Sweet and tangy healthy orange chicken that’s easy to bake and better than takeout! The chicken is tossed in the best orange chicken sauce recipe. No frying, no mess, and it cooks up in under 30 minutes!
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is quite possibly my most favorite weeknight dinner recipe to make. It’s got all the components of a winner winner chicken dinner—incredibly flavorful, easy to make, made with fresh and healthy ingredients, includes the most perfect sweet and tangy orange sauce, and the kids love it!
If you’re a fan of Panda Express orange chicken, this healthy orange chicken recipe is everything you’ve been craving. There’s no frying, no mess, and it cooks up in under 30 minutes. You simply coat the chicken in the flour mixture, baked it, and toss the crispy chicken pieces in the best orange sauce recipe on the planet.
And bonus! Need a recipe that’s allergy friendly? This is a gluten free orange chicken recipe that’s completely dairy free! If you need to make some substitutions, I’ve detailed everything for you below. Let’s get to cooking!
There are just a few simple ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe. The ingredients are fresh, healthy, and super flavorful. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Egg – Use a large egg for this recipe. You’ll need it for the marinade.
- Coconut aminos – This is an alternative to soy sauce that adds a ton of flavor! You can easily find this in the health food section or next to soy sauce.
- Apple cider vinegar – this gives the marinade a nice tang.
- Chicken thighs – While you can use breasts or thighs, I recommend using thighs because they do much better when baked.
- All purpose gluten free flour – Most all purpose flours will work, but I prefer Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour.
- Arrowroot flour – This is a white powdery starch extracted from the root of a tropical plant. You can find this in the baking section in most grocery stores!
- Avocado oil spray – The spray is the secret to this recipe! While you can brush on the oil, I recommend using an oil spray so you can get an even coating.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Coconut aminos: Coconut aminos is a delicious alternative to soy sauce that is gluten free and soy free. It’s made from the sap of the coconut palm. You can swap this for soy sauce in this recipe! For other alternatives to coconut aminos, check out coconut aminos substitutes.
- All purpose gluten free flour: You can use cassava flour, rice flour, or oat flour in it’s place with exactly the same result!
- Arrowroot flour: Swap this for corn starch or tapioca flour.
- Avocado oil spray: Use avocado oil brushed on top of the chicken pieces.
How to Make Healthy Baked Orange Chicken
The best part about this recipe is that it’s incredibly easy to make. No frying or standing over oil. Just prep your chicken, bake it, and toss it in the sauce!
1. Prep: Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with avocado oil.
2. Make the Marinate: In a large bowl, whisk the egg, coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar, and sea salt. Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat.
3. Dredge the Chicken: In a separate bowl, whisk together the cassava flour, arrowroot flour, and sea salt. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and dredge them in the flour mixture. Place the chicken pieces on the baking sheet.
4. Bake: Spray the chicken liberally with avocado oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip each piece over and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
5. Prepare the Sauce: While the chicken is baking, prepare the orange sauce. Toss the chicken with the orange sauce. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions or sesame seeds and serve over rice.
The Secret to Crispy Chicken
Over the last few years, I’ve made this recipe at least 40-50 times. I’ve experimented with many different types of flours, and even had to improvise when I was out of avocado oil spray.
Here is exactly how to get crispy chicken in the oven every single time:
- You must liberally spray the chicken pieces with avocado oil on the pan. Because the chicken pieces are coated in flour, an avocado oil spray is the best way to get a sufficient and even coating. While you can brush avocado oil on, I highly recommend purchasing the cooking spray when you’re picking up the rest of the ingredients for the recipe. Make sure you don’t see any white powder left on the pieces!
- Flip the chicken pieces halfway through cooking. The chicken will become a gorgeous golden color and crisp more evenly when you flip the pieces halfway through. This is best done with a set of stainless steel tongs. Flip, then spray again!
- Use arrowroot or cornstarch. While you can use all purpose flour, cassava, oat, or rice flour, it’s best if you blend it with either arrowroot or cornstarch to help the chicken crisp up. It will taste just like it’s fried!
