Can you air fry orange chicken? Yes! Make this air fryer orange chicken recipe, a healthy, lite dish that will satisfy your cravings. This easy recipe is different than most recipes for Asian orange chicken because it has a sweet, sticky sauce with no sugar added. Keep reading to learn how to make orange chicken in the air fryer, a dish the whole family with love!
While developing this orange chicken air fryer recipe, I kept some of the most popular brands of Chinese orange chicken in mind. Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange chicken, Panda Express orange chicken, and InnovAsian orange chicken are all well-loved because they share some characteristics:
- Crispy chicken pieces that are battered or breaded
- A delicious, sticky, and very sweet orange sauce
- Easy to make
I wanted my orange popcorn chicken to have these same traits. To make the chicken bready and slightly crispy, we’ll coat it in whole grain flour and air fry it. This will give us an air fryer orange chicken without cornstarch.
Then, while the chicken air fries, we can make some orange chicken sauce. Our sauce uses Swerve instead of added sugar (such as honey, brown sugar, maple syrup or white sugar).
We’ll thicken the sauce with xanthan gum, so we don’t have to concentrate the orange juice down so much. (Concentrated juice counts as an added sugar.)
What results is a slightly crisp, quite sweet air fryer orange chicken that should satisfy your sweet tooth. It’s hard to believe that such an indulgent-tasting dish is also higher in protein and lower in sugar than many classic orange chicken recipes. In this case, tastes can truly be deceiving!
- 📋 What are the calories, net carbs, and protein?
- ⭐ Benefits
- 🥘 Ingredients
- 🍽 Equipment
- 🔪 How to Make Air Fryer Orange Chicken
- ️⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
- 🍊 Orange Chicken Sauce
- 🌡️ Leftovers
- 🥗 Side Dishes
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👩🏻🍳 Other Air Fryer Chicken Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
📋 What are the calories, net carbs, and protein?
One serving of this air fryer orange chicken provides 337 calories, 20.6 grams net carbs, and 42.2 grams protein. This nutrition information does not include any side dishes (such as rice) that you choose to add.
Why make this orange chicken air fryer recipe? Here are a few of my reasons:
- Healthier than take out: The word “healthy” means different things to different people. However, by most general nutrition standards, this copycat recipe is a better option than fast food orange chicken.
- No refined sugar: Unlike most recipes for orange chicken, this is a sugar free orange chicken. (That said, this recipe does contain natural sugars from the orange juice.)
- No refined grains: The chicken in most orange chicken recipes is breaded with white flour or dusted with corn starch. We’ve skipped the refined grains in this recipe by using whole grain spelt flour. The orange sauce is thickened with xanthan gum, with no cornstarch.
- You control the ingredients: Orange chicken from the store often contains white sugar, white flour, and artificial flavors. When you make orange chicken from scratch, you can skip additives and other ingredients you don’t want in there.
- Not deep fried: Orange chicken from a store or restaurant may have been deep fried. Air frying chicken before mixing with the orange sauce allows you to skip deep frying. This orange chicken recipe has no added oil, except a minimal amount from cooking oil spray. If you want a low-fat orange chicken, air fry it!
- High in protein: Chunks of chicken breast provide plenty of high-quality, lean protein in this recipe.
- Sweet and delicious: Just like your favorite frozen orange chicken, or orange chicken from a Chinese restaurant, this entrée is sweet. Your family might like it so much, they may not be able to guess it’s a “fakeaway” recipe!
What do you need to make orange chicken in an air fryer? Here's the rundown:
- Boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
- Spelt flour (whole wheat flour is a fine substitution)
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Cooking oil spray
- Fresh navel oranges (for orange juice and orange zest)
- Granular Swerve (or other 1:1 sugar substitute)
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce
- Unseasoned rice vinegar
- Fresh grated ginger
- Xanthan gum
- Red pepper flakes (for a spicy orange chicken)
- Toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions (for optional garnish)
You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts in this recipe. However, the finished dish will not be quite as lean.
I needed about 2½ oranges to get enough fresh orange juice and zest for this recipe. The zest adds more orange flavor to the dish than the juice, so don’t skip it!
