This slow cooker orange chicken is made with tender bites of chicken drenched in a sweet and savory glaze. It’s so easy to make with just a quick browning of the meat then everything gets dumped in the crockpot. Make this copycat recipe and serve it with rice and a side of steamed broccoli the next time you’re craving your favorite takeout!
Crockpot Orange Chicken
Crockpot recipes are always a lifesaver when it comes to easy dinner ideas for the whole family, especially on busy weeknights, and I love recreating popular takeout recipes at home.
Orange Chicken is Chinese-inspired, but it is said to originate at Panda Express. It is a very Americanized version of a Chinese sweet & sour dish, kind of like Firecracker Chicken, but without the heat.
The sticky sauce and the juicy chicken has made it super popular over the years.
Putting two things that I love, the slow cooker and take-out copycat recipes, I’ve come up with orange chicken in a crock pot.
The flavorful sauce is irresistible, there is no heavy breading or deep frying, and you get to control the amount of sodium in it.
Serve it with chicken fried rice and you won’t miss carryout at all!
Along with this orange chicken, I’ve shared other Asian-inspired restaurant favorites such as crockpot sweet and sour chicken, easy Kung Pao chicken, and chicken and broccoli to add to your menus.
Why you’ll love Slow Cooker Orange Chicken
Healthier (and better) than takeout – As we know takeout isn’t the healthiest option especially when it’s loaded with sodium, sugars, and preservatives. Not to mention the heavy oils from frying! Making it yourself with simple ingredients means you can take control.
Easy steps – The preparation of the meat is all the elbow grease you’ll need. Once you cut it into chunks, dredge it in cornstarch, and brown them a bit, you’re all set. The crockpot takes over from there.
Super tasty – Orange chicken has a beautiful combination of sweet, savory, and tangy citrusy flavors. The entire family should approve of this one.
Makes great leftovers – Take it for work for lunch the next day or serve it for dinner again. You won’t hear any complaints, believe me!
Equipment you’ll need
Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe, why you need them, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.
- Chicken: Boneless skinless chicken breasts are what I use. You can also use chicken tenders or boneless skinless chicken thighs instead. Trim any excess fat and then cut into bite-sized pieces. This usually works out to about 1” chunks.
- Cornstarch: Coating the bites in corn starch helps to absorb the moisture from the meat making it easier to give it a nice brown sear. It also adds a bit of crispy coating without deep frying which will help thicken the sauce later.
- Oil: You’ll need oil to brown the cubes of chicken – vegetable oil, olive oil, or avocado oil, whichever neutral oil you prefer.
- Orange Marmalade: Puts the orange in orange chicken! It’s an easy way to add the citrus and sweetness combined, because orange marmalade contains sugar.
- Low Sodium Soy Sauce: This adds a fantastic salty umami flavor to the dish. I keep it low sodium to avoid excess sodium, but use what you’ve got.
- Vinegar: Regular white vinegar is what I use because it’s what I always have on hand. If you have rice wine vinegar, feel free to use it.
- Sesame Oil: Gives us the signature nutty aroma and flavor.
- Ground Ginger & Minced Garlic: Aromatics that when paired together pack a subtle punch that can’t be missed!
- Red Pepper Flakes: For heat. Adjust to suit your tastes.
- Sesame Seeds: You’ll need some for the glaze and some for garnish.
- Scallions: Also known as green onions, they are used for garnish with the sesame seeds. Adds a pop of green and presents as a true takeout copycat!
How to make this crockpot Orange Chicken recipe
This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Step One: Coat the chicken pieces in cornstarch. You can use a shallow dish, or add the cornstarch and meat to a zip-top back and give everything a shake.
- Step Two: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and place the dredged pieces in a single layer, without crowding the pan. Lightly brown each side of the meat but don’t cook it all the way through. Then, transfer the browned pieces to the basin of the crockpot.
- Step Three: In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze. This includes the marmalade, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds. Pour it overtop the chicken and stir everything to combine.
- Step Four: Cover and cook on LOW for 3 hours. Check on it about halfway to watch for burning, and stir it. Once it’s ready, garnish with scallions and extra seeds and serve over fried rice. Enjoy!
What to serve with this easy orange chicken recipe
Chicken fried rice is a family favorite around here, but if you’re looking for something a bit simpler, plain white rice or brown rice is also great.
For a low-carb choice, cauliflower rice is an alternative option!
I like to have a vegetable side too, something like a side of broccoli, oven roasted carrots, roasted garlic green beans, or lemon garlic Brussel sprouts.
Tips & Suggestions 🍊
- Cut the chicken into even-sized pieces for even cooking.
- If you like bell peppers in your orange chicken, add chopped red bell pepper into the basin at the same time as everything else. If you prefer yours with a bit more crunch, you can add them in halfway through the cook time.
- For extra veggies, you can use broccoli florets as well.
- Every crockpot runs differently, so keep an eye out about halfway through. The time stated should be used as a guideline and adjusted for your make and model.
- For more heat in your glaze, add an extra 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
- Do you have a slow cooker liner? Go ahead and use it for extra easy cleanup!
How to reheat and store Slow Cooker Orange Chicken
How to store leftovers
Keep any leftover crockpot orange chicken in an airtight container. Before closing the lid, allow it to cool completely.
How long will orange chicken last in the fridge?
This recipe is best when eaten right away, however, it will be good for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Can I freeze it?
Sure can. Store it in a freezer-safe container and keep it frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
How to reheat crockpot orange chicken
Place leftovers in a saucepan or skillet to reheat on the stovetop. You can use the microwave as well.
If you find the sauce has thickened too much, add a splash of water to help thin it out.
Why is my slow cooker orange chicken rubbery?
This tends to happen when it’s overcooked. It could be because it was more than just seared at the beginning making it overcooked by the time it was done.
As mentioned earlier, every slow cooker is different. You want to make sure it’s cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F and then it’s done. Check on it throughout just to make sure you’re not overdoing it.
Can I make this gluten free?
Yes, to make this gluten-free, swap with tamari or coconut aminos. Everything else listed is already gluten-free, but always check your specific labels.
Do I have to brown the chicken first?
I highly recommend you don’t skip this step. You can add raw chicken to the slow cooker, but to get the signature crispy golden outer skin on your orange chicken, you need to sear it first! The cornstarch also helps to thicken the glaze so it’s not runny. The extra step is worth it.
Need more slow cooker chicken recipes? Try these:
Slow Cooker Chicken Gnocchi Soup
Slow Cooker Beef Ramen Noodles
Crockpot Honey Bourbon Chicken
Click here for my entire collection of slow cooker recipes.
Bob Theroux says
That sounds good Melissa and I plan to try it. We buy a bag of Orange Chicken at Trader Joe’s once a month or so. It’s the best we’ve tasted so far.
Melissa Williams says
I tried that one once & liked it, too! I don’t normally like breading so I like this slow cooker version 🙂
Michael Jones says
I love the orange chicken recipe. It reminds me that we’re at the chinese restaurant.