Whole30 Orange Chicken Meatballs compact everything you love about Chinese takeout Orange Chicken into a healthy, grain-free and gluten-free bite-size meatball! These low carb Paleo meatballs are a great weeknight dinner the whole family will love.
Who LOVES Chinese Orange Chicken? Krista LOVES Chinese Orange Chicken ...I do, I do, I do -ouuuu (name that Nickelodeon sketch)! Look, I'm not above simply ordering Orange Chicken from my local Chinese takeout spot, but taking the easy way out can sometimes leave me feeling pretty meh.
Sure, traditional Chinese Orange Chicken tastes AMAZING, but it's loaded with ingredients that my body just simply does not tolerate well (*ahem* gluten and MSG). Lucky for me (and now you), I developed this healthier alternative that is every bit as delicious as it's MSG and gluten-laden counterpart but without any of that crap.
To my fellow Chinese Orange Chicken lovers, I present to you Whole30 Orange Chicken Meatballs. These flavorful meatballs are lightly coated in a grain-free breading and pan-fried to achieve that delicate crunchy outside of classic Orange Chicken. The gluten-free meatballs are then simmered in a sugar-free and Paleo-friendly orange sauce that'll make you want to lick the pan.
While making the meatballs and then rolling them through the breading may seem a bit labor-intensive, once you get going this dish comes together in no time at all. It's a great weeknight meal to cure your Chinese takeout cravings during a round of Whole30 and beyond! Everyone around your kitchen table will be asking for seconds. I can promise you that!
Ingredients for Paleo & Whole30 Orange Chicken Meatballs
- Oranges: you will need at least two to have enough fresh juice and zest to really develop the orange flavor in this dish.
- Green Onions: you will need at least four shoots of green onion to have enough for the meatball mixture and enough to garnish the finished dish.
- Fresh Garlic (2 cloves)
- Fresh Ginger (about a 1" piece)
- 1 ½ pounds Ground Chicken
- 1 Egg
- ½ teaspoon Pepper
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ cup Cassava Flour: cassava flour works really well in this dish because it keeps the breading light while also serving as a thickening agent for the orange sauce.
- ½ teaspoon Ground Ginger
- ¼ teaspoon Ground Coriander
- 3 tablespoons Coconut Oil
- ¼ cup Coconut Aminos
- 1 ½ tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
- ½ teaspoon Fish Sauce
- ½ cup Chicken Broth
- 1 tablespoon Sesame Seeds: the sesame seeds are totally optional, but I like sprinkling a bit over the finished plated dish for texture.
Making the Meatballs
As always, I recommend prepping all of the fresh ingredients before getting started with the rest of the dish. Having everything ready when needed will make this dish come together without any hiccups.
That being said, zest enough orange to have 1 tablespoon for the meatball mixture, 2 tablespoons for the sauce and 1 tablespoon for garnish (if desired). Squeeze enough fresh orange juice to have ½ cup for the sauce. Thinly slice enough green onion to have ¼ cup for the meatball mixture and ¼ cup for garnish (if desired). Mince enough fresh garlic to have ½ tablespoon for the sauce and grate enough fresh ginger to have a ½ tablespoon for the sauce. Now that everything's prepped and ready to roll, let's make some meatballs!
In a large shallow bowl, add ground chicken, egg, ¼ cup of the sliced green onions, 1 tablespoon of the orange zest, pepper and salt. With a sturdy spoon (or your hands), mix until very well combined. In a separate large shallow bowl, stir together cassava flour, ground ginger and ground coriander.
With moistened hands, using about 2 tablespoon of the meatball mixture for each, gently roll the mixture into 2" balls. Next, gently dredge each meatball through the seasoned cassava flour until evenly coated. Set the meatballs aside on a clean plate or a piece of parchment paper.
Frying the Meatballs and Making the Chinese Orange Chicken-Inspired Sauce
In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Carefully drop meatballs into the skillet in an even-layer. Lightly brown the meatballs evenly on both sides (about 5 minutes per side).
