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Orange Chicken Platter with Rice and broccoli

The Best Orange Chicken Recipe- Gluten Free

This Orange Chicken Recipe is absolutely delicious! The sweet tang of orange, a hint of heat smothering crispy chicken will have you reaching for seconds!

Overhead shot of chinese chicken in orange sauce with rice and broccoli

Chinese cuisine is renowned for its flavors, but it’s often not the best fit for those of us following a gluten-free diet. Yet, who can resist the craving for these delicious dishes? Today, you’re in luck because I adore adapting and refining traditional recipes into gluten-free delights, including my latest creation: Orange Chicken!

I’ve had this Orange Chicken recipe in my culinary repertoire for about seven or eight years. Following a dinner party a few weeks ago—where I served my signature Singapore Noodles, Orange Chicken, and Shiitake with Chives—I realized it was high time to document this beloved recipe. Normally, I keep all my recipes in my head, but after receiving multiple requests for this one, I decided to recreate it, taking notes this time, to ensure every detail was captured.

The Inspiration Behind The Best Orange Chicken Recipe?


If you ever find yourself in the suburbs of Chicago and aren’t following a gluten-free diet, I highly recommend a visit to an amazing spot called Yu’s Mandarin. For those in the know, Yu’s has become something of a hidden gem in Chicago’s dining scene. Despite showing signs of wear from years of loyal patronage, it continues to serve some of the best Chinese cuisine I’ve ever tasted.

I first discovered the secret of Yu’s Mandarin through two high school buddies in the early 2000s—long before the days of Yelp, finding such hidden gems depended solely on word-of-mouth recommendations.

My friends, two Korean brothers, invited me to what they simply called “Yu’s,” a restaurant that, at the time, primarily catered to an Asian clientele. There was an English menu available, but the best dishes were typically reserved for those who could navigate menus in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese. As a good first-time guest, I wisely let the experts handle the ordering. My goodness, I was awestruck by the dishes that came out!

After gorging on incredible dishes like orange chicken, chili fried red snapper, and spicy seafood and pork noodle soup, I couldn’t help but rave to my parents about this culinary treasure. And let me tell you about that orange chicken—it was unlike any I had ever tasted! Just three days later, I found myself guiding my parents through the epicurean delights of Yu’s Mandarin, eager to share the joy of that first unforgettable visit.

Orange Chicken on a platter with rice and broccoli

What Makes This Orange Chicken Uniquely Irresistible?

Simply put, it’s spectacular—enough said! Typically, orange chicken from popular local spots like Red Lantern or Jade Dragon tends to disappoint. The usual culprits? It’s overly sweet, lacks depth of flavor, and features chicken that’s soggy on the outside yet dry inside.

However, my orange chicken recipe, inspired by the exceptional dishes at Yu’s Mandarin, truly stands in a league of its own. Picture chicken that is succulent and moist on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside, balanced with just the right touch of sweetness, and bursting with fresh orange zest, deep caramelization, and a hint of chili.

I’m not one to boast, but the constant queue of friends and family eager for this recipe speaks volumes—it’s that good!

Close up side shot of orange chicken gluten free

The Foundation of This Recipe: Chicken

First and foremost, I always advocate for using high-quality ingredients, particularly when it comes to meat. While organic options are excellent, I’m primarily suggesting that you avoid opting for the cheapest chicken available at your store. If you’ve ever encountered a rubbery chicken breast, it’s likely due to an increased injection of saline solution. Often, on lower-quality chicken packaging, you’ll notice labels like “Up to X% Salt Water Solution.” The higher this percentage, the more water the chicken contains, which means you’re essentially paying for water at the chicken’s per-pound price. Often, I’ll buy Perdue Farms (even though it does have anywhere between 1 and 3% retained water, depending upon the product). Or I’ll splurge on a more sustainable and animal conscious brand like Springer Mountain Farms from Baldwin, GA – the chicken just tastes better. Lidl also offers a small selection of organic meats for more modest prices.

