Have you been meaning to try Panda Express' honey sesame chicken but haven't gotten around to it yet? You'll love each bite of our copycat recipe. It's succulent crispy fried chicken coated in an irresistibly sweet and sticky honey sesame sauce.
If you love copycat Panda Express recipes, you'll want to try our orange chicken and our sweet fire chicken.
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Why This Recipe Works
- The chicken is marinated and chilled for 30 to 45 minutes for a tender, moist result.
- The batter for the chicken is the consistency of pancake batter to help it coat the meat well. The dry ingredients are mixed first then the wet. A little bit of water is added to get it just right then the marinated chicken is added.
- The chicken is deep fried in batches in a large wok when the oil reaches 350°F, so the chicken pieces get crispy and golden brown.
- The honey sesame sauce has the right balance of sweet, spice, and tangy flavors.
All the ingredients for this copycat Panda Express recipe are easy to find with the exception of the Shoaxing wine, which can be ordered online. (See link in recipe card below.) Let's talk about some of the key ingredients.
- Meat: We used boneless, skinless chicken breast for all white meat, but you could use thighs if you prefer dark meat.
- Vegetables: Yellow bell pepper and green string beans were used, but feel free to substitute with other sweet bell peppers or yellow beans.
- Sweetener: We used raw honey and light brown sugar, but substitute the honey with agave nectar and the sugar with your sweetener of choice.
- Vinegar: We used rice vinegar to keep the Asian flavor.
- Wine: We used cooking sherry, but if you can find it, Shoaxing wine would be better.
How to Make
Gather all the ingredients for our copycat honey sesame chicken.
- Gather the ingredients for the marinade, then whisk all the ingredients together, except the cornstarch, then pour it over the meat. Mix well with your hand for a minute, then sprinkle on the cornstarch and continue mixing for another minute. Cover and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Gather the ingredients for the honey sesame sauce, then whisk all the ingredients together, except the cornstarch and water, which will be used later to make a slurry.
3. Gather all the ingredients for the batter, then mix the dry ingredients first then the wet. Add the water a little at a time until it's the consistency of pancake batter.
4. Next, add the marinated meat to the batter and mix to coat.
5. To deep fry the meat, heat up 1 ½ cup of high smoke oil in a large wok over medium high heat. When the oil reaches 350 F, add the chicken pieces one at a time, roughly 10 to 12 pieces or ½ cup, and cook for 5 minutes.
6. Make sure you flip the chicken over and move the pieces around with chopsticks so the chicken doesn't get too dark. Carefully remove the meat from the wok and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat until all the chicken is cooked. Pour out the oil into a bowl, then wipe out the wok.
If you like your chicken extra crispy, use the double fry method. First fry, 2 minutes, then cool in the fridge for 20 minutes. This will pull out extra moisture. During the second fry, cook for 3 to 5 minutes. This will give you the iconic crunch that many people love from Chinese takeout chicken.
7. Next, gather all the ingredients for the stir fry. In a wok over medium high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil, then stir fry the garlic until fragrant.
Quickly add the green string beans and the yellow bell pepper to the wok and stir fry for 2 minutes, then place the veggies to a bowl. If you want your green beans softer, blanch them for 2 minutes in boiling water and shock them in an ice bath before stir frying.
8. Make the cornstarch slurry, making sure it's smooth, and place it near the wok. Pour in the sauce and let it cook for a minute while stirring, then pour in the slurry. Continue stirring until the sauce has thickened, which will be under a minute.
9. Remove the wok from the heat and add the deep fried chicken. Gently stir to coat each piece in the honey sesame sauce.
Over medium high heat, add the vegetable/garlic mixture back into the wok along with the meat. Cook for a minute or two to heat everything through.
Remove from the heat and sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Stir to mix them in well with the other ingredients.
10. Serve hot with steamed rice, fried rice, chow mein, super greens, or noodles.
In August of 2020, Panda Express brought back the honey sesame chicken nationwide in the United States for a limited time. As of November 2022, it is still on the menu.
Panda Express describes this entree as "thin, crispy strips of all-white chicken meat tossed with fresh-cut string beans, crispy yellow bell peppers in a sizzling hot wok with our new delicious honey sauce topped off with sesame seeds."
The Panda Express entree has a serving size of 1 cup (5.3 ounces) with 420 calories, 22g of fat, 40g of carbs, 19g of sugar, and 16g of protein.Our copycat version has a serving size of one cup and has 428 calories, 27.1g of fat, 30.8g of carbs, 18.1g of sugar, and 18g of protein. For more nutritional information, please scroll to the end of the recipe card.
The main difference is that honey sesame has sesame seeds and no orange flavoring. Both are deep fried. The orange sauce has orange juice and zest. Both taste sweet, and are very popular entrees at Panda Express.
Honey sesame chicken tastes best when served with steamed rice (either white or brown). You can also serve it with Asian noodles.
Panda Express has chow mein, fried rice, and super greens (made with broccoli, kale and cabbage) as their suggested side dishes. If you want homemade Chinese take out, you'll have to check out our copycat recipes for these popular sides.
