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Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat

Our tangy Panda Express orange chicken copycat is a recipe you’ll come back to again and again! Sticky and sweet, this chicken is BETTER-THAN-TAKEOUT.

Panda Express orange chicken served with edamame and jasmine rice.

On the occasion that I go out of town without my family, my husband and kids have a little tradition of getting Panda Express, which they eat as leftovers the entire time I’m away. Because of this delightful custom, my kids often ask when I plan to leave them with their baba. I needed to make myself irreplaceable once again, and so this recipe was born- now I bring Panda Express to them!

WHERE DOES ORANGE CHICKEN ORIGINATE?

Orange chicken is famous in the United States, thanks in large part to Panda Express. While elements of the orange chicken flavor are inspired by cuisine from the Hunan Province in China, the orange chicken we know in the U.S. is very much Americanized.

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

For the Marinade:

  • Shaoxing Wine: Paired with egg whites, vinegar creates a velveting effect to tenderize the chicken.
  • White Sugar: Sugar prevents the chicken from becoming tough and sweetens the sauce.
  • Eggs Whites: Egg whites create a velveting effect when paired with vinegar to tenderize the chicken.
  • Sesame Oil
  • Dark Soy Sauce: Dark soy sauce is different from light or all-purpose soy sauce; it has a more intense flavor, and the saltiness makes it perfect for marinating.
  • Orange Zest

For the Fried Chicken:

  • Chicken: I use chicken thighs because I find them more flavorful and juicy than chicken breast.
  • Salt + Corn Starch: Flavor the cornstarch coating for perfectly seasoned fried chicken.
  • Flour

For the Sauce:

  • Ginger: Fresh ginger lends flavor to the chicken.
  • Garlic: I suggest using four cloves, but don’t let my recipe tell you how much garlic to use – go for it.
  • Oranges: I love using fresh ingredients whenever possible, and that’s especially true in this recipe. I love the sweet, citrus flavor real oranges and zest add to the sauce. I recommend tasting the oranges before squeezing them into the sauce to ensure they are sweet, and not sour. You can also use store-bought orange juice, but fresh oranges are the way to go!
  • Sesame Oil
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sugar: I use white sugar to sweeten our Panda Express orange chicken copycat, but you can also use honey or a sugar-free alternative for lower calories.
  • Vinegar: Part of cooking well is learning to balance flavors. I have zero professional culinary experience, but books like The Food Lab have helped me grow in this area. Oranges provide sweetness to the sauce, and we balance that with two kinds of vinegar; this sauce is not the same without the bite vinegar adds. 
  • Red Pepper Flakes: Balance the sweetness with red pepper flakes.
  • Corn Starch: Thicken the sauce with a touch of cornstarch.
  • Toasted Sesame Seeds: Finish the Sichuan fried chicken with sesame seeds.
Ingredients for orange chicken sauce.

HOW TO MAKE OUR PANDA EXPRESS ORANGE CHICKEN COPYCAT

For the Chicken:

MIX – Mix the ingredients for the marinade in a mixing bowl: Shaoxing wine, sugar, egg whites, sesame oil, soy sauce, and orange zest. Stir until sugar fully dissolves.

MARINATE – Add the chicken to the bowl, stir to coat. Cover and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

COMBINE – Combine cornstarch and salt on a plate.

DRAIN – Remove the marinated chicken and leave it to drain in a colander for 1-2 minutes.

COAT – Add ½ of the chicken to the cornstarch mixture. Stir to coat, then shake off any excess.

Set the chicken onto a plate or wire rack, and repeat with the remaining chicken.

FRY – Over medium heat, warm the oil to 350° F | 176 ° C in a Dutch oven. Add half of the chicken in a single layer and cook until both sides brown, about 3-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to an unused wire rack.

For the Orange Sauce:

SAUTE – Heat vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or wok; add ginger and garlic, and cook for another couple of minutes until the raw smell fades.

ADD – Stir in the Shaoxing wine, fresh orange juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, white vinegar, red chili flakes, and orange zest. Allow the mixture to simmer for 5 minutes.

COMBINE – Reduce the heat and add the corn starch, then stir in the reserved chicken and toss to combine.

SERVE – Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve with jasmine rice.

SEARCHING FOR MORE LIKE THIS? 

If you love this recipe, we hope you will try one of these Chinese-inspired meals!  

Panda Express orange chicken served with edamame and jasmine rice.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS 

  • Jasmine Rice
  • Cucumber Salad
  • Wontons
  • Scallion Pancakes
  • Broccoli
  • Hot and Sour Soup
  • Bok Choy
  • Edamame
  • Egg Drop Soup
  • Vegetable Lo Mein

WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS 

  • FRIDGE –  Store leftovers in an air-tight container; it will keep for 3-5 days.
  • FREEZE – If you plan to freeze the orange chicken, keep the chicken and sauce separate. Freeze the sauce and chicken separately in a freezer-safe bag or containers. When you’re ready to eat, let it defrost in the fridge overnight.
  • REHEAT – To serve, reheat the chicken in the oven or warm it in a pan.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

Can I make this recipe gluten-free?

Yes, replace the all-purpose flour with chickpea flour or add more cornstarch. Also, substitute tamari sauce in place of soy sauce.

What does orange chicken taste like?

Our Panda Express orange chicken copycat tastes just like the real thing but even more fresh! The chicken is crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. And our sauce is sweet, but not overwhelmingly so- it’s bright and fresh because of the added citrus for a well-balanced flavor you will love.

YOU SHOULD ALSO TRY: 

Panda Express orange chicken served with edamame and jasmine rice.

Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat

Tressa Jamil
Our tangy Panda Express orange chicken copycat is a recipe you will come back to again and again! Sticky and sweet, this chicken is BETTER-THAN-TAKEOUT.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Marinating Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8 People
Calories 336 kcal

Ingredients
  

For the Marinade:

For the Fried Chicken:

  • 2 pounds chicken thighs, skinless and boneless, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil

For the Orange Sauce:

  • 1 ⅓ tablespoon ginger paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice, 2-3 oranges, plus zest, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Instructions
 

For the Chicken:

  • Mix the ingredients for the marinade in a mixing bowl: Shaoxing wine, sugar, egg whites, sesame oil, soy sauce, and orange zest. Stir until sugar fully dissolves. Add the chicken to the bowl, stir to coat. Cover and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Combine cornstarch and salt on a plate.
  • Remove the marinated chicken and leave it to drain in a colander for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add ½ of the chicken to the cornstarch mixture. Stir to coat, then shake off any excess. Set the chicken onto the wire rack, and repeat with the remaining chicken.
  • Over medium heat, warm the oil to 350° in a Dutch oven. Add half of the chicken in a single layer and cook until both sides brown, about 3-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to an unused wire rack.
  • Allow the oil to return to 350° F | 176 ° C and repeat the process with the remaining chicken.

For the Sauce:

  • Heat vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or wok; add ginger and garlic, and cook for another couple of minutes until the raw smell fades.
  • Stir in the Shaoxing wine, fresh orange juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, white vinegar, red chili flakes, and orange zest. Allow the mixture to simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat and add the corn starch, then stir in the reserved chicken and toss to combine.
  • Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve with jasmine rice.

Notes

  • Nutrition Disclosure: The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
 
  • Web Story: Check out our web story for orange chicken! 

Nutrition

Serving: 1 ServingCalories: 336kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 34gFat: 8gSodium: 700mgSugar: 20g
Keyword orange chicken copycat, Panda Express orange chicken
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
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