What is it about orange chicken that has America in a chokehold? Maybe it’s that addictively sticky, citrusy sauce, or the crispy, crusty edges. Those who have been vegan a while will recall when Panda Express released a plant-based Beyond Orange Chicken on their menu only to retract it weeks later. Well, now you don’t have to rely on corporations for your orangey fix! It’s time to take matters into your own hands. You’ll love this vegan orange chicken because it’s:
- Sticky, sweet, and tangy with just a little kick of spice
- Sweetened naturally with orange juice and maple syrup
- Great over rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, or greens
What Is Vegan Orange Chicken Made Of?
Vegan orange chicken’s all about the sauce, baby. Here are the key ingredients:
Garlic and ginger: These delicious aromatics go in the pan first to sautee down and mellow out. The recipe calls for a LOT of garlic. It goes so well with the sweet orange.
Orange juice: Buy oranges and juice them yourself! You’ll already need them for the zest, so the extra step isn’t too hard.
Orange zest: For that extra punch of orange flavor. Make sure not to get any of the white pith in the sauce, or else it could turn bitter.
Rice vinegar: This gives the “sour” note to this sweet/sour sauce. You can also use distilled white vinegar.
Soy sauce: For saltiness and umami. Use tamari if you’re gluten free.
Maple syrup: While there are natural sugars in the orange juice, adding a bit of maple syrup punches up the “sticky” factor and adds another depth of flavor.
Sriracha: Just a teaspoon goes a long way to add some zip to the sauce.
Corn starch: Added to some water to form a slurry, corn starch thickens the sauce.
How To Make Vegan Orange Chicken
This recipe comes together so quickly.
First, cook the chicken. Add some neutral oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the chicken and cook — stirring minimally — until all edges are nicely browned. Remove and set aside.
Next, add the garlic and ginger to the now empty pan. Sautee until it has softened, about 3 minutes, being careful not to burn.
Add the rest of the sauce ingredients except the cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat — it’ll take about 6 minutes. Then add the cornstarch slurry and cook another 2 minutes.
Add the chicken back in and stir to coat.
Serve hot over rice garnished with green onions.
Recipe Variations and Substitutions
Breaded vs. unbreaded chicken: For this recipe, feel free to use breaded crispy vegan chicken instead of unbreaded. The chicken will be more reminiscent of fried, takeout-style orange chicken. Just cook them in the oven or air fryer according to package directions, then toss in a hot skillet with the sauce just before serving.
Gluten free: To make this recipe gluten free, use tamari instead of soy sauce, and make sure the vegan chicken you use is GF (Daring is a good brand). You can also substitute tofu, tempeh, or chickpeas for the chicken.
Spice: Feel free to add more sriracha to the sauce based on your spice level tolerance. The high sugar content in the sauce helps offset the heat.
Serve this saucy chicken hot out of the pan over rice. I also like to include steamed green beans or broccoli on the plate. Don’t forget to garnish with lots of green onions!
Leftovers save well in the fridge for up to 3 days. Any extra sauce can be cooled and transferred to an airtight container and frozen for up to 6 months. I often make a double or triple batch of the sauce to have some on hand later for later!
More vegan chicken inspiration:
- Cozy Vegan Chicken Pot Pies
- Chicken Salad Veronique
- Sick Day Chicken Noodle Soup
- Takeout Style Butter Chicken
Vegan Orange Chicken
For the orange sauce
- 1 tbsp avocado oil (or other neutral oil)
- 8 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 1-inch knob fresh ginger (peeled and minced)
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp sriracha
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp grated orange zest
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
For the stir fry
- 1 tbsp avocado oil (or other neutral oil)
- 1 13.5-oz package unbreaded vegan chicken (see note)
- orange sauce (above)
- cooked rice (for serving)
- sliced green onions (for garnish)
- First, cook the chicken. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add the chicken and cook, stirring minimally, for about 8 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add another tbsp oil to the now empty pan. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1–2 minutes, until softened and fragrant.
- Add the rest of the sauce ingredients EXCEPT the cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat — it should take about 6 minutes.
- Combine the cornstarch and water and whisk well to create a slurry. Add the slurry to the pan and simmer 2 more minutes, or until thickened.
- Add the chicken back to the pan and toss everything to coat thoroughly.
- Remove from the heat and serve the orange chicken hot over rice. Garnish with green onions.