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
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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  1. Both times I’ve made this the ending taste is just great. However, it just does not look as nice! I’ll just keep practicing.
    God bless you! Jean

  2. Fantastic recipe! I just added some orange juice in place of some of the sugar and water and it was DELICIOUS!

  3. Sorry, I see now that step 1 was making the sauce. Your written instructions are different than your video, which has better results?

  4. Amazing I didn’t have any rice wine but I used a regular white wine and I added a splash of orange juice OH MY GOD IT WAS AMAZING

  5. Fantastic recipe. Way better than Pands Express.
    You should double the sauce though.
    Thank you for this recipe, it’s a family favorite.

  6. I forgot to mention on my previous comment that I just use the juice from the orange that I’ve zested in place of the water. The first time I made it I didn’t have rice wine so thought I’d use the orange juice and then realized, why not just replace the water with the juice all the time?

  7. This sauce is incredible! I’ve made the recipe as is and have also tried it without breading the chicken, Of course, the original is phenomenal and the best way to eat it but when I’m wanting to save a little time and make it a bit more healthy for a regular week night dinner I make it without breading the chicken. The sauce is just so great that it’s a treat either way!

  8. The sauce was phenomenal! Best Orange Chicken sauce I’ve ever made, everyone devoured it! thx!!