Panda Express Orange Chicken (Copycat)

6 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Tender chicken fried crisp and tossed in a magical copycat Orange Chicken sauce! You’ll save a fortune and skip the lines!

If your family loves this incredible recipe, they’ll also enjoy these other unbelievable Copycat Recipes, like our homemade In-N-Out Double Double Animal Style, the flavorful Taco Bell Nachos Bell Grande, and the mouthwatering Cheesecake Factory Tex Mex Egg Rolls

Panda Express Orange Chicken with tender chicken thighs fried crisp and tossed in a magical perfect-copycat sauce!

Panda Express Orange Chicken is the most popular recipe on the Panda Express menu, and for good reason! Sweet and zesty citrus coated chicken covered in a thick and tangy sauce have become a standard of flavor in the food world. This recipe will make you dance a little in your chair as you eat it because it tastes just like your favorite restaurant, some even say it’s better! 

While there are a few steps to make this recipe at home, once you’ve done it you’ll be amazed at how simple the process really is. You’ll be making the sauce in one batch, then frying the chicken, and then the grand finale of putting it all together and serving with a side of rice or noodles. 

This recipe is different than our 3-Ingredient Orange Chicken recipe that is SUPER popular online because the sauce in that recipe is based on a mixture of barbecue sauce and orange marmalade. While some of the pictures may look slightly similar, this Panda Express Orange Chicken is going to taste a lot different.

This Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat is spot on and is SO EASY. PLUS theres a video!

How to Make Panda Express Orange Chicken 

It may seem like there are a lot of ingredients at play here and a lot of dishes to dirty, but it really does come together pretty quickly. At the end of the cooking, when you have a plate of this chicken waiting to be eaten, you’ll forget all about that pile of dishes left behind! Check out how to make Panda Express Orange Chicken at home! 

  • The Sauce: Mix all the sauce ingredients together and let the sauce sit while you’re making the chicken. 
  • The Chicken: To make the fried chicken, mix the breading ingredients together, coat the chicken pieces, and fry the chicken in batches. Set to the side until the very end.
  • The Finale: This step is where the magic happens! Fry the fresh garlic and ginger and optional red pepper flakes in the bit of oil that is left over from cooking the chicken. Make sure to drain most of the oil first. Add in the orange sauce and bring it to a boil then immediately turn the heat off. Carefully add in the chicken making sure to not splatter the sauce. Dinner is served when the chicken is fully coated in the sauce! Enjoy!

More Homemade Panda Express Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make Orange Chicken in the Crockpot or Slow Cooker?

Sure! Just put the raw chicken in the slow cooker with the sauce, cook on low for 3 hours, then add in a bit of cornstarch/water slurry and cook an additional hour to thicken.

Can I make Orange Chicken in advance? 

Yes, absolutely. Make the small chicken nuggets, bread them in panko or flour, then freeze them and cook them the same way described below. The sauce can be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge. Once you’re ready, reheat the chicken, sauté the fresh ginger and garlic, add in the sauce and heat to a boil. Then add in the chicken, mix, and serve! 

How do you make Orange Sauce?

Orange Sauce is a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, orange zest, and crushed red peppers that thicken in a pan with deep fried battered chicken with cornstarch that will help thicken the sauce. As you can see from the recipe below, it is super easy to make! 

What is in General Tso’s chicken?

General Tso’s Chicken is probably the closest tasting dish to Orange Chicken. Although it doesn’t contain any orange, it does have many similar ingredients including soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, cornstarch as well as dried red chili peppers and garlic. It is tossed with deep fried chicken pieces as well. So good!

How do you make Sesame Chicken?

Sesame Chicken definitely has a similar flavor profile to Orange Chicken, but it is normally made with chicken broth, sugar, vinegar, dark soy sauce, and sesame oil which is cooked down in the pan to thicken before being added to the chicken.

What is in Orange Beef?

