Healthier than takeout, just as quick and every bit as delicious, our Air Fryer Orange Chicken is the newest addition to a lineup up of favorite Asian dishes to make at home.
Air Fryer Orange Chicken
With just a few simple ingredients, about 30 minutes of your time and very little cooking experience you can whip up this quintessential Chinese takeout dish as well.
After years of eating Asian takeout from a cardboard container, you may be inclined to assume these dishes are overly complicated to make at home but rest assured more times than not these classics are easy to master yourself, and that includes Orange Chicken.
Unlike the Panda Express version my husband covets this recipe has no deep fryer in sight. Instead of battering the chicken until the exterior is merely a 1/2-inch layer of breading, we gently coat each piece of chicken in a light dusting of egg, cornstarch and flour and pop it in the air fryer. You still get that nice crunch we both crave from the original version but we cut out quite a bit of fat and calories.
The sauce, while slightly sweet is balanced out by acid in the orange juice and a fiery kick of crushed red pepper flakes for an equal amount of savory heat.
Serve with our favorite fried rice or steamed veggies to round it out.
Ingredients in Air Fryer Orange Chicken
Chicken. Whenever I’m going to cut chicken down to bite-sized pieces anyways, I like to pick up chicken tenders. As the name implies they are the most tender cut of the chicken breast so each bite practically melts in your mouth. Economically chicken breasts are more cost effective so feel free to use them as well.
Egg. The egg is essentially the glue for our coating.
Cornstarch + Flour. I like to use a combination of cornstarch and flour for a light crisp exterior. You can swap out one for the other if that’s all you have on hand.
Salt. Always season!
Sesame oil. Instead of using a neutral oil to sauté the garlic, I like to add a little bit of flavor with sesame oil.
Garlic + ginger. I like the combination of the two aromatics here. If you’re not a fan of ginger you can cut back on it.
Orange juice. Any orange juice will work here. We always buy Simply Orange juice for its minimal ingredient list but use your favorite brand.
Soy sauce. An essential salty condiment needed in our Air Fryer Orange Chicken. Use low sodium, regular or tamari.
Mirin. Mirin is a really lovely ingredient used in a lot of Chinese cooking. It’s a rice wine similar to sake but a little bit sweeter. Swap out sherry or sweet marsala wine if you can’t find it.
Brown sugar. Even though the orange juice and mirin have sugar in them you need a little bit more to balance out the bitterness in the orange juice. I like to use brown sugar but you could also use white sugar or honey.
Crushed red pepper flakes. Essential to balancing out the sweetness in the orange juice. We go heavy here because we like heat but start out with 1/4 teaspoon and then up it according to your tastebuds.
Chicken stock. You could use water to thin the sauce out but anywhere I can add flavor, I do. Make sure to use low-sodium chicken stock so you can control the amount of salt.
Rice vinegar. Rice vinegar adds a nice bit of tang to the orange chicken sauce. I always have it on hand, but if you don’t have it or don’t want to pick it up you can swap out a white wine vinegar as well.
Cornstarch. This is what will thicken our orange chicken sauce, don’t skip it or you’ll have a watery sauce that doesn’t stick to the crispy chicken.
Let’s make Air Fryer Orange Chicken
Coat the chicken. Start by cutting the chicken into bite-sized pieces. I like about 1 1/2-2-inch bites. Pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on all sides.
In a shallow bowl, whisk the egg with water. Add the flour, cornstarch and salt to a large ziplock bag. Shake to combine.
Working in two batches, add half of the chicken to the egg mixture. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to the ziplock bag. Shake the bag until the chicken is coated.
“Fry” the chicken. To get that crispy exterior we all love about classic orange chicken, you need to do a few things. Make sure your air fryer is preheated. Also we use olive oil spray to coat the bottom of the air fryer and the chicken itself. This helps the coating crisp up and get nice and brown.
After you do that, set the air fryer temp and time and let her go. We like to flip the chicken halfway through to ensure even crispiness on all sides.
Make the sauce. I like to get all my sauce ingredients out before I start so I have easy access to everything.
While the chicken cooks, make the sauce. Start by sweating the garlic and ginger in a little bit of olive oil. Be sure you keep the heat on a lower temp so they don’t burn.
While the garlic and ginger sauté, add the orange juice, soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, red pepper flake, chicken stock, rice vinegar and cornstarch to a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
When the garlic and ginger are fragrant and slightly soft, add the sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until thickened.
Assemble! Add the cooked chicken to the sauce. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with green onion. Serve!
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Don’t skip the olive oil spray! This is essential for getting the chicken crispy.
- Add more or less crushed red pepper flakes depending on your spice tolerance. Remember you can always add more but you can’t take it away.
- Depending on how big or small you cut the chicken, it may take more or less time to cook. Always be sure to check temperature with an instant read thermometer. It’s done when it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other easy Asian Dishes You’ll Love
- Peppered with crispy green beans, a fiery sauce and tender chicken, our Spicy Hunan Chicken is another weeknight favorite.
- There are so many good things in our Kung Pao Shrimp – crunchy peanuts, crispy bell peppers and of course sweet and spicy shrimp.
- This Pork Wonton Soup is basically a cheater version of classic Wonton Soup and SO easy to make. Perfect for busy weeknights.
- 1 1/2 lbs chicken tenders or chicken breast
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg + 2 tbsp water
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp cornstarch, divided
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp minced ginger or ginger paste
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup low sodium chicken stock
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- olive oil spray for cooking
- green onion for garnish
- Air fryer
- Preheat the air fryer for five minutes at 380 degrees. Get a cookie cooling rack out for later.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. I like about 1 1/2-2-inch bites. Pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper.
- In a shallow bowl or dish, whisk the egg with water. Add the flour, cornstarch and salt to a large ziplock bag. Seal shut and shake to combine.
- Working in two batches, add half of the chicken to the egg mixture. Use tongs to coat the chicken in the egg. Use the tongs to pick up the chicken and let any excess egg drip off. Transfer the chicken to the ziplock bag. Shake the bag until the chicken is coated. Repeat with remaining chicken.
- Spray the bottom of the air fryer with olive oil spray. Place half of the chicken in the bottom of the air fryer. Be sure there is some space in between each piece of chicken. Spray the top of the chicken with olive oil spray. There should be no dry flour spots.
- Set the temperature to 380 degrees and the time for 5 minutes. Press start. After five minutes, flip chicken over and spray the other side of the chicken with olive oil spray. Set the temperature for 400 degrees for another 3-4 minutes. (The total amount of time will depend on the size of your chicken pieces.) The chicken is done when the exterior is crisp and the interior is 165 degrees. Transfer chicken to a cookie cooling rack. Repeat process with remaining chicken.
- While the chicken cooks, make the sauce. Gather all your ingredients for the sauce. Add the orange juice, soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, crushed red pepper flake, chicken stock, rice vinegar and cornstarch to a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Heat a large skillet to a medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add the sesame oil. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and ginger. Sweat the garlic and ginger until fragrant and soft, about 1-2 minutes. If either starts to brown, turn the heat down to medium low.
- Whisk in the sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the sauce is thick, about 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn the heat off and set aside until the chicken is done cooking.
- When all of the chicken is cooked, return the skillet to a low heat. Add the chicken. Toss to coat. Serve sprinkled with green onion.