Orange Chicken (Panda Express Copycat Recipe)

5 from 16 votes
43 Comments

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This Orange Chicken recipe tastes just like the popular Panda Express dish, but made with simple ingredients right at home! Tender chicken in tangy sauce beats restaurant take-out any day!

Orange Chicken on a plate with chopsticks

Panda Express Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken takes center stage whenever we decide to have a Chinese food night. We rarely get take-out anymore because it’s so much easier and cheaper to make it at home. The tangy orange sauce is made with pantry staples you already have on hand, and complements tender chicken chunks perfectly. Whip up a batch for your next Chinese feast and turn take-out into take-in!

Andrew Cherng, the founder and CEO of Panda Express (thank you Wikipedia) said that Orange Chicken is a variation of General Tso’s Chicken (which IS an authentic Chinese dish). Orange Chicken is definitely “Americanized”. If you are able to find an Orange Chicken in China, it will probably be “Orange PEEL Chicken” which is a similar dish that is flavored with orange rinds, creating a much tangier flavor. Authentic or not, this dish is certainly popular and oh so delicious!

Is Panda Express Orange Chicken Authentic?

Andrew Cherng, the founder and CEO of Panda Express (thank you Wikipedia) said that Orange Chicken is a variation of General Tso’s Chicken (which IS an authentic Chinese dish). Orange Chicken is definitely “Americanized”. If you are able to find an Orange Chicken in China, it will probably be “Orange PEEL Chicken” which is a similar dish that is flavored with orange rinds, creating a much tangier flavor. Authentic or not, this dish is certainly popular and oh so delicious!

Close up of orange chicken being held with chopsticks

Lighten It Up

Because this recipe is fried, it may not be considered the healthiest Panda Express copycat recipe (see our other copycat options below). If you are looking for a healthier alternative, instead of frying, heat a little oil in a large skillet and cook chicken on each side for 5-7 minutes or until cooked through and THEN add the sauce. You can also just fry until the chicken is cooked on the outside and then place the chicken on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through (165 degrees F). You will still get a little bit of a crispy texture and still have all the flavor! Try reducing the sugar amounts or even use a sugar substitute (may affect sweetness and flavor).

Air Fryer Panda Express Orange Chicken

To fry your chicken in the air fryer, you just need to make sure you are coating your chicken with cooking spray before it cooks. All air fryers are different so check the correct temperatures and times for chicken pieces. We cook ours at 350 for about 10-12 minutes on each side, spraying any parts of the chicken with dry flour with cooking spray while turning. Just make sure the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F before serving. 

Gluten Free Panda Express Orange Chicken

Because we use a cornstarch coating for this recipe instead of flour, it is REALLY close to being gluten free. However, as you can see in the recipe below, we use soy sauce in the orange sauce, which contains gluten. The good news is, GF soy sauce is easy to find. Just replace regular soy sauce with a gluten-free brand and you should be good to go. As always, check labels on everything to make sure you’re working with gluten free ingredients.

Tips for Making Panda Express Orange Chicken

  • Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. This will make the chicken easier to both serve AND eat. 
  • For an extra crispy coating, beat 3-4 eggs in a medium-sized bowl and dip the chicken pieces in the egg mixture before dredging in the cornstarch (or all purpose flour). 
  • If you want to add a little kick to your Panda Express orange chicken recipe, add some Sriracha Sauce or red pepper flakes. That way you can control the spice depending on taste.
  • Box up leftovers and store in the fridge for up to four days. The great news is you can freeze this chicken and store it for a couple of months in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator and then bake or microwave to re-heat!

What to Serve with Orange Chicken

We pull out all the stops when putting together a Chinese feast. Sure, you can make things simple by serving this dish alongside some steamed rice, but if you’re wanting to wow friends and family with a scrumptious Asian spread, try a few of these delightful recipes:

Orange chicken on a plate next to chopsticks
Orange Chicken on a plate with chopsticks

How to Make Orange Chicken (Panda Express Copycat Recipe)

5 from 16 votes
This Orange Chicken recipe tastes just like the popular Panda Express dish, but made with simple ingredients right at home! Tender chicken in tangy sauce beats restaurant take-out any day!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 6

Ingredients

Chicken:

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (or chicken breast) cut into 1-1/2” cubes
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 eggs beaten
  • vegetable oil for frying

Orange Sauce:

Instructions

  • Combine cornstarch salt, and pepper. Dip chicken in beaten eggs and shake in cornstarch mixture to coat.
  • Deep fry chicken in batches at 375 degrees in a deep fryer (or use a wok) until completely cooked. Remove chicken pieces from pan or fryer and allow to drain on paper towels.
  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan combine 1 cup water, lemon juice, orange juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. Whisk ingredients together over medium heat for a few minutes. Stir in brown sugar, orange zest, ginger garlic, and onion. Bring to a boil.
  • Combine 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with ¼ cup of water and mix thoroughly. Slowly stir cornstarch mixture into sauce until it thickens.
  • Place fried chicken in a large bowl and pour sauce over the top. Fold the sauce into the chicken or toss gently to coat. If desired add red pepper flakes and garnish with green onions.

Video

Nutrition Information

Calories: 580kcalCarbohydrates: 62gProtein: 32gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 175mgSodium: 1036mgPotassium: 479mgFiber: 1gSugar: 37gVitamin A: 787IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 56mgIron: 2mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her beautiful three girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is so good, I had a hard time not eating it all before serving it to my husband. So much better than take away.

  2. 5 stars
    This tasted just like Panda Express! My family thought I got take out haha. Thanks for a great dub for the real thing.

  3. 5 stars
    Glad I can make this delicious orange chicken at home and no need for me to rush to the mall to get my Asian food fix! YUM!

  4. 5 stars
    My family loves Chinese food and all things chicken! This copycat orange chicken recipe is a real winner!

  5. How do you think this would be with half the sugar? We’ve cut out most sugar and wondering if 1/2 cup would still taste ok?

  6. 5 stars
    Used an orange off my tree, didn’t have fresh ginger so used ground and didn’t have green onions so threw in some dehydrated. I fried the chicken in my big skillet all together, just kept turning until done, drained the oil and poured the sauce on and stirred. I don’t like it hot or spicey so didn’t add the pepper flakes. So yummy and better than Panda ???? Will make again!

    1. Yum! That all sounds delicious. Fresh oranges from your own tree? Yes please! That sounds amazing!

  7. 5 stars
    I made this and I have to say I was VERY impressed. Never new I could make something like this in my own kitchen and it taste as if I ordered it in a 5* restaurant. Everyone thought I’d ordered out. Thank you. It will BE made often.

  8. I am not sure how I happened to come upon this website/blog? But I am excited to try the orange chicken. I have looked at some of these question/answers and glad to see that you are a part of them. That is something I always hope to see! I will look at your whole blog tomorrow (when then the sun is new for me 🙂 ) and enjoy it all then, I am sure. Thank you very much! From an old lady and her husband. Linda B

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