Despite its unnaturally bright=orange hue, orange chicken is a takeout dinner favorite. But you won't find any takeout with the fresh citrusy flavor you can produce at home using finely grated orange zest and fresh-squeezed juice. Honey reveals the floral flavor of the orange and provides a sticky texture to the finished sauce, and a bit of fresh garlic and red pepper flakes add a hint of heat.
To quench the craving for sweet orange chicken, pull out the slow cooker and take fresh oranges from the fruit bowl, and there will be no need to wait for the doorbell to ring.
Slow Cooker Orange Chicken: Watch the Video
Although this chicken spends most of its time in the slow cooker turning juicy, tender, and soaking up a sweet citrusy sauce, it starts at the stove. Dredge the chopped chicken in cornstarch and give it a quick sear in a hot skillet. A crisp, starchy coating mimics the crispy fried crust that you expect from your neighborhood takeout and helps the orange sauce easily adhere to the chicken. Once the chicken is tender and juicy, spoon it out and reduce the sauce until sticky enough to coat a spoon. Pile atop a mound of steamed rice and serve with wedges of orange.
This is the perfect dinner to make when you pop in and out of the house for an hour or two at a time during a busy weekend afternoon. No need to wait by the door for delivery — sweet orange chicken with a slight bite from fresh ginger and red pepper flakes will be ready when you are.
More Takeout Favorites
Slow Cooker Orange Chicken
For the chicken:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
For the orange sauce:
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from 1 orange)
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 2 oranges)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon toasted (Asian) sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Cooked white rice
White sesame seeds
Thinly sliced scallions
Make the chicken: Mix the cornstarch, salt, and pepper together in a gallon-sized zip-top bag. Add the chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake until the chicken is well-coated.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan, and cook about 2 minutes per side. The chicken might not brown, but the cornstarch coating will become crispy and dry. The chicken will not be completely cooked at this point, and that is OK. Transfer the chicken to a 4-quart slow cooker and repeat with any remaining chicken.
Make the sauce: Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Pour over the chicken.
Cover and cook until chicken reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, 1 1/2 to 2 hours on the LOW setting or 45 minutes to 1 hour on the HIGH setting.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Pour the sauce into a large skillet and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the sauce is reduced by half and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 7 minutes. Add the chicken to the sauce and toss to combine.
To serve, spoon over cooked rice, sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions, and serve with orange slices, if desired.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days.