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Sesame Chicken vs Orange Chicken: 5 Main Differences

This is the ongoing dilemma among most Asian cuisine lovers: which one is more enjoyable, sesame chicken or orange chicken?

Starting with the fact that these are two different dishes brought together by plenty of similarities, both orange and sesame chicken are absolutely divine recipes.

If you’ve tried them both, you most likely already have a favorite. But if you didn’t get a chance and you’re trying to choose between sesame chicken and orange chicken, let us guide your choice.

Here is a list of all the differences between orange chicken and sesame chicken, from the ingredients they use to the cooking process all the way to the finished result.

What is sesame chicken?

Sesame chicken is a popular dish served in Chinese restaurants across the United States and Canada.

As a result, it is safe to say that this is not a traditional dish of Chinese cuisine, but it has been created by merging Chinese culture with the taste and preferences of the American public.

This popular dish is made of breaded chicken, deep-fried in sesame oil, served with various stir-fried vegetables.

When the dish is ready, sesame seeds are sprinkled on top of the chicken to make it extra delicious and extra crunchy.

Sometimes, alongside sesame seeds, the meat is coated in a sesame glaze to offer an additional flavor, turning it into a sesame glazed chicken dish.

This is not a spicy dish, but it retains a tangy feel to it. Sesame chicken is generally a sweet recipe.

This sweetness is given by the chicken being marinated in a sauce made of soy sauce and sugar.

The mixture gives the dish an inimitable sweet and sour taste, and it makes it absolutely impossible to resist.

What is orange chicken?

Orange chicken is also a dish born from the encounter of Chinese traditional cuisine and American culture.

In many ways, orange chicken can be compared to sweet and sour chicken. What really makes a difference is the use of orange juice and orange peel in the orange chicken.

Using both orange juice and orange peel gives the chicken a delicious tang that cannot be found in sweet and sour chicken.

When cooked to perfection, orange chicken is often soft on the inside, with a hint of crispiness given by the coating of cornstarch mixed with the orange juice.

Although it possesses a sour tang to it, orange chicken is also quite sweet and one other characteristic that makes it stand out from the crowd is that it is a little sticky too.

Orange chicken is rarely served on its own and it is usually served with stir-fried veggies, like broccoli and carrots. It usually comes with a bowl of plain rice too.

What are the differences between sesame chicken and orange chicken?

There are a few key elements that help to highlight the difference between orange chicken and sesame chicken.

As they both are dishes with the same common ingredient of chicken thighs, it is incredibly fascinating to see how both recipes turn this ingredient into something completely different and tasty either way.

The following list will help you clear up your mind on how to prepare yourself to cook both dishes to perfection and will help you avoid making some common mistakes in the kitchen.

1. Flavor

The flavor is the main difference between orange chicken and sesame chicken.

As two different sauces are used to make both sesame chicken and orange chicken, the flavor will be obviously different, although it will retain a few similar but not identical traits.

Sesame chicken has that fantastic sweet and sour sauce obtained by mixing soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, honey, and brown sugar.

The chicken is coated in this delicious sauce after being covered in batter and deep-fried. This process is key to have as an end result a fantastic crispy sesame chicken.

On the other hand, orange chicken is made differently, using a completely different sauce to get that delicious sweet and sour mix.

The orange sauce included at the end of the cooking process, after the dish has been stir-fried, is made with a mixture of various ingredients with a key element: orange juice.

Orange juice is mixed with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, red chili flakes, rice vinegar, sugar, and obviously, some extra orange zest.

It is easy to see how the flavor is completely distinctive in these two recipes, with sesame chicken being sweet and nutty, and orange chicken being identified by a tangy, citrusy flavor.

2. Texture

The texture is also a key difference between sesame chicken and orange chicken. It is a subtle, nonetheless crucial distinction.

To get that fantastic sesame chicken taste, the chicken is coated in batter and then deep-fried to give it that first-rate crispiness.