For this Orange Chicken recipe, I highly recommend using boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Although chicken breasts are an alternative, thighs offer more flavor and juiciness. I’ve cooked with both, and while the images you see in this post feature chicken breasts, trust me—thighs are superior. Additionally, having irregular, more abstract pieces of chicken in your dish can be more visually appealing than uniform cubes.

Fried Chicken in Potato Starch and Rice Flour

The Second Foundation of This Recipe: The Coating

This step is straightforward: Once your chicken is cut into bite-sized pieces, place it in a gallon zip-lock bag. Add a mix of rice flour and/or potato starch, along with some salt. Seal the bag and give it a good shake—really shake that chicken!

When it comes to rice flour, it’s important to choose the right type because the texture varies significantly. Opt for a fine-ground rice flour that isn’t grainy. I recommend using either sweet rice flour or brown rice flour; I haven’t used white rice flour myself. However, for the crispiest results, potato starch is your best bet.

Interestingly, while we Americans typically fry our chicken using wheat flour, many parts of Asia prefer rice flour or potato starch, which results in much crispier chicken. It’s curious why more of us haven’t switched to these alternatives. In fact, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street recently highlighted the use of potato starch for achieving crispier chicken in its recipe for Crispy, Glazed Vietnamese Chicken Wings. Why not give it a try and see the difference for yourself?

Frying Your Orange Chicken

Frying chicken can be a bit messy, but there are ways to minimize the chaos. Here’s how to keep things under control:

First, before you even slice your chicken, pat it dry with some paper towels. Removing excess moisture is crucial as it can lead to unnecessary and intense oil splatters. I learned this the hard way—once, while cooking on my grill’s side burner, it turned into an oily battleground with splatters everywhere!

Second, let your chicken warm up to near room temperature before frying. I believe that room-temperature chicken releases moisture more effectively than cooler chicken, though I’m not entirely sure of the science behind this. If I’m off the mark here, feel free to correct me!

Third, always use a high smoke point oil such as peanut, avocado, or canola oil. Ensure that you have about a half-inch depth of oil in your frying pan. I’ve found that shallower oil not only increases the cooking time needed for the chicken to fry evenly but also exacerbates oil splattering.

While some oil splatter is inevitable when making this orange chicken, don’t let it deter you. If you have an outdoor area, consider using an camping burner or the side burner on a grill. Additionally, to further reduce splatter, consider using a mesh splatter screen, which you can find on Amazon. These screens are incredibly helpful in keeping your kitchen cleaner!

Fried Chicken marinating in orange sauce

The Orange Sauce

Making the sauce for this orange chicken is surprisingly easy and much less messy than you might expect. Ready to get started? Grab a small to medium-sized saucepan, toss all the sauce ingredients into it, and bring everything to a slow simmer. Let it bubble gently for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The secret to this sauce, I believe, lies in the generous use of orange zest, brown sugar, mirin, and dried peppers. This recipe uses both white and brown sugars, but it’s the brown sugar that deepens the flavor beyond mere sweetness. As for the dried peppers, I prefer using either Mulato, Ancho, or Pasilla peppers for their flavor profile and the mild heat they offer. More traditional options might include dried Szechuan peppers, although these can be harder to find.

When tasted alone, the sauce might seem a bit spicy—I initially worried that I had overdone it with the peppers, as my sauce definitely had a kick. However, once it’s glazed and sautéed over the chicken, the heat level diminishes significantly.

Don’t forget the orange zest; it’s crucial. Remember, we’re making orange chicken, not sweet and sour chicken! Be generous with the zest to ensure it releases its essential oils during cooking, enhancing the aroma beautifully. You can also use a vegetable peeler to add some large pieces of orange peel for extra flavor—just make sure to avoid the white pith, as it can impart bitterness.

Now, get cooking and let me know if you need any help along the way!

