Next time you reach for that Chinese take out menu - that could include monosodium glutamate (MSG) or worse - cook this orange chicken recipe instead. Because eating well doesn't mean giving up the delights of classic convenience meals that are inconvenient for your health.
The beauty of stir-fry dishes
Stir-fry recipes are surprisingly simple to whip up. If you have all your ingredients prepped before you begin frying, you'll be eating dinner in twenty minutes flat.
Classic Chinese condiments for orange chicken + beyond
At any Chinese restaurant or even the grocery store, you will find a few Chinese ingredients that give these dishes their signature flavor. Chock-full-of-umami, many of these ingredients are condiments. The others are aromatics.
Fermented Chinese sauces for stir-fry dishes
The Chinese incorporate an array of fermented sauces and pastes into their dishes. Of course the most obvious are soy sauce and rice vinegar. But hoisin and black bean garlic sauce are seriously authentic, and give a crazy depth of umami flavor to stir-fry. No MSG necessary if you go the homemade route, like Maggie does over at Omnivore's Cookbook.
In our house we often skip the black bean paste for a variety of reasons. But even with just the above, you're giving your stir-fry loads of authentic flavor.
Quick word on Mirin
I love using Mirin for stir-fry even though it's not Chinese. However, rice wine vinegar would be the most legit choice. Mirin is sweeter than typical rice wine vinegar, and I find I add less sugar (or none at all) when using it.
GGS: garlic, ginger and scallions
The trifecta of Chinese aromatic ingredients. If you're looking for truly legit stir-fry of any kind, include minced garlic, ginger and not as important but equally authentic, green onions (scallions).
The stir-fry technique
The key to perfect stir fried anything is cooking with very high heat, a little sesame oil and quick hands. And you want to keep the ingredients moving the entire time. The best way to do this is to get your vegetables chopped ahead of time. I often do this a day or two ahead.
Authentic stir-fry chicken batter
Cornstarch, egg whites and soy sauce. That's it. I like to use gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos in the batter, and marinate the chicken in it overnight. This egg white-cornstarch batter is the secret to that crispy crust that absorbs stir fry sauce so nicely.
The easiest way to mix the batter
For a stir-fry batter, I honestly never measure the ingredients. All you do is mix a couple egg whites (fresh or from a box) with cornstarch until it's a thin pancake batter consistency. This is literally how an Asian cuisines chef instructor taught me in culinary school.
Don't measure, it's not worth your time. If you plan to do this step a day ahead, drizzling soy sauce into the batter marinates the chicken wonderfully.
Grain-free orange chicken
Of course the batter is not essential to a delicious, authentic orange chicken recipe. Most of the flavors in this one come from the sauce and aromatics.
For paleo or low-carb diets, arrowroot or tapioca starch can replace the cornstarch in the batter. Although, if you skip the batter entirely - and I sometimes do - this stir-fry is ready in less than 20 minutes. Not bad when it takes the delivery guy often more than 40 minutes!
Classic stir-fry sauce
Salty, sour, sweet and hot. Chinese food is so satisfying because it makes every last one of your taste buds happy. Not to mention the fermented ingredients lend serious umami to any dish.
Orange chicken recipe (or any stir-fry recipe) ingredients
A basic Chinese stir-fry sauce requires the following in equal parts:
- soy sauce (or coconut aminos for grain-free)
- rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar for grain-free)
- sugar (white, brown or honey)
- spicy black bean paste/sauce (omit for low-carb)
If you don't like, don't want, don't have or can't find a good quality black bean garlic sauce, a few pinches of red pepper flake add nice heat.
The ratio for basic stir-fry sauce
For one pound of chicken with loads of vegetables, I measure a quarter cup each of the above four ingredients. To enjoy extra saucy stir-fry, go for a half cup of each sauce ingredient for each pound of chicken.
Orange stir-fry sauce
Really simple! Add the zest and juice of one large or two small oranges or tangerines. I also squeeze the juice from the oranges I grate into the sauce mixture.
Stir-fry sauce variations
And as I've already hinted, the recipe below can easily become any flavor you like. Love the Kung Pao or General Tso? Add as much garlic and/or chile peppers as your buds can handle. For sesame stir-fry, use dark brown sugar and finish the dish with toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of dark sesame oil.
Whatever your fancy, it's bound to be healthier than what comes in the carton. And if you play your cards right, you'll be enjoying a second helping before any delivery can make it to your door.
Yours in stir-fry,Print
Use the basic stir-fry sauce below to make orange chicken, or mix it up with sesame seeds or more chilis. Fresh, packed with vegetables, stir-fry at home is incredibly flavorful and much healthier than delivery!
Meat Batter + Marinade
- 4-8 boneless/skinless chicken thighs or breasts, sliced into ¼ strips (or tofu for vegan)
- Egg whites
- Cornstarch (non-GMO recommended)
- Gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos
- Avocado or peanut oil for frying
Stir-Fry Orange Sauce
- ½ cup gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos
- ½ cup rice wine vinegar or Mirin
- ½ cup sugar or brown sugar, or ¼ raw honey (omit for keto/low-carb)
- ½ cup black bean garlic sauce (can sub with a few pinches of chili flakes or even hoisin sauce)
- Zest and juice of two small or one large orange
- Starch slurry: 2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch (or arrowroot/tapioca) mixed with water to a heavy cream consistency
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- About one tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced or grated (I used a microplane grater)
- 2 scallions, sliced thin (whites and greens separated)
- 2 bell peppers, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- Water chestnuts, drained
- Sesame oil, for frying
- Any other chopped vegetables you desire... Snow peas, Napa cabbage and broccoli are all delicious!
- Cooked rice or cauliflower rice for serving
Make batter (omit for vegan, keto, grain-free or low-carb)
- Whisk cornstarch into a couple egg whites until the consistency of pancake batter.
- Whisk in soy sauce or coconut aminos.
- Coat chicken in batter and marinate while you prepare the rest. This can be done a day ahead.
Mix slurry + stir-fry sauces
- To prepare slurry (thickening agent), combine a few tablespoons of cornstarch with water in a small bowl until it is about the consistency of heavy cream. Set aside. Omit for grain-free.
- In a wok or large sauté pan, heat half an inch of oil over medium-high for several minutes.
- Fry chicken (or tofu) in batches until golden brown and thoroughly cooked, flipping as needed. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Discard oil, and wipe pan.
- In same wok over high heat, sauté garlic, ginger and whites of scallions in sesame oil for one minute.
- Add vegetables, while stirring constantly. Never stop stirring or ingredients will burn.
- Add stir-fry sauce mixture and slurry to pan, mixing well. Bring to a boil just until the sauce thickens.
- Turn the heat down and add chicken back to pan.
- Garnish with greens of scallions.
- Serve over rice, or cauliflower rice for a lower carb dish.
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