When it comes to Chinese takeout, chicken and orange sauce is a match made in flavor heaven. From Panda Express to P.F. Chang’s, orange-soaked chicken is one of the most popular options on the menu. But is orange chicken healthy? Is it a smart choice for meal preppers, or should you avoid it at all costs? The answer might surprise you—particularly if your idea of healthy food involves steaming vegetables or eating plain protein with no seasoning or sauce of any kind. Yes, orange chicken is healthy…when you know what to order and how to adapt the recipe at home so that it’s also nutritious and easy on your wallet. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about orange chicken as a staple dish and as part of a balanced diet.
Is Orange Chicken Healthy?
Yes and no. Orange chicken contains protein, carbs, and fat, which all contribute to the dish’s healthy or unhealthy status. The quality of ingredients used to make orange chicken can make or break the health factor. With the right ingredient, orange chicken can be healthful and safe for your body. For example, boneless chicken is lower in fat and calories than traditional fried chicken with the skin on it.
Why Is Orange Chicken So Popular?
1. It’s Easy to Make
Orange chicken is a quick, easy and simple recipe. You can have a meal ready in just minutes without any cooking or preparation. If you’re pressed for time during the week, this is a great option for you.
2. It’s Cheap
Most people like to eat out at Chinese restaurants because they are cheap and delicious. In fact, most of these restaurants are family-owned and operated, so you know that the food will be good and prepared with care by the chef. The quality of the ingredients used in these dishes will be good too – it won’t be loaded with preservatives or artificial colors or flavors.
3. It Is Delicious
The key to enjoying any Chinese food dish is to keep it simple: no complicated sauces or spices, just good fresh ingredients that are prepared properly so that they taste great! In fact, many Chinese dishes use no soy sauce at all; instead, they use a sauce made from chili paste and garlic, which is much healthier.
4. It Is Healthy
When you eat out at Chinese restaurants, you know that the food will be prepared by people who care about preparing healthy food and are conscious of what they put in the food they serve. The chef will use fresh ingredients and high-quality oils, but with no preservatives or added chemicals. You can even find some Chinese restaurants that do not use MSG at all!
5. It’s Delicious for Kids and Adults
While Chinese food is usually enjoyed by adults, it is also a favorite of children. This is because the food is colorful, tasty, and easy to eat – kids are not scared of unfamiliar foods! They will enjoy the familiar flavors and textures of the orange chicken without any fear.
6. It’s Great for Special Occasions
Chinese food is one of the most popular choices for special occasions, and orange chicken is a great choice for celebrations. It is simple, tasty, and healthy and can be made quickly so that you can get it on the table in time for the guests to start enjoying it.
7. It Is Delicious With Beer or Wine
Orange chicken is not just a good choice for your regular meals – it’s great with beer or wine as well! Orange chicken has just the right amount of flavor so that you don’t need to add too much seasoning or sauce to make it taste better than before. Most people don’t even notice that they are eating orange chicken with beer or wine!
8. It Is Easy to Make
The great thing about orange chicken is that it is very simple to make. The main ingredients are chicken, rice and vegetables, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. All you need are some fresh vegetables and a few spices, and you will be able to make a delicious meal for your family or friends!
9. It’s Delicious for Vegetarians
Since the main ingredients are chicken and vegetables, it’s easy to make vegetarian orange chicken without using any meat products. You can even use soy-based chicken if you want, although this may make the dish taste too salty or bitter. However, if you use vegetable oil instead of animal fats in making the sauce, then it will be much healthier.
How To Make Healthier Orange Chicken At Home
Go for dark meat
The chicken used in most orange chicken recipes is white meat. While it is leaner than dark meat, white meat doesn’t have as much flavor. When you’re using dark meat, you’ll get a lot more from the taste and texture of the dish.
Marinate the chicken
The marinade is where you can add a ton of flavor to the chicken. Using soy sauce as the base for your marinade is a good start, along with black pepper to help break down the protein and salt for flavoring. Using some sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and green onions will bring the orange flavors to life. You can also add orange juice concentrate to give the marinade a more concentrated flavor.
Add veggies to the dish
Adding vegetables to this dish will not only lighten up the calorie count, but it will also bring freshness to the dish, which orange chicken often lacks. Using broccoli, carrots, and red peppers is a good start. You can also use zucchini, bean sprouts, or even carrots. Make sure to sauté the vegetables in a separate pan to keep them from getting watery or overcooking. You can also add them to the sauce while it’s cooking.
Use a leaner protein
Orange chicken is often served with white rice. This dish is extremely high in carbohydrates, which can be unhealthy if consumed in large quantities. To make this dish healthier, you can use a leaner protein and substitute the rice for vegetables.
Swap out the rice
If you want to make a healthier orange chicken, you can choose to swap out the rice for vegetables. Broccoli, carrots, or even cauliflower mashed into a rice-like consistency works well. Orange chicken is often served with white rice. This dish is extremely high in carbohydrates, which can be unhealthy if consumed in large quantities. To make this dish healthier, you can choose to swap out the rice for vegetables.
Lighten up the sauce
Most orange chicken sauces are made up of cornstarch, orange juice, soy sauce, and lots of sugar. This makes the sauce extremely thick and has a high glycemic index. The best way to lighten up the sauce is to use a slurry. A slurry is a mixture of cornstarch and water. Using a slurry will thicken the sauce without adding the extra sugar. You can also add a bit of orange zest to give the sauce a fresh orange flavor and some color.
Better quality ingredients
The best way to make healthier orange chicken is by using better quality ingredients. Instead of using canned orange juice concentrate, use orange juice from a fresh orange. This will give the sauce a much better flavor. Instead of using low-quality cornstarch, use a mixture of arrowroot and water to thicken the sauce. This will also greatly reduce the calories in the dish. Orange chicken is full of sodium, so to make the dish healthier, use low-sodium soy sauce and unsalted peanuts for the garnish.
If you’re craving Chinese takeout and want to make it at home, you should try to make it healthier. The best thing you can do is to avoid the white rice and substitute it with brown rice. Brown rice has more fiber and nutrients than white rice. You can also order orange chicken with vegetables. This meal will provide you with essential vitamins and minerals. Best of all, you can make it at home for a lot less money than you’d spend at a Chinese takeout restaurant.