Close up of orange chicken gluten free

Tips and Tricks to Make the Perfect Orange Chicken

  • Prep the Chicken in Advance: Fry the chicken a day before you need it and store it in the refrigerator once it cools. It usually retains its crispiness well, but if it does soften, simply pop it in the air fryer for about 4-5 minutes before sautéing it with the orange sauce. This step can save you valuable time!
  • Make the Sauce Early: You can also prepare the orange sauce up to two days in advance and keep it refrigerated. If you end up with extra sauce, don’t let it go to waste—freeze it in a Ziplock freezer bag for future use!
  • Invest in a Good Zester: For zesting, a Microplane Grater is your best bet. If you haven’t tried a genuine Microplane (not just any off-brand), you’re truly missing out. I’ve been using mine for over five years, and it’s still as good as new.
  • Choose the Right Pan: I recommend using a 10-inch frying pan to minimize the amount of cooking oil needed. While a 12-inch pan can accommodate more chicken, reducing your total frying time, it also requires using at least an extra cup of oil.
  • Minimize Mess: As mentioned earlier, employ a splatter screen while frying to keep oil splatter under control. If you have the option, frying outside on an outdoor burner can greatly simplify your cleanup process.
  • These strategies will help streamline your cooking process, ensuring you get delicious, crispy orange chicken with less fuss and mess.

If You Like This Orange Chicken Recipe, Check Out Some Other Great Recipes!



Orange Chicken Platter with Rice and broccoli

The Best Orange Chicken Recipe- Gluten Free

This orange chicken recipe is ridiculously good and easy to make! After eating this recipe you'll never want any other…
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 783 kcal

Equipment

  • 2 Frying Pan Or Deep Fryer
  • Oil Splatter Screen Optional

Ingredients
 
 

Orange Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp Orange Zest Approx. 2 Oranges
  • ½ Cup Orange Juice
  • ½ Cup Mirin
  • ½ Cup White Sugar
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic Chili Paste
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Garlic
  • 1.5 Tbsp Fresh Ginger Grated
  • 2 Tbsp Avocado Oil Or another neutral oil
  • 2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt 1 tsp if Sea or Table Salt
  • ¼ Cup Dried Chilis-Slivered I use either Mulato, Ancho, Szechuan, or Pasillo Chilis

Fried Chicken Bites

  • 1 Cup Brown Rice Flour or Sweet Rice Flour or Potato Starch
  • 2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt
  • 4 lbs Chicken Thighs- Cut to bite sized pieces
  • High Heat Cooking Oil ¼ inch deep 1 Cup in a 10in frying pan

Accompaniments

  • Jasmine Rice with Black Sesame
  • Al Dente Sauteed Broccoli

Instructions
 

Making The Orange Sauce

  • In a small/medium sized pot, combine all ingredients from the Orange Sauce Recipe. Mix the ingredients and cook over medium heat until you reach a boil. Lower the temperature to a medium simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced to a medium viscosity. (This releases the oils in the orange zest making it more floral along with thickening the sauce.)
  • Set the sauce aside and make the chicken.

Making The Fried Chicken

  • In a large frying pan, preferably on an outside side burner or in a deep fryer add your high heat oil and preheat the oil to approximately 350°F.
  • Clean and cut your chicken into bite sized pieces. Place the chicken in a ziplock bag, pour in the potato starch, and salt, then shake vigorously until all the chicken is lightly coated in the starch and salt.
  • Add the chicken to the frying pan/deep fryer and fry the chicken for approximately 4 minutes on each side (or until golden brown, about 7-8 minutes total).
  • Once the chicken pieces are fried, carefully remove them and place them on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil.
  • Transfer the chicken to a clean frying pan and on medium heat add half the Orange Sauce and saute for 3-4 minutes until the sauce has nicely thickened and coats the chicken.
  • Remove the chicken from the heat and serve with cooked jasmine rice and sides of your choice!
  • Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 783kcalCarbohydrates: 93gProtein: 61gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 287mgSodium: 2268mgPotassium: 1051mgFiber: 4gSugar: 64gVitamin A: 2729IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 72mgIron: 3mg
Keyword Chicken, Chinese, Fried Chicken, Gluten Free, Orange
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Yum! So good!

  2. Stevens Haen

    5 stars
    It’s amazing, I promise! 🙂

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