Sticky Orange Sunflower Chicken

This recipe came to be one night while I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t pick up the phone and order sticky chicken wings for delivery.

Sometimes you just want it to be easy, amirite?!

Good news! This recipe comes together faster than waiting for take-out, and it tastes way better than anything that comes out of a cardboard carton.

The sauce—made from sunflower seed or almond butter—is fast and easy, and in the oven, it turns into a deliciously sticky, savory-sweet mess. Plus, there are tender chicken thighs for a healthy dose of protein and broccoli on the side because… vegetables.

Sticky Orange-Sunflower Chicken

Serves 2–4 | Total Time: 40–45 minutes | Hands-off time: 15 minutes | Whole30 compliant

Sticky Sauce:
  • 1 medium navel orange

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos

  • 1/4 cup sunflower seed or almond butter

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce

  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder or potato starch

  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger

  • 1 teaspoon coarse (granulated) garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 1/2 pounds)

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Sesame Broccoli:
  • 1 pound broccoli florets

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil


Preheat the oven to 425F.


Make the sauce. Zest the orange and set the zest aside. Use a sharp knife to peel the orange, removing all of the white pith, then separate the sections and place in a pint-size Mason jar. Smash and peel the garlic and add to the jar, along with the rest of the sauce ingredients; whirl the ingredients with a stick blender until smooth. Set it aside.


Toast the sesame seeds. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. Add the sesame seeds and stir-fry until toasted, about 3–5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.


Prep the chicken. Combine the ginger, garlic powder, salt, coriander, and pepper in a large bowl and mix with a fork. Add the chicken thighs to the bowl and toss to coat the pieces in the spices. Add the oil to the pan you used for the sesame seeds and reheat the pan over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. Add the chicken in a single layer and brown it, undisturbed, 3–4 minutes. Flip the chicken and brown the other side for 1 minute, then transfer to a 2-quart baking dish.


Thicken the sauce. Pour the sticky sauce into the pan you used for the chicken and heat it, scraping up any brown bits in the pan, until it’s thickened a little, 1–2 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and place the baking dish in the oven. Roast the chicken for 15–20 minutes, until the sauce is caramelized. While the chicken cooks, slice the scallions for the garnish and set aside, then cook the broccoli.


Cook the broccoli. Place the water in the skillet you used for the chicken and bring it to a boil. Add the broccoli, cover, and steam it until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and allow any remaining water to evaporate. Turn off the heat, drizzle the sesame oil over broccoli, toss to coat.


To serve, plate the broccoli and chicken, then top with extra sauce and garnishes.

You Know How You Could Do That?

Replace the chicken thighs with chicken breast or pork chops. Use almond or cashew butter instead of sunflower seed butter.

Cookup Tips

Prepare the sauce and store it in the jar in the fridge. Brown the chicken and steam the broccoli; store both in separate airtight containers in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, simmer the sauce and pour over the chicken in a baking dish. While the chicken cooks, stir-fry the broccoli in a nonstick skillet with the sesame oil until hot.

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  • Keah says:

    What is the amount for the sesame seeds? Also, what are we to do with the reserved orange zest?

    • Both the sesame seeds and orange zest are for garnish; see the photo. I usually just sprinkle sesame seeds until I like the say it looks, but if you want to estimate, I’d use about 1/2 teaspoon per person.

  • Pam says:

    One of my WF favorites! Made it the first time with almond butter since I don’t really love sunflower seeds. The second time I got brave, and since I trust MJ’s recipes, I made it with sunflower butter. It was even better, if that’s possible!