On top of that, before serving it, the dish is sprinkled with some toasted sesame seeds. The result? An exquisitely crunchy and crispy sesame chicken.

On the other side, orange chicken is distinguished by the way the chicken maintains its softness during the cooking process.

Although coated in the batter as well, the way the chicken is stir-fried and then mixed with the orange juice sauces, allows it to maintain its tenderness alongside the stickiness of the juice.

As a result, if on one hand, we have a pleasing crispy sesame chicken, there will be a delightfully soft and sticky orange chicken on the other.

3. Ingredients

Chicken and their corresponding sauces are not the sole ingredients of sesame chicken and orange chicken.

Both dishes are served with stir-fried vegetables that are also combined with the sauce to give them that fantastic flavor.

Sesame chicken usually comes with a mix of greens such as carrots, cabbage, green beans, spring onion, sometimes even peas, and spinach.

These vegetables are stir-fried in sesame oil to provide a proper and rounder identity to the dish.

Orange chicken is typically the main event, and it is served with fewer vegetables compared to sesame chicken.

Commonly served with orange chicken are stir-fried broccoli, carrots, and spring onions. This last ingredient is ever-present in Asian and Asian-inspired cuisine.

4. Cooking

As we already mentioned above, sesame chicken and orange chicken are usually fried dishes.

To get that signature crispy sesame chicken, the meat is deep-fried and then mixed with stir-fried vegetables before serving.

Orange chicken is traditionally stir-fried before adding the vegetable to the mix. This allows the chicken to stay soft and prevents it from becoming too chewy.

But on the odd occasion, if you want to prepare both dishes a little lighter, it is equally possible to bake both sesame chicken and orange chicken in the oven.

Obviously, the texture will be different to some extent. Cooking these dishes in the oven will give you a lighter alternative, but it will not give you that same crispy and crunchy texture.

Baking sesame and orange chicken in the oven will also take a longer time, and it might be a little tricky to cook the vegetables in the oven too.

5. Serving

The way your dish is served is also extremely important and needs to reflect the tradition of the recipe.

When going to any Chinese or Asian restaurant in the United States or Canada, you will notice that both sesame chicken and orange chicken come with a side dish.

This side dish usually includes plain rice or plain noodles, depending on your personal preferences.

Plain rice or noodles will accompany your crispy sesame chicken or your delicious orange chicken without overpowering the flavor.

This shouldn’t surprise you, as it is quite common to have plain rice or plain noodles served with Asian main dishes.

Although it is possible to eat sesame or orange chicken on their own, there is nothing better than enjoying your food alongside a fantastic side dish of plain sticky rice.

Sesame chicken vs orange chicken: are they the same?

The difference between orange chicken and sesame chicken may not be that obvious. However, it is safe to say that sesame chicken and orange chicken are not the same things.

These two dishes have two completely different recipes, different ingredients, and unique textures and flavors.

They might have a few things that brings them together, but it is not enough to classify them as the same thing.

  1. Sesame chicken is crispier and crunchier than orange chicken; it usually tends to have a soft texture and consistency.
  2. Orange chicken is traditionally stir-fried while sesame chicken is deep-fried. It is also possible to bake them both in the oven, though.
  3. They come with a different choice of vegetables: green beans, cabbage, and spinach for sesame chicken; carrots and broccoli for orange chicken.
  4. For their delicious flavor, they both use a sauce that gives that signature taste to the dish: sesame chicken uses soy sauce mixed with sesame oil; orange chicken uses orange juice mixed with soy sauce and orange zest.

Being two different recipes, it does not mean that there is a better dish between orange chicken and sesame chicken.

They both are full of flavor and fantastic in their own way, so it all depends on your personal taste and preference.

Finally, although they are the result of the mix of Chinese and American cuisine and do not come from Chinese tradition, these two recipes are extraordinary inventions that led to the conception of other superb recipes.

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