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Many years ago, while working as a massage therapist and esthetician in a large day spa, my coworkers and I had a terrible habit of taking our dinner breaks at the nearby mall food court. Panda Express was a staple for us, especially their ever-popular crispy orange chicken. Despite how much energy we burned off during our regular working hours, the food was terrible for our waistlines, but oh, how comforting it was after a hectic day!
Nowadays, I still crave that crispy, crunchy outer layer surrounding the super tender chicken inside, with its tangy orange sauce, especially after a taxing day. This craving of course inspired me to experiment with my own Paleo version at home so I can completely skip out on having to make regrettable choices that only make me feel sluggish with a major case of brain fog. (Blech.) Turns out, I much prefer my own version! It’s a big hit in our house!
To achieve the crispy outer layer of the orange chicken, I use arrowroot starch to dredge my chicken in before frying it in a healthy oil, preferably avocado oil for its high smoke point, but coconut oil worked great for me, too!
For a complete meal, be sure to pair it with my delicious Cauliflower Fried Rice!
- 1 egg, whisked
- 2 chicken breasts, cubed
- 3/4 cup arrowroot starch
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 cup coconut oil or avocado oil
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh ground ginger
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp red chili flakes (omit if sensitive to heat)
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp coconut aminos
- 1 1/2 tbsp water
- 3 tbsp raw honey (omit for Whole30, instead sweeten with fresh orange juice)
- 1 tbsp grated orange zest* (See notes below)
- Arrowroot slurry (1 tbsp arrowroot starch dissolved in 1 tbsp water)
- Chopped scallions for garnish
- In a mixing bowl, whisk 1 egg, and add cubed chicken. Mix to coat.
- To bread the chicken, begin by combining in a large Ziploc bag, arrowroot starch, salt, and pepper. Remove the chicken from the egg, letting excess egg drip off before putting chicken into the Ziploc bag. Once all of the chicken is in the Ziploc bag, seal the bag, and toss bag until all of the chicken is coated in the arrowroot powder mixture.
- Heat a large pot with coconut or avocado oil over medium-high heat. Once it is very hot, and working in two batches, add one half of the breaded chicken to the pot. Turn over after a few minutes, allowing the chicken to cook about five minutes. Check to ensure the largest pieces are cooked through. When they are cooked through, remove with tongs or a slotted spoon, and allow them to rest on a plate with paper towels to soak up any excess oil. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
- Set cooked chicken aside.
- To make the orange sauce, in a large skillet or wok over medium heat, add olive oil, ginger, garlic, and red chili flakes. Stir until fragrant.
- Add rice vinegar, coconut aminos, water, honey, and orange zest. (Plus optional 1 tbsp fresh orange juice for extra flavor, if desired.)
- Stir to combine. If the thickness is not to your liking, add a little of the arrowroot slurry until you achieve the desired thickness.
- Once it is heated through, remove from heat.
- Add chicken to the sauce, and stir to coat.
- Serve on a serving dish and top with scallions for garnish.
- *If you really like the flavor of orange, you can add 1 tbsp fresh orange juice from the zested orange to the sauce for more flavor.