Are you wanting Panda Express takeout, but don't live near one? Try our Panda Express black pepper chicken copycat recipe, and you won't be disappointed. This quick, budget-friendly dinner consists of juicy chicken, crisp celery, and onion all tossed in a black pepper sauce.
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Our copycat version of Panda Express black pepper chicken is perfect to recreate at home, since it uses easy-to-find ingredients and pantry staples.
- Chicken: skinless, boneless breast is used, but you can switch it out to thighs to change things up.
- Vegetables: Chunks of white onion and bias-cut celery is all Panda Express uses.
- Aromatics: Minced fresh garlic that is minced and grated ginger will provide the best flavor for the marinade.
- Liquids: Liquid aminos (for a GF version) or soy sauce and chicken broth is all that is used.
- Acid: Rice wine vinegar is used to keep it mild.
- Spices: Use freshly ground, coarse black pepper. Make sure not to use the fine black pepper, or it will overpower the dish.
How to Make
Gather all the ingredients.
- Whisk all the marinade ingredients in a measuring cup until blended.
- Pour the marinade over the cubed chicken. Let it marinate for 10 to 30 minutes.
3. Heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium high heat, then stir fry the onion and the celery for 1 to 2 minutes. You'll want it to still be crunchy. Remove the vegetables and place in a bowl.
4. Remove the chicken from the marinade with a large slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Heat up the rest of the oil in a wok over medium high, then stir fry the chicken for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken and place in a bowl.
5. Whisk the marinade and pour into the wok. Stir with a wooden spoon until it thickens, roughly 30 seconds to 1 minute. If needed, add ¼ cup of water to thin the sauce.
6. Add the chicken back to the wok and stir to evenly coat each piece. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of freshly ground coarse black pepper. Don't use fine black pepper or it will be too strong.
7. Add the vegetables back and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Taste. If necessary, add more black pepper or a light sprinkle of salt.
8. Serve warm with a garnish of green onion, sesame seeds, and more black pepper. This tastes amazing when served alongside other Panda Express copycat sides, like fried rice, super greens, chow mein, and eggplant tofu. Please scroll down for the links to our copycat versions of these side dish recipes.
According to the Panda Express website, this entree is described as "marinated chicken, celery and onions in a bold black pepper sauce."
For this Panda Express entree, a serving size of 6.3 ounces (1 ¼ cup) gives you 280 calories, 15g of carbs, 7g of sugar, 1130mg sodium, and 19g of fat.
For our copycat recipe, the same serving size (1 ¼ cup) has 362 calories, 10.8g of carbs, 2.5g of sugar, 739mg of sodium, and 16.1g of fat. For more nutritional information, please scroll to the end of the recipe card.
A 6.3-ounce bowl of black pepper chicken along with your choice of side will cost $6.30 plus tax. Keep in mind that the price can vary depending upon your location.
No, it isn't truly gluten free, because there is always a possibility of cross-contamination with gluten-containing foods in the Panda Express kitchen.
Our copycat recipe can be easily made gluten free by using liquid aminos instead of soy sauce, and arrowroot instead of cornflour. Check the ingredient label on the chicken broth to make sure it's gluten free.
- Want more vegetables? Try green or red bell pepper or broccoli.
- Need this keto? Leave out the cornstarch, or replace it with glucomannan powder (affiliate) used in Japanese cooking.
- Need this gluten free? Use liquid aminos, arrowroot, and gluten free chicken broth.
- Want this sweeter? Add a bit of sugar to the sauce.
- Want this spicier? Add homemade chili vinegar made with white vinegar and a chopped jalapeno.
- Use freshly cracked black pepper. Make sure it's coarsely ground, not fine, or it will overpower the dish.
- Cook in batches; don't overcrowd the wok.
- Slice the celery on the diagonal in ¼-inch slices.
- Don't overcook the celery and onion; it should be softened a bit, but still have some crunch.
- Add the sauce near the end of the cooking time.
Copycat Panda Express Recipes
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Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken Copycat
For the Marinade/Sauce
For the Stir Fry
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
- 1 white onion, cut into chunks
- 2 cups celery, cut ¼ inch on the bias
- 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
- ¼ cup water
- garnish with green onions or sesame seeds, optional
- Whisk all the ingredients together for the marinade/stir fry sauce. It will make 1 cup. Place the cubed chicken in a large bowl and pour marinade on top. Let it sit for 10 to 30 minutes.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large wok over medium high heat until it shimmers, then add the onion and celery. Stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until tender-crisp, then place in a bowl.
- Remove the meat from the marinade/sauce with a large slotted spoon or spider and place it bowl, but keep the marinade to use as the stir fry sauce.
- Add the rest of the oil to the wok and allow it to heat up, then stir fry the meat for 4 to 5 minutes. Make sure to keep the meat moving with large wooden spoon, then remove it and place in a bowl.
- Whisk the stir fry sauce/marinade, then pour it in the wok. Let it cook for 30 seconds while constantly stirring. If needed, add ¼ cup of water to thin out the sauce, then mix it in until the sauce is smooth.
- Add the meat and veggies back to the wok. Sprinkle on the coarse black pepper (don't use finely ground, it will be too peppery) and stir fry for another 2 to 3 minutes. You'll want the meat to be cooked through, but the vegetables should be slightly crunchy.
- Serve hot with a garnish of green onion, sesame seeds, and your favorite Panda Express side: rice, super greens, fried rice, or chow mein. Check out our copycat recipes of these sides.
- Make sure the freshly cracked black pepper is coarsely ground, or it will overpower the dish.
- Don't overcrowd the wok; cook in batches.
- Cut the celery a ¼ inch thickness on the diagonal.
- Cook the celery and onion to soften it, but make sure it still has some crunch.