This air fryer orange chicken is easy and convenient for those busy weeknight meals. It’s a healthy alternative to frying chicken and it tastes great! It’s crispy homemade chicken nuggets sauced with an amazing sweet and savory orange sauce that’s sticky and gooey and better than takeout! It can be made traditionally or with tapioca starch and coconut aminos for a paleo version.
I love making Asian-inspired meals at home. And using the air fryer simplifies the process! Just like this Air Fryer Sesame Chicken, you get one great meal in less than 30 minutes.
The difference between making a good meal or a great one is getting that crunchy crust on the chicken and pairing it with a great sauce.
The cornstarch in the air fryer gives this orange chicken a crispy outer layer that seals in the juices of the chicken. It’s a perfect pair with a homemade orange sauce.
Making your own sauce means you know exactly what is going into it. Store-bought sauces usually have a lot of preservatives, artificial colorings and flavorings, so I like to make my own.
This tangy orange sauce can be made while the chicken is cooking, so there’s no time added to the process. It’s just an incredibly simple and healthy alternative to takeout or store-bought varieties. Plus, it just tastes better!
For the Chicken
- Chicken breasts, cut into 1” cubes
- Egg, beaten with a splash of water
For the Orange Sauce
- Orange juice
- Soy sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Orange zest
- Grated ginger
- Grated garlic
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
How to make orange chicken in an air fryer:
For the Chicken
- Prep the air fryer basket with parchment paper or light oil spray.
- Set up a dredging station with the beaten egg in a large bowl and cornstarch in another.
- Dip the chicken, a few pieces at a time, into the egg then into the cornstarch.
- Place the breaded chicken in the air fryer and cook until the chicken is golden brown on the outside and registers 165 °F on an instant-read thermometer.
Allow the chicken to cool for 5 minutes before saucing– this will help prevent it from getting soggy.
To see the full recipe, skip to the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
For the Orange Sauce (while the chicken fries)
- Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to low.
- Stir constantly.
- Allow the sauce to thicken until it can coat the back of a spoon.
- Let it cool for at least five minutes before adding to the chicken.
- Once the chicken and sauce have cooled, add them both to a large bowl and toss.
- Garnish with green onion, parsley, and/or sesame seeds.
- Enjoy immediately.
It’s easy orange chicken in the air fryer!
It takes 10 minutes to prep. and 15 minutes to cook, which is much quicker than waiting for take-out!
You can feed 4 with this recipe, but it’s easy to double if you’re feeding more.
- Cut the chicken breasts as evenly as possible. They don’t have to be perfect, but we are going for 1” cubes. Having the same size ensures the chicken cooks evenly.
- You just want enough cornstarch to cover the chicken lightly. If you add too much, it won’t turn out well at all. Read more on this below.
- Shake off the extra cornstarch before placing it in the air fryer.
- You also want to shake the basket every few minutes while it’s cooking. If pieces get stuck together, try to separate them.
- Don’t overcrowd the air fryer basket. Leave space in between each piece so that the air circulates around the chicken for even cooking.
- It’s always best to cook in batches in the air fryer if you’re making enough to feed a larger crowd.
- Let the chicken cool before adding the sauce to keep it nice and crisp.
- You can create a slurry by mixing the additional cornstarch and water together for the sauce. This helps thicken the sauce. Then just mix the cornstarch and water mixture into the sauce. Simmer for an extra minute then remove from the heat. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
- I don’t usually have a problem with food sticking in my air fryer, but if you do— line the air fryer basket with parchment paper before you add the chicken.
- Don’t use aerosol spray! You run the risk of chipping the coating of the basket. If you don’t have parchment paper, you can lightly mist a little oil on the basket.
- The chicken is ready when it is a nice golden brown on the outside and registers 165 °F (74 °C) on an instant-read thermometer.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Too much cornstarch?
If you go overboard on the cornstarch, you will have a mess on your hands.
Cornstarch is light and airy; consequently, it will fly around in the air fryer while it’s cooking.
If you coated the chicken with too much cornstarch, it will look like a dust storm blew through, and the chicken won’t brown up as it should.
You can still eat it, but you might be thinking about the clean-up process throughout your meal and be discouraged from making it again. But never fear, there is a solution!
To avoid a mess, you can use ½ the amount of cornstarch in the dredging station. Lightly coat the chicken and stop. Tap it to get off the excess cornstarch before you add it to the air fryer basket. Then add a little more cornstarch to coat the rest of the chicken as needed. A little bit of cornstarch will help keep things nice and tidy. 😉
Do I have to use the orange zest?
It’s not mandatory, but you’d be missing out on that nice orange zing you would expect from orange chicken.
I think adding the zest just kicks up that vibrant flavor a notch and makes the dish much more flavorful.
For another orangey dish, try this beef stir fry!
The sauce is too thin:
No problem! You can thicken the sauce to your taste.
If you like it super thick, just add another teaspoon of cornstarch to water and add it to the sauce. Let it cook for another minute.
Remember, the sauce will thicken as it cools, so it might get thicker than you think by letting it just sit a bit.
