Make takeout at home with this easy air fryer orange chicken! Crispy chicken bites are tossed with a sweet and sticky orange sauce to create this delicious Chinese American favorite!
This is a healthier version of the deep-fried dish you’d get a Panda Express or a local Chinese takeout. You get all the taste with fewer calories, and the best part is that you can make this fast, even on a busy weeknight.
My daughter loves this dish and requests it for dinner often! The contrast between the crispy chicken in a sweet and sticky glaze with just a little bit of spiciness tastes fantastic.
For exact amounts needed see the recipe card below
Chicken – Use either boneless chicken breast or thighs diced into bite-sized pieces.
Corn starch – The corn starch coats the meat to make it crispy in the air fryer. Then it is used again to thicken the orange sauce.
Orange Juice – The juice is the essential ingredient in the sauce. Fresh squeezed is terrific, but store-bought orange juice is good enough.
Sugar – The orange juice adds a lot of sweetness to the recipe, but a little sugar helps make it extra tasty.
Soy sauce – The soy sauce helps give the dish a depth of flavor and adds umami to the meal.
Vinegar – A little bit of vinegar cuts the sweetness and adds a pleasant tangy taste. If you have rice vinegar, use it. Otherwise, white vinegar works well.
Spices – Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper season the orange sauce.
How to Make Air Fryer Orange Chicken
1. Prepare the Chicken
Preheat the air fryer at 350 degrees F for 3 minutes. While it preheats, put the cubed chicken in a medium bowl and toss it with the corn starch and spices to form a coating. Just use 2 tablespoons of corn starch. The remainder is for thickening the sauce.
Then add the chicken cubes to the air fryer basket. Spread it out in a single layer, so there is still room for the air to circulate. I can fit 1 pound in my 5.8 quart Cosori air fryer.
Air fry at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes. While it cooks, start making the sauce.
2. Make Orange Sauce
Combine the orange juice, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper in a saucepan. Put the pan on medium meat and bring it to a boil.
Mix the additional cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water in a small bowl. Stir it to form a cornstarch slurry.
Once the sauce boils, lower the heat and add the cornstarch mixture to the saucepan, stirring as it is added. Keep stirring, so it doesn’t get lumpy.
Cook the sauce for about 2 more minutes until it thickens. Then take the sauce off the heat.
3. Finish the Dish
Once the air fryer finishes its initial cooking time, flip the chicken pieces over and then cook it for another 3-5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and brown at the edges. The total cooking time will be 8-10 minutes.
Cooking time can vary based on your air fryer brand and how full the basket is. So use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of a few pieces. It should reach 165 degrees F. If it hasn’t, return it to the air fryer for another minute or two.
Once the chicken is done, add it to the saucepan and stir so that the chicken pieces are coated with the sweet orange sauce.
Serve air fryer orange chicken with a bowl of white rice, brown rice, or cauliflower rice, and scatter some green onions or sesame seeds on top. A simple green vegetable such as broccoli or snap peas will complete the meal.
Use instant rice and microwave some frozen veggies if you want a simple, low-effort dinner. You will have a delicious homemade dinner in no time at all!
How to Store
The leftover chicken will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The sauce will thicken more as it stands, so you might want to thin it with a little bit of orange juice when you reheat the leftover orange chicken.
I prefer not to use the air fryer to reheat these leftovers because the sauce is sticky, making cleanup messy. Reheat the food in the microwave for 2 minutes.
The zest from a fresh orange will undoubtedly enhance the orange flavor of the dish. But it isn’t necessary for a delicious meal.
These two dishes are similar, and both are excellent examples of Americanized Chinese dishes that have been popularized by takeout restaurants. But the sauces are different, with General Tso’s being spicier.
Yes, as long as it was frozen as individually diced pieces. You will need to add 2-3 minutes to the cooking time for frozen meat.
Key Tips for This Recipe
Be sure to check out the step by step instructions
Preheat the air fryer for the crispiest chicken.
If jumping back and forth between making the sauce and air frying seems too confusing, make the sauce first, then air fry the meat.
Check the internal temperature of a few of the largest pieces of meat when checking for doneness.
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Air Fryer Orange Chicken Recipe
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
Orange Sauce Ingredients
- ½ cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- green onions
- sesame seeds
- Set the air fryer to preheat at 350 °F for 5 minutes.
- Put the meat in a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch (do not include the cornstarch the in sauce ingredients), salt, and pepper. Stir to coat the pieces thoroughly. If you want the chicken to be extra crispy, add ½ tablespoon of olive oil or spray it with cooking spray.1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Put the meat in the air fryer and cook at 350 °F for 5 minutes.
- While it cooks, make the sauce. Combine the orange juice, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper in a saucepan.½ cup orange juice, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Cook on medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture just starts to boil. Reduce the heat to low.
- In a shallow bowl, mix the remaining cornstarch with water. Add this cornstarch slurry to the saucepan. Keep stirring, so it doesn’t get lumpy. Cook for about 2 more minutes until the sauce thickens. Remove the sauce from the heat.1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon cold water
- After the initial 5 minutes of air frying time is done, flip the chicken pieces over and cook for another 3-5 minutes until it is cooked through and golden brown. Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the meat has reached 165 °F.
- Once the chicken is done, add it to the pan with the orange sauce and stir so that the sauce evenly coats the pieces.
- Serve with rice and green onions.green onions, sesame seeds
- Preheat the air fryer for the crispiest chicken.
- If jumping back and forth between making the sauce and air frying seems too confusing, make the sauce first, then air fry the meat.
- Check the internal temperature of a few of the largest pieces of meat when checking for doneness.
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Nutrition facts are estimates.