CuisineAsianPanda Express Orange Chicken Copycat

Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat

This dish is considered as the most popular to-go food of Panda Express. It is well-loved for many reasons but mainly because of its crispy chicken as well as its rich and thick sweet and sour sauce.

This post is dedicated to the famous Panda Express orange chicken. We will cover everything to know about the dish as well as a feature of an easy whip Panda Express orange chicken copycat recipe. 

What is Panda Express orange chicken?

This one is the Americanized version of the Chinese orange peel chicken. Instead of orange rinds and orange marmalade, orange zest and vinegars are used. It features crispy fried chunks of chicken thighs, ginger, garlic, and red pepper for some spice.

The sauce is tangy, sweet, and sour. The whole dish is the perfect balance of Asian-American flavors, making it the most popular dish at Panda Express. 

Ingredients & substitute

To recreate the original Panda Express orange chicken recipe, you need to prepare the following ingredients. 

For the chicken:

  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)
  • White pepper
  • Salt
  • Flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Egg
  • Water
  • Oil

For the sauce: 

  • Oil
  • Chili flakes
  • Minced garlic
  • Minced ginger
  • White and brown sugar
  • Orange juice
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Water
  • Cornstarch

As for substitutes, you can use arrowroot flour to make it gluten-free. Any type of high heat oil would do for the frying. The use of low-sodium soy sauce is also a good choice. You can also use sriracha or sambal paste to complement the red pepper/chili flakes. 

Panda Express orange chicken calories & nutrition

As per Panda Express website, per serving of orange chicken contains 490 calories with 210kcal coming from fat. It has a total fat of 23g and saturated fat of 5g. Cholesterol content is at 80g, sodium at 820g, carbohydrates at 51g, sugar at 19g, protein at 25g and fiber at 2g. 

Tools used in the recipe

In recreating the dish, here are the following tools that you should use: 

  • Wok (but you can also use air fryer or frying pan)
  • Mixing bowls (at least three of them)
  • Flipper (optional)
  • Mixing spoons
  • Orange zester
  • Cooling rack
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Measuring cups

How to make Panda Express orange chicken

The taste of the Panda Express orange chicken gives the impression that it is hard to make but really, it is a simple dish to prepare.

The first thing to do is to mix all the ingredients for the sauce. After this, the chicken chunks are dipped and dredged to be fried in high heat oil. 

Next, the chicken is set aside to cool, and the spices are cooked for a few seconds. The sauce mixture is poured to the pan, boiled, and thickened and then the chicken is put back in the pan to be coated with sauce. 

  1. First, prepare the sauce in a mixing bowl. Whisk in cornstarch, water, rice wine, sesame oil, white vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and orange zest. 
  2. Next, mix the chicken’s coating in a separate bowl. Combine egg, salt, oil, pepper. In another bowl, mix flour and cornstarch. 
  3. Put the wok on the stove. Pour oil and put on high heat. 
  4. Coat the chicken in the liquid mixture and dredge with the flour and cornstarch mixture. 
  5. Fry the chicken chunks for 4mins each side. Drain a cooling rack and set aside. 
  6. Drain the wok with oil. Leave only at least one tablespoon. Now toss in the ginger, garlic, and red pepper. Cook for 10secs. 
  7. Add the pre-mixed orange sauce in the spices and bring to boil. 
  8. Put off the stove and then toss in the fried chicken chunks. Make sure that the chicken is evenly coated. 
  9. Serve warm.

More Panda Express copycat recipes

Panda Express orange chicken sauce

Contrary to popular belief, the orange chicken sauce of Panda Express is not made from orange marmalade and BBQ sauce.

It is made from the mixture of white vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, orange zest, and crushed red peppers. It is then thickened with cornstarch and the stirred to evenly coat the crispy chicken chunks. 

Variations on Panda Express orange chicken

If you want to enhance or to notch up this dish a bit, here are some variations to the dish that you can incorporate: 

  • Cooking method: instead of frying it in a pan, you can use an air fryer for more crispiness. You can also follow this instant pot orange chicken recipe from Sweet and Savory Meals. You can also bake the chicken or lightly fry it for a healthier choice. 
  • Proteins: you can also make orange shrimp, beef, or pork.
  • Vegetables: you may add stir-fry red bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, carrots or sugar snap peas. 
  • Level of spiciness: if you want more kick, you can add cayenne pepper, sriracha or sambal paste.
  • Sugar: you may substitute sugar with maple syrup or honey. 
  • Vegan: fried tofu is also a delectable choice
  • Garnish: serve with scallions, crushed peanuts, or sesame seeds

How to store Panda Express orange chicken

As soon as bought, the orange chicken must be consumed in 3-4hrs as per food safety standard. For leftovers, they must be cooled down first before they are transferred in an airtight container and then stored in the fridge. It can last up to 4days in the fridge. 

