This recipe for ground orange chicken is an easy twist on your favorite American-Chinese takeout. Today we're simplifying every step of this dish and making orange chicken with ground chicken! It's easy and colorful and pairs great with broccoli and brown rice.
Recipe: $5.56 | Per Serving: $1.39 | Yield: 4 Servings
This is not your average takeout Chinese Orange Chicken. This orange ground chicken dish is much faster and much easier! This recipe is a riff on the classic flavor combination - but ready in a quarter of the time!
And, for the record, this recipe is a bazillion times cheaper than takeout, with no added sugar! At under $2 per serving and ready in the amount of time it takes to cook rice - what are you waiting for?
About This Recipe: Orange Chicken with Ground Chicken
This is a super easy 30-minutes-or-less type of thing. With no cornstarch and no frying, but lots of delicious orange flavor. You basically brown ground chicken (or turkey...or even pork!), add some garlic, ginger, spicy flavor, orange juice, and soy sauce / tamari. Simmer. The end!
It's really unbelievably delicious. Pile it all on brown rice and add some steamed broccoli and it's a very happy meal. Or, you can mix the rice and broccoli together in the pan for easy serving.
Note: this recipe was originally posted in December of 2015 when I lived in Japan and has been updated it in March 2022 because it is SO GOOD and SO popular! Thank you for being here and supporting me and my blog.
The first time I made this dish, I was living in Japan and craving some sort of orange chicken. Probably because the Japanese mikan (clementines or tangerines) are so sweet and delicious and cheap in the winter. Winter citrus is really the best!
The task of making an all-out coated and fried Chinese Orange Chicken recipe (a la Panda Express) just wasn't in the cards for me this time around.
So, I opted for my go-to cheat: ground meat. It's the perfect solution! You can make this ground chicken version of orange chicken any weeknight. You can substitute the chicken for another ground meat, or swap out the broccoli for whatever vegetable you're in the mood for. Just don't skip the orange sauce!
Is Orange Chicken Healthy?
What a tricky question! First, yes I would certainly call this dish very healthy - it is a homemade version with broccoli and brown rice and homemade sauce with no added sugar. All of these things are very 'healthy.' (Sincerely, your nutritionist blogger friend.)
But I also invite you to question what 'healthy' means to you.
- Does healthy mean relaxing with your family on a Friday night instead of cooking and doing dishes and the whole dinner time scramble?
- Does healthy mean going to a restaurant to escape the confines of the four walls of your home - where you may also be working from home and raising kids - in order to support a local business and enjoy a meal with family and friends?
- And what about symptoms - does healthy mean eating foods that don't cause symptoms of discomfort? Does healthy mean eating in a way that limits exposure to inflammatory compounds?
- Sometimes healthy means different things to different people and on different days of the week based on your own personal bandwidth.
I would not call takeout Chinese orange chicken (or any other Panda Express fried meals) a super nutritious meal, but it can be nourishing to you in other ways, especially if it is a once-in-a-while way to save your sanity. So be easy on yourself!
How to Make Orange Ground Chicken:
Basically, this is a 3-step recipe.
- Cook the brown rice.
- Steam the broccoli.
- Brown the chicken and add the sauce ingredients.
Put it all together and that's it! Using ground chicken makes this such a fast and simple process - it only takes a couple of minutes to cook ground chicken, so the dish can come together any night of the week.
Time-Saving Tips for This Recipe:
- Use pre-cooked brown rice. You can get pre-cooked organic brown rice packets in the freezer section of most grocery stores these days - and they're time savers for busy weeknights!
- Buy frozen broccoli! I love buying organic frozen broccoli florets to save time - and I especially like them for making weeknight dishes like this one even simpler.
- Add the broccoli to the same pot as the chicken while it is simmering! In this case, you want to add the broccoli atop the chicken and cover with a lid to allow it to steam. This will release more water into the chicken and prevent the sauce from thickening, but it's a good hack to make this even faster with fewer dishes.
Ingredients for Orange Chicken Sauce:
Classic orange chicken sauce consists of orange juice, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, some type of thickening agent like cornstarch or arrowroot, and sesame seeds or oil.
For this recipe, we are simplifying it even further. The flavor for this recipe comes from:
- sesame oil and seeds
- fresh ginger
- fresh garlic
- Asian-style spice sauce like chili-garlic sauce, sambal oelek, or sriracha; or red pepper flakes if that's what you've got
- soy sauce or tamari
- orange zest and freshly squeezed orange juice - even better if it is juiced from small sweet oranges like clementines, mikans, mandarins, or tangerines!
What is Ground Chicken?
Ground chicken is basically just minced white meat and dark meat chicken. Just like with turkey, you sometimes have the ability to choose your desired lean meat to fat ratio.
However, we don't see tons of ground chicken in the states, so if you're back home and you want to make this dish, you can definitely make your own ground chicken, but that will add significantly to the time it takes to make this dish!
How to make homemade ground chicken:
- Cut chicken breasts and/or thighs into about 1-2-inch chunks and freeze for one hour.
- Place them in a food processor and pulse until it reaches a minced consistency.
- Done! That's the homemade version of ground chicken!
