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The BEST Way To Cook Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken

Year after year, Trader Joe‘s Orange Chicken is voted the overall favorite product at Trader Joe‘s through the “Customer Choice Awards.”

For good reason, too. This frozen food tastes just like what you’d order at a Chinese restaurant.

This orange chicken is incredibly easy to make since it only requires heating up, but it can be elevated even further by using an air fryer!

While you can bake or saute this chicken dish, I promise you that the absolute best result comes from using the air fryer.

 

What makes Trader Joes Orange Chicken so good?

I don’t know how they do it, but Trader Joe‘s perfectly captured this Chinese food dish and wrapped it up into a convenient frozen food.

Trader Ming‘s Mandarin Orange Chicken (as it’s formally named) consists of dark meat chicken pieces that are battered and ready to crisp up, along with sweet and spicy orange sauce.

If you’re curious about the full ingredients inside, here is the full list:

  • Battered chicken dark meat chunks: (chicken dark meat, water, corn starch, flour [unbleached enriched wheat flour
  • Barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid]
  • Whole eggs, vegetable oil, salt, white pepper, green onion, garlic, ginger)
  • Sauce: (sugar, water, vinegar, light soy sauce [soybean, water, salt, wheat flour]
  • Modified food starch, dark soy sauce [soybean, water, straw mushroom extractives
  • Salt, wheat flour], garlic, green onions
  • Ginger, white pepper, sake, mandarin orange peel
  • Orange juice, red chile), soybean oil

Now, we have to be honest here: this isn’t the healthiest recipe here on my blog. I mean, this is battered & fried chicken with a sweet orange sauce coating.

The chicken pieces are also dark meat, rather than chicken breast like I use in most of my recipes, so it comes with a bit more fat as well.

Even still, each serving is just over 300 calories with 21g of protein, so it’s not bad at all. You’ll likely end up eating 1.5-2 servings overall, which will end up closer to 500-600 calories total.

But, that also comes with close to 40g of protein, so we can do much worse!

 

How to make Trader Joe‘s Mandarin Orange Chicken in the air fryer

With most air fryer recipes, you want to preheat the air fryer to get the best results.

For this air fryer recipe, we don’t need to do any preheating! We’re just going to dump the frozen chicken right into the air fryer and let it work its magic.

You don’t need to defrost the orange chicken, either. Remove the bag from the freezer, add to your air fryer basket (be sure to set the orange sauce packets aside), and air fry at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.

That’s right, just 10 minutes is all it takes to get perfectly crispy chicken!

After 5 minutes, shake the air fryer basket to make sure all the chicken pieces fry up evenly. After 10 minutes, you can cut into the chicken to make sure it is cooked all the way through, or you can test for an internal temperature of about 170 degrees F.

If you prefer extra crispy chicken, you can air fryer for a few extra minutes.

To prep the sauce, empty the two orange sauce packets into a small bowl and microwave it for 1 minute to fully heat the sauce.

When the fried chicken is ready to go after 10 minutes, add to a large bowl and toss with the heated sauce.

You can also heat the sauce in a pan and mix the fried chicken directly into the hot sauce.

I actually didn’t use all of the orange sauce as a coating and I saved some on the side for drizzling on top at the very end. I find that this Trader Joes chicken comes with more sauce than I need, so I tend to leave some off.

If you do that, you’ll be saving some calories as well, although it’s tough to estimate exactly how many.

 

How to serve Trader Ming‘s Mandarin Orange Chicken

After tossing this chicken in the orange sauce, I served it over jasmine rice for my meal.

You can garnish this dish with green onion, sesame seeds, or even some mandarin orange slices!

If you’re making a Trader Joe‘s run, they also offer some great frozen fried rice options as well. You’ll find both vegetable fried rice and chicken fried rice in the frozen section, or you can opt for a lower calorie option and grab some cauliflower rice instead.

If you want to serve this frozen orange chicken as a complete meal with vegetables, I highly recommend broccoli and/or bell pepper mixed right into the orange chicken.

Since this frozen orange chicken comes with plenty of orange sauce, mixing extra vegetables in with your chicken will soak up any extra sauce and work very well.

 

Can you make orange chicken without an air fryer?

Of course! While I truly believe that the air fryer produces the best result, you have other options.

And, lucky for you, they’re printed right on the bag!

If you prefer to bake this frozen orange chicken, you can do so at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. That’s just another reason I prefer the air fryer, though- it takes half the time!

If sauteeing is your preferred cooking method, you can fry the chicken pieces in a stove top pan with some cooking oil for 8-10 minutes. Just be sure to continuously move the chicken around to prevent burning.

The microwave can be a great tool in some cases, but I wouldn’t recommend it for this recipe. The best part of this orange chicken is the crisp, and you won’t achieve that in the microwave.

The final crispy texture is best achieved in the air fryer, in my opinion!

 

More air fryer recipes to enjoy

I absolutely love the air fryer, and that is reflected in many of my recipes.

While it doesn’t get any simpler than this particular recipe (we’re just reheating, after all), I pride myself on creating very simple recipes for you to make at home.

Here are some of my favorite air fryer recipes:

 

Trader Joe's Orange Chicken

Trader Joe's Orange Chicken (The BEST Cooking Method)

Yield: 5 Servings
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes

Trader Joe's Orange Chicken is one of the most popular Trader Joe's frozen items, and for good reason. Here are some instructions on my favorite way to prepare this Mandarin Orange Chicken- in the air fryer!

Ingredients

  • 1 Bag Trader Joe's Orange Chicken (Sauce included)
  • Green Onion & Sesame Seeds for garnish
  • White Rice for serving

Instructions

  1. Remove the Trader Joe's Orange Chicken from the freezer, and empty the contents of the bag into the air fryer basket. Do not defrost the Orange Chicken, and you do not need to preheat the air fryer, either! (Be sure you set the sauce packets aside)
  2. Air fry at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, shaking the air fryer basket halfway through.
  3. The Orange Chicken should be crisped up very well after 10 minutes, but if you prefer well-done, you can air fry for an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Empty the sauce packets into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute.
  5. Toss the cooked chicken in a large bowl with your sauce. Note that I saved a small amount of sauce on the side to drizzle on top, but you can use all the sauce to toss if preferred.
  6. Serve over white rice, garnish with green onion and/or sesame seeds, and drizzle any leftover sauce over the top.

Notes

You can prepare Trader Joe's Orange Chicken in the oven as described by the package. It can be baked in the oven at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes, but it takes twice as long as the air fryer!

Store any leftover Orange Chicken in the fridge and reheat the following day either in the microwave or the air fryer for a quick & easy meal.

I didn't use all the sauce because it was more than I needed. If you have any leftover sauce, you'll be saving some calories, but it's hard to estimate the exact amount.

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As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information
Yield 5 Serving Size 1 Cup
Amount Per Serving Calories 320Total Fat 16gCarbohydrates 24gProtein 21g

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