When you’re at the mall, few things are as enticing as the spicy-sweet aroma of Panda Express. The chain restaurant, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, is known for quick, casual and delicious Chinese food. One dish, in particular, is most sought after: Panda Express Orange Chicken.
What is orange chicken?
If you’ve never tried it, orange chicken takes deep-fried chicken pieces and combines ’em with a sweet-and-spicy orange sauce. The easy dish isn’t really spicy—although you could certainly add extra red chili flakes for more heat—but rather a delicious balance between acidity and sweetness.
How do you make Panda Express Orange Chicken at home?
Here at Taste of Home, we know a thing or two about copycat recipes. (You can check out our best-ever copycats here). Our renditions are oftentimes just as good—if not better!—than the restaurant counterparts. That’s why when Panda Express reached out with their original Orange Chicken recipe, we knew we had to share the goodness with our readers.
This copycat recipe for Panda Express Orange Chicken makes it easy to re-create your favorite dish at home. Plus, the recipe is surprisingly simple! You don’t need any tools or special ingredients—just a trip to your grocery store’s Asian aisle to find soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.
Courtesy Panda Express
The Real Panda Express Orange Chicken Recipe
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
- 2 Tbsp. white wine (or rice wine)
- 2 tsp. minced ginger
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, divided
- Canola oil, for frying
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 2/3 cup orange juice
- 1 Tbsp. orange marmalade
- 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red chili flakes
- 1/4 tsp. sesame oil
Step 1: Marinate chicken
Start by cutting the chicken into small, bite-size pieces—about 1 to 1-1/2 inches long. Then, whisk together two tablespoons of soy sauce, wine, ginger and garlic in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir until the pieces are well coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 25 minutes. Bonus: You need these tips for making a delicious homemade marinade.
Step 2: Toss to coat
Once time is up, use a large slotted spoon to move the chicken cubes out of the marinade and into a new bowl. Discard the marinade mixture. Then, sprinkle 1/4 cup of cornstarch over the chicken. Toss lightly to coat.
Step 3: Brown chicken
Next, heat up the oil to fry the chicken pieces in a large wok or pot—between 1/4- and 1/3-inch of oil will be enough. Then, working in batches, add a single layer of marinated chicken pieces to the hot oil. Fry, turning occasionally until the chicken is well-browned and cooked through. Each batch should take about four minutes, total. When cooked through, move the chicken pieces out of the fryer and onto a paper towel-lined plate so the excess oil can drain away.
Editor’s Tip: At this point, the chicken will be delicious on its own. Sample a piece or two, but resist the urge to eat them all. The end result is even better. Trust us.
Step 4: Make sauce
Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining soy sauce, honey, orange juice, marmalade, rice vinegar, chili flakes and sesame oil. Stir to combine. Then, in a small bowl, mix together the remaining cornstarch and two tablespoons water. This mixture is called a slurry. Bring the orange sauce to a low boil, and add the slurry—one spoonful at a time—while whisking. Keep adding the slurry until the sauce is thickened.
Step 5: Toss together
Combine the chicken pieces and the sauce in a large bowl. Serve with cooked rice and broccoli. Enjoy!
More Orange Chicken Tips
Can I use a skillet instead of a wok?
Yes! Any deep vessel will work—it just needs to be able to hold the oil for frying. A Dutch oven, stockpot or even a deep skillet would all work.
Can you bake orange chicken?
Absolutely. To make this dish a little healthier, feel free to skip the frying step. You’ll still get that finger-lickin’ taste, but be aware that the chicken may have a softer bite. To bake, once the chicken has marinated, spread it in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pieces reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Then, continue on with the sauce step of the recipe. Learn more about baking chicken here.
Can you freeze orange chicken?
You bet. Simply place portions of cooked chicken and sauce in freezer-safe containers, then freeze for up to three months. To serve, thaw leftovers overnight in the fridge, then reheat in a skillet. Plan to add a little extra water or orange juice as the dish heats. Serve with fresh rice. Learn more about how to freeze chicken.
What should I serve with orange chicken?
Rice and broccoli are the traditional pairings, but feel free to get creative! We also love orange chicken served taco-style inside of scallion pancakes; paired with long udon noodles and veggies in a stir-fry; eaten as lettuce wraps, etc. The options are truly endless.