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Healthy Orange Chicken (Whole30, Paleo, Instant Pot)

You’re going to love this tender, juicy, and incredibly flavorful Healthy Orange Chicken! No frying, no sketchy ingredients – just real food ingredients that beats takeout every time.

Two bowls of Healthy Orange Chicken with rice on a wooden background

You’re going to loooove this Healthy Orange Chicken recipe! Why? Cause I said so.

Can you tell I have little kids? Don’t make me turn this blog around.

Is your nose seriously running again? Come here and let me wipe that off for you.

Have you ever seen someone at a restaurant pounding chicken to tenderize it and you’re like “hell to the nope”? Seems like a lot of work, right?

Did you know you can tenderize chicken without a mallet as long as you use a secret ingredient? And did you guess that the secret ingredient is baking soda? You did? Smarty pants.

Um, Sarah, What’s the Deal With You And Baking Soda?

It seems like any time I talk about having a “secret ingredient” for a recipe, it always ends up being baking soda. Remember my Real Food Healthy Sweet Tea, Homemade Pizza Sauce, and Easy Homemade Tomato Soup? Baking soda all up in their business.

It is amazing what baking soda can do to certain foods and drinks. And you’re about to have your mind freaking blown when you realize what it can do for chicken.

When it comes to velvety smooth chicken for stir fry you can’t beat the texture of chicken thighs. But…I rarely buy chicken thighs because the texture of working with the raw meat just creeps me out. What if I were to tell you that using a little bit of baking soda will turn your chicken breast into the mouthfeel of chicken thighs?

Why is mouthfeel the grossest word ever? Let’s back that truck up. I’m sorry I ever said that. Can we still be friends?

Tossing your chicken in a few teaspoons of baking soda and letting it rest for 10-15 minutes prior to cooking will give you the most tender chicken you’ve ever had. The Instant Pot already helps keeps meat from getting dry, but the baking soda takes this to the next level.

chicken, a dish of ginger, orange zest, garlic, and liquid seasonings

Sorry about showing you raw chicken. Blech.

Can I Make This Healthy Orange Chicken Whole30 Compliant?

Yep, with just two simple substitutions. Use coconut aminos instead of the soy sauce, and arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch. Substitute the ingredients using the same measurements.

How to Make Healthy Orange Chicken – Step by Step

  1. Cut chicken breast into bite-sized pieces. Toss with baking soda, stirring to distribute. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Chop the ginger, garlic, zest and juice the oranges.
  3. Rinse the chicken thoroughly. I place it in a small strainer and rinse until it runs clear. Pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Set the Instant Pot to Saute and allow to heat up for two minutes. Add olive and sesame oil. Add chicken and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Push the chicken to the sides of the Instant Pot, add another tiny drizzle of olive oil, then add ginger and garlic. Stir for 1 minute. Turn Instant Pot to off.
  6. Add a splash of the orange juice to the pot and use a wooden spoon to deglaze (fancy way of saying “scrape”) any stuck on residue off the bottom of the Instant Pot.
  7. Add the rest of the ingredients through the cornstarch. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, press Manual>High Pressure>5 minutes.  Mix the cornstarch and water until smooth and set aside.
  8. When the Instant Pot has finished cooking, use a clean kitchen towel to flip the vent to “venting” for a quick release.
  9. Open the lid and press Saute. Add the cornstarch slurry to the chicken and mix. Allow it to come to a boil, stirring often until the sauce begins to thicken – about 5 minutes. Top with sliced green onion and sesame seeds.
Four process shots of making homemade Healthy Orange chicken

More uncooked chicken. Yay!

Recipe Notes on Healthy Orange Chicken

  • You do not need to use the baking soda trick for this dish to turn out great. It will still be absolutely delicious if you skip this step. That being said, I highly encourage you to give it a try at some point because it is pure magic. Magic chicken. Chicken magic. A poultry sorcerer.
  • Don’t skip the deglazing step (step 6). Any stuck on residue on the bottom of the pot could impact the ability for it to properly come to pressure. Deglazing only adds about 30 seconds of work to the overall recipe. Do it.
  • Want a vegetarian version of this recipe? You got it!
  • To make Healthy Orange Chicken gluten-free/Whole30 approved, use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
  • No Instant Pot? Use a large frying pan or wok and cook the chicken throughout until no pink remains. Follow instructions in the recipe card below for more details.

What Goes Well With Healthy Orange Chicken?