Orange Beef is the far less known version of Chinese food with orange flavors. Since Orange Chicken is so popular, most people don’t order the beef version. Simply purchase the best beef you are comfortable buying (I prefer ribeye. Chuck roast works good too.) and freeze for 30 minutes. Slice VERY thinly against the grain and cook it just like you would the Orange Chicken.

Key Ingredients in Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken

While most, if not all, of these ingredients can easily be found in the international section of large local grocery stores, if you have trouble find anything, the local Asian store will have them for sure, like the Wok which is the perfect stir fry pan and the best way to cook quickly and over high heat for Asian dishes.

  • Chicken: We are using boneless and skinless chicken thighs that we cut into 1-inch pieces. You can use any cut of chicken though, as long as it is cut into pieces. 
  • Flour: Regular all purpose flour is great for this recipe. 
  • Orange Zest: Fresh orange zest is what makes this recipe so yummy. You’ll want to get a dedicated Citrus Zester which makes the process so much easier. This zests your citrus perfectly without getting any of the bitter white pith in the recipe.
  • White Vinegar: Surprisingly, this is the secret ingredient that makes this recipe so addictive. And yes, we are using a full 10 tablespoons! The vinegar cooks down and blends with the other ingredients to make the perfect sauce. 
  • Rice Wine: Rice wine is NOT vinegar. It is a fermented rice beverage, or condiment. Look in the Asian section for rice cooking wine or mirin
  • Soy Sauce: Nothing much to say here except we think Kikkoman has the best flavor overall. 
  • Sugar: You can use any sugar, like granulated sugar or even brown sugar which gives a deeper flavor. 
  • Oil: There are two kinds of oil used in this recipe. One is sesame oil to add a depth of flavor, and the other is regular cooking oil. You can use canola or vegetable oil. Peanut oil is great too. 

Substitutions for Panda Express Orange Chicken

  • Cornstarch: You can use a different sauce thickener, like cornflour, or substitute equal parts with regular flour. If you prefer to not have any wheat or corn products in the mix, you can try tapioca starch or arrowroot powder. 
  • Rice Wine: You can substitute with equal parts white cooking wine, Japanese mirin, or Japanese saké. If you prefer to have nonalcoholic then try white grape juice or apple juice which are both good substitutes for this recipe and add a bit of sweetness. 
  • White Vinegar: If you just can’t find regular white vinegar (which is specifically made from cane sugar), you can use apple cider vinegar, or even white wine vinegar. Also, distilled white vinegar (which can be made from any type of sugar) works great too.
  • Ginger: You can use equal parts ginger purée or pre-minced ginger. Also, in a pinch, 4 teaspoons of ginger powder work well. If your paste is a ginger/garlic combo, you can substitute with a total of two tablespoons of the ginger/garlic paste instead of the amounts listed in the recipe. 
  • Water: A great idea is to substitute orange juice for the water in this recipe. It’s not required to get the full Orange Chicken flavor, but if you do you won’t be disappointed. 

Variations on Panda Express Orange Chicken

  • Spicy Orange Chicken: If you would like to kick up the heat a little bit and make this a spicy Orange Chicken, add ½ tablespoon of Sriracha into the sauce. Sriracha is quite possibly the king of all pre-made hot sauces. It adds heat without overwhelming you and can be used in almost every cuisine. Try mixing with mayo to make a perfect spicy mayo!
  • Ground Orange Chicken: If you’re looking to make your Orange Chicken healthy we have the exact same Panda Express Orange Chicken recipe adapted for a much healthier meal in our Ground Orange Chicken.
  • Sautéd Orange Chicken: If you prefer to not deep fry your chicken, you technically don’t have to bread it and fry it. A simple sauté with a bit of oil will work great, just add the cooked chicken to the sauce like you would normally do in the recipe. Keep in mind that it won’t have the same flavor or consistency as the breaded kind. Either way, it will be delicious! 
  • Orange Chicken Burrito: Most people make a version of baked/sautéd Orange Chicken to lighten the calories. You can do it instead with ground chicken which is browned really well first to give the crispy texture without the breading. Then just roll it into a burrito for on the go!

