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


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


  • 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.



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
Keyword: Panda Express Orange Chicken (Copycat)
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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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  1. This sauce was so easy and had great flavor. I was surprised just the zest of one orange could give us such great orange flavor when so many other recipes were calling for orange juice (which I didn’t have on hand). I left out red pepper for my kids and added it after to mine. This was perfect sauce for plant-based chicken substitute

  2. Hi Sebrina, I tried your recipe last night after literally dozens of failed Chinese food attempts. This stuff is fabulous!!! I made some changes based on the comments and what I had available. I used 9 Tblsp of white vinegar and 9 of brown sugar, I added 1/4 c of juice from a tangerine I had, I used mirin because I didn’t have rice wine vinegar and I doubled the flour and cornstarch because I didn’t have enough for the coating. I cooked the chicken in my fry baby with canola oil which made it quick and easy. My husband couldn’t believe I made it as I usually end up spending all day trying to make Chinese food and ending up feeling I should have gone for takeout. (Wasted all day and meal mediocre) not this time. You rock. We both had seconds and I finished the last couple pieces for lunch today. btw, that dude who inferred men had done better recipes must be one of those people who think with their little head instead of their big one. You rock!!

  3. I’ve been trying to make chow mein noodles like our local [British Columbia Canada] restaurant that I’ve been going to since I was about 10 years old – so for 50 years. What they make are very thin noodles that when done come out dry [not limp – not stiff but almost] and moist not crispy and not wet. Topped with a bit of shredded chicken. Zero vegetables – they are separate dishes. They must buy special noodles or cook them in some unique way. I love the way they make them. 99.9% of the chow mein recipes on youtube the finished product has limp wet noodles and tons of vegetables and looks more like chop suey. When they have a Chinese Smorgasbord they bring it in enormous bowls. But you can also order as part of a meal such as Chow Mein, almond chicken, sweet and sour boneless,beef and greens. The meal also comes with a small bowl of won ton [quite large]soup. Any idea what noodles our restaurant might be using ? Are the steam cooking the noodles?

  4. Well I made this and WOW! My family want it again this week. It really came out delicious!!! Thank you for sharing!

  5. I thought I would luv it but little did I know my italian husband would it’s a keeper! BTW I used 1 & 1/2 lb chicken thighs and kept everything else the same. Served on white rice with spring rolls OMG TY,

  6. Great recipe! Orange chicken is my favorite American-Chinese dish. Came out better then panda express (imo). Only changed I made were in the sauce; I used freshly squeezed orange juice instead of water and I used 4 Tbsp of honey instead of sugar.

  7. Hi! I’m a young cook, (under the age of 16) and I loved making this.
    Question, does this work with seafood too?

  8. Overall it came out well! I found the orange flavor to be a little too strong, so I’ll maybe just use half the zest next time.

    1. I did try the Orange Chicken and I love it. No more trips to Panda Express for me. I used an idea that came from Chris. I also used real orange juice and honey. It tastes better than the original recipe. Thank you for publishing the recipe.

  9. have made this SO many times now, it is very scrumptious!
    just one question though: can this be made ahead and reheated?

  10. Loved the orange flavor! A little too sweet and tangy for me- almost tasted like a made a concentrated version of the sauce. If I make again I will decrease the vinegar and sugar.

  11. I would like to use honey instead of the sugar! Do you think that would work? honey can be overpowering so not sure of the proportions. Any ideas or has anyone tried it that way?

  12. Thank you for the wonderful Chinese dish. My husband and I just loved it! We are vegans, so we pair it with fried seitan, instead of chicken. It is a lovely sauce.

  13. I. Am. In. Shock.

    Everything was perfect. So easy for a beginner like myself. Tastes amazing and I cannot wait to try again. Entire family loved it and went back for seconds!

    1. Maybe you could buy chicken already breaded. Like popcorn chicken or nuggets. It would make it a little less stressful. Just a suggestion.

  14. Did not find recipe for Orange Chicken using orange marmalade and BBQ sauce.
    Could you please supply? Love your recipes!!9

  15. Made this for my husband who loves PE orange chicken and his response, “This is better than PE!!” Thank you for the recipe. I served it with steamed rice which was excellent.

    Question: How could I make this without corn starch? Some members of my family can’t eat corn starch

    1. Hey Kathy.

      I made this today and I didn’t have cornstarch. I just used flour (cornflour amount x 2). It tasted great!

    2. I want to make this but with some supply issues I’m having a hard time finding chicken thighs at a decent price I can afford. Is it okay to used cubed or strip chicken breast instead?

