A favorite takeout item, but lightened up. This lightened-up orange chicken recipe features tender chunks of chicken breast pan seared and tossed in a sweet and savory orange sauce, made with fresh squeezed orange juice, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and a bit of sugar. Finished with chopped green onions, this lightened up orange chicken is perfect served alongside rice and a vegetable, like broccoli.
All about orange chicken, and what makes this recipe lightened up
Orange chicken is traditionally an Americanized Chinese dish that features battered and fried chunks of chicken, tossed in an orange and chili infused sauce. Between the sweetness of the sauce and the fried chicken, this dish can typically be very high in calories and fat. So how do I lighten it up?
The sugar content
In place of using packaged orange juice with added sugar, I use fresh squeezed orange juice here, and then add a controlled amount of sugar. Of course, if you are diabetic or are watching your sugar intake, you can use sugar substitutes such as stevia or monkfruit to keep the sugar content down. Since I prefer not to use sugar replacements, I use real sugar here, but just less of it.
Skip the frying
The chicken in this recipe is not battered and deep fried, like the traditional one. Skipping the deep frying does result in a less crispy chicken, but it does use much less oil. Instead of deep frying, I toss the chicken chunks in egg whites and corn starch, and then pan sear the chicken chunks in cooking spray until golden brown.
What you’ll need to make this lightened-up orange chicken
- chicken breast
- egg whites
- I use egg whites to keep the coating light.
- corn starch
- non-stick cooking spray
- fresh oranges, including the zest of one orange
- I use the ginger from the squeeze tube, which is found in the produce section of the grocery store.
- low sodium soy sauce
- Using low sodium soy sauce is a good way to keep the sodium content low in dishes.
- rice wine vinegar
- Make sure to use the unseasoned rice wine vinegar; this is a vinegar that is light in flavor and is used in many Asian-inspired dishes.
- As mentioned above, you can use sugar replacements if you prefer.
How to make lightened-up orange chicken
To make this recipe, start by cutting the chicken breast into bite-sized chunks. Add the egg whites to a bowl, and the corn starch to another bowl (reserving 1 tbsp for later). Toss the chicken chunks into the egg whites, and then into the corn starch. Preheat the frying pan over medium high heat. Add non-stick cooking spray to the pan, and sear the chicken in two batches, for about 5-7 minutes or until golden brown on the outside, and fully cooked on the inside (the internal temperature should be 165F for fully cooked chicken).
Once the first batch of chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan and set aside. Then, repeat the process with the remaining chicken. Remove the second batch of chicken from the pan and set aside.
In the meantime, zest one orange and reserve the zest for later; juice the oranges to yield 1.5 cups of orange juice. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan (except for the corn starch and water). Bring the sauce to a boil, and then reduce to simmer. Return the cooked chicken to the frying pan, and pour the sauce over the chicken. Turn the heat on medium low. In a small bowl, combine the reserved corn starch with 3 tablespoons of water. Pour the cornstarch and water mixture into the pan with the chicken and sauce, and stir to combine. Simmer for a couple of minutes for the sauce to thicken to your liking.
Garnish with chopped scallions.
Lightened-Up Orange Chicken
- frying pan
- 2 lbs chicken breast
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- non-stick cooking spray
- 1.5 cups fresh squeezed orange juice, equivalent to about 5-6 oranges
- zest of one orange
- 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp ginger, fresh or squeeze ginger
- 1 tsp sriracha
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 3 tbsp water
- 2 scallions, chopped
- Chop the chicken into bite-sized chunks.
- Add the egg whites to one bowl, and the corn starch to another bowl.
- Dip the chicken into the egg whites, and then into the corn starch. It is best to work in batches, as the corn starch might become clumpy. Do this step in 2 batches, using 1/4 cup of corn starch each time.
- Preheat a frying pan over medium high heat. Add non-stick spray to coat the pan.
- Working in batches, cook the chicken over medium high heat, adding more cooking spray when needed.
- Cook the chicken chunks until golden brown on the outside, and cooked on the inside (about 5-7 minutes).
- The internal temperature should be 165F when fully cooked.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside, and then repeat the process with the second batch.
- Zest one orange.
- Juice the oranges to yield 1.5 cups of fresh orange juice.
- Add the orange juice to the saucepan, with the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger, minced garlic, sriracha, orange zest and sugar.
- Whisk to combine the ingredients and bring the sauce to a boil.
- Reduce to simmer.
- Add the cooked chicken back to the frying pan, and then add the sauce to the chicken in the pan.
- Put the heat on medium low, and simmer the sauce for 2-3 minutes.
- Combine the 1 tbsp corn starch with 3 tbsp of water to form a slurry.
- Add the slurry to the pan with the chicken and sauce, and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens to your liking.
- Garnish with the chopped scallions.
- 5 WW points
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