We live two blocks away from a Chinese restaurant. It’s nothing fancy, but they are quick, and the food is pretty delicious and decently priced. And did I mention that it is two blocks away from us?
Which means that almost any night we don’t know what to do for dinner, which is more often than I care to admit, being a food blogger, we walk on over to the Chinese restaurant for dinner.
The worst part is that as the spring weather has warmed up, the Chinese restaurant opens their back door to a screen door which is even closer to our house than is their front door. On a windy day I can get a good whiff of delicious-smelling, mouthwatering Chinese food aromas in our back yard.
For as much as I enjoy eating out- a break from cooking, a break from dishes, a chance to try something new- I know that it is always healthier and cheaper to eat at home. Our Chinese restaurant has the standard lemon chicken, orange chicken, sesame chicken dishes that I absolutely love for the flavor, but mostly try to avoid ordering because of the extra-fattening, greasy, deep-fried chicken.
So, with our wallet and my waistline in mind I decided to make my own Chinese food at home. I opened our screen door as I was cooking so that our mouthwatering Chinese food smells could compete with the restaurant’s!
And probably make the entire neighborhood crave Chinese food immediately!
To keep this dish lighter on the calories I, of course, skipped the frying process. Another bonus to skipping the dredging of the chicken and the scary scalding hot oil was that there was way less effort involved, less pans used, and no burns on my arms. Yikes!
I also used brown rice for extra nutrition, and added some steamed broccoli to make it a complete meal. The orange sauce uses honey so it has no refined sugar. I added some serrano peppers for a spice factor. And, AAAANNNDDDD the orange sauce actually has a subtle flavor of, you guessed it, oranges!
Unlike that orange sauce they use at restaurants. In my opinion it usually just tastes like some sweet sticky stuff that is somehow addicting, but who knows what’s actually in it.
This lighter orange chicken comes together in just 40 minutes. It’s easy to make, much healthier than the restaurant version, and way more flavorful!
Next time you consider eating some orange chicken at a restaurant (yup, I am talking to myself here, too), instead make this version. I promise you will be just as happy.
- FOR THE CHICKEN:
- 2 cups brown rice or quinoa
- Sea salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or grapeseed oil
- 4 boneless chicken breasts or 8-10 thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- FOR THE ORANGE SAUCE:
- 2 tablespoons orange zest (about 2 large oranges)
- 1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (about 3 large oranges)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free friendly)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 to 2 serrano peppers, thinly sliced* (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated (about 2 inches)
- 2 tablespoons corn starch or arrow root powder
- ½ cup filtered water
- Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
- Green onions, sliced, for garnish (optional)
- Orange slices for garnish (optional)
- Cook the brown rice or quinoa according to package directions. Keep in mind that generally rice takes about 30 minutes to 45 minutes to cook, whereas quinoa takes about 15 minutes to cook. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Melt coconut oil and add the chicken pieces to pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes on each side, 10 minutes total. Once the chicken is cooked through remove it from the pan onto a plate and set aside.
- FOR THE ORANGE SAUCE:
- While the chicken is cooking combine the orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, serrano peppers (optional), and ginger and whisk until well combined. Set aside until ready to use.
- Once the chicken is done cooking and has been removed from the skillet pour in the orange sauce. Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally.
- While the orange sauce is simmering, steam your broccoli florets by placing about 3 inches of water in a pot and bringing the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and use a steamer basket to keep the broccoli out of the water. Steam for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the broccoli has turned bright green and is fork- tender.
- While the broccoli and sauce are cooking whisk the cornstarch or arrow root powder with the ½ cup water until there are no more lumps.
- Slowly pour the cornstarch mixture into the orange sauce while whisking. Allow the orange sauce to simmer for another 5 minutes, whisking the entire time, until it thickens. It should cling to the back of a spoon.
- Add the chicken back into the orange sauce and stir to coat the chicken in orange sauce. Allow the chicken to heat back up, about 3 minutes.
- Serve the chicken and orange sauce over the rice or quinoa, along with the broccoli florets. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, sliced green onions, and orange slices. Serve immediately.
- Leftovers are best stored in separate containers.
Orange sauce adapted from: The pioneer Woman