FAQs

Can you freeze Panda Express orange chicken?

Yes. As a matter of fact, it can last in the refrigerator unopened for three months. Just wrap it in foil and seal it in an airtight container. However, when frozen, orange chicken will lose its crispiness and the sauce will be lumpy.

It is one of the dishes that will become watery and crumbly when frozen so if you can, just consume it immediately.  

What does Panda Express orange chicken taste like?

This dish is tangy and very flavorful. It features a rich sweet and sour taste, with a bit of salty aftertaste from the chicken seasoning. The ginger and garlic mix gives it an Asian flair while the sweetness projects its American side. Overall, it is a fusion of flavors in one dish. 

What to serve with Panda Express press orange chicken?

If you are thinking of making a combo order from Panda Express, here are the best pairs of orange chicken: 

  • Ham or shrimp fried rice
  • White rice or cauliflower rice
  • Super greens
  • Steamed bok choy or broccoli
  • String bean chicken breast
  • Chow mein noodles
  • Pork and vegetable potstickers
  • Sesame chicken stir-fry
  • Egg drop soup
  • Egg rolls

Is Panda Express orange chicken healthy?

Considering its nutritional profile, this dish is not the healthiest food choice out there. It is high in calories, fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. The sugar content is also significantly high.

If you are on a strict diet, you can explore healthier cooking methods and substitute ingredients for this dish. We have mentioned some in the previous sections to be used as reference. 

Is Panda Express orange chicken keto-friendly?

No. The chicken and sauce mix along contains 51g of carbs. Along with it is rice or noodles. While you can discard the rice and the noodles, the carb content is almost thrice the standard carb intake for keto diet.

You can eat the fried chicken chunks and just drop the sauce, but that would not be orange chicken anymore. 

Is Panda Express orange chicken gluten-free?

No. But there are ways to make it gluten-free. One is by substituting flour with gluten-free types such as almond or oat flour.

You can also change cornstarch with arrowroot. But the best measure is probably just scratch the dip and dredge altogether and just cook it until it is golden brown. 

Is Panda Express orange chicken dairy-free?

Unfortunately, orange chicken is listed as one of the five dishes of Panda Express that contain dairy. The other four would be chicken egg rolls, honey walnut shrimp, Beijing beef, and steamed ginger fish.

If you have dairy allergies or if you are lactose intolerant, you have to eat orange chicken in moderation and with caution.

Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat Recipe

Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat Recipe

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

This dish is considered as the most popular to-go food of Panda Express. It is well-loved for many reasons but mainly because of its crispy chicken as well as its rich and thick sweet and sour sauce. Here is an easy cook Panda Express orange chicken copycat recipe

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 2lb chicken thighs (boneless, skinless, cut in 1inch chunks)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ salt
  • 2tbsp canola oil (plus 1cup for frying)
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup flour

For the sauce

  • 2tbsp rice wine
  • 1tsp sesame oil
  • 1tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3tbsp soy sauce
  • 10tbsp white vinegar
  • 10tbsp sugar
  • Zest of one medium size orange
  • 1 ½ cup minced ginger
  • 2tsps minced garlic
  • ½ tsp crushed hot red chili pepper

Instructions

  1. First, prepare the sauce in a mixing bowl. Whisk in cornstarch, water, rice wine, sesame oil, white vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and orange zest. 
  2. Next, mix the chicken’s coating in a separate bowl. Combine egg, salt, oil, pepper. In another bowl, mix flour and cornstarch. 
  3. Put the wok on the stove. Pour oil and put on high heat. 
  4. Coat the chicken in the liquid mixture and dredge with the flour and cornstarch mixture. 
  5. Fry the chicken chunks for 4mins each side. Drain a cooling rack and set aside. 
  6. Drain the wok with oil. Leave only at least one tablespoon. Now toss in the ginger, garlic, and red pepper. Cook for 10secs. 
  7. Add the pre-mixed orange sauce in the spices and bring to boil. 
  8. Put off the stove and then toss in the fried chicken chunks. Make sure that the chicken is evenly coated. 
  9. Serve warm.
Nutrition Information
Serving Size 1
Amount Per ServingCalories 419Total Fat 12gSaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 122mgSodium 1171mgCarbohydrates 36gSugar 20gProtein 36g

Did you make this recipe?

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Conclusion

Orange chicken remains to be the most popular dish in Panda Express because of its rich taste, crisp, and sweet and sour sauce that embodies Asian cooking.

Although the original recipe might not be the healthiest choice, there are a lot of substitute ingredients that can be used for you to enjoy this dish guilt-free.

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