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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 takeout any day!
Featured with this recipe
Orange Chicken takes center stage whenever we decide to have a Chinese food night. This may not be the exact Panda Express Orange Chicken recipe, but our copycat recipe comes pretty close! We rarely get Chinese takeout anymore because it’s so much easier and cheaper to make it at home, and it tastes so good.
The tangy orange sauce is made with pantry staples you already have on hand, and the vibrant orange flavor complements tender chicken chunks perfectly. Whip up a batch of easy orange chicken sauce for your next Chinese feast and turn take-out into take-in!
Ingredients in Orange Chicken
Don’t be scared off by the long list of ingredients; I promise you have most of these on hand already! Just a little of this and a little of that adds up to one incredibly easy orange chicken recipe. Here’s what you need:
- Chicken – about two pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs cut into bite sized pieces.
- Cornstarch – You’ll use corn starch to get that crispy outer coating on the chicken.
- Salt and pepper – about a half teaspoon salt and a quarter teaspoon pepper or to taste.
- Eggs – just one or possibly two, slightly beaten, to dip your chicken in.
- Oil – for frying. Generally we like to use vegetable oil because it has a nice, mild flavor that doesn’t overpower the dish.
ORANGE SAUCE INGREDIENTS
- Orange juice – squeeze fresh juice from an orange, about two tablespoons. If you have orange juice in your fridge you can use this too.
- Lemon juice – again, use a fresh lemon, if you have one. You can also use bottled lemon juice.
- Rice vinegar – you can find this on Amazon or at most grocery stores in the Asian foods aisle.
- Soy sauce – feel free to use a low-sodium soy sauce.
- Orange zest – use a grater to zest about a tablespoon of fragrant orange zest. It really makes all the difference!
- Brown sugar – about one cup, packed.
- Ginger root – if you buy some ginger root at the store, keep it in an airtight container in the freezer and it’ll last a long time.
- Garlic – mince one teaspoon, or one big clove.
- Green onion – chop and use both the white and green ends.
- Red pepper flakes – a little of these red chili flakes go a long way, so use just a pinch if you want a mild dish.
- Cornstarch and water – you’ll make a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.
Putting It All Together (It’s So Easy!)
- First, dredge the chicken
- Next, fry the chicken in batches and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil
- Then, make the sauce and pour it over the cooked chicken.
- Lastly, gently stir to coat the chicken in sauce.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions about Orange Chicken
Orange Chicken is a variation of General Tso’s Chicken (which IS an authentic Chinese dish). Orange Chicken is definitely “Americanized” and much sweeter, made with brown sugar and soy sauce. 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.
Originally, Orange Chicken wasn’t breaded and the sauce was made with leftover orange and lemon peels. So it was citrusy, but kind of bitter, not sweet like it has become today.
Generally, orange chicken is made with dark meat, which is juicier and more flavorful than white meat. But you can use whichever you prefer when you make it at home.
Store leftover orange chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Please do not reheat in the microwave! The chicken will no longer be crisp. Stir-fry leftovers in a wok or skillet with a little bit of canola oil or sesame oil over medium-high heat. You can also reheat orange chicken in an air fryer for great results!
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 broccoli or stir-fry vegetables and steamed white or brown rice, but if you’re wanting to wow friends and family with a scrumptious Asian-inspired spread, try a few of these delightful recipes:
How to Make Orange Chicken
Orange Chicken Recipe
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons FRESH orange juice
- 1/4 cup FRESH lemon juice
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon orange zest grated
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ginger root minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons green onion chopped
- red pepper flakes (to taste)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
- Cut chicken into 1 1/2” bite-size pieces. 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.
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