While the meatballs are browning, prepare the Chinese Orange Chicken-style sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, minced garlic and grated ginger.
Once the meatballs are browned evenly, add the chicken broth to the skillet, scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan and then add the orange sauce to the pan. Stir well to combine the chicken broth with the orange sauce and to coat the meatballs.
Bring the sauce to a boil. Once bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer (stirring often) until the sauce thickens into the consistency of a glaze (7 to 8 minutes). Be sure to remove the skillet from the heat as soon as the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
For Whole30 purposes, these meatballs are great served alongside a bed of cauliflower rice and fresh steamed broccoli. Use the leftover sliced green onion and orange zest to garnish the dish. Once plated, sprinkle everything with sesame seeds to add a bit of texture.
These meatballs also reheat really well in the microwave, so they're a great recipe to incorporate into your weekly meal prep. The sauce becomes more flavorful the longer it sits in the fridge!
Tips for Nailing this Recipe
- The raw meatball mixture will be sticky. Moistening hands before forming each meatball will keep the mixture from sticking to your hands.
- If you have the time, you could also chill the mixture in your freezer for 10 minutes or so to make the meatball mixture more cooperative.
- If your skillet isn't large enough to brown the meatballs in one batch, feel free to work in batches. Simply return all of the browned meatballs to the skillet before starting on the sauce.
If you're a fan of Chinese takeout, but not so keen on the way it makes you feel this recipe for Whole30 Chinese Orange Chicken Meatballs is for you! If you make this recipe, I'd love to hear all about it! Tag me on social media @paleoishkrista with #paleoishkristaeats. As always, I hope you LOVE this recipe as much as I do! Enjoy!
PIN NOW! COOK STUFF LATER!
If you're into this Asian-inspired recipe, I have a handful of recipes in the archives you're going to love! Check out a few of my favorites below!
- Paleo Curry Chicken Meatballs
- Whole30 General Tso's Chicken Wings
- Beef Kofta Meatball Kebabs with Lemon Herb Tahini Sauce
- Spicy Thai Chili Roasted Cashews
- Whole30 Thai Red Curry Beef Bowls
Whole30 Orange Chicken Meatballs
- 2 oranges
- ½ cup green onions reserve ¼ cup for garnish (optional)
- ½ tablespoon fresh garlic about 2 cloves
- ½ tablespoon fresh ginger about a 1" piece
- 1 ½ pounds ground chicken
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup cassava flour
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- ¼ cup coconut aminos
- 1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds optional
- Zest enough orange to have 1 tablespoon for the meatballs, 2 tablespoons for the sauce and 1 tablespoon for garnish (if desired). Squeeze enough orange to have ½ cup juice for the sauce.
- Thinly slice enough green onion to have ¼ cup for the meatballs and ¼ cup for garnish (if desired). Mince enough fresh garlic to have ½ tablespoon for the sauce. Grate enough fresh ginger to have a ½ tablespoon for the sauce.
- In a large shallow bowl, add ground chicken, egg, ¼ cup of the green onions, 1 tablespoon of the orange zest, pepper and salt. With a sturdy spoon, mix until very well combined.
- In a separate large shallow bowl, stir together cassava flour, ground ginger and ground coriander.
- With moistened hands, roll chicken meatball mixture into 2" inch balls (about 2 tablespoons each). Next, gently roll each ball through seasoned cassava flour until evenly coated. Set the meatballs aside on a clean plate or a piece of parchment paper.
- In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches if necessary, carefully drop meatballs into the skillet in an even-layer. Lightly brown the meatballs evenly on both sides, (about 5 minutes per side).
- While the meatballs are browning, make the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, minced garlic and grated ginger.
- Once all of the meatballs are browned evenly, add chicken broth to the skillet, scraping up any brown bits and then add the orange sauce to the skillet. If working in batches, return all meatballs to the skillet. Stir well to combine broth, orange sauce and meatballs.
- Bring liquid to a boil. Once bubbling, reduce heat to medium-low and cook (stirring often) until sauce thickens and becomes a glaze (7 to 8 minutes). Remove from heat.
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