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Panda Express Orange Chicken ⋆ Copycat Recipe

Panda Express Orange Chicken ⋆ Copycat Recipe

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There is just something about the smell of Chinese food that makes my taste buds go crazy.  I love the smell of the fresh garlic and spices from Panda Express when we drive by the restaurant.  One of my favorite dishes from Panda Express is the  Orange Chicken and so I created my own to make at home

This copycat version tastes just like the Orange Chicken entree at Panda Express.

Panda Express Orange Chicken copycat recipe

 The best part for me is that our large family can eat it anytime we want now.  Panda Express Orange Chicken is sweet & sour with a little hint of spice and this recipe tastes just like the original.  I’ve been perfecting this recipe for quite a while now and as a result this recipe always receives rave reviews. 

Our Walmart Neighborhood Market has a Panda Express sitting right next door.  Whenever we go to get groceries we always smell the mix of asian inspired food filling the air and inevitably one of our kids will say, “Can we go to Panda Express?”  It’s always so tempting to say yes, but most often we stay on track. 

Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken

Could you guess which chicken below is the Panda Express and which is mine without the labels?

To come up with this recipe we bought an order of Orange Chicken by itself .  This really confused the lady in the drive through when we pulled up with our van full.  We all tried the chicken right away and I saved one or two pieces for later.

Homemade Panda Express Chicken

I took a note of the different flavors.  There was a hint of orange/citrus, a sweet rice wine vinegar taste, salty soy sauce, a hint of garlic and a spicy kick at the end.  I saved some of the chicken so that we could have a taste test at the end too.  This whole experiment was so fun!  If you have been following me on Facebook; the chicken on the left was the Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken and the right was the Panda Express!

If you would like to skip all the helpful tips and tricks to make this the best copycat version of Panda Express Orange Chicken ever; feel free to scroll down to the bottom of the post where the recipe is.  

Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken

The first thing that I did was cut up some chicken and fry it.  The original recipe for Panda Express Orange chicken is deep fried.  This recipe can either be made with cornstarch or wheat flour for a coating.  My family really likes the wheat flour version and so that’s what I used for this. 
 
We all really liked the extra crispy texture of the flour coated chicken and so that’s the way I make it for this recipe.  If you want a gluten free recipe you can use corn starch instead of the wheat flour.  Once I was done frying a batch I placed it in a 200 degree oven to keep it warm because I fried the chicken in batches.
Panda Express Orange Chicken copycat
 
This orange glaze/sauce is so good that it would taste great as a dipping sauce as well.  I also like to make a side of fried rice and reserve a little of the sauce to drizzle onto the rice.  It’s so good!  

The great thing about making homemade orange chicken is that you can also make this dish a little healthier.   Instead of using the batter and frying; make it into a stir fry.  Stir fry the chicken in a skillet with just a tbsp. of oil (no coating) instead of frying it and cook thoroughly.  Add the yummy orange sauce into the pan and cook for a few more minutes while tossing the chicken with the sauce.  
Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken Sauce

 I think I nailed the sauce perfectly.  It couldn’t have been much closer unless I had the actual recipe in my hands!  In this recipe I added some orange zest which made this sauce even better than Panda Express.  When we did the taste test we could actually taste the orange in the homemade where the Panda Express really just tasted “citrusy”, but not a real orange taste.

Tools you’ll need to make Panda Express Orange Chicken: 

1. WokFrying pan or fryer.  I like to use a cast iron dutch oven on the stove to fry in, but there are many great home fryers on the market that make frying easy.  If frying on the stove it is best to use a deep pot that is filled no more than half full.  Woks are nice to have especially for frying since they have concave sides that require less oil for frying.  
2. Orange juicer.  I like to use fresh juice for this recipe.  In a pinch you can use store bought orange juice, but I highly suggest juicing your own.  
3. A microplane or zester for the orange zest.  I always put fresh orange zest for my orange sauce because it tastes absolutely amazing. A microplane is just a metal grater that has small holes and it’s my favorite tool for zesting. 
4. Baking sheet for keeping the cooked meat warm.  This step is not necessary, but I find if I am making several batches of chicken at once it is helpful.  Just place the chicken on a baking tray in a preheated oven set to 200 degrees.  Once all the batches are fried then follow the next steps as usual.  

Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken

 If you have seen the grocery store version of the Panda Express orange sauce don’t buy it if you are looking for authentic.  This recipe is so delicious and so much more like the real thing.  We bought a bottle a while back and it went to waste because we just didn’t like it.  It tasted nothing like the real deal.  
The sauce really doesn’t take long to make and you can always make extras to bottle for later if you want.  This sauce tastes great with shrimp, chicken, tofu and much more as a coating or dipping sauce. 

