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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.

Plate of Trader Joe's Orange Chicken

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 and add the contents directly to your air fryer basket in a single layer.

Make sure the sauce packet is set aside (you don’t want to be air frying plastic) and then air fry the chicken at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.

That’s right, just 10 minutes is all it takes to get perfectly crispy chicken that rivals deep frying.

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, or if your air fryer basket is smaller and therefore crowded, you can add a couple of addition minutes to the cooking time.

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 prefer to serve mine over some white rice for a very easy dinner.

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

Trader Joe's Orange Chicken Closeup

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 Trader Joe’s mandarin 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 (I would use medium heat) 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. Microwaving works for something like chicken nuggets, but when you want your cooked chicken to be crispy, you need to go a different route.

Hands down, my favorite way to make this crispy orange chicken is with the air fryer.


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 Joes Orange Chicken in Air Fryer

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!


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


  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.


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

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Monday 21st of August 2023

I've made this a few different ways over the years. For me in a skillet with olive oil is the best way. Add pressed garlic, Thai chilies, broccoli and here's the secret. Trader Joe's general tso sauce instead of the orange sauce that comes with it or mix it half and half.

Stephanie R.

Wednesday 19th of October 2022

It makes me sad that we don't have a Trader Joe's here where I live, so when my husband and I went to San Diego a few weeks ago, I took advantage to bring a big insulated grocery bag with me to buy some of their orange chicken to bring home and try this recipe! I left mine in the air fryer extra time as I like my chicken extra crispy and crunchy. Plus, the sauce can soften it once you mix it around, which is why I leave it in the air fryer longer. I think that because of it being dark meat gives it much better flavor compared to white meat. I served mine along some white rice and some egg rolls. It was delish. I hope to be able to head up to Cali soon to buy a couple more bags. Thank you, Matt!

About Matt Rosenman

With over 15 years of experience in health and fitness, Matt Rosenman is the expert voice behind Matt’s philosophy is simple: no foods are off-limits, and a healthy lifestyle shouldn't be complicated or restrictive. As a former certified personal trainer with a bachelor’s degree in Health Behavioral Sciences, Matt brings well-rounded expertise to his blog. From revamping classic recipes with a nutritious twist to breaking down fast food menus, his goal is make healthy living less confusing for everyone. Featured in major publications and with a strong following on social media, Matt is committed to making “healthy” uncomplicated—no matter where you are in your health journey. Join Matt on his mission to simplify health without sacrificing flavor. Learn More

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