Recipe: Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken

updated Apr 30, 2019
Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken

This copycat version of Panda Express orange chicken is everything you love about the original, from the crispy pieces of chicken to the sticky-sweet sauce.

Serves4

Prep15 minutes

Cook20 minutes

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

With just one bite, it was clear to me why so many people love the orange chicken from Panda Express. Between the crispy chicken and the thick, sweet, lightly spiced blanket of sauce, it’s pretty irresistible. But this at-home version is even better than the original.

Bite-sized pieces of chicken are cooked until crispy, then coated with a sticky-sweet citrusy sauce with just a hint of heat. It’s everything you love and expect, without the greasiness that so often comes with takeout.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Pan-Frying > Deep-Frying

While the restaurant version of this fan favorite is made with deep-fried chicken, we’re making things easier (although no less crispy!) by pan-frying instead. Not only does pan-frying require less oil, but it also allows you to more easily control the temperature, which means there’s less risk of burning the crispy coating.

Instead of overcrowding the pan, you’ll want to cook the chicken in at least two batches. If too many pieces of chicken are added to the pan at once, it quickly lowers the temperature of the oil, causing the chicken to absorb more oil than you want and becoming more soggy and less crispy.

Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken

This copycat version of Panda Express orange chicken is everything you love about the original, from the crispy pieces of chicken to the sticky-sweet sauce.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon

    finely grated orange zest (from 2 oranges)

  • 3/4 cup

    freshly squeezed orange juice (from 2 oranges)

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    low-sodium soy sauce or tamari

  • 2 tablespoons

    rice vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    cornstarch

For the chicken:

  • 2/3 cup

    cornstarch

  • 1/3 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 1 cup

    plus 1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil, for pan frying, divided

  • 2 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    finely grated fresh peeled ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • Cooked white rice, for serving

  • Thinly sliced scallions, for serving

Instructions

Make the sauce:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved; set aside.

Make the chicken:

  1. Place the cornstarch and flour in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Place the egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined. Add the chicken pieces to the egg mixture and toss to coat. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the cornstarch mixture. Stir to coat the chicken well and shake off any excess cornstarch.

  2. Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until very hot and shimmering. Add about half of the chicken to the skillet. Fry until golden brown on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the chicken and fry until the other side is golden brown, about 4 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour out the first batch of oil into a heatproof bowl. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Repeat heating another 1/2 cup of the oil and frying the remaining chicken pieces. Pour out the oil and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel.

  3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes, and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Rewhisk the sauce and pour into the skillet. Bring to a boil and cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the chicken, and stir well to coat with the sauce. Serve over white rice and top with scallions.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.