You can say what you want about Panda Express — that they’re not authentic, that it’s not healthy, that they’re always out of the particular dish you want… but all I know is that I love their Orange Chicken. Crispy, sweet and tangy… it’s basically irresistible. But the problem is I now live nowhere near a Panda Express and none of my local Chinese restaurants do it quite like they do. So I’m left with only one choice — make it on my own. Here’s a copycat version that satisfies that Orange Chicken craving every time it comes up.
This isn’t a particularly short ingredient list. It involves breading and frying. (So kind of a lot of dishes and mess.) But it is SO WORTH IT. It really approximates the Panda Express experience incredibly well with crispy, juicy chicken and a sticky, sweet sauce that has that bright citrus flavor and a little bit of tang too. Here’s how you go about it:
First, it’s good to get your sauce together because things move pretty quickly once the frying is done. Just whisk together some rice wine, orange juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, light brown sugar, ground ginger, garlic, red pepper flake, white vinegar, orange zest, cornstarch and water and then set it aside. See? Nothing too out of the ordinary there.
Then cut your chicken up into bite-sized chunks. Thighs or breasts work fine, just cube them into pieces about an inch in size. And then we’re breading. Egg wash in one shallow bowl and a mixture of flour and cornstarch in another. (The cornstarch helps make this extra crispy.)
Dip the chicken in the egg mixture, then in the flour mixture, and then fry it in some hot oil for just three or four minutes. You’ll probably need to work in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, but it still goes pretty fast.
Then wipe the oil out of the pan (or use a new one entirely if you’d like) and pour the sauce in, let it simmer and thicken a bit, and then add the chicken and toss it until it’s all coated in that sticky sweet goodness. That, my friends, is tastier than takeout.
Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken
15m prep time
10m cook time
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons rice wine
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- Zest of one large orange
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
For the chicken:
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Vegetable oil, as needed, for frying
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- White rice, for serving
- Green onion, chopped
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside: the rice wine, orange juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, light brown sugar, ground ginger, garlic, red pepper flake, white vinegar, orange zest, cornstarch and water.
- In a shallow bowl, whisk together the egg, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Set aside.
- In a separate shallow bowl, stir together the 1/2 cup cornstarch and flour. Set aside.
- In a large frying pan or wok, heat enough oil to fry the chicken over medium-high heat. Oil should be 375°F.
- Once oil is at temperature, dip chicken in egg mixture, shaking off excess, then dredge in flour mixture.
- Add to hot oil in batches and cook until golden and crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Don't overcrowd pan. Transfer chicken to a paper towel lined plate or cooling rack.
- Remove oil from pan, leaving about 1 tablespoon. Whisk orange sauce once more, then add to pan.
- Bring to a boil, then remove from heat, add chicken back to pan and stir to coat in the sauce.
- Serve over white rice, with some chopped green onion. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Dinner Then Dessert.