In the early years of my marriage—when my husband and I ate fast food more often—I had a “usual” at a nearby Chinese food place: orange chicken, stir-fried vegetables, and chow mein. I really, really loved their orange chicken. But since learning about food-processing practices and the biological effects certain foods have on the body, I can’t look at a piece of that chicken without thinking about the sourcing of the animals, the starchy, gluten-filled breading, and the oxidized oils and sugary sauce in which it was fried and tossed. Not to mention the preservatives and flavorings.
Learning about food sourcing and nutrition can be enlightening and life-changing, but sometimes it’s just a plain old buzzkill. All joking aside, this is now my go-to orange chicken recipe, and it doesn’t make me think of anything but how delicious it is.
Prep time 15 minutes
21/2 pounds (1.1 kg) skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch (2.5 cm) knob of fresh ginger, minced or grated
2 oranges, zest and juice
Juice from 1 large lemon
2 tablespoons (30 ml) sesame oil, divided
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup (115 g) honey
1/3 (80 ml) cup coconut aminos
2 tablespoons (16 g) tapioca flour
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Cauliflower Rice (shown here and here), for serving
1 Place the chicken in a 4-quart (3.8 liter) slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat evenly.
2 Add the onion, garlic, ginger, 2 teaspoons orange zest, half of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Give it a quick stir.
3 Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, until chicken is very tender.
4 You’ll need to transfer the cooking liquid in the pot to a medium skillet on the stove. You can do this by pouring the contents of the cooker into a large mesh strainer with a container to catch the liquid. Or you can remove the chicken mixture from the cooker with a slotted spoon and transfer the remaining liquid to the skillet.
5 Return the chicken mixture to the cooker to keep warm.
6 To the skillet, add the honey, coconut aminos, the remaining orange zest, the juice from both oranges, the remaining lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil. Whisk in the tapioca flour to remove any lumps. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and let it cook at a medium boil for about 15 minutes, until the mixture is reduced and has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste, and add more salt or honey if desired.
7 Pour the orange-sesame sauce over the chicken mixture in the slow cooker. If the chicken needs to be warmed again, cover and cook it for about 10 to 15 minutes on high.
8 Transfer the chicken and sauce to a serving platter and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
9 Serve with Cauliflower Rice.