You can also replace the chicken in this dish with ground turkey, or just chop chicken into small bite-sized pieces and follow the recipe as written, double checking the chicken with a thermometer before serving.
The safe internal cooking temperature for chicken is 165ºF.
What to Make with Ground Chicken:
Of all the ground meats, I find ground chicken to have the mildest flavor. And as followers know, I love cooking with ground meat because of how fast and simple it is.
Ground chicken can be used in place of ground pork and ground beef in many recipes, but it is especially great for stir-fries and one-pan dishes with lots of sauce.
Some recipes we frequently make with ground meat might not work great with ground chicken. For example, baked meatballs can easily go from juicy to dry, and chicken isn't always the best choice here. I also have a lamb gyro recipe with ground lamb that would work with another fatty meat (like pork), but might not be a good choice for chicken.
Ground Meat and Ground Chicken Recipes:
Here are some of my favorite ground meat recipes that will also work well with ground chicken!
Dietary Modifications and Substitutions for this Recipe
Vegetarian: No, cause of the chicken. I would recommend some version of Orange Tempeh, which is also delicious.
Low FODMAP: Skip the garlic, Use only broccoli florets (not dense stems). White rice is lower FODMAP than brown rice so you can make that swap as well. Those three changes will make the entire recipe Low FODMAP.
Spicy Sauce: I love using sriracha or sambal oolek, or any chili-garlic sauce here. However, if you don't have that on hand, you can use about ½ a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
Vegetable: You can use whatever vegetable you like here! Broccoli is a classic choice, but broccolini and Chinese broccoli would work equally well. You can also serve with steamed green beans or a freaking amazingly delicious sesame cucumber salad.
Starch: of course rice or brown rice are the standard choices for orange chicken, but soba or other noodles would also be a great pairing!
Protein: you can, of course, make this recipe with ground turkey or pork, but I think chicken is the best. If you don't have ground chicken nearby, you can make your own (see notes above), or just finely chop chicken breasts or thighs. (See above for vegetarian recommendation.)
Fresh Orange Juice: I would not recommend using boxed orange juice here. I think you really get the best orange flavor from the fresh juice. However, frozen orange juice concentrate would probably work well!
How to Modify This Recipe For Kids
This recipe is actually great for kids! But there are a few things that might work better for little ones who aren't sure if they like this dish yet.
- Use white rice instead of brown rice, or a combination of the two.
- Chop up the broccoli so it is in smaller, more manageable bites.
- Reduce the spice! You can always add some extra sriracha or red pepper flakes to your personal bowl, but most kids are more sensitive to spice than most adults.
PIN THIS RECIPE FOR LATER! ↓
Orange Ground Chicken Rice Bowls
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 ¾ cups water or broth for the rice
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 2 Tablespoons ginger freshly grated or minced
- 4 garlic cloves minced or grated
- 3 Tablespoons organic soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
- 1 Tablespoon Asian spice sauce or maybe ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes* try chili-garlic sauce, sambal oelek, or sriracha
- 1 teaspoon orange zest optional
- ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice preferably from small oranges like mikans, mandarins, or clementines
- 2 medium heads fresh broccoli about 6-7 cups florets
- sesame seeds for garnish
- Typically, I rinse my rice three times, then place in a large pot. For each 1 cup of brown rice, I use about 1 ¾ cups of water. Bring this to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer and simmer for the duration recommended by your package, usually 20-35 minutes. Then, without lifting the cover, remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes to finish cooking.
- In a large pan or wok, warm sesame oil over low-medium heat. Add chicken and brown on all sides. (Doesn't have to be fully cooked yet.)
- Add the ginger, garlic, spice sauce, orange juice (and zest), and tamari / soy sauce. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for 3-5 minutes, or until sauce has reduced and thickened. Stir well and remove from heat.
- Meanwhile, fill a pot with 1 inch of water. Add steamer basket and add chopped broccoli florets & stems. Cover and steam for 4 minutes.
- If you have a rice cooker, most rice cookers also have a steamer basket. Check and see if you can cook your broccoli in the rice cooker at the same time as the rice!
- Make the bowls by dividing the brown rice among four bowls and topping with chicken and broccoli. Top with sesame seeds and enjoy! We also like to squeeze a little extra orange juice over the top.
- Drizzle with a little more sesame oil or soy sauce / tamari as desired.
- I have made this orange sauce with Lee Kum Kee Chili Garlic Sauce, and their spicy chili sauce, as well as Huy Fong Foods Sriracha, and their Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce. You could also use about ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes or Vietnamese spicy chili peppers.
- One commenter mentioned that the red pepper flakes make it too spicy, so I recommend adding your spicy component in small amounts to avoid this!
- I highly recommend freshly squeezed orange juice. If they're not in season, or if the juice comes from a box/jug, it won't have the same fresh orange flavor.
- You can steam fresh or frozen broccoli, or even add the broccoli to the same pot as the chicken while it is simmer, cover with a lid and let it steam atop the chicken! You can then remove the lid and let it cook another 2 minutes to evaporate any water released, if necessary. You may have to add a little more soy sauce / Tamari and hot sauce to compensate for the water released from the broccoli.