Here’s what you need to air fry orange chicken:
- Microplane zester (or the fine side of a box grater)
- Juicer (electric or manual citrus squeezer)
- Kitchen shears
- Meat thermometer
- Air fryer
I use a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven to make this recipe. Have a Ninja Foodi, Pampered Chef, Cuisinart, Actifry, Nuwave, Instant Vortex, Philips, Cosori, or Power Air Fryer instead? Whatever air fryer you have should work for air frying orange chicken too.
However, keep in mind that you may need to adjust cooking times based on the air fryer you use. Also, you may need to cook the chicken in batches if you have a small air fryer basket.
You can always hand squeeze the oranges if you don’t have a manual or electric juicer. I find a juicer helps me get a higher yield of juice from each orange. Please do not use a carton of orange juice for this recipe- fresh squeezed juice makes a difference!
🔪 How to Make Air Fryer Orange Chicken
Let’s learn how to make air fryer orange chicken! We’ll start by making the breaded chicken, and working on the orange sauce while it cooks.
Use kitchen shears to cut the chicken breast into pieces. I cut each chicken tender into 5 pieces, yielding about 40-50 popcorn chicken-sized pieces in all.
In a medium-sized bowl, stir flour, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt together. In a second bowl, whisk two large eggs.
Spray two air fryer trays with cooking oil spray. Dip the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, the egg, and then the flour again. Coat all the chicken pieces.
Put the coated pieces of chicken on your prepared air fryer trays in a non-touching single layer. Mist the chicken well with cooking spray. Put the trays in the air fryer.
️⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
How long to air fry orange chicken? The chicken will air fry for a total of 12-13 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Air fry the chicken for 5 minutes at 375F. Then switch the position of the trays in the air fryer oven (no need to flip the chicken). Air fry 5 more minutes at 375F.
Flip the chicken pieces over and spray them well with the cooking oil spray. Switch the position of the trays in the air fryer and air fry a final 2-3 minutes at 375F. Use a kitchen thermometer to ensure the chicken reached a minimum safe internal temp of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the chicken is air frying, you can make the orange sauce. Prepare the oranges by zesting them with a microplane and juicing them with a juicer.
🍊 Orange Chicken Sauce
Whisk orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, Swerve, orange zest, ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes together in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the Swerve completely dissolves. This will take approximately 5 minutes.
Whisk in the xanthan gum and allow the mixture to thicken. It will only take 2-3 minutes. Remove the orange sauce from the heat.
Right before serving, pour the orange sauce over the air fried chicken and gently stir. It’s important not to add the sauce to the chicken until right before eating for the best texture.
Spoon the chicken and any extra sauce into bowls (preferably over a whole grain or riced cauliflower). Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions. Eat up!
Air fryer orange chicken can last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. For the best texture, keep the orange sauce and air fried chicken separate until serving.
Leftover orange chicken can also be frozen. Freeze the sauce and the cooked chicken separately. You can find directions for reheating the frozen cooked chicken in the air fryer popcorn chicken post.
You can also use leftover sauce in other chicken dishes. I bet some air fryer orange chicken wings would be delicious!
🥗 Side Dishes
What to serve with air fryer orange chicken? I like to serve air fried orange chicken over a whole grain, with some veggies on the side. Here are some suggestions for sides that go with orange chicken:
- Air Fryer Frozen Vegetables (especially broccoli!)
- Steamed Green Beans (haricots verts)
- Steamed Snow Peas
- Stir fried Baby Bok Choy
- Brown Rice
- Wild Rice
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). Chicken breast is a lean protein. However, the breading and the sauce really bump up the carbs and calories. If you have a fat loss goal, it’s generally going to be a better choice to stick with chicken with no breading.
Even so, it’s not too difficult to create a low-fat meal in the 500-600 calories range with this orange chicken. Just serve it over brown rice (cooked from ¼ cup dry) with some green non-starchy veggies on the side. Voila!
Macros aside, there’s something to be said for eating something because it satisfies a craving. I know if I’m craving orange chicken, simply squeezing some orange juice over plain chicken breast won’t cut it. I’ll probably eventually go get frozen or takeout orange chicken to satisfy the craving.
