(Better Than) Panda Express Orange Chicken
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Panda Express Orange Chicken
I’ll admit, even us devoted home chefs have our weaknesses. My kids beg to stop at Panda Express at least once a week, and I’m usually all too happy to accommodate their requests. However, although it’s cheap and convenient (and tasty), I love the idea of having more quality control over certain dishes, especially the deep fried foods…
Panda Express Orange Chicken is their most popular dish, and one of our favorites to enjoy. But we felt we could do just as well, if not better, at home. The result? Seriously the BEST crunchy fried orange chicken coated in a tangy and perfectly sweet sauce.
Our version is just as crispy, saucy, and savory-sweet as Panda Express’, but has much more flavor: More ginger, more garlic, and most importantly more orange!
What Ingredients You Need
Although our Orange Chicken is still deep fried and therefore not at all what you’d call “healthy,” you do feel good serving something slightly more wholesome when you know exactly what ingredients are being used.
This copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken recipe includes mostly basic pantry staples. To make the fried chicken pieces you need:
- Boneless chicken thighs
- All purpose flour
- Salt and white pepper
- Fry oil
Here are the ingredients for the homemade orange sauce:
- Sesame oil
- Fresh grated ginger
- Minced garlic
- Orange juice
- Brown sugar
- Low sodium soy sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Naval orange
- Crushed red pepper
- Chopped scallions
How to Make (Better Than) Panda Express Orange Chicken
First, prepare the chicken by chopping into 1-inch bite-size pieces.
Next set out a large mixing bowl and add the cornstarch, flour, salt, and white pepper. Mix well. Then add in the egg, 3 tablespoon oil, and 6 tablespoons water. Mix into a thick, smooth batter.
Stir the chicken pieces into the batter and coat them well. Chill the chicken in the batter for at least 20 minutes, either on the counter or in the fridge.
Meanwhile, set a large sauce pot on the stovetop and pour in the remaining oil. Clip a cooking thermometer to the side of the pot, with the end submerged in the oil. Turn the heat on medium and bring the temperature of the oil to 350-375 degrees F.
Go ahead and set a paper towel-lined plate to the side for draining the fried chicken.
Then set a large sauté pan on another burner to make the orange sauce. Turn the heat to medium and add the sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Sauté for just a couple of minutes to soften.
Then whisk in the orange juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar, orange zest, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and continue to stir. The sauce will thicken into a heavy syrup. Once the desire sticky consistency is reached, turn off the heat.
Get the Complete (Printable) Better Than Panda Express Orange Chicken Recipe Below. Enjoy!
By now your oil should be hot and ready. Carefully drop the chicken pieces, one at a time, into the hot oil. Add about one-third of the chicken to the pot at a time. Stir with a skimmer and cook for 5-7 minutes, until light-gold in color. Watch the thermometer and adjust the temperature if needed to keep the oil just over 350 degrees.
Use a skimmer to move the cooked chicken pieces to the holding plate. Repeat the frying process in two more small batches.
Once all the chicken is cooked, turn the heat back on to medium low for the orange chicken sauce. Stir until warm, and then toss the fried chicken pieces in the sauce.
Stir to coat all of the fried chicken pieces evenly in the orange sauce. Then remove from the heat and sprinkle with chopped scallions. Serve warm.
What to Serve with Orange Chicken
Saucy, sweet and bright Panda Express Orange Chicken is perfect to enjoy over a fluffy bed of white rice or brown rice.
For a low carb side dish to balance the fried goodness, serve with Roasted Cauliflower Rice.
We recommend serving with a green veggie as well, like Panda Express Super Greens or steamed broccoli.
Frequently Asked Questions
Swap all-purpose flour with your favorite gluten-free substitute to easily make this a GF-friendly recipe. We recommend a rice-based sub for the crispiest gluten-free Panda Express Orange Chicken. Also, be sure your sauce soy is gluten-free as well.
If looking for a healthier dish, try our Skinny Chinese Orange Chicken recipe for a healthier dish!
Absolutely! The flavors are even better the next day when the chicken and sauce have all sat together. Transfer cooled leftovers to a container with a lid and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Homemade Orange Chicken is great for freezing! Place in an airtight container and wrap with foil for the most protection, and keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat, simply spread out the frozen chicken pieces onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Flip at least once halfway through.
Whatever you do, do not dump used cooking oil down the drain. It will clog your pipes and makes a mess for public utilities.
Instead, allow the fry oil to cool completely before transferring to a container with a lid. The container can then be thrown away without risk of leaking.
If you’d like to save and reuse your oil, cool first before pouring through a strainer to remove any brown bits. Transfer to a sealed container and keep in the fridge for up to a month.
Looking for More Chinese-Inspired Recipes?
- Instant Pot Chinese Sesame Chicken
- Easy Szechuan Beef
- Black Pepper Chicken Stir Fry
- Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken
- Chinese Hot Pot Recipe
(Better Than) Panda Express Orange Chicken
For the Fried Chicken –
For the Orange Chicken Sauce –
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup orange juice fresh-squeezed or store-bought
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- Zest of 1 navel orange (optional for extra orangeness)
- ½ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/3 cup chopped scallions
- Chop the chicken into 1-inch bite-size pieces.
- Set out a large mixing bowl. Add the cornstarch, flour, salt, and white pepper. Mix well. Then add in the egg, 3 tablespoon oil, and 6 tablespoons water. Mix into a thick smooth batter. Stir in the chicken pieces and coat well. Chill the chicken in the batter for at least 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, set a large sauce pot and pour in the remaining oil. Clip a cooking thermometer to the side of the pot, with the end submerged in the oil. Turn the heat on medium and bring the temperature of the oil to 350-375 degrees F.
- Set a paper towel lined plate to the side for draining the fried chicken.
- Then set a large sauté pan on another burner for the orange sauce. Add the sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes to soften. Then whisk in the orange juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar, orange zest, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a simmer and thicken into a heavy syrup. Then turn off the heat.
- Once the oil is hot, carefully drop the chicken pieces, one at a time, into the hot oil. Add about one-third of the chicken to the pot at a time. Stir with a skimmer and cook for 5-7 minutes until light-gold in color. Watch the thermometer and adjust the temperature if needed to keep the oil just over 350 degrees.
- Use the skimmer to move the cooked chicken pieces to the holding plate. Repeat in two more small batches.
- Once all the chicken is cooked, turn the heat back on for the orange chicken sauce. Stir to warm, then toss the fried chicken pieces in the sauce. Stir to coat all the pieces evenly. Then sprinkle with chopped scallions and serve warm.
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