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

Video

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.

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. Hi, do you think I could bake the chicken just to cut on the frying and calories ? Thank You

    1. Thanks so much! We hope you will keep coming back for more recipes! We will do our best to keep crankin’ em out. 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Great recipe again! As with the Chicken Coconut Curry recipe, we were impressed and are keeping these recipes for the long run! I feel like my chicken wasn’t as crispy as what you would find at Panda Express lol, so maybe next time I might try adding a little bit of buttermilk to the flour to make it crispier (see Pioneer Woman’s fried chicken strips). But the recipe, as is, was great and so yummy! Thank you!

  3. 5 stars
    I’ve been collecting orange chicken recipes for a while, and this is the first one I’ve tried- I don’t think I need to try any of the others 🙂 This one was so good! Even my hubby liked it, and he typically doesn’t like sweet/fruity meats.

  4. 5 stars
    I made this and used duck…it is soooo good ..poured it over white rice ..I didnt have scallions but I used leeks!!!

  5. 5 stars
    I just made this last night and it was a hit. I left off the red pepper flakes for my kids and used it for the adults. It was gobbled up.

  6. WOW!! This sounds like a GREAT recipe. Delicious, vibrant flavors and the photo speaks even more.. Love your blog just stumbled upon it!

  7. This looks so delicious and I’ve been getting so many oranges in my co-op! I can’t wait to make this! Yummy!!