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Cilantro Orange Chicken

cilantro orange chicken in a white bowl with a fork on a table
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Juicy, tender and sweet– this cilantro orange chicken is minimum effort with maximum flavor making it an ideal dinner recipe for busy weeknights. The marinade adds incredible flavor to the chicken and creates the best sauce. Serve it alongside rice and beans with a homemade pineapple jalapeño salsa.

Ingredients

Units

Cilantro Orange Chicken

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • juice of 3 oranges, about 1/3 cup juice
  • 2 Tablespoons orange zest
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • juice of 1 lime, about 1-2 teaspoons
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into about 2-inch bite sized pieces
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch + 3 teaspoons water, stirred together
  • optional for serving: 2-3 cups cooked rice or quinoa
  • optional for serving: 2-3 cups cooked cuban black beans or refried beans

Pineapple Jalapeño Salsa

  • 1 cup chopped pineapple
  • 1 jalapeño, minced, seeded and deveined
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1 lime, about 1-2 teaspoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • optional: 1 avocado, chopped

Instructions

  1. Whisk the marinade/sauce ingredients together in a small bowl– cilantro, garlic, orange zest, orange juice, brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, honey, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper. Add the chicken to a medium bowl and pour 1/3 cup of the sauce on top. Give it a stir, ensuring the chicken is completely coated. You will use a portion of the sauce as the marinade and reserve the remaining for step 4. 
  2. Heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, about 30 seconds. Place the chicken in the skillet and brown each side, about 7-8 minutes. Discard the used marinade.
  3. While the chicken cooks, make the salsa: Add the pineapple, jalapeño, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and avocado (if using) to a small bowl. Give it a stir to combine. Set aside.
  4. Add the cornstarch mixture to the reserved marinade/sauce and whisk together. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Stir to combine, then bring the sauce to a simmer. Once simmering, cook for 2 minutes until sauce has thickened and the chicken reaches a temperature of 165°F. (It should be fully cooked by this point. If not, cook another 1-2 minutes.)
  5. Serve chicken over rice topped with pineapple salsa and beans. Leftovers stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Recommended Tools: Non Slip Cutting Board | Chef's Knife | Hand Zester & Grater | Mixing Bowls | Tongs | Whisk
  2. Make Ahead Instructions: The chicken can be marinated up to 1 day in advance. Follow through step 1, covering the chicken and reserved marinade/sauce mixture tightly. The marinade/sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance– give it a stir before pouring over the chicken. The pineapple salsa can be made up to 2 days in advance (without the avocado) and covered tightly. If desired, add the avocado the day of.
  3. Freezing Instructions: The marinated chicken and reserved marinade/sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months. For more tips on freezing marinated chicken, read my Tips For Freezing Marinated Chicken.
  4. Chicken: This recipe is incredibly versatile– you can use either chicken thighs or chicken breasts. Make sure they are boneless, skinless and cut into similar size pieces to ensure it cooks evenly.
  5. Brown Sugar: You can use light or dark brown sugar– I prefer dark brown sugar due to its high molasses flavor.
  6. Pineapple Salsa: If you're not a fan of spice, you can omit the jalapeño. 
  7. Some time saving tips! 1) Make the marinate/sauce 1-2 days in advance, 2) Marinate the chicken 1 day in advance, 3) While the chicken is cooking, you can microwave quick white or brown rice and warm beans. 2) Make the pineapple salsa 1-2 days prior.
  8. Can I grill the chicken instead? ABSOLUTELY! And, it's SO good grilled too! I highly recommend using a grill pan or tossing the chicken on skewers, either wood or metal. If you're using wood skewers make sure you soak them for at least 20 minutes before adding the chicken. While the chicken is on the grill, add the reserved marinade/sauce (with the cornstarch mixture) to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer for 1-2 minutes until thickened. Remove the chicken from the grill and toss in the sauce.