Is orange chicken keto friendly? Most orange chicken recipes are high in carbs due to added sugar and chicken breading. This healthy low carb orange chicken is sugar free and uses coconut flour breading. Did you know that you shouldn’t make keto orange chicken with orange juice? Keep reading to find out why, and the secret ingredient we’re using instead in this easy air fryer recipe!
I’ve already shared recipes for Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken and Air Fryer Orange Chicken. With this homemade keto orange chicken, even those on Atkins can join in on the fun. (Move aside Panda Express, there’s a new game in town. Hahaha)
It’s easy enough to make crispy chicken pieces with crushed pork rinds or one of the many keto flours available. Keto sticky orange sauce can be sweetened with a sugar-free sweetener, of course.
However, there’s one major problem with making a very low carb version of this Chinese restaurant favorite. Oranges and orange juice aren’t really keto friendly.
How do you make orange chicken breast without oranges? I was up for the challenge.
Technically, even high carb foods can fit into the keto diet if they’re cut small enough. There’s about 25 grams of net carbohydrates in orange juice. If we only use a few tablespoons of OJ in a recipe, the total carb count could remain low enough to be keto.
That said, I think that a huge advantage of the ketogenic diet is that it’s possible to see results (weight loss, better blood sugar control) without counting carbs or calories. Some people see success with keto simply by avoiding certain foods, and I try to support this.
So how did I make this Keto Chinese chicken dish without the oranges? That’s what we’re covering today!
Calories, Net Carbs, Protein
One serving of keto orange chicken has 328 calories, 10.8 grams net carbs, and 43.1 grams protein. This does not include any side dishes or garnishes.
What are the benefits of this low carb orange chicken? Keto orange chicken offers a few advantages, such as:
- Sugar Free: Most orange chicken recipes are loaded with added sugar. This very low carb Mandarin chicken has no sugar added. If you’re looking to cut back on your intake of sugar, this recipe is a great choice.
- No Deep Frying: The crispy chicken in most recipes for orange chicken is deep fried. Here, we’re making the orange chicken crispy with air frying instead. This helps keep the dish low calorie and appropriate if you have a weight loss goal.
- Gluten Free: If you use coconut aminos or a gluten-free soy sauce, this is a gluten free orange chicken recipe. Those with celiac disease and NCGS can enjoy this recipe for keto orange chicken too!
- Delicious: This no sugar orange chicken is saucy, sweet, and tasty. The low carb breaded chicken is so good, I could eat it by itself as keto popcorn chicken!
Here’s what you need to make keto-friendly orange chicken:
- Chicken tenders (or larger boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces)
- Coconut flour
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Sea salt
- Large eggs
- Cooking spray
There are many types of keto breading that you can use in this recipe. Pork panko, almond flour, and seasoned whey protein powder are a few examples.
That said, I am completely in love with using coconut flour in this recipe. The chicken turns out crisp and delicious, perfect for using as popcorn chicken or keto chicken nuggets. If you didn’t want to make the orange sauce, you could always serve the chicken pieces with a keto-friendly dip.
The downside of using coconut flour is that the breading does soften once you add the sauce. It’s best to serve it immediately after you stir the low carb orange sauce in. It won’t be super crispy, but (at least IMVHO) it will be pretty darn tasty.
Keto Orange Sauce
Ah, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Here’s what you need to make keto orange sauce for chicken:
- Lemon juice (preferably from Meyer lemons, since they tend to be a little sweeter than regular lemons)
- Orange zest
- Granular Swerve (or your favorite 1-to-1 sugar substitute)
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
- Unseasoned rice vinegar
- Fresh grated ginger
- Garlic powder
- Crushed red pepper
- Xanthan gum (for thickening)
I also like to use toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions for garnish. They make the finished dish look extra nice.
I decided not to use a little orange juice or sugar-free orange marmalade in this recipe because those ingredients aren’t really keto compliant. One cup of fresh orange juice has about 25g of net carbs, while one cup of lemon juice has 16g net carbs.
Additionally, you’d need a lot of juice to get a rich orange flavor. There’s a lot more orange flavor (and fewer carbs) in orange zest compared to orange juice. So, I’m using lemon juice and orange zest in this recipe.
If you wanted to bump up the orange flavor even more, you can add more orange zest or some orange extract. Using too much zest can make the dish bitter, so the extract may be the better choice.
Swerve is a 1-to-1 keto replacement for sugar that contains erythritol. You could use Lakanto monk fruit sweetener if you’d prefer, or an allulose-based sweetener.
If you use stevia drops or stevia extract instead, add it drop by drop (or scoop by scoop) until you get the sweetness you want. These sweeteners are not 1:1 replacements for white sugar, and the amount you need will vary.
You’ll want to have the following pieces of kitchen equipment on hand for this recipe:
- Hand lemon squeezer (or electric juicer)
- Zester (AKA microplane)
- Kitchen shears
- Air fryer
- Meat thermometer
We’re using the juicer to juice the lemons and the zester to zest an orange. Please don’t try to substitute bottled lemon juice for fresh. For the best flavor, you really need freshly squeezed juice.