FAQ about Orange Chicken: 

  1. Does Panda Express Orange Chicken have gluten?  If you buy it in the restaurant then it will have gluten.  If you want to make your own version without gluten then just follow the recipe below exactly except replace the flour with corn starch or gluten free flour.  We have made it several times this way for my youngest daughter and it’s great! 
  2. Is Panda Express Orange Chicken Dark Meat?  Yes.  Panda Express uses boneless skinless dark meat which is most likely from chicken thighs or legs.  I like to use whatever I have on hand.  Just make sure that it is boneless and skinless. 
  3. Is Panda Express Orange Chicken Spicy?  It does have a mild spicy taste.  I know that wether something is spicy or not may be subjective, but even my mom that does not like spicy things will eat this chicken.  So I would say it is pretty mild, but you might get a little “kick” in the back of your throat while eating it.  The red pepper in this adds all the spicy kick.  If you want it spicier just add more red pepper flakes or Sriracha sauce.  I like to serve some Sriracha sauce on the side for anyone that wants to add more to the dish after serving. 
  4. How long can orange chicken sit out?  According to food safety standards, orange chicken should not be left out at room temperature for longer than two hours.  
  5. How long can orange chicken be stored in the refrigerator?  You can safely store orange chicken in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.  The chicken will not be crispy when served a second time so keep this in mind.  
  6. How do you reheat orange chicken?  My preference is to microwave in a microwave safe dish on high for 1 minute.  Stir the chicken after one minute and cook on high for another 30 seconds.  Repeat heating for another 30 seconds until the chicken is steaming hot.  Be careful when removing from the microwave.  
  7. Is orange chicken the same as sweet and sour?  No.  While they both have sweet and sour flavors, orange chicken is a dish of its own.  Orange chicken has a definite taste of orange where sweet and sour does not.  
Authentic Panda Express Orange Chicken sauce and chicken

Panda Express Orange Chicken is our favorite and this copycat recipe is the best!  We love to make it all the time for an easy weeknight dinner!   If you love this recipe for Orange Chicken please give us a 5 star review below in the comments.

Try out some easy sides to go along with this recipe like baked turkey egg rolls and make some extra orange sauce to dip them in too.  The baked turkey egg rolls are another easy recipe to make.  If you don’t want to add meat in the egg rolls then just omit the turkey to make vegetable egg rolls.  You could also fry these egg rolls instead of baking if you want to make them more like authentic Chinese take out.  

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Print Recipe
5 from 10 votes

Panda Express Orange Chicken · Copycat Recipe

If you want to learn how to make Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken then look no further! This Orange Chicken recipe is the best with a tangy Orange Chicken Sauce and crispy chicken! 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Chinese Orange Chicken, Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken, Orange Chicken Recipe, Panda Express Orange Chicken
Servings: 4
Calories: 377kcal
Author: Rachel

Ingredients

Ingredients for the chicken:

  • 1 pound chicken breasts or thighs (really tasty) cut into irregular 1 inch cubes
  • 1-2 cups self- rising flour or cornstarch if making gluten free
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups Oil for deep frying or as many cups as you need for your fryer

Ingredients for orange chicken glaze/sauce:

  • 1 large orange juiced 1 large orange is around 3/4 cups
  • 1/4 tsp. orange zest
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar found near the soy sauce in most grocery stores- use a brand like Nakano
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes or 1/2 tsp. Sriracha sauce Use to taste. Add more if you like it spicy
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 2 tsp. corn starch
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a frying vessel or fryer to 375 degrees.  This temperature is optimal for a deep fry.  Make sure there is enough oil to cover the chicken. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until they are mixed thoroughly. In another medium sized bowl put 1 cup of the flour or cornstarch (you can add more later if you need it). Dip the chicken first in the eggs then coat the pieces with the flour. Repeat this step until you have the desired amount to fry.
  • Next, take around 1/4 of the coated chicken and add the chicken to the hot oil in the fryer or frying pan.  Depending on your frying vessel the chicken will need to be fried in batches. The chicken pieces should not be touching in the fryer.  You will know they are ready to take out when the coating is medium brown and the inside of the chicken reaches at least 165 degrees.  Around 3 to 5 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile make the sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small pot (making sure that the cornstarch is dissolved before cooking. Heat on medium heat until the sauce thickens.  This will take around 7 minutes. 
  • Last step: Place fried chicken in a large sized bowl and pour the sauce on top.  Toss lightly until all chicken is coated. Serve immediately.

Video

Notes

You can also make this recipe without frying the chicken:
Optional Method 1.  Stir fry the chicken in a small amount of oil until the outside of the chicken is golden brown and insides are cooked through.  
Optional Method 2. In a pinch you can use store bought chicken nuggets if you don't want to fry.  These will need to be baked so keep that in mind time wise.
Optional Method 3. Use grilled nuggets or grilled chicken for a non-fried Orange Chicken version.  It's really good this way too! 
Panda Express Orange Chicken copycat nutrition label
Recipe Rating




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Suzanne

Friday 14th of October 2022

Awesome recipe and so easy! Delicious, amazing, wonderful, we loved it! Chicken came out perfect, nice and moist. The sauce was absolutely perfect!! Thanks for an amazing recipe!

Luna

Saturday 23rd of April 2022

The recipe was super good but I reduced the amount of sugar and it was still a bit too sweet. Instead of deep frying it I pan deep fried it and it still tastes super delicious (and it’s better for the environment and less unhealthy). Also while pan “deep frying” it I added some salt and pepper which made the chicken even more delicious!! thankyou for the recipe and I hope these tips are useful!!

Lorena Tuinenburg

Friday 4th of September 2020

I've tried other Orange chicken recipes, but yours is the ABSOLUTE BEST!!! I used to eat the Panda Express orange chicken every day in my twenties, now I'm gluten free (not by choice) and so is one of my kids, so we can't eat at Panda without serious consequences. Long story short, I made this recipe gluten free, and I love that I can control the heat and the amount of citrus flavor (LOTS PLEASE!) It's amazing even the next day! Thank you so much for posting this!!

Rachel

Tuesday 15th of September 2020

I'm glad you enjoyed it! Half of our family is now gluten free also and so we only enjoy Panda Express recipes at home now!

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