More Incredible Copycat Recipes

How to Store Panda Express Orange Chicken

  • Serve: Serve your Orange Chicken while it is hot and ready. Refrigerate any leftovers within two hours. 
  • Store: You can keep any leftovers in the refrigerator for 4-5 days in an airtight container. Be sure to reheat fully to 165ºF internally before eating. 
  • Freeze: You can freeze extra Orange Chicken for up to 3 months. Simply thaw and reheat to an internal temperature of 165ºF or more. You can also make and freeze the chicken separately and the sauce separately and then cook and combine them when ready. 
Panda Express Orange Chicken with tender chicken thighs fried crisp and tossed in a magical perfect-copycat sauce!

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Panda Express Orange Chicken

Tender chicken fried crisp and tossed in a magical copycat Orange Chicken sauce! You'll save a fortune and skip the lines!
Yield 6 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

For the Sauce

For the Chicken

  • 2 pounds chicken thighs , boneless, skinless, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil divided, plus more for frying
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup flour

To Finish

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger , freshly minced
  • 2 cloves garlic , freshly minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • To make the sauce, combine the 1 tablespoon cornstarch, rice wine, water, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, white vinegar, and orange zest.
  • To coat the chicken, add the egg, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon oil into a large bowl and whisk together.
  • In a separate bowl, add ½ cup cornstarch and flour and mix well.
  • In a large frying pan or a wok, heat oil to 375ºF.
  • Dip chicken pieces in the egg mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture.
  • Fry the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden and crisp.
  • Transfer to a cooling rack and repeat with remaining chicken.
  • When you are done with the chicken, drain most of the oil from the pan (leave about a tablespoon).
  • Add the ginger, garlic, and crushed red peppers, cooking for about 10 seconds.
  • Add the orange sauce and bring to boil.
  • Turn off the heat, add cooked chicken, and stir until well mixed.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 551kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 179mg | Sodium: 1003mg | Potassium: 377mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 214IU | Vitamin C: 0.4mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 2mg
Panda Express Orange Chicken (Copycat) PIN 1

Photos used in a previous version of this post:

Panda Express Orange Chicken with tender chicken thighs fried crisp and tossed in a magical perfect-copycat sauce!
Panda Express Orange Chicken with tender chicken thighs fried crisp and tossed in a magical perfect-copycat sauce!

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. I was skeptical being that the only orange flavor is coming from the zest but it was more than enough orange flavor. Better than Panda Express, I’m done looking for an orange chicken recipe.

  2. Awesome recipe!!! First attempt at orange chicken and this one I will definitely be using again!!! No need to look for another orange chicken recipe this is the one!!!

  3. Where I live in Spain, there is no Panda Express like back home in Texas. So to satisfy my craving, I came across your recipe — and it’s the bomb! I don’t have a lot of experience cooking, but the recipe was so good that my son thought I went to Panda Express to get it for him for lunch — and then he wanted it for dinner too. Unfortunately there were no leftovers from lunch earlier, and even though I wanted more too, I wasn’t about to spoil it by making it again. But for sure early next week!! Thank you for sharing.

    1. This makes me so happy, Phillip! Thanks for coming back to let me know. So glad to have helped out with a craving.

  4. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Our Panda Express always runs out of this early in the evening or during the lunch hour. Then, if they do re-cook it around closing time (when we, unfortunately, happen to go), they let it set too long and burns it somewhat, so it doesn’t always taste 100% like it should. But, after getting frustrated a few times by their own recipe not living up to our standards, we plan to prepare our own homecooked version. Now, don’t get me wrong — when they have it spot-on, it is great. But, at our Panda, for some reason, it is not always living up to our (or even their) standards of how it should taste. So, I know that Dinner-Then-Dessert is going to do a better job to show us how to make it consistently good.

    1. I’m glad to be of service with sharing this recipe. It stinks when you’re craving it and it ends up falling flat from the usual standards.

