You can always tell when we’ve been on vacation because I start making our favourite meals at home. This orange chicken from The Cheesecake Factory was an easy one for me because I’ve been making a copycat version of it for years. Best part is, after eating there a couple weeks ago, we actually agree that mine’s better now!
If you haven’t had orange chicken before, I’m so excited you landed here. Tender bite size pieces of breaded chicken that somehow stay incredibly crispy even once they’re tossed in my slightly sweet and tangy orange sauce. I always serve them on top of a pile of rice (just like The Cheesecake Factory does), because the extra orange sauce running through the grains is just a chefs kiss once your chicken’s gone.
The Key To Crispy Orange Chicken
Whenever I see a recipe that involves breading and frying a part of me sighs. No, not because it’s fried. You have to enjoy your food sometimes, it can’t all be baked chicken breasts. It’s because a lot of the time I find breading meat a pain in the ass to do. So many extra steps I don’t always feel like doing.
Good news, this isn’t that kind of breading. In fact, I think this will probably be one of the easiest breaded chicken meals that you’ve ever made. It’s more like dumping and squeezing than your typical egg wash and flour. Keep that in mind when you want to make buffalo chicken bites or something too – same breading process, just swap out the sauce.
The chicken takes a quick marinade in some of the sauce, then a dip into some whipped egg whites. This coats the chicken just enough to hold onto our breading mixture and make it bumpy and crispy. You might not be used to seeing a breading that’s mainly cornstarch, but you have to trust me on this one.
The Perfect Crispy Breading For Orange Chicken
I’ve promised you that the breading for my orange chicken is easy, and it is. I’ve been using this style for my chicken bites for years, especially for these pub style boneless buffalo bites! Because I’ve been doing it for years though, I’ve got a few tips and tricks that I want to share here to make it faster for you.
- Do not stress when you see that you’re marinading the chicken. You can do it for 10 minutes, you can do it for up to 12 hours. Just do what you need to that works. You can even mix up the marinade / sauce in a bowl the night before and just keep it in the fridge. Then just use a cup of it to marinade the chicken when you’re ready to cook, and thicken the rest up on the stove.
- Put a colander in your sink and dump the chicken pieces in that to drain them. Leave them there while you get the egg whites and breading ready.
- Egg whites – whip them until they’re soft peaks. Basically foamy with no liquid egg sitting at the bottom. If you over whip them towards stiff peaks, not a big deal.
- Dump all the drained chicken pieces into the egg whites and just toss them around with your hands so they all get a bit of the egg on them. Doesn’t matter if it’s a lot or a little, you don’t need it to look uniform.
- Into the breading – grab a small handful of the chicken from the egg whites and sprinkle them over the top of the breading bowl. Don’t worry about extra bits of egg white falling in too – those will help make the breading bumpy and extra crispy. Using your hand, and going one piece of chicken at a time, just kind of squeeze the breading onto the chicken. When it’s totally coated, put it on a rimmed baking sheet to rest until they’re all done and you’re ready to fry.
If you want to go all out and do a whole Cheesecake Factory inspired meal, you’ve got to try my recipe for their brown bread. This is one of the recipes I’m most proud of on this site. It’s been my most popular recipe for years now, and it’s because it’s so damn good. Enjoy!
Orange Chicken Sauce That Slaps
Sorry, that heading is for Anna, because it’s the one phrase constantly coming out of my 11 year olds mouth lately. If you’re lucky enough to not be exposed to pre-teen lingo, when something slaps it means it’s the shit. So yeah, my orange chicken sauce slaps.
It’s also super easy to make. You just whisk together all the ingredients (except the cornstarch and water) in a large saucepan. Remove a cup to marinade the chicken with, then bring the rest of it up to a simmer. While it’s simmering, you make a slurry out of cornstarch and cold water. Then you just slowly whisk it in to thicken the sauce.
The hardest part about making this sauce yourself from scratch is stopping yourself from licking the spoon. You can even kick it up with some heat if that’s your thing. We like it sweet with a bit of tang, but you can add a pinch of cayenne pepper to it. You can add some cayenne pepper to the breading mixture too if you want.
Orange Chicken Recipe – The Cheesecake Factory Copycat
Alright, I think I covered all the bases there for you. I know you’re going to absolutely love this recipe, and I can’t wait for you to try it. Make sure to let me know what you think of it when you make it!
- 4 large chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces (roughly 1" cubes)
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
- Zest strips from 1 large navel orange
- 1 1/2 cups orange juice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups corn starch
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
Marinade & Sauce
- In a large sauce pot, whisk together the broth, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, orange zest, orange juice, garlic, and ginger. Remove 1 cup of the marinade and place in a large zip-lock bag, along with your chicken pieces. Let marinate for at least 10 minutes, but no more than 12 hours. If making ahead, store the remaining mixture in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
- Bring the remaining mixture up to a simmer over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, make a slurry by mixing together the cold water and 3 tbsp cornstarch. While whisking the simmering sauce, slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture, until it thickens to your liking. Turn off the heat and set aside. If you find that it got too thick, you can thin it out with a little bit more orange juice or water, adding a tablespoon at a time.
Breading & Frying
- Take out a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
- Dump the chicken out of the marinade and into a colander set in your sink to drain.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups cornstarch, flour, and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whip your egg whites just until soft peaks form.
- Place the drained chicken pieces into the bowl with the egg whites and stir around to make sure they're all lightly coated. I use my hands to do this, to make sure the chicken pieces all get separated and coated.
- Take a handful of the egg white coated chicken and sprinkle them into the bowl with the flour mixture. Use your hand and, one at a time, toss the chicken piece around in the flour, squeezing the flour onto it to make it stick. Place the breaded pieces on the rimmed baking sheet and repeat until they're all finished.
- Heat enough oil to deep fry in a large dutch oven to 350°F. Line a second rimmed baking sheet with paper towels and set aside for the fried chicken pieces. Start to re-heat your sauce over medium-low heat.
- Carefully add a few handfuls of your breaded chicken pieces to the hot oil, one at a time, making sure not to over crowd. Fry until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken to the paper towel lined baking sheet to drain.
- Gently toss the fried chicken in the warm orange sauce just before serving. I like pairing it with rice for dinner.
I just use my potato peeler to get the strips of orange zest - quick and easy that way!