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This sweet & savory Orange Chicken recipe is quick, easy and on the table in less than 30 minutes! Perfect for a weeknight fakeaway (sorry, Panda Express), this version is better for you than the fast food version and uses real ingredients. The whole family will enjoy this copycat Chinese Orange Chicken recipe that is packed full of flavor!
We love making fake-out take-out at home! Some of our favorites include Better Than Take Out Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork, Easy Honey Walnut Shrimp, Easy, Classic Chinese Beef with Broccoli, and Easy Chicken & Vegetable Stir-Fry! They’re all so easy and ready in 30 minutes or less!
Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken
My family is obsessed with Panda Express, and specifically their orange chicken. It’s always at the top of the list when I ask what everybody wants for dinner when I’m not planning to cook.
But I have to confess that it’s not my favorite, even though my husband and kids enjoy it. Too often the pieces of chicken seem like all breading and very little meat or the texture is off or the sauce ratio is wrong…. I’m sorry, but it’s just not my thing.
Now, making it at home from scratch on the other hand? Now that’s some orange chicken I can get behind.
Fake-Out Take-Out at Home
Asian food is some of the easiest and most flavorful food that I enjoy making at home and I almost always prefer it over the restaurant versions. Generally, everything comes together in about 30 minutes, and you can easily load it with whatever veggies you have on hand, ensuring a healthy and really tasty meal for your family.
The flavor of this Orange Chicken sauce is absolutely mouthwatering! It mixes sweetness from the sugar, with saltiness from the soy sauce, richness comes in the form of sesame oil, a kick of spice is brought by the ginger, pepper, and chili flakes, and to top it off, it packs a tangy, zesty punch from the orange and vinegar. Salt, fat, acid, heat? I think we nailed it!
Although this Orange Chicken recipe does have sugar and is lightly fried, it is still much healthier than take out! Frying this way actually absorbs less oil than you would think and it skips out on added ingredients which aren’t great for you and you really don’t need it. Overall, there is less sugar, less salt, and less oil, and more fresh, healthy nutrition from the chicken and real oranges in my copycat version.
Orange Chicken Ingredients
- Chicken breasts: I cut them into 1/2-inch pieces – bite-sized! This makes it easier for kids to chew, without making the pieces so small that it’s mostly the batter and less chicken.
- Eggs: Eggs help the flour and cornstarch to stick to the chicken.
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch is the secret to extra crispy chicken! It really helps to add that crunch we love!
- Flour: One of the main parts of the batter! There is less flour than cornstarch, but the flour helps to bulk up the batter coating.
- Seasoning: I added salt, onion powder, ginger powder, and black pepper to give the chicken pieces flavor. The added ginger really helps to give it more of an Asian flavor, than regular chicken nuggets.
Orange Chicken Sauce
- Oranges: Both orange juice and orange zest are used in my recipe. You can use homemade or store-bought orange juice. Leaving the zest out of this recipe will make it taste closer to the Panda Express version, but I love how it tastes with it added in!
- Sugar: I used granulated white sugar to add extra sweetness. This helps to bring out the zesty orange flavor!
- Cornstarch: This is the ingredient that will thicken up the sauce.
- Vinegar: You can use either rice vinegar or white vinegar. Rice vinegar has a little more going on than white vinegar, but the important part is having the tartness in there to cut through the sugar.
- Soy sauce: Using soy sauce instead of salt not only adds saltiness but also flavor! It is a key ingredient in Chinese cooking.
- Sesame oil: Sesame oil is one of the best-tasting oils out there! It has a rich, nutty taste, and goes perfectly in stir-frys and other Asian sauces like this Orange Chicken.
- Ginger & red chili flakes: Here’s where the hint of heat comes in! Ginger also packs a powerful umami. Feel free to add a little more of either for extra heat and taste!
- Garlic: More flavor? Yes please! Garlic is absolutely essential in so many Chinese recipes, and you can really tell if it’s not there!
How to Make Orange Chicken
- Make the batter & dip. Combine flour, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt in a shallow dish or pie plate . Beat the eggs in a separate shallow dish. Dip the chicken pieces in the egg wash, then the flour mixture. Shake off excess flour and transfer to a plate. Set aside.
2. Whip up the sauce. Whisk the orange juice, sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger powder, garlic, and red chili flakes together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Fry. Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or wok over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F. Work in batches to cook the chicken, being careful not to crowd the pan which will cause the oil temperature to drop significantly. Cook for 2-3 minutes, turning frequently until brown and crispy on the outside and cooked through. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to drain and repeat with the remaining chicken.
4. Drain, sauté, and heat. Drain most of the oil from the pan, leaving only about 1 tablespoon in the bottom. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, then pour in the sauce mixture. Heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange zest.
5. Put it all together. Toss the cooked chicken pieces with the orange sauce. Sprinkle with chopped green onions and onion zest, then serve with rice or noodles.
What kind of orange juice should I use?
You can use either store-bought or homemade if you have a juicer! If you’re using a store-bought version, make sure it’s pulp-free, or at least less pulp. At home, both manual and electric juicers will do the job well!
Can I add in extra vegetables?
Yes! I would add them in right after the garlic and before adding the sauce. You’ll want to stir-fry them for a few minutes just to soften them up a little. Here are some great vegetables to add into stir-frys:
- Onions (white, yellow, red)
- Bell Peppers (any color)
- Baby Corn
- Water Chestnuts
- Bamboo Shoots
- Sugar Snap Peas/Snow Peas
- Bean Sprouts
You could also try adding in nuts like cashews or peanuts.
What should I serve this orange chicken with?
- Plain White rice, brown rice, or wild rice
- Fried Rice
- Brazilian Rice
- Garlic Rice with Fried Egg (with or without the egg)
- Cauliflower Rice
- Fried Cauliflower Rice
- Oven Roasted Broccoli
- Easy Oven Roasted Cauliflower
- Tender Roasted Green Beans
- Oven Roasted Asparagus
Storage and freezing
Orange chicken stores well in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat it thoroughly on the stove or in the oven before consuming.
More Copycat recipes you will love:
- Copycat Texas Roadhouse Rolls
- Sweet & Sticky Copycat J Dawg’s Hot Dog Sauce
- Copycat Costco Mac & Cheese
- Cafe Rio Black Beans & Cilantro Lime Rice
- Copycat Waffle Love Liege Waffles
- Cast Iron Pan Pizza (Copycat Pizza Hut)
- Better-Than-Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 pounds)
- 2 eggs whisked
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Oil for frying
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar or white vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- Zest of 1 orange optional – leaving it out tastes more like Panda Express
- Chopped green onions
- Orange Zest
- White rice for serving
- Combine flour, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt in a shallow dish or pie plate. Beat the eggs in a separate shallow dish. Dip the chicken pieces in the egg wash, then the flour mixture. Shake off excess flour and transfer to a plate. Set aside.
- Whisk the orange juice, sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger powder, garlic, and red chili flakes together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or wok over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F. Work in batches to cook the chicken, being careful not to crowd the pan which will cause the oil temperature to drop significantly. Cook for 2-3 minutes, turning frequently until brown and crispy on the outside and cooked through. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to drain and repeat with the remaining chicken.
- Drain most of the oil from the pan, leaving only about 1 tablespoon in the bottom. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, then pour in the sauce mixture. Heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange zest.
- Toss the cooked chicken pieces with the orange sauce. Sprinkle with chopped green onions and onion zest, then serve with rice or noodles.