The sauce is too thick?
Just add a little water to help thin it out a little.
How long does the sauce last?
You can store the orange sauce in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to serve, just warm up the sauce in a microwave and toss it with the chicken.
I would sauce only the amount of chicken that you intend to eat. Then store the remaining chicken and the sauce separately for a fantastic lunch later. 😉 This will help the chicken from getting soggy.
Any leftover bits of chicken can be reheated in the air fryer to maintain crispiness, then add the reheated sauce, and you’re on your way to good eating.
How to reheat the chicken in the air fryer:
Preheat the air fryer to 350 °F (176 °C) and cook the chicken bits for 3 to 4 minutes until they are thoroughly warmed.
Again, I recommend storing the sauce and chicken separately. If you’ve combined it all then you can place it in a pan that fits into the air fryer and reheat it. You might also want to line that pan with parchment paper for easier cleanup.
What to serve with orange chicken?
I like to keep things simple, so I serve this orange chicken with rice and veggies. But feel free to add some zeal with extra veggies like with this Fried Rice from The County Cook.
I also like steamed broccoli or carrots or nicely sauteed bok choy or other leafy greens!
Why use the air fryer?
Well, I just love how the air fryer makes things super crispy with little to no oil! It makes it healthier and super easy to have “fried” food!
Imagine frying the chicken, standing over a pot of hot boiling oil! Nope! The air fryer makes it easy to just pop it in and let it do its thing!
It’s super convenient and efficient. You save energy and effort, so that is a double plus for me!
It cooks in no time at all, and I don’t have to heat up a big ol’ oven for some chicken.
If you don’t have an air fryer, that’s ok, you can still make this orange chicken.
How to make orange chicken in the oven:
You can definitely bake the chicken in the oven if you don’t have an air fryer. It takes just a little more time, but that’s about it.
Just preheat the oven to 425 °F (220 °C) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. You can line the baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly coat the sheet with cooking spray.
Flip the chicken halfway through the cooking time and then start on the sauce.
That’s it! No extra steps are needed.
Can I make it gluten-free?
With some alternative products, you can make this orange chicken gluten-free. First, cornstarch is naturally gluten-free, so we’re all good there.
Both the rice vinegar and the soy sauce aren’t necessarily gluten-free. So you would need to buy gluten-free soy sauce and read the labels on the rice vinegar.
Rice vinegar is okay for people with celiac or gluten sensitivity, but beware because not all rice vinegar is the same. Make sure it doesn’t contain any other types of grains.
For another quick and easy gluten-free chicken recipe, try these air fryer Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders!
You can use tapioca starch in place of the cornstarch. Arrowroot starch would surely also work.
And instead of soy sauce, you can use coconut aminos.
The paleo version is just as delicious!
Other recipes for the air fryer:
- This Popcorn Chicken Air Fryer is a perfect snack or main dish. It’s easy and can be made gluten-free or paleo.
- These Air Fryer Pizza Rolls are a perfect snack for sleepovers and after-school breaks. They’re made with gooey mozzarella and marinara all rolled inside of wonton wrappers. They’re extra crispy and piping hot treats!
- Looking for another easy main dish? This Air Fryer BBQ Chicken is ideal. It’s amazingly easy, juicy and tender on the inside with a sweet and crispy outside. It’s ready in only 20 minutes.
- This Air Fryer Ham is a great addition to weekend meals. It calls for a fully baked ham with butter, garlic and herbs. It’s super simple to make especially in the air fryer!
- These Frozen Chicken Wings in Air Fryer are super delectable! This recipe calls for using frozen chicken wings, so it’s no-fuss and less mess! It’s extra crispy yet juicy wings slathered with everyone’s favorite Buffalo sauce.
- Air Fryer Panko Chicken is another excellent option!
Air Fryer Orange ChickenServings 4 people
For the Chicken:
- 1 pound (453 grams) chicken breasts cut into 1” chunks
- 1 large egg (50 grams, out of shell) beaten with a splash of water
- ½ cup (60 grams) cornstarch or tapioca starch
For the Orange Sauce:
- ½ cup (120ml) orange juice
- ¼ cup (60ml) soy sauce or coconut aminos for paleo
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon grated garlic
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch or tapioca starch for paleo
- red pepper flakes to taste
For the Chicken:
- Spray or grease the air fryer basket with olive oil and set aside.
- Place the beaten egg in a large bowl and the cornstarch in another.
- Dip the chicken, piece by piece, into the egg followed by the cornstarch.
- Place the breaded chicken in the air fryer and cook at 37 °5 (190 °C) for 12-14 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown on the outside. The internal temperature should be 165 °F (74 °C).
- Let the chicken cool for 5 minutes before saucing. That prevents it from getting soggy.
For the Orange Sauce:
- Mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low.
- Cook until the sauce has thickened and can coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
- Set aside to cool for at least five minutes before saucing the chicken.
- Once the chicken and sauce have cooled just a bit, add them both to a large bowl and toss to combine.
- Garnish with green onion, parsley, and/or sesame seeds. Enjoy immediately.