We served ours with cauliflower fried rice, but you could use plain rice, homemade fried rice, or stir-fried veggies.

homemade orange chicken and rice in a pottery bowl with chopsticks on a wooden board

One year ago: Deliciously Non-Authentic Street Tacos
Three years ago: Meet Subacca, 2015 Subaru Outback
Six years ago: Get Off Me You Suckling Little Leech

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Making this recipe or others?

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Print
5 from 3 votes
Healthy Orange Chicken (Whole30, Paleo)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

You're going to love this tender, juicy, and incredibly flavorful Real Food Instant Pot Orange Chicken! No frying, no sketchy ingredients - just real food ingredients that beats takeout every time.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: asian chicken dinner, instant pot chicken, instant pot orange chicken
Servings: 6
Calories: 231 kcal
Author: Sarah
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs chicken breast
  • 2 tsp baking soda optional
  • 1 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp orange zest
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce, reduced sodium
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tsp sriracha optional
Cornstarch Slurry
Instructions
Instant Pot Instructions
  1. Cut chicken breast into bite-sized pieces. Toss with baking soda, stirring to distribute. Set aside.

  2. Chop the ginger, garlic, zest and juice the oranges. 

  3. Rinse the chicken thoroughly. I place it in a small strainer and rinse until it runs clear. Pat dry with paper towels.

  4. Set the Instant Pot to Saute and allow to heat up for two minutes. Add olive and sesame oil. Add chicken and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  5. Push the chicken to the sides of the Instant Pot, add another tiny drizzle of olive oil, then add ginger and garlic. Stir for 1 minute. Turn Instant Pot to off.

  6. Add a splash of the orange juice to the pot and use a wooden spoon to deglaze (fancy way of saying "scrape") any stuck on residue off the bottom of the Instant Pot.

  7. Add the rest of the ingredients through the cornstarch. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, press Manual>High Pressure>5 minutes.  Mix the cornstarch and water until smooth and set aside.

  8. When the Instant Pot has finished cooking, use a clean kitchen towel to flip the vent to "venting" for a quick release. 

  9. Open the lid and press Saute. Add the cornstarch slurry to the chicken and mix. Allow it to come to a boil, stirring often until the sauce begins to thicken - about 5 minutes. Top with sliced green onion and sesame seeds.

Frying Pan/Wok Instructions
  1. Follow steps 1-3 above. Make the cornstarch slurry and set aside.

  2. Heat a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp olive oil and sesame oil to the pan. Swirl to coat. Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

  3. Push the chicken to the sides of the pan and add the rest of the ingredients including the cornstarch slurry to the pan. Cook thoroughly until the chicken is completely white when a test piece is cut.

Recipe Notes

To make this Whole 30 compliant, use coconut aminos instead of the soy sauce, and arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch. Substitute the ingredients using the same measurements.

Nutrition Facts
Healthy Orange Chicken (Whole30, Paleo)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 231 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 9%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 96mg 32%
Sodium 468mg 20%
Potassium 657mg 19%
Total Carbohydrates 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sugars 2g
Protein 33g 66%
Vitamin A 2.1%
Vitamin C 23.7%
Calcium 2.2%
Iron 5.3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

This post on Healthy Orange Chicken contains affiliate links and we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you if you click through and make a purchase. This allows me to continue to provide free content, and I only share products that I use and love myself.

This easy Healthy Orange Chicken recipe is the perfect weeknight dinner. Healthy and made with 100% real food ingredients, this low carb and gluten-free supper is a delicious winner. #sustainablecooks #orangechicken #instantpotorangechicken #orangechickenrecipe #instantpot #whole30 #paleo

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14 comments on “Healthy Orange Chicken (Whole30, Paleo, Instant Pot)”

  1. Oh man, another recipe that sounds amazing! My husband loves orange chicken but I rarely eat it since MSG gives me migraines. I’m definitely going to try this. I’m so intrigued by the secret ingredient!

  2. Your orange chicken recipe has shockingly high levels of SODIUM! 1111 mg per serving? Are you serious? Does this have anything to with baking soda used to tenderize?
    Also would appreciate versions for NON Hot pot cooking , as I have other dietary financial priorities at the moment, such as more Organic ingredients.

    • Hi Bonnie,

      I use a third party nutritional label program and while I don’t agree with the sodium content in this nutritional label, I can’t edit it. Baking soda does contain sodium but since it is rinsed off it shouldn’t impact the counts too much but of course the program can’t interpret that. 1/3 cup of reduced sodium soy sauce has 2805 mg of sodium in it. As this serves 6 it would be 467.5 mg per serving. I’ll add a note to the recipe notes. Thanks!

