Easy Orange Chicken: 30 Minute Panda Express Copycat Recipe (better)

5 from 19 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 takeout any day!

Orange Chicken on a plate with chopsticks
Featured with this recipe
  1. Ingredients in Orange Chicken
  2. Lighten It Up
  3. Air Fryer Panda Express Orange Chicken
  4. Gluten Free Panda Express Orange Chicken
  5. Frequently Asked Questions about Orange Chicken
  6. What to Serve with Orange Chicken
  7. How to Make Orange Chicken (Panda Express Copycat Recipe) Recipe

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 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:

For the CHICKEN

  • Chicken – about two pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs cut into bite size cubes.
  • 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.

For the ORANGE SAUCE

  • Water
  • 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 brand too.
  • 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.
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.

Orange chicken on a plate next to chopsticks

Frequently Asked Questions about Orange Chicken

Is Orange Chicken the same as General Tso?

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.

Why do they call it Orange Chicken?

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.

Is Orange Chicken usually white meat?

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.

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 veggies and steamed or brown 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 with chopsticks

How to Make Orange Chicken (Panda Express Copycat Recipe)

5 from 19 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. 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