one dragon restaurant logo

Crispy Orange Chicken – Our Most Popular Dish

Crispy Orange Chicken – Our Most Popular Dish

The History and Origins of Orange Chicken

Orange chicken is one of the most popular Chinese-American dishes. While it originated in China, the dish was popularized in the United States during the 1960s and 70s. Traditionally, orange chicken featured small pieces of chicken that were tossed in a sweet and tangy orange sauce. The sauce is made from orange juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic and other aromatic spices.

As someone who has enjoyed many Chinese takeouts over the years, I wanted to understand more about the history behind one of my favorite dishes. Based on my research, orange chicken emerged in the US during a period when Westernized Chinese food became popular. Immigrant Chinese chefs adapted traditional recipes to suit American tastes that favored sweeter flavors. While the original recipes likely used mandarin oranges, the Americanized version substituted orange juice to replicate that signature citrus flavor.

Making Homemade Orange Chicken from Scratch

For this recipe, I will prepare crispy orange chicken totally from scratch rather than using pre-breaded pieces. This allows me to control the ingredients and frying process. Here are the key steps:

  1. Marinate bone-in or boneless chicken thighs in soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger and garlic for at least 30 minutes. This infuses flavor into the meat.

  2. In a separate bowl, mix all-purpose flour, corn starch and seasoning like salt and pepper. This will create a crunchy coating.

  3. Remove chicken from marinade and dredge in flour mixture to fully coat. Shake off any excess.

  4. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When hot but not smoking, add chicken pieces in a single layer without crowding. Fry for about 3-5 minutes per side until exterior is crisp and golden brown.

  5. While chicken is frying, prepare the orange sauce. In a saucepan, combine orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and corn starch. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.

  6. Once chicken is fried, add pieces to hot orange sauce and toss to fully coat. Let cook together for 2-3 more minutes for flavors to blend.

  7. Serve crispy orange chicken hot over rice along with any extra sauce. Garnish with sliced green onions or sesame seeds if desired.

Tasting and Enjoying the Final Dish

After preparing this recipe from scratch, I can confidently say it rivals any takeout orange chicken. Here are some of my key takeaways from tasting it:

Takeout Version Homemade Version
Pieces are not always crispy on outside Breading adheres well and frying process ensures crispy exterior
Sauce tastes overly sweetened Homemade sauce has a better balanced sweet-tart flavor from real orange juice
Texture of chicken is sometimes soggy Controlling the fry time keeps meat tender yet not soggy inside
Not much aroma or seasoning depth Fresh ginger and garlic really shine through

Overall, making crispy orange chicken at home gives me more control over ingredients, cooking method and final taste. With some practice, I believe I can perfect this crowd-pleasing dish to rival even the best Chinese takeouts. The mouthwatering aromas that filled my kitchen have me eager to enjoy this homemade version time and time again.

Adapting the Recipe for Budget, Preference or Diet

While this orange chicken recipe is delicious as written, there are ways one could adapt it depending on various factors like budget, dietary preferences or personal tastes. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use chicken breast instead of thighs to lighten it up
  • Substitute vegetable or peanut oil for a healthier fried option
  • Omit breading entirely and simply stir-fry chicken in sauce for fewer calories
  • Adjust amounts of soy sauce, sugar and orange juice to taste for a less/more sweet flavor
  • Swap sugar for honey or agave nectar for a subtle difference
  • Customize sauce with added ingredients like ginger, garlic, chili sauce or five-spice powder
  • Serve over cauliflower “rice” or veggies for a low-carb alternative to white rice

With some modifications, this classic dish can be made to suit nearly any lifestyle need. The key flavors of chicken and citrus still shine through with room to play around the edges.


In conclusion, while orange chicken has its roots in authentic Chinese cuisine, the Americanized version has become a standby favorite for many takeout meals and home cooks alike. By learning to make this comforting dish from scratch, I have gained a new appreciation for its simple yet nuanced flavors. I look forward to continuing to refine my process and recipe over many more home-cooked batches. The lucky recipients of my homemade crispy orange chicken are sure to be asking for it again soon!



Subscribe to our newsletter to get latest news on your inbox.