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Chinese-inspired Lemon Orange Chicken



There’s lemon chicken and there’s orange chicken. Both are found in the menu of many Chinese restaurants but, curiously, neither is a traditional Chinese dish.

Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken

Lemon chicken was the specialty of the former Pearl’s Chinese Restaurant at 148 West 48th Street in New York City and a creation of a chef named Lee Lum.

Orange chicken is American too. Developed by a chef named Andy Kho in 1987, it is reputedly inspired by the flavors of the Hunan Province in China.

We love both lemon chicken and orange chicken at home, so I decided to combine the two in one delicious dish.

Chunks of chicken fillets lightly coated in starch, deep fried then tossed in a sticky sauce made with lemon juice, orange juice and sugar. Chinese-style lemon orange chicken is so addictive!

Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken: Make the sticky sauce

The sauce contains no thickener. It’s freshly squeezed lemon juice, orange juice, sugar and a bit of salt boiled until reduced to a sticky syrup. Then, it is cooled to thicken.

Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken: Toss the chicken fillets in starch

While the lemon-orange sauce cools, chicken fillets are cut into chunks, seasoned then tossed in starch.

Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken: deep frying the chicken

The chicken fillets are deep fried until golden and crisp. And, for extra crispness, I double fry. Initially on medium heat then, after allowing the chicken to rest a bit, they are fried a second time over high heat.

Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken: the sticky sauce after reduction

That’s the lemon-orange sauce after reducing and cooling.

Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken: deep-fried chicken fillets

And the ultra-crisp chicken fillets that have been twice fried.

Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken: drizzling the sauce over the crispy chicken fillets

The chicken fillets are dumped in a mixing bowl, the sauce is poured in and everything is tossed together.

Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken: coating the chicken with sauce

You might have a pool of sauce at the bottom of the bowl at first. Continuously tossing is like glazing the chicken over and over. Just keep going and, pretty soon, there will be very little sauce left in the bowl.

Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken Recipe

Transfer the chicken to a platter or bowl and just drizzle any remaining sauce over them.

And the greens? I used mint because mint and citrus juice just go so well together. Scallions or cilantro are good too.

Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken

Chinese-inspired Lemon Orange Chicken

Sweet, tangy and aromatic, lemon orange chicken is a combination of two popular Chinese-American dishes.
Print Pin
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Marinating time: 8 hours
Servings: 6 people
Author: Connie Veneracion


  • 500 grams chicken thigh fillets skin on
  • salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • ¼ cup orange juice freshly squeezed
  • ¼ teaspoon grated orange zest
  • ¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • cooking oil
  • ¼ cup corn starch
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  • Wipe the chicken thigh fillets and cut into chunks. Toss with 1 ½ teaspoons salt and all of the pepper. Marinate in the fridge for eight hours or overnight.
  • Place lemon juice, orange juice, zests, ½ teaspoon salt and all of the sugar in a sauce pan. Boil, uncovered, for ten minutes or until reduced by half and syrupy. Set aside to cool.
  • In a pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches.
  • Place the chicken in a resealable bag, add the starch, seal and shake to coat each piece lightly.
  • Over medium heat, fry the chicken in batches until lightly browned, about four minutes per batch.
  • Turn up the heat to high, refry the chicken for one to two minutes until golden and crisp.
  • Place the chicken a mixing bowl. Drizzle in the cooled sauce and toss to coat each piece well.
  • Serve the lemon orange chicken immediately.
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How to Cook Chinese-style Lemon Orange Chicken