Can't get enough of Panda Express' famous Orange Chicken? Save time and money by making it at home. Our copycat recipe for orange chicken is so easy to make, and you'll be thrilled with the results! Your children will lick their plates clean, your friends will ask for the recipe, and you'll be smiling.
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All the ingredients for this popular entree are easy to find at your local grocery store. The sambal oelek and the sesame oil will be in the Asian or international section.
- Meat: boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast
- Aromatics: ginger, garlic, and green onion
- Spice: red pepper flakes and sambal oelek
- Sweetener: white and light brown sugar
- Oil: a high smoke point oil and sesame oil
- Vinegar: white distilled vinegar
- Citrus: no pulp orange juice and freshly grated orange zest
- Thickener: cornstarch or arrowroot
- Soy Sauce: reduced sodium soy sauce, liquid aminos, or tamari
- Dry Pantry Staples: all-purpose flour (or your favorite gluten free flour) and baking soda
- Spices: salt and white pepper
- Dairy: egg or flax egg replacement
How to Make
To start, let's gather the ingredients for the batter.
- In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together then make a well in the center and crack an egg into it. Whisk just the egg then pour in the oil and water. Whisk until combined. If necessary, add more water. You'll want a pancake like batter.
- Submerge the chicken into the batter and mix it around with your hand for a minute. Cover then chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.
3. In a small heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat until it shimmers then add in the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and the sambal oelek. Cook until fragrant while constantly stirring.
4. Add in the two sugars and the orange juice. Cook until the sugars have dissolved, roughly 2 minutes while occasionally stirring. Reduce the heat to medium.
Add in the vinegar and soy sauce, stir and cook for a minute. Make the cornstarch slurry and add 1 tablespoon then stir and then add another tablespoon. (You'll have leftover slurry.) Stir constantly until it's thickened like maple syrup then remove from the heat and stir in the orange zest.
5. In a large wok, heat up the high smoke point oil until it's 350°F. You don't have a thermometer, you can test by sticking in a wooden chopstick. If there are tiny bubbles near the chopstick, then the oil is hot and ready to use.
Carefully place one piece of meat into the hot oil until ¼ of the pieces are in there. Use the chopsticks to move the meat around in the wok to prevent over browning.
6. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the meat is a nice golden brown. Remove the meat from the wok and drain it on a paper towel lined cookie sheet. Repeat until all the meat is done then pour the extra oil into a bowl, and wipe the wok out with paper towel.
7. Add all the fried chicken back into the wok. Add the sesame oil to the orange sauce to give the entree more of a glossy look then pour the sauce over the chicken, and gently stir to coat.
8. Garnish with green onions and serve hot with other Panda Express sides like steamed rice, fried rice, super greens, and chow mein.
What is Panda Express orange chicken made of?
In Panda Express' own words their signature dish is "crispy chicken wok-tossed in a sweet and spicy orange sauce."
Is this Panda Express entree healthy?
Even though it's the most popular item on the menu, it's not the healthiest choice. For a serving size of 5.2 ounces, Panda Express' entree has 490 calories, 51g carbs, 23g fat, 19 g sugar, and 25g protein.
For a one cup serving size, our copycat version has 582 calories, 45.5g carbs, 35.9g fat, 21.6g sugar, and 20.5g protein. For more nutritional information, scroll to the end of the recipe card.
What does this popular American Chinese restaurant's best seller taste like?
In one word, it tastes delicious, that is why it's so incredibly popular. The orange sauce is tangy and sweet with a bit of heat and hints of citrus and umami.
Is orange chicken real Chinese food?
Like many other Chinese takeout dishes, this entree is very popular in America, but it's not authentic Chinese food, and you won't find it served at restaurants in China. Panda Express says on their website that their recipe for orange chicken was inspired from the cuisine in the Hunan province of China.
- Need this gluten free? Use liquid aminos or tamari, arrowroot, and gluten free flour.
- Need this keto friendly? Omit the cornstarch and use ½ teaspoon xantham gum to thicken; also, use monkfruit or maple syrup as a sweetener.
- Need this vegan? Use tofu cubes, shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower florets, and a flax egg.
- Like it extra crispy? Use the double fry method. Fry for 2 minutes, chill for 20, then fry again for 3-5 minutes.
- Don't own a thermometer? Test the oil with a wooden chopstick. If tiny bubbles appear near the chopsticks, the oil is ready.
- Like puffy breading? Baking soda is the secret ingredient.
- Like heat? Increase the red pepper flakes by ¼ teaspoon.
- Like more orange taste? Add another teaspoon of orange zest to the sauce after cooking or as a garnish.
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Panda Express Orange Chicken
For the Batter
For the Orange Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon sambal oelek
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon ginger, grated
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup no pulp orange juice
- 4-5 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
For Deep Frying
- 1 ½ cups high smoke oil
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, with fat trimmed and cut in one-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons green onion, thinly sliced
- Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and crack an egg into it. Carefully whisk in the egg, then add the oil and the water. Whisk until well mixed. The batter should be pancake-like in consistency. Submerge the thighs and mix it with your hand for a minute. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat, heat up the oil until shimmering, then add the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and the sambal oelek. Stir with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds, then add the sugars and the orange juice. Cook for 2 minutes until sugar dissolves reducing the heat to medium and stirring occasionally, then add the vinegar and soy sauce.
- Make the slurry by stirring the cornstarch and water together, then add 1 tablespoon of slurry and whisk. Add more slurry as needed. You'll have leftover slurry, and cook it until it has thickened to a maple-syrup like consistency. Remove from the heat and add the orange zest and cover to retain the heat.
- Pour in 1 ½ cups of high smoke point oil into a large wok and let it heat up to 350 F. Drop the battered pieces into the hot oil one at a time until roughly ½ cup of meat is in the wok. Cook until golden brown, roughly 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the meat with chopsticks so it doesn't burn. Drain it on a paper towel-lined baking tray, then repeat these steps with the rest of the meat. Pour the oil into a bowl to allow to cool, and wipe out the wok with paper towel.
- Add all the deep fried meat back into the wok. Stir in the sesame oil into the orange sauce for taste and extra sheen, then pour it over the meat. Stir gently to coat each piece. Garnish with green onion. Serve while still hot with steamed rice, fried rice, chow mein, or super greens.
- Want the meat extra crispy? Double fry it. First, fry for 2 minutes, then chill 20 minutes. Second fry 3 minutes.
- No thermometer? Test with a wooden chopstick. If tiny bubbles surround the chopstick, the oil is hot and ready.
- Want puffy breading? Add baking soda to the batter.
- Need this spicier? Increase the red pepper flakes or the sambal oelek by ¼ teaspoon.
- Want more orange flavor? Increase the orange zest by 1 teaspoon.