Our Panda Express sweet fire chicken is one copycat recipe you'll definitely want to make. Our sweet, spicy, and zingy homemade sauce tastes amazing when poured over the crispy fried chicken, crunchy red bell peppers, savory onions, and sweet pineapple. If you need this gluten free, we've got you covered with tips on how to make small tweaks to make this recipe for your diet.
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Our copycat recipe for Panda Express sweet fire chicken uses basic ingredients that you can easily find at your local grocery store. The Asian sweet chili sauce and the sambal oelek can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores.
- Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken breast is used, but you could easily swap it for chicken thighs if you prefer dark meat.
- Vegetables: Red bell pepper and white onion are used, but you could also use another sweet bell pepper or onion for convenience.
- Aromatics: Use fresh garlic and fresh ginger. Try not to substitute with dried spices, as fresh has the best flavor.
- Fruit: Chunks of pineapple is best. Use fresh for the best taste, but canned is faster. We used fresh in this photo shoot.
- Heat: Sambal oelek and red pepper flakes. Adjust for your heat tolerances. This recipe is mild, with a bit of heat, but not quite medium.
How to Make
Gather all the ingredients.
- Make the sauce by whisking all the ingredients, except the cornstarch, together in a small bowl, then set aside.
- For the dredging stations, mix the cornstarch and flour together, then separate into two bowls. Whisk the eggs in another bowl.
To bread the chicken, dip each piece of meat in the first bowl of cornstarch and flour, then into the egg bowl, and finish off with the third bowl of cornstarch and flour. Once the chicken is breaded, place it on a clean plate. Repeat until all the chicken is done.
3. Heat ½ cup of oil in a large wok over medium high heat until it's hot, roughly a minute. Using a metal spatula, carefully scrape the chicken off the plate into the hot oil. You'll want to cook ½ cup of breaded chicken at a time so there is no over crowding. This will keep the oil temperature consistent (350 to 375 F when deep frying). Reduce the temperature, so the chicken doesn't burn.
Cook the meat for 2 minutes on one side, and 1 minute on the other. You'll want a light golden brown color. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and repeat until all the chicken is done.
4. Wipe the wok clean with paper towels, then add 1 tablespoon of oil and allow it to heat up, then add the red bell pepper and the white onion. Allow them to cook for 2 minutes before adding the pineapple, then cook for another minute. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a bowl. If you want char marks, cook a bit longer.
5. Stir fry the fresh garlic and ginger for 30 seconds and place on top of the vegetable mixture. Stir to mix so the aromatics are well distributed.
6. To thicken the stir fry sauce, make a cornstarch slurry by mixing 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and mix until smooth. Pour the sauce into the wok and let it heat up, then add the cornstarch slurry. Stir and let the sauce thicken for a minute or so.
7. Add the cooked chicken back into the wok and stir to coat each piece with the sauce. Add the vegetable mixture back into the wok and gently stir until the everything is reheated.
8. Serve hot with other Panda Express side dishes. Try our copycat recipes for fried rice, chow mein noodles, and super greens.
What is Panda Express sweet fire chicken?
The Panda Express website describes this entree as "crispy white meat chicken, red bell pepper, onions, and pineapples in a bright and sweet chili sauce."
What does Panda Express sweet fire chicken taste like?
The sauce is sweet, sour, and slightly spicy. If you eat the sauce by itself, it has a kick of heat, but when mixed with the fried chicken, it tones it down to a spice level of mild. Panda Express has this dish labeled as spicy probably for children. An adult would consider this entree mildly spicy.
How many calories are in Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken?
For a serving size of 5.8 ounces (roughly 1 cup) there are 380 calories, 47g carbs, 15g of fat, 1g of fiber and 13g of protein.
For the same serving size, our copycat version has 373 calories, 38.2g carbs, 15.7g of fat, 1.6g of fiber and 19.5g of protein. For more nutritional information, please scroll to end of the recipe card.
How much does Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken cost?
For a large order, of 3 ½ to 4 cups, it costs $10.20 plus tax. This amount can feed 4 adults if you serve it with other side dishes, like their fried rice, chow mein, super greens, or steamed rice.
