Takeout Fake Out:: Chinese Chicken Dishes to Up Your Freezer Cooking Game

When we moved from Mid-City to the Northshore, we left a lot of our favorite things behind – including our favorite Chinese takeout place! Since I’m on a mission to meal plan using my freezer, I was intrigued by this recipe for making Orange Chicken for the freezer. Here are two versions of crispy Chinese-style chicken to have a “takeout fake out” at a moment’s notice (well, about 20 minutes)!

The baked version is frozen uncooked, ready to be fully cooked in the oven on serving night. The fried version is frozen cooked, ready to be crisped up in the oven when you’re ready to serve it. They both start off with the same marinade and can both be finished with the sauce of your choice. While the recipes below use only 1 pound of chicken, I typically prepare 3-5 pounds of chicken at a time for the freezer. It’s a little more work to prep, but the payoff is well worth it when I’ve got 6-8 meals ready and waiting for me!

To make my freezer meal planning even more versatile, I keep several different cook sauces available in my freezer to be heated alongside the chicken. Their ingredients are combined and stored in quart-sized freezer bags uncooked. You’ll find several different sauce options below, including classics like Sesame Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken, and Sweet & Sour Chicken.

When you’re ready to serve your chicken and sauce, the chicken can be heated in the oven directly from frozen. Preheat oven to 350°F. While the oven is heating, take your package of frozen sauce and thaw it in a bowl of hot water. Place frozen chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake FRIED chicken for 12-15 minutes until fully heated through or bake BAKED version for 15-20 minutes until fully cooked. While the chicken is baking, bring the thawed sauce to a boil on the stove, stirring continuously. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce thickens up a bit. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

I like to keep homemade fried rice or lo mein on hand in the freezer to serve alongside my entrée.

For the Chicken Marinade:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use lower-sodium)
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Combine soy sauce, white pepper, salt, and cornstarch. Coat chicken well with seasonings and marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

For the BAKED Chicken Version (this will be frozen uncooked):

½ cup all-purpose flour
2 medium eggs
1 cup panko

Marinate chicken according to Chicken Marinade recipe.

Place flour, eggs, and panko in separate bowls. Gently whisk eggs.

Coat each piece of marinated chicken in flour, then egg, then panko. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spritz with non-stick cooking spray. Place the tray in the freezer until frozen and then transfer the chicken to a labeled gallon-sized freezer bag.

 

For the FRIED Chicken Version (this will be frozen cooked and cooled):

½ cup self-rising flour (if you don’t have self-rising flour, simply substitute ½ cup all-purpose flour + 1/8 teaspoon baking powder + 1/8 teaspoon baking soda)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 egg
¾ cup water
Oil for deep frying

Mix ingredients for the batter together until just combined. Let rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. (I try to make it first thing in the morning so that it’s ready when I am.)

Marinate chicken according to Chicken Marinade recipe.

Heat your oil for frying to 350 degrees F in a deep-fryer or large heavy-bottomed pot.

Put a quarter of the marinated chicken pieces in a clean bowl and pour enough batter over to coat. Remove a few pieces at a time from the batter using tongs or a large fork, shaking off excess batter. Carefully lower chicken into the hot oil. Suspend the chicken until the batter “sets,” about 15-20 seconds. Chicken is done when golden to light brown and crisp.

Remove to platter with paper towels to drain. Cool fully on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the tray in the freezer until frozen and then transfer the chicken to a labeled gallon-sized freezer bag.

Here are several different options for sauces to serve with your crispy chicken.

I use lower-sodium soy sauce in my sauces. Seasoned rice vinegar can be found in the international foods aisle of the grocery, but apple cider vinegar will do in a pinch. Each recipe calls for cornstarch and water, which I mix together into a slurry and then add to the rest of the ingredients for ease of blending. Combine and store the uncooked sauce in a labeled quart-sized freezer bag. If you’d like, you can put the sauce bag inside the bag with the chicken to keep them from getting separated. Since I keep so many sauces on hand, I freeze each bag flat and store them all in a gallon-sized freezer bag.

Orange Sauce

½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup water

Sweet & Sour Sauce
*Note: I’ve found that this recipe makes enough to split into 2 quart-sized bags

1 cup pineapple juice
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
Optional: 6 or 7 drops red food coloring if you want that “authentic” takeout look!

Sesame Sauce

¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
½ tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

 General Tso’s Sauce

1 tablespoon ginger, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup water

Honey Garlic Sauce
*Note: I’ve found that this recipe makes enough to split into 2 quart-sized bags

½ cup dry sherry or dry white wine
½ cup honey
¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ cup water

What are your favorite freezer meals?

Joey Yearous
Joey is a New Orleans native, Dominican alum, and LSU grad who joined the ranks of motherhood in the summer of 2019. She and her Colorado born-and-raised husband, Phil, left their Mid-City apartment for a house on the Northshore about ten days before they welcomed their son, Sam, into the world. Though she’s always had a passion for writing, it’s her work as the Director of Marketing for a Louisiana-based electrical firm that pays the bills. She’s a longtime member of the dance troupe The Muff-A-Lottas and when she isn’t covered in glitter and dancing through the streets of New Orleans, she’s usually cooking, trying new restaurants, and listening to true crime podcasts. A consummate Pinterest fanatic, she’s always looking for her next DIY project or recipe to try. She believes good senses of humor and random acts of kindness make the world go ‘round.

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