  16. I usually don’t post on recipes that I try but this one was too good not to. The entire family love it. I was shocked how good the sauce was. We thought it tasted better than Panda Express! Not exactly like it but fresher with a lot of orange flavor. Do not use orange juice and trust Sabrina! Only improvement for next time is getting a better fryer. I couldn’t keep the temp at 375 degrees once the chicken went in so it wasn’t as crispy as it should have been. Still delicious though. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  17. I made this today- I found out I was gluten free 3 years ago so I hadn’t had Chinese since. This hit the spot more than you know. I ended up using ginger/garlic paste in the sauce (because I didn’t have fresh), and I added about 2 cups of orange juice because it was in my fridge. The chicken I made was disappointing, but that was me not the recipe. I have enough to freeze, and I WILL make this again bits so good I think I’m going to add it to my hand written recipe book.

  18. I’m going to try this recipe this weekend. However, I have a question: the recipe calls for 10 Tbsp of vinegar for the sauce. Is this correct or a mistake?!?

  19. Hi, Sabrina, I did it for my kids. One of their favorite chicken at Panda Express and they love it! Made it several times now. Thanks for sharing. I love it as well. We give it five stars.

  20. The blog was to long even with the jump to recipe button, I did like the list though to keep track of what you need. The recipe should add orange juice to it not just water. It was an ok recipe, I’ve made better orange chicken off of male cooks but this wasn’t bad.

  21. Made this for dinner we really enjoyed it . My husband and I thought the sauce was slightly too vinegary. Thank You for the recipe.

  22. It was amazing and so easy. The only thing I changed was to use fresh orange juice in place of the water and to add the last 3 ingredients at the same time. Brought it to a boil and let it thicken.

  23. This recipe is better than Panda Express. I add some broccoli and sweet red pepper for some vegis and color, but other than that, the basic recipe here is perfect as is. Thanks.

  24. Hi! I am planning on making this for dinner tonight but do not have any oranges on hand. I do have Natalie’s organic orange juice. Could I use this instead? And if so, how much?

  25. Hello, I am planning on making this tonight but don’t have any oranges, however I do have some Natalie’s Organic orange juice. Could I use this instead– and if so how much should I use?

  26. Val delicious! Easy to follow instructions and was pretty quick and easy to make. It turned out delicious! I served over plain rice and it was perfect. My hubby, who is a huge fan of PE’s orange chicken, loved this. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

    1. Yes! you can also find this information in the recipe in the blog. Just hit the “Jump to Recipe” button at the top.

  27. Do you use 10 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar? And 10 Tablespoons of regular white sugar in this recipe?

  28. Absolutely incredible! I omitted the chili flakes and added brown sugar as well as a splash of orange juice. The taste was phenomenal!! Printed and saved in my recipe book! Yum!

  29. This was amazing, I used sake instead of rice wine because I couldn’t find it in the store. I think they are kinda the same though ????. I also sprinkled toasted sesame seeds and green onion on top. My whole family loved it which is saying something in this house because my kids are 10, 12, and 14 year old picky girls.

  30. I have made this twice in three days. It’s amazing. The first time I accidentally used rice wine vinegar instead of rice wine, so it was a bit off but still fabulous. The second time I made it I used orange extract instead of zest because I’m an impatient zester and always get a lot of pith. I also left out the rice wine the second time because I forgot to pick it up from the store. This is my kids’ new favorite! Thanks!

  31. In the middle of making.

    Thought I’d give you a little heads up on a possible correction (grammar- not to police, but for functionality.)

    I got a little stuck reading over a couple times step #2… Then realized it could use a comma or colon. #1 as well.

    I’ll be back with my picture when I’m done! Looking good!

    • Substitutions:

    – dry vermouth for rice wine
    – juice from the orange for water
    – powdered ginger for fresh (1/2 the called for amount)

    – The Resourceful Cook “)

  32. Always turns out so good! For some reason I can’t seem to find rice wine at my local grocery store. So I substitute with a white cooking wine and it still turns out awesome. Even a big hit with the 4 and 1 year old!

  33. Question, would it still taste as good with the sauce if you didn’t fry the chicken. Instead just sauté the chicken and add the sauce in?

  34. During this Pandemic, I have had a chance to sharpen my cooking skills, which has kept me from being totally bored, encouraged & motivated to feed my family, friends and others!

  35. I would love to make the sauce and can it (jar it?). Is it ok to just make the sauce, including the last step before adding the cooked chicken where you cook the peppers, ginger and garlic and can that? Would i need to do anything different?

  36. Made this for dinner last night in the air fryer – I think next time I’ll just fry the meat, but now I know! The orange sauce is fantastic and my son couldn’t tell the difference from the real Panda Express orange chicken! Definitely planning to make more of your copycat recipes!

    1. I want to make this 3 days ahead of time. Should I leave it in the fridge or freeze it before putting the sauce or what can be done? Thank you!!