How to Cook Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken in an Air Fryer

updated Sep 12, 2022
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

All of us Kitchn editors love a good shortcut dinner, and the frozen bag of Mandarin Orange Chicken from Trader Joe’s is one of our all-time favorites. Although the package directions say to roast it in the oven, Kitchn’s social media guru, Kaitlin, tipped me off to a smarter, tastier hack that makes the chicken even better. Her secret? Cook it in the air fryer.

I thought this cooking method would make the chicken marginally better (I mean, it’s pretty great already) but I was surprised by how much better it was — and how much faster.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The Air Fryer Is the Tastiest Way to Cook TJ’s Orange Chicken

One of my greatest discoveries of 2018 was that the air fryer is pretty darn great at cooking some of my favorite frozen foods. Some were obvious — frozen fries, for example — but others, like edamame in the pod, surprised me by how good they tasted cooked in the air fryer. Air-fried Trader’s Joe’s Orange Chicken doesn’t just taste better than the oven-baked version — it also tastes better than the deep fried takeout version of this saucy chicken dish.

How to Cook Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken in an Air Fryer

Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. Mine takes about 10 minutes to preheat, but check your air fryer’s manual for preheating recommendations. Then add the whole bag of chicken pieces (without the sauce) to the air fryer. Cook for 10 minutes. Pull out the basket, give the whole thing a hearty shake to toss the pieces, and cook for 10 minutes more.

While the chicken is cooking, I like to heat the sauce for about 45 seconds in the microwave. Do this in a big bowl, then add the crispy chicken and toss to coat.