For me at least, it seems to be a better strategy to recognize the craving and make something similar to what I want. It might not be “perfect” in terms of nutrition, but luckily we don’t have to be perfect to have an overall health-promoting diet. The taste of this dish is close enough to the sugary version that I won’t go order fast food later.
IMVHO, an overall healthy diet should include foods that we enjoy. I don’t think I’d be able to stick to a lifetime of food drudgery, even if it meant a slightly longer lifespan. Overall quality of life (including food enjoyment) is at least important to me as longevity.
I hope if you like orange chicken, that this healthier rendition is satisfying and enjoyable to you as well!
To make keto air fryer orange chicken, either skip breading the chicken, or bread the chicken pieces with almond flour. Use another citrus juice (such as fresh lemon juice) instead of orange juice in the sauce. The orange zest is a low carb ingredient that provides most of the orange flavor in this orange chicken.
To make gluten free air fryer orange chicken, skip the chicken breading or bread the chicken in almond flour. Bob’s 1:1 Gluten Free Baking Flour is another good substitute. Use coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce in the orange sauce.
Yes, you can make orange chicken with orange marmalade to make it sweet and sticky. Make sure to choose a sugar-free orange marmalade if you want to keep the dish added sugar free.
Making Paleo air fryer orange chicken also makes it gluten-free. Swap the soy sauce in the orange chicken sauce for coconut aminos. In place of spelt flour, use almond flour. If your version of Paleo does not allow erythritol, use your preferred sweetener instead of the Swerve.
Yes! You can reheat leftover orange chicken in the air fryer! Store the cooked air fried chicken and orange sauce separately in the freezer. Warm the sauce in the microwave or on the stovetop. Air fry the frozen cooked chicken for 8 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, flipping halfway through cooking time.
👩🏻🍳 Other Air Fryer Chicken Recipes
Looking for more air fryer recipes using chicken? Here are some other dishes that you may enjoy:
- Air Fryer Chicken Schnitzel
- Buffalo Wings (Air Fryer Recipe)
- Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Nuggets
- Air Fryer Chicken Shawarma Bowls
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All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Sweet Air Fryer Orange Chicken Recipe
For the chicken:
For the orange sauce:
- ¾ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed (from about 3 navel oranges)
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 3 tablespoons Swerve, granular
- 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional for heat)
- toasted sesame seeds (optional for garnish)
- 1 scallions, sliced (optional for garnish)
To make the chicken:
- With the kitchen shears, cut each chicken tender into about 5 pieces. You should get 40-50 chicken pieces in all.
- In a medium-sized bowl, stir flour, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt together. In a second bowl, whisk two large eggs.
- Spray two air fryer trays with cooking oil spray.
- Dip the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, the egg, and then the flour again. Coat all the chicken pieces.
- Put the coated pieces of chicken on your prepared air fryer trays in a non-touching single layer. Mist the chicken well with cooking spray. Put the trays in the air fryer.
- Air fry the chicken for 5 minutes at 375°F (190°C). Then switch the position of the trays in the air fryer oven (no need to flip the chicken). Air fry 5 more minutes at 375°F (190°C).
- Flip the chicken pieces over and spray them well with the cooking oil spray. Switch the position of the trays in the air fryer and air fry a final 2-3 minutes at 375°F (190°C). Use a kitchen thermometer to ensure the chicken reached a minimum safe internal temp of 165°F (74°C).
To make the orange sauce:
- Make the orange sauce while you air fry the popcorn chicken pieces. Begin by juicing and zesting the fresh oranges, if you haven't already.
- Whisk the orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, Swerve, orange zest, ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes together in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the Swerve completely dissolves. This will take approximately 5 minutes.
- Stir in the xanthan gum and allow the mixture to thicken, whisking frequently. It will only take 2-3 minutes. Remove the orange sauce from the heat.
- Gently stir the orange sauce into the chicken right before serving. For the best texture, don't let the chicken sit in the sauce for too long.
- Spoon the chicken and any extra sauce into bowls (preferably over a whole grain or riced cauliflower). Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions. Enjoy!