces of chicken at a time. If you crowd the Dutch oven, the oil temperature will drop and cause your chicken to get soggy. So you’ll probably need to fry the chicken in about 3 batches.
- To save time, you can make the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it until you need it. But I don’t recommend making the chicken ahead of time – fried chicken tastes best fresh so it’s nice and crispy.
- I use chicken thighs for this recipe to keep the chicken nice and tender once it’s been fried. If you use chicken breasts, the chicken will be a little drier. You’ve been warned.
For the orange sauce:
- 3 ounces rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ cup oyster sauce
- ½ cup white sugar
- 3 ounces fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1½ teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 drop red food coloring optional
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
For the tempura chicken:
- 1 quart vegetable or canola oil (for frying)
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- salt and pepper
- 2½ cups tempura flour
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ yellow onion cut into a large dice
- 3 green onions sliced
- orange zest (for garnish)
For the orange sauce:
- Whisk rice wine vinegar and cornstarch together to make a slurry. Place into a medium sauce pan. Add oyster sauce, sugar, orange juice, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, paprika, and food coloring. Whisk together. Place over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Once mixture begins to bubble, reduce to medium-low and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add orange zest. Let cool while we make the chicken.
For the tempura chicken:
- Add 1 quart of vegetable oil to a Dutch oven. Heat over medium heat until oil reaches 375 degrees.
- Cut chicken thighs into 1-inch pieces. Pat dry and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place in shallow dish and sprinkle with 1 cup of tempura flour. Toss chicken in flour to cover it completely.
- In a separate medium bowl, add remaining 1½ cups of tempura flour and mix with 1 cup of cold water. The consistency should be similar to pancake batter. Set aside.
- Once the oil is hot enough, shake excess flour off of chicken and dip into batter one at a time. Shake off excess batter and gently lower into hot oil. Repeat with about ⅓ of the chicken pieces. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until chicken turns golden brown. Try to keep the oil between 350 and 375 degrees so that the chicken gets crispy. Remove chicken from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. Let oil temperature rise back up to 375 degrees. Repeat frying process in two more batches or until all the chicken is fried.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet or braising dish. Heat oil over medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add ginger, garlic, and fried chicken pieces. Toss together for 30 seconds. Add diced onion, sliced green onions, and orange sauce. Toss together until chicken is completely coated and sauce is heated through, about 2 minutes.
- Serve immediately with broccoli and steamed rice.
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