Primal Chinese Orange Chicken

Primal orange chickenOrange chicken probably needs no introduction, but for those of you who have never ordered from a Chinese-American take-out menu, it’s battered and deep-fried chicken pieces coated in a sticky, sweet orange sauce. Health food, it is not. But sometimes, it’s surprisingly easy to transform a recipe from something SAD into something deliciously Primal.

This Primal Chinese Orange Chicken recipe takes what’s good about Orange Chicken (crispy morsels of chicken and a sweet, tart, spicy sauce) and leaves out what’s bad (flour, cornstarch, canola oil, sugar). The orange sauce – made mainly from freshly squeezed orange juice, coconut aminos and rice vinegar – is so good that it makes a person wonder why sugar is ever added in the first place. And the bits of chicken – tender in the middle with a substantial, battered coating – are the type of thing you’ll be popping in your mouth before they have a chance to hit your plate.

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 1 hour


Orange Chicken1

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup tapioca flour  (120 g)
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt (3.7 ml)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons coconut aminos, divided (10 ml plus 30 ml)
  • ¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil (1.2 ml)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons finely chopped ginger (15 ml)
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (120 ml)
  • 3 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar (15 ml)
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (1.2 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (15 ml)
  • 2 cups cold-pressed high-oleic/high-stearic sunflower oil  (for frying – depending on the size of the pot, you may need more or less than 2 cups)
  • 2 green onions, chopped (475 ml)


In a medium bowl, mix together the tapioca flour and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and 2 teaspoons/10 ml of the coconut aminos until frothy. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl. Mix well so the chicken is well coated. Set aside.

To make the sauce, heat the sesame oil in a small pot and sauté the garlic and ginger for 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add orange juice, remaining 2 tablespoons/30 ml of coconut aminos, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and keep on the heat until the sauce reduces and thickens into a syrupy consistency, 3-5 minutes.

Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to separate (and discard) the bits of garlic and ginger. Stir in the orange zest. Set the sauce aside.

Use a fork or slotted spoon to scoop the chicken pieces out of the egg whites and into a clean bowl, leaving behind any of the egg white liquid that isn’t clinging to the chicken.

Transfer 1/3 of the chicken into the bowl of tapioca flour and toss to coat. Spread the coated chicken out on a large plate. Continue to add the remaining chicken to the tapioca flour in small batches until it is all coated.

Primal orange chicken

In a deep, heavy pot, heat the sunflower oil. You’ll want about 2 inches/5 cm of oil for frying. The oil should be very hot and glistening (and at around 350 ºF/177 ºC). Test the oil temperature by tossing in a tiny piece of chicken; it should bubble and fry immediately.

In small batches, carefully drop pieces of chicken into the oil one-by-one so the pieces don’t stick together. Move and turn the chicken around a few times as it cooks, so it browns evenly. Fry each piece for about 3 minutes or until golden.

Remove each batch of chicken from the oil and set aside. When all the chicken is fried, drizzle the orange sauce on top. Serve alone, garnished with green onions, or on top of cauliflower rice.


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20 thoughts on “Primal Chinese Orange Chicken”

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  1. Looks awesome! That sauce would make for a good veggie stir fry too!

  2. Great recipe. I have been looking for a way to crispy coat chicken in a primal fashion.

    By the way there is a typo in the Sunflower Oil link.

  3. I will definitely be trying this out soon. Eating a healthier version of orange chicken is like a double-win! You also mentioned cauliflower rice, which I’ve found (suprisingly) is a worthy substitute for white rice and doesn’t make me miss it at all! Thanks for the recipe.

  4. FYI for those with similar intolerances: Eggs are a problem for me, whites in particular, as is tapioca flour. I’ve breaded oriental chicken with just a quick marination in tamari/mirin/garlic and a generous coating of rice flour. Works great!

  5. This looks really good. I like that it is made with chicken thighs because I prefer that over chicken breast.

  6. Any suggestions for substitutions for coconut aminos? I hate anything to do with coconut and this recipe looks utterly awesome… could I use tamari instead? (Palaeo if the merest whiff of coconut makes you feel sick is kinda tough. I can’t even use coconut containing shampoos or body creams….)

    1. I have a bottle of coconut aminos that are garlic flavored, and seriously it doesn’t smell or taste like coconut at ALL. It’s pretty awesome.

    2. I was also going through looking for this. Apparently the coconut aminos are rather expensive as well. So first off, here is a link that gives you a way to replace everything coconut –

      Second, to save you the trouble of looking for it, I have also found a substitute for the aminos. While it is said to be a substitute for soy sauce, this can also be used as a way to substitute the aminos

      Hopefully this is of some help to you.

  7. yumm yumm
    will try it. also looks can use beef as well

    i’d use non-GMO GF soy source tho. (since i dont’ want to go out & buy new stuff when i have one that suffice!)

    although i think Chinese dishes traditionally do not use corn starch or flour for thickening or coating (probably sweet potato starch, lotus root starch, or tapioca).

    also most American Chinese food seem to be sweeter than authentic Chinese .

  8. Never heard of orange chicken before. Guess it is a US variation on good old lemon chicken.

  9. Sunflower oil?!?!?

    Common, use gee or coconut oil!

    A classic vegetable no go oil on this great side? I cant believe it…

    Hopefully just a mistake.



  10. Sunflower oil?!?!?

    Come on, use gee or coconut oil!

    A classic vegetable no go oil on this great side? I cant believe it…

    Hopefully just a mistake.



  11. Sunflower oil?!?!?

    Come on, use gee or coconut oil!

    A classic vegetable no go oil recommended on this great side? I cant believe it…

    Hopefully just a mistake.



  12. Sry for the duoblepost, was not my intention, my internet connection is messing around.

  13. high oleic sunflower oil is OK

    this is _Chinese_ dish; Chinese do not use ghee nor coconut oil.

    you could probably use lard. if you won’t like sunflower oil

      1. i just tried Mark’s recepie, except i stired fried the chicken instead of deep fried.
        really yummy

        i had some left over coconut (white) rice. so we had them together. (i just don’t like cauliflower)
        it really does not go well w/ coconut.
        white plain rice would’ve worked a lot better.

        then i also learned that authentic “orange beef”, “orange chicken” in Chinese cuisine the intense citrusy flavor comes from

        tangerine peel

        i’ll try it next time

        next time i’ll try tangerine & beef + plain rice. maybe some some bell pepper would go well


  14. high oleic sunflower oil is OK? And is this a product stocked at a common grocery store? And as above, I thought sunflower oil was a definite no-no reference Paleo?