  5. Great recipe, but the vinegar was way too much. It tasted very sour. Next time, I would decrease by half and use 5tablespoons.

  6. What I did is slice the legs to small portion and baked them while chicken is being baked I did the orange white vinegar with orange zest sautéed garlic unions then add the orange juice half cup put some white vinegar then put the cornstarch add a little ground pepper on it add a little salt set aside then get the chicken toast the sauce on top the add sesame seed w/thin slice of green union it makes me WOW I never taste this so way good Home Made Orange Chicken

  7. Loved this! I’ve never made orange chicken before, but the husband, son and grandsons all like it so I gave it a try. Lots of prep and dirty dishes but well worth it! Next time I’ll double it so there are leftovers.

    1. I am just seeing this tonight. I am sure the recipe has long been cooked/or not but I still want to try to help.

      I would do the 3 ingredient sauce Orange Chicken on the site, that one uses orange marmalade. This one wouldn’t work quite the same, there is too much sugar in it already to add in the marmalade and without testing I couldnt sub the two ingredients with certainty.

      1. Since there is no orange juice in the recipe, the orange zest is the only ingredient providing orange flavor. If you leave out the zest the orange chicken just becomes… chicken.

  8. Made this for the 1st time last night and it was a success. Panda Express Orange Chicken is my son’s favorite so I wanted to make it for him. I also made the chow mein noodles. It did take a little longer than I expected but it was worth it. I will be making this again.

  9. Well just finished making this for dinner like I said I would and it’s a big Thumbs Up!!!!! My bf went crazy over it and said it was better than the real thing:)))
    Definitely will make this again loved the sauce!!!!

  10. Oh my God!!! I almost cried standing in my kitchen because of how good this chicken WAS. I say was because before I could even plate it I had eaten all of it so I had to go back to the kitchen to make more for my family lol. Thank you so much for posting this. This is WAY better than Panda Express. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat Panda Express orange chicken again when I know I can make it better. 10/10!!!!
    Now I’m about to make the chow mein and I’m sure it’ll be amazing also.

  11. I love the flavor. This is my sons FAVORITE DISH. However, mine doesn’t seem to be crispy enough. Could you advice please?

    1. It could be that the oil wasn’t hot enough when fried. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan while frying to which in turn drops the temperature of the oil. Hope this helps for next time. I’m so glad it’s his favorite!!

  12. Excellent recipe. The flavors are wonderful, with just the right amount of tang. I added a good shot of red pepper flakes to mine, and it gave it the spice I was looking for. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Did not turn out well at all. I used all of the ingredients that the recipe called for and it was bitter and the sauce was runny. In addition, the chicken had a very lumpy texture.

  14. My family loves this recipe. I did change a couple of things. First, we use orange juice instead of water. We’ve already zested the orange, we might as well use the juice, too. I also add a ton of vegetables. Tonight I added onions, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers and sugar snap peas. I usually make a recipe and a half of the sauce in order to cover all the chicken and the vegetables I add.

  15. Amazing Recipe! I didnt have sesame oil so i subbed peanut oil. Also, subbed some of the vinegar in the sauce for fresh squeezed orange juice. Really brought out the orange flavor!!

    Will make again!

  16. YOOO I just made this tonight and it’s no joke! No oddball ingredients except the rice wine for me who doesn’t touch cooking wine at all. You won’t need the whole orange though, maybe the zest of one whole cutie or half a regular-sized orange.

    My next goal is my favorite thing from Panda- BEIJING BEEF!!

  17. Last night was my 2nd time making this recipe!
    And it’s so good.
    I do a couple of things different–using the juice of the orange instead of water as the base…and then I had to add water to the cooked sauce because it thickened up too much.
    And only did 4 tbsps of sugar versus 10…
    Absolutely a family favorite!
    thanks! Eva

  18. Excellent!!! Just had it for dinner 15 min ago and everyone loved it. I’ve been a fan of Panda Express Orange chicken for 20 years and this is as close as it gets!
    Thanks Sabrina.

