This ground orange chicken recipe is sure to become a family favorite. It’s full of bold flavor thanks to the freshly squeezed orange juice and red pepper flakes. The meat and orange sauce cooks up in one pan in about 20 minutes and is delicious with white or brown rice and sliced cucumbers or this broccoli recipe.
This orange chicken can be served as a low carb dinner as lettuce wraps too. If you’d like to see another lettuce wrap recipe made with ground turkey, check out these Asian Lettuce Wraps.
Table of contents
Why it's awesome
A quick and easy weeknight dinner! You’ll love how easy this dinner is, making it perfect for a weeknight dinner when things are rushed. Maybe you’ve had a long day at work and you’re just not in the mood for a complicated meal. This recipe is your answer to a quick and delicious dinner that requires very little prep and is ready in about 20 minutes.
Full of bold Asian inspired flavor. Do you love dishes that are a little bit sweet, salty and spicy? I know I do. This orange chicken is just that thanks to the orange sauce that’s a mixture of soy sauce, fresh orange juice, and sesame oil.
Budget friendly. I’m always looking for affordable yet delicious meals to serve to my family. This meal might taste like take-out but it’s a fraction of the cost. Rice is a nice way to round out the meal and also help fill everyone up! Add a vegetable the side for healthy balanced dinner.
Key ingredients and substitutions
Ground chicken - this is a versatile meat that can be used in all kinds of recipes. It’s lean and a great source of protein. You can try ground turkey or even ground beef here. Just be sure to cook it all the way through before adding the orange sauce,
Orange - you’ll want to use a fresh orange in order to get the juice and the zest. Use the largest and juiciest one you can find.
Brown sugar - gives the dish that touch of sweetness. You can try white sugar in its place, or even some honey or maple syrup.
Rice vinegar - I use regular rice vinegar, but you can use seasoned rice vinegar, which has some sugar added to it. You can also use distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
Soy sauce - this is a must to make the orange sauce. But you can also try Tamari, which is very similar in taste to soy sauce. Other substitutions like Worcestershire sauce will probably alter the taste quite a bit, so I don’t recommend it for this recipe.
Sesame oil - gives the sauce the nutty flavor that is well associated with Asian cuisine. You can use another oil, but the dish will lack that layer of depth.
Red pepper flakes - just like the ones you sprinkle on top of pizza. If you are heat adverse, you can skip it. If you like more heat, add some chili garlic to the sauce.
Garlic and ginger - fresh garlic and ginger are key to bringing out the best flavor in the sauce.
Cornstarch - used to thicken the sauce. You can use arrowroot or tapioca powder, or flour as a thickener. You can choose not to thicken the sauce as well.
If you’re serving with rice or a vegetable, get that started ahead of time so it’s ready when the orange chicken is finished.
Step 1: Add orange sauce ingredients together in a bowl, stir with a whisk or spoon and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine cornstarch and water. Set aside.
Step 2: Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add some oil or use cooking spray. Cook ground chicken until fully cooked and no longer pink. Season with some salt and pepper.
Step 3: Pour orange sauce over cooked ground chicken, stir to combine and let come to a boil. Slowly pour cornstarch mixture into the pan, stirring constantly so it combines without clumping. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer until thickened - about a minute or two.
Serve with rice, vegetables, or sliced cucumbers.
Tips for making ground orange chicken
Be sure to stir the sauce quickly and well when adding the cornstarch mixture to keep it from forming any clumps.
You may find it easier to remove the browned ground chicken to a plate, then add the orange sauce and cornstarch mixture to the pan. This will let you really stir the sauce well to avoid clumps. Add the meat back into the pan and stir to coat the meat in the sauce.
If you are in a big rush, try using a premade store bought orange sauce. Panda Express makes a version you might like, after all they did invent the recipe! Here's a link to a couple recipes using their sauce.
The orange sauce can be made and used for other dishes or as a dip for grilled meat and veggies. Tastes great with salmon and shrimp. To make the sauce, mix the ingredients together in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Add cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened.
Rice dishes to serve with orange chicken
Store covered in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days. Freeze for up to 3 months in a freezer safe storage container. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Reheat in the microwave or over medium heat in a skillet or saucepan. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, if the mixture is dry, or starts to dry out. You can also add a a couple teaspoons of soy sauce.
It’s made from a delicious combination of fresh orange juice and zest along with umami flavorings like soy sauce, red pepper flakes and sesame oil.
Orange chicken is a little spicy as compared to other American Chinese dishes like sweet and sour chicken. But the spice level can be customized to your personal taste. If you like little to no spice, leave out the red pepper. If you like a lot of spice add more red pepper or a red pepper sauce such as chili garlic sauce, spicy harissa sauce, or sriracha.
Chef Andy Kao is credited with inventing orange chicken in 1987. He was the executive chef for Panda Express.
More Asian Inspired recipes
Ground Orange Chicken
- 1 lb ground chicken
- Rice for serving
- 1 large orange zested and juiced, seeds removed; or ⅓ cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar more for added sweetness
- 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger not ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mix with 1 tablespoon water to make slurry
- Add orange sauce ingredients together in a bowl, stir with a whisk or spoon and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine cornstarch and water. Set aside
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add some oil or use cooking spray. Cook ground chicken until fully cooked and no longer pink. Season with some salt and pepper.
- Pour orange sauce over cooked ground chicken, stir to combine and let come to a boil. Slowly pour cornstarch mixture into the pan, stirring constantly so it combines without clumping. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer until thickened - about a minute or two.
- Be sure to stir the sauce quickly and well when adding the cornstarch mixture to keep it from forming any clumps.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with rice or lettuce leaves.
I was super excited to try this and was somewhat disappointed when I tried it. The flavors were OK but something in mine made it taste really bitter. Also I didn’t see anything in the recipe where the measurements of cornstarch were. I am willing to try again if you have any tips 😊.
Sorry this didn't meet your expectations Erin! Perhaps the orange zest made it bitter? My tips would bet to try less zest and to be sure you're only removing the orange part, not any of the white. Or you can just replace with orange juice- about 1/4 to 1/3 cup. Make a cornstarch slurry with equal parts water and cornstarch- up to one tablespoon depending on how thick you need the sauce to be! Thanks for the feedback--I'll give this one another test and make any changes to the recipe card.
Nice looking meal. I'm assuming that the 1/4 soy sauce is intended to be 1/4 cup of soy sauce.
Yes, thanks for noticing that!