- Make Ahead: You can prep everything ahead of time, but it's best to make this right before you want to eat. Deep fried chicken tastes best the same day.
- Leftovers: Allow to cool, then place in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Freeze: Place in a freezer friendly container and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in fridge overnight.
- Reheat: In a wok over medium high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of high smoke point oil, add the leftovers and stir for 3 minutes or until heated through.
- Need more vegetables? Increase the veggies from 3 cups to 6 by adding 1 ½ cups each of red bell pepper and zucchini.
- Need this gluten free? Use tamari, arrowroot, and your favorite gluten free flour.
- Want this vegan? Replace the meat with tofu cubes, cauliflower florets, or Shiitake mushrooms. Use agave nectar and omit the eggs.
- Want this more keto friendly? Omit the cornstarch and use ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum as a thickener. Use monkfruit or maple syrup as a sweetener.
- If you want your chicken to puff up when fried, add a bit of baking soda to your batter.
- If you want your chicken extra crispy, double fry it. First fry, 2 minutes then cool in fridge 20 min. Second fry, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Want the sauce spicier? Use 2 or 3 teaspoons of sambal oelek, then sprinkle on red pepper flakes for another garnish.
- Want to blanch the green beans? Submerge in boiling water for 2 minutes, then in an ice water bath before stir frying.
- No thermometer for the wok? To test if the oil is hot enough, insert wooden chopsticks and see tiny bubbles around them.
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Panda Express Honey Sesame Chicken
For the Marinade
- 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 large egg whites
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the Honey Sesame Sauce
- ¼ cup honey
- 5 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shoaxing wine or cooking sherry
- 1 ½ teaspoons sambal oelek
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
For the Batter
- ¼ cup flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup water, plus more if needed
For Deep Frying
- 1 ½ cups high smoke point oil, such as classic olive, peanut, or vegetable
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced thin and cut into bite-sized pieces
For the Stir Fry
- 2 tablespoons oil, leftover from deep frying
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- ½ cup yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
- ½ cup green string beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons green onion, for garnish
- Whisk the first 5 ingredients together, then pour it over the chicken. With one hand, mix the marinade with the chicken for a minute, then sprinkle on the cornstarch and continue mixing for another minute. Cover and chill in the fridge for 30-45 minutes.
- Whisk all the ingredients except the cornstarch and water together. Save these two ingredients to make a slurry to thicken the sauce later.
- Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then make a well in the center and crack an egg into it. Pour in the oil and half of the water. Mix with a spoon and slowly add more water until the batter is the consistency of pancake batter. Once the chicken is done marinating, use a slotted spoon to drain it and submerge it in the batter, then mix it around with your hand.
- Pour in 1 ½ cups of high smoke oil in a wok and let the oil heat up to 350 F, or until it bubbles around wooden chopsticks inserted into the hot oil. Carefully drop in one piece of battered chicken at a time until you have about ¼ cup or 10 to 12 pieces of chicken in the oil. Cook for 5 minutes, using chopsticks to turn the chicken as it cooks so it doesn't brown too much. Remove the chicken and place it on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the excess oil. Repeat until all the chicken is fried. Pour the oil into a small bowl, then wipe the wok clean with a paper towel. Reserve 2 tablespoons of oil for the stir fry.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of reserved oil over medium high heat, then stir fry the garlic until fragrant. Add the yellow bell pepper and the green beans and cook for 2 minutes, then place the veggies in a bowl.
- Mix the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry, and set it aside. Over medium high heat, pour in the sauce and allow it to heat up for a minute while stirring constantly, then pour in the cornstarch slurry and continue to stir while the sauce thickens, about 1 minute.
- Add the deep fried chicken back into the wok. Stir gently to coat with the sauce, then add the vegetable garlic mixture and cook for another minute or until heated through. Remove the wok from the heat and sprinkle on the sesame seeds. If you'd like it a bit spicy, sprinkle on some red pepper flakes too. Serve while hot with steamed rice, chow mein, super greens, fried rice, or noodles.
- Blanch the green beans? Boil for 2 minutes, then plunge in ice water to cool.
- Puffy breading? Add a bit of baking soda to your batter.
- Test the oil. Insert wooden chopsticks into the hot oil. If you see tiny bubbles around them, the oil is hot enough to start frying the chicken.
- Like crispy chicken? Fry it for 2 minutes, then let it cool for 20 minutes in the fridge. Fry it a second time for 3 to 5 minutes, then drain.
- Extra heat? Use 2 or 3 teaspoons of sambal oelek for a spicier sauce. You can also sprinkle on red pepper flakes as garnish.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.
This post was originally published on February 19, 2021 and was republished with refreshed content on November 23, 2022.
The chicken is chewy, and the sesame seeds add a touch of color and flavor. The peppers and green beans are crunchy.
Thank you for your kind words, Alex!
The chicken is soft, and the sauce is sweet from the honey. The honey, sesame, and green onions flavor it quite well. The green beans and peppers blend nicely, adding a welcome splash of color.
Glad you enjoyed this, Beth!