  19. The recipe is good, however, there is something not quite right with the sauce. Too much of everything – orange, ginger, and vinegar.

  20. I tried it’s amazing! I love the sweetness to it! I’m almost 14, I made all by myself to try and made it gf! Super good will make again!

  21. Does not taste like Panda Express at all, texture is off too.

    I would not repeat this recipe either.

    Also would suggest cutting down on soy sauce, and making it more of a glaze.

  22. Not my favorite. There was a lot of vinegar and it was pretty overwhelming by the end of the dish. I’ll go back to my old standby.

  23. This looks good but I have a question. Ten tablespoons is almost 2/3 cup. Is that really the amount of vinegar to use, or is it a typo? Maybe ten teaspoons??

  24. Hi, your recipe calls for rice wine, but the link for it takes you to Holland White Wine on Amazon. So is this supposed to use white wine and not rice wine?

    1. They might have changed the amazon link since this recipe was first posted. Sorry about that. You’ll want to use rice wine.

      1. Hi, is that Mirin (Japanese rice wine) or Shaoxing (chinese rice wine) or something else?
        Thank you!

  25. Hey Sabrina!
    I am interested in trying you recipe but I was wondering if I could add orange juice instead of orange zest? If so how much could I add?

    1. Yes, you can use around 1/4 to 1/2 cup of orange juice if you’d like. Just make sure to cook the sauce longer for it to thicken up. Make sure to take the chicken out of the pan so it doesn’t get soggy.

      1. This was nasty! Too much vinegar completely ruined the recipe. I tried to cut it with orange juice and more cooking wine and it didn’t help. Tastes nothing like Panda Express. Pass on this recipe guys don’t waste your time or money buying groceries for this.

        1. The zest really is plenty orange for this dish but you can play around with it and use whatever you prefer. Have fun!

  26. I can’t believe how good this is!!! This is amazing!!! Definitely a great recipe!
    So easy and delicious, will definitely make this again!

    PS:
    I am 13 and I made this recipe all by myself! And if I can do it, so can you!!!

  27. I came here from Julien Solomita’s Youtube video and am glad I did!

    Made some changes: 1) made a half batch but with 14 oz of gently torn up pieces of firm tofu instead of chicken (I’m not vegan but I like tofu), 2) increased the garlic per household preference (probably 1.5 T), 3) used the full batch quantity of ginger (again per preference), 4) used a couple of teaspoons of chicken boullion powder to the flour mixture instead of the salt in the egg/oil to give the tofu a bit of savory flavor and seasoning, 5) rice vinegar instead of white, and 6) orange juice instead of water.

    Even though that looks like a lot of changes, the core recipe remained very much the same. It was so good, I will definitely make it again! Thanks!

  28. Awesome!! we made it to try as my son can’t eat it from panda express because of the additives and he said this was perfect! Taste just like Panda Express

  29. Oh my gosh!!!
    I was very skeptical with this recipie, but after I saw the youtuber Julien Solomita make this recipe – in vegan form – I was VERY interested.
    I followed the recipe to a T and it was amazing. After I did the initial taste, I personally thought I could use some more orange, so I sliced up the orange used for zest and squeezed 1/4 of it on top and mixed it togather while it was still on the stove.
    I will be making this again and again!!

  30. 10 tablespoons of white vinegar made this recipe almost inedible although I knew it was on the right track. Made it again with just 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and it’s spot on. We don’t have Panda Express in Australia so I am grateful to be able to recreate this dish that I enjoyed while in the US.

  31. This looks amazing and I want to make it with white rice, what’s your perfect white rice recipe? I don’t have a rice cooker

  32. This is an amazing recipe!! It’s doesn’t really taste like the Panda version, but a delicious recipe non the less! I did LESS than a quarter of the orange zest though, not sure if I was using bigger oranges or what, but the orange was extremely overpowering. Delicious recipe with that alteration. Thank you, great job!