The whisk helps keep our keto orange sauce free of lumps. The meat thermometer is essential to make sure the chicken is properly cooked.
This recipe was developed using a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven. This is a large-capacity air fryer with two trays, and both trays are needed for this recipe. If you have a small air fryer basket, you’ll need to cut the recipe in half or cook multiple batches.
The Ninja Foodi, Cosori, Pampered Chef Air Fryer, Actifry, Nuwave, Instant Vortex, Cuisinart, Philips, Power Air Fryer, etc. can all make keto orange chicken. However, you may need to make slight adjustments to the air frying time depending on the air fryer you use.
How to Make Keto Orange Chicken
How to make keto orange chicken? We’re going to start by preparing the chicken.
If you’re using chicken tenders, cut them into about 5 pieces each with kitchen shears. You want about 40-50 chicken bites in all if you are cutting up whole chicken breasts.
In a medium-sized bowl, stir coconut flour, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt together. In a second bowl, whisk two large eggs.
Spray two air fryer trays with cooking oil spray. Put the chicken pieces in the coconut flour mixture and stir. Then lift the chicken pieces out of the flour, and dump them in the bowl with the eggs. Stir so they are coated on all sides with the egg.
Lift the chicken pieces out of the egg with a fork, and put the chicken back in the coconut flour bowl. Stir well, ensuring the chicken is coated on all sides with the flour mixture.
There shouldn’t be any loose flour at the bottom of the bowl. Coconut flour is expensive, so let’s not waste any!
Put the coated pieces of chicken on your prepared air fryer trays in a non-touching single layer. Mist the chicken well with cooking spray. Put the trays in the air fryer.
Cooking Time and Temperature
How long do you cook keto orange chicken? Air fry keto orange chicken for a total of 12-13 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190C).
Air fry the low carb chicken for 5 minutes at 375F/190C. Then switch the position of the trays in the air fryer oven (no need to flip the chicken). Air fry 5 more minutes at 375F/190C.
Flip the chicken pieces over and spray them well with the cooking oil spray. Switch the position of the trays in the air fryer and air fry a final 2-3 minutes at 375F/190C. Use a kitchen thermometer to ensure the chicken reached a minimum safe internal temp of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74C).
While the keto chicken air fries, make the orange sauce. Prepare the oranges by zesting them with a microplane and juice the lemons with a juicer.
Whisk lemon juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, Swerve, orange zest, ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes together in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the Swerve completely dissolves. This will take approximately 5 minutes.
Whisk in the xanthan gum and allow the mixture to thicken. It will only take 2-3 minutes. Remove the low carb orange sauce from the heat.
Pour the keto orange sauce over the cooked chicken and stir. Serve immediately after mixing the chicken and sauce. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds (if desired).
How long does keto orange chicken last? Low carb orange chicken lasts 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Keep the chicken and sauce in separate covered containers until serving time.
You can also freeze this recipe. The keto chicken and keto sauce should be frozen and reheated separately. For the best texture, don’t mix them together until right before you plan to eat.
What goes with keto orange chicken? I serve low carb orange chicken with cauliflower rice and green beans. There’s enough sauce in this dish that my husband didn’t realize he wasn’t eating real rice!
Here are a few more options for sides for keto orange chicken:
- Steamed broccoli
- Shirataki rice
- Zucchini noodles
- Air fryer spaghetti squash
- Garden salads
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). This low calorie orange chicken may contain some flour, but I’d still call it a good choice for weight loss. Serve it over cauliflower rice with some green beans on the side and you’ve got a filling meal that’s under 500 calories. The high protein chicken, served with high-volume and low-calorie non-starchy veggies, is a dynamo combo when you want to lose weight.
I used the same amount of Swerve as I used in my regular orange chicken recipe. However, this keto Mandarin orange chicken is less sweet. This is intentional, as I understand that some use low carb diets to help their palates adjust to less sweetness in their foods.
You can always add more keto-friendly sweetener to this recipe if it is not sweet enough for you. (But keep in mind that going overboard on low carb sweeteners can potentially lead to digestive distress.)
IMVHO, this meal is too low in calories for many children, adolescents, and active adults. For these groups (and some others), I’d serve the chicken over regular rice rather than cauliflower rice.
I’m not a fan of putting youth on special diets without a medical reason. (And the diet should be monitored under the care of a physician or dietitian.) Luckily, there are many ways to modify low carb and keto meals for family members who can benefit from more carbs and calories.
Tip: What to do with the zested orange if everyone in your household is on keto? Cut it into thin slices and use it to infuse water. Infused water is one of my favorite ways to hydrate!
Other Low Carb Chicken Recipes
Looking for more keto chicken recipes? Don’t miss out on these:
- Keto Buffalo Wings
- Air Fryer Chicken Leg Quarters
- Air Fryer Chicken Schnitzel
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All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
“Keto” recipes on the web may not be appropriate for those using ketogenic diets as part of their medical nutrition therapy. That includes this recipe.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let’s get cooking!