      Additionally, there ARE non-Instant Pot cooking directions in the post. Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post. There is a heading that says “FRYING PAN/WOK INSTRUCTIONS”. 99.99% of my Instant Pot recipes have conventional/stovetop instructions included as I want anyone to be able to enjoy my recipes regardless of what special cooking equipment they may have.

      It is also mentioned in the main post under the “recipe notes” heading: No Instant Pot? Use a large frying pan or wok and cook the chicken throughout until no pink remains. Follow instructions in the recipe card below for more details.

      Please do take a close look at my IP recipes as the two-part instructions are always included because I want you guys to be happy! Let me know if you’re unable to find them and I can shoot you an email with the details or even send the recipe card as an attachment.

      Sarah

      ETA: I did some googling and turns out I could update the sodium. Doh! It has been updated to reflect the accurate amounts.

  3. Greetings,

     Know that I appreciate your swift reply to my comments on the hot pot orange chicken.

    Yes, I did gloss over the part of the recipe( shell shock from the sodium content ?) which offered a more conventional method of cooking this dish. 
    Thanks for pointing this out to me . 
    Recently, I have, by necessity ,meandered over to 85% plant based dietary plan, and only eat Chicken maybe 3 times/ month, in small portions. No red meat. Yes on Alaska wild Sockeye Salmon & Alaska Cod plus wild Argentina red Shrimp from the Deep South Pacific.
    As you know, it is necessary on a More limited diet, it’s important to find provacative new dishes to avoid crashing back into pasta/ white bread/ ready meals with some bad ingredients.
     
    Thanks so much for your gifts of your website and the work it takes to maintain.

    Be Well,

    Bonnie

    • I’m not sure if you’re near a Trader Joes, but they have wild caught Argentinan shrimp in their freezer section! Also, have you tried canned wild salmon? I buy it at Costco for our salmon cakes. I’m glad you said salmon because I knew I needed something to add to our Costco list since this morning and I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was!

      Anyhoo, the canned salmon is delicious for the salmon cakes. The recipe makes a bunch so I cook them all up at once and then freeze leftovers. If you like roasted veggies (my fav), simply throw a few in during the last 10 minutes of cooking and the cakes will heat up. Bonus: use cast iron to roast those veggies and salmon cakes and you don’t have to do dishes! Re: roasted veggies: did you see my post two weeks ago with the tip on roasting frozen veg? It has been a game changer for my weekly meal prep.

      If all goes well I’ll have a new sweet potato recipe out for you in a few weeks. I always make things multiple times before posting so there is always the potential for disaster.

      Have a great weekend!

  4. Just made this tonight. We practically licked the skillet clean! Our oranges weren’t very sweet, so I added a little sweetener. I really like how the baking soda helped the texture of the chicken too! Who knew? Served it with riced cauliflower. Thank you so much, Sarah!! I’ve already forwarded the recipe to my sisters. 

    • Yahoo! So glad you liked it Paulette! We recently discovered riced cauliflower as well and love it as a base for this chicken.

      Isn’t it amazing with a little baking soda can do to chicken? It’s magic.

  5. I loved this meal! It’s even better the next day. My kids are picky eaters and they gobbled it right up. The sauce is sweet but not too sweet like you would find in restaurants. I didn’t have an orange to zest so I added a little extra OJ after cooking it. Super easy and super delish. I will absolutely make this again!

  6. I made this tonight & it was family approved! I had no where near 4 tbsp of orange zest but there was plenty of orange flavor. I had run out of rice vinegar (thanks to a recent obsession with making my own salad dressings) so I used apple cider vinegar, don’t know how that impacted the flavor. I saw another comment that someone added sweetener. Was it supposed to have a bit of a sweet taste?

    • Hi Izzy, I don’t add sweetener to mine but it’s really up to you. I dump so much hot sauce on mine that it doesn’t make any sense to sweeten it. lol

      So glad the family enjoyed it!

  7. Tried this tonight….never did the baking soda on chicken….amazing. chicken tastes so juicy and tender. So good. Thank you for this recipe.

    • It’s pretty fricking awesome, right Heather? Who knew that baking soda could do that to chicken! So glad you enjoyed it. It’s even better the next day so hopefully you have leftovers for tomorrow.