My favorite orange chicken sides are ones that help to soak up the sauce, and add a little starch! Here are the best additions:
- Basmati or jasmine rice
- Stir fry vegetable rice
- Steamed broccoli
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Roasted sheet pan vegetables
- Use chicken thighs for this recipe. They stay moist and get nice and crisp when baked.
- Sufficiently shake off the excess flour when coating the pieces. Or, extra flour will land on the pan and burn.
- Liberally spray with avocado oil. Spray the pan, then spray the tops of the chicken pieces.
- You can make the orange chicken sauce recipe while the chicken is baking or up to a week beforehand.
- If you make the sauce ahead of time, reheat it in a saucepan for a few minutes until warm before tossing it with the chicken.
- For a healthy orange chicken recipe for the family, serve over rice, cauliflower rice, or steamed or roasted vegetables!
It’s all in the sauce! Orange sauce contains the perfect ratios of sweet, sour, and savory, which brightens up the chicken and gives it a kick. In fact, you can use the sauce on sautéd chicken, vegetables, or even rice!
Traditional orange chicken is contains battered and fried chicken that is covered in a sweet sauce. Because of this, it’s not considered healthy. But, you can make a few tweaks to the recipe to make it a healthy dinner! Simple make your own homemade sauce with fresh orange juice, and bake the chicken instead of fry it!
If your sauce turns out a little brown, that’s perfectly OK! Coconut sugar tends to darken the sauce slightly. It will still look orange on the chicken and taste amazing!
Prep Ahead Instructions
Because the dredging process can take 10-15 minutes, it’s best to have the meal prepped ahead of time on weeknights. Here’s how to make this dinner a breeze:
- Cut your chicken into 1-inch pieces up to 24 hours in advance and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Measure out your dry ingredients for the coating, and place them in an airtight container already mixed up.
- Make your orange sauce up to a week ahead of time. I like to make a double batch of the orange sauce recipe a few days in advance, then put half of it in the freezer and save it for the next time I make orange chicken with healthier ingredients!
STORE: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The chicken will lose some of it’s crispiness, but it does taste amazing heated up.
FREEZE: If you plan on freezing this recipe, bake the chicken and store in the freezer in airtight silicone bags without the orange sauce. It will keep in the freezer up to 4 months. Reheat the chicken in the oven at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, then toss it with the orange chicken sauce before serving.
More Healthy Dinners
- Healthy Zuppa Toscana
- Homemade Healthy Sloppy Joes
- Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala
- Grilled Chicken Skewers
- Baked Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon coconut aminos or soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 ¼ teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2/3 cup all-purpose gluten free flour (or cassava flour)
- 2/3 cup arrowroot or cornstarch
- Avocado oil spray*
- Sliced green onions or sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
- 1 recipe for Orange Chicken Sauce
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray or brush the parchment paper with avocado oil.
- Make the Marinade: In a large bowl, whisk the egg, coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon of the sea salt. Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat.
- Dredge the Chicken: In a medium bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, arrowroot, and the remaining 1 teaspoon sea salt. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and dredge them in the flour mixture. Gently shake off the excess flour and place the chicken on a baking sheet.
- Bake: Liberally spray the top of the chicken with avocado oil until evenly coated. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and flip each piece over and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Prepare the Sauce: While the chicken is baking, prepare the orange sauce. Toss the chicken with the orange sauce in a large bowl. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions or sesame seeds and serve over rice.
- *You can use another oil spray or brush oil directly onto the pan and chicken pieces.
- I’ve successfully used oat flour, all-purpose gluten free flour, cassava flour, and rice flour for the coating!
- While you can use either chicken breasts or thighs, thighs work much better in this recipe as they stay moist and crisp up easily.
- You’ll need 2 large baking pans for this recipe depending on size.
This recipe was updated April 26, 2023 to adjust volume of flours for the coating.
Recipe by: Noelle Tarr / Coconuts and Kettlebells | Photography by: Casey Colodny / The Mindful Hapa and Noelle Tarr