What is Asian sweet chili sauce?
It's a sauce that has a sweet, spicy, garlic taste and tastes wonderful when used for stir fries, plus it's the main ingredient in our copycat sauce. It can be found in the Asian section of most large grocery stores. For this recipe, we used Kikkoman's Asian sweet chili sauce, which is gluten free. Other comparable brands are Mae Ploy or Lee Kum Kee.
If you can't seem to find it at your grocery store, or you don't want to order it from Amazon, you can make your own version of sweet chili sauce. Here is a quick recipe to whisk up. This should make about ½ cup. For full disclosure, it doesn't taste exactly like Kikkoman's Asian sweet chili sauce, so if you use the below recipe, you'll have a different outcome, but it's still delicious.
- 5 tablespoons honey (120g)
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar (45 ml)
- 2 tablespoons water (30 ml)
- 2 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce (30 ml)
- 2 teaspoons sambal oelek (or to taste, if you like things spicier than mild)
- 1 ¼ teaspoon dehyrated garlic or fresh minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (5 ml)
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce (5 ml)
- ½ teaspoon sriracha
- ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/16 teaspoon paprika
- Need this gluten free? Use arrowroot, gluten free flour, and liquid aminos and gluten free sweet chili sauce.
- Want more vegetables? Use red, orange and yellow bell peppers and white and red onions.
- Need this vegan? Use tofu or cauliflower florets instead of chicken. Use cornstarch for the coating before frying in oil.
- Need this fast? Prep all the ingredients, make the sauce and dredge the chicken ahead of time.
- Cook the breaded chicken in small batches; roughly ½ cup per batch.
- If using canned pineapple, buy it packed in 100% juice, not syrup.
- Interested in lowering the cholesterol? Use only egg whites in the breading.
- Adjust the heat levels with sambal oelek. Use 1 teaspoon for mild, 2 for medium, and 3 for hot.
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Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken Copycat
For the Sauce
For the Breading
- ¾ cup cornstarch
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
For the Stir Fry
- ½ cup classic olive oil, or another high smoke oil
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into thin 1-inch cubes
- 1 ½ cups pineapple chunks
- 1 cup red bell pepper, chunks
- 1 cup white onion
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
- Whisk all the ingredients together, except the cornstarch and water for the slurry, then set aside.
- Mix the cornstarch, flour, and spices together, then divide the mixture between two bowls. In the third bowl, beat the eggs.
- Coat each piece of chicken first in one cornstarch/flour mixture bowl, then egg, then finish off with another cornstarch/flour coating from the other bowl. Place the breaded pieces on a clean plate and repeat with the remaining chicken.
- Heat ½ cup of oil a large wok over medium high heat, then fry ½ cup of the breaded chicken at a time. Turn down the heat so the oil doesn't spit and the chicken doesn't burn. Cook for 2 minutes on one side, then flip each piece over and cook 1 minute on the other side. Transfer the meat to a paper towel-lined plate and wipe the wok clean.
- Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into the same wok and set over medium high heat. Stir fry the onion and red bell pepper for 2 minutes, then add the pineapple and stir fry for another minute or two. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.
- Cook the aromatics for 30 seconds, then transfer to the bowl of vegetables and stir.
- Whisk the sauce. Make a slurry by whisking 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water. Pour the sauce into the wok and let it warm up over medium high heat, then add the slurry. Stir and let the sauce thicken for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the chicken back and stir with a wooden spoon to coat each piece in the sauce. Add the vegetables to the wok and stir until everything is heated through, roughly 2-3 minutes. Serve hot with other Panda Express sides like steamed rice, super greens, fried rice or chow mein noodles.
- Cook ½ cup of breaded chicken at a time for best results.
- Want to use canned pineapple? Use pineapple in 100% juice.
- Use only egg whites in the breading for lower cholesterol.
- Want to control the heat? Use 1 teaspoon of sambal oelek for mild, 2 for medium, and 3 for hot.
- Need this gluten free? Use arrowroot, liquid aminos or tamari, and gluten free flour.