If you’re a fan of Panda Express you’re inevitably a fan of the most popular item on the menu, the iconic Orange Chicken. It’s juicy, it’s crispy, it’s sweet, it’s sour, and it’s spicy, all in one bite of sublime bliss. Thankfully, it’s easy to recreate Panda Express’ Orange Chicken at home with this foolproof recipe to make the Chinese food classic.
This Orange Chicken recipe has everything you love about the Panda Express version and more, it’s so tasty that it might even replace the Panda Express rendition as your favorite Chinese dish. So, if you want an easy, delicious way to enjoy the delights of Panda Express at home, read on!
How to Make Panda Express Orange Chicken
Making Panda Express’ Orange Chicken is not the most straightforward of tasks, it’s not particularly difficult, but it will take some time and effort. To recreate the famous Orange Chicken you will need quite a bit of ingredients, it’ll take some time to put together, and you will accumulate some dirty dishes in the process.
However, once you bite into the magical, juicy, crispy pieces chicken elegantly coated in a robustly flavorful sweet-sour-spicy sauce, all the dirty dishes in the world won’t make you regret cooking this dynamite recipe. When making orange chicken, there’s two main components: the sauce and the chicken.
To make the chicken, thighs are best as they don’t overcook and dry out as quickly as breasts. To add some flavor to the chicken, it’s quickly marinated in dried ginger, orange, salt, and pepper. In order to get that crispy exterior that everyone loves about Orange Chicken, the breading is crucial.
A mix of cornstarch and flour in a 2:1 ratio makes for a coating that is crispy and as light as air. But before dredging the chicken in the flour and cornstarch, you dip it in some beaten egg so the dry mixture will stick. Then, the chicken is quickly deep fried to crunchy, juicy perfection.
The two keys to cooking the chicken are to shake off any excess flour after dredging so you have a nice light, even coating and frying the chicken in small batches.
The biggest mistake people make when cooking orange chicken is cooking too much at once and overcrowding the oil, which will reduce the temperature and cause the chicken to cook too slowly, making the breading get soggy and fall off. Be sure to properly coat and cook the chicken for the best result!
The other big part of Orange Chicken is of course, the sauce. To make the sauce, an eclectic mix of orange juice and zest, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and sriracha sauce is simmered together, seasoned with sesame oil, and thickened with a cornstarch slurry to create a syrupy sauce that coats the chicken beautifully.
All of those ingredients come together to create a tantalizing harmony of sweet, sour, and spicy. Serve these golden nuggets of deliciousness over white rice, noodles, or some stir-fried veggies for a delightful Chinese feast just like at Panda Express!
For the Chicken:
Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs: Cut into cubes, they form the main protein of the dish. Chicken thighs are preferred for their juiciness and flavor.
Canola or Vegetable Oil: Used for frying, it provides the necessary medium to achieve a crispy exterior on the chicken.
Salt, Black Pepper, Dried Ginger, Orange Zest and Juice: These seasonings and aromatics are used to marinate the chicken, infusing it with flavor.
Eggs: Beaten eggs are used to help the dry coating stick to the chicken.
Cornstarch and Flour: Mixed in a 2:1 ratio, they create a light, crispy coating on the chicken when fried.
For the Sauce:
Water, Soy Sauce, Sugar, Rice Wine Vinegar, Sriracha Sauce: These ingredients form the base of the sauce, offering a balance of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors.
Grated Ginger and Garlic: Add depth and aromatic flavors to the sauce.
Orange Zest and Juice: Provide the signature orange flavor that is central to the dish.
Cornstarch: Used to thicken the sauce, giving it a syrupy consistency that coats the chicken well.
Sesame Oil: Adds a nutty flavor and enhances the overall taste of the sauce.
Tips & Tricks
- Marinate the Chicken Properly: Marinating the chicken in a mixture of salt, pepper, dried ginger, and orange zest and juice is crucial. This step infuses the chicken with flavor and tenderizes it. I’ve found that letting the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes makes a noticeable difference in taste.
- Achieving the Perfect Batter: The batter’s consistency is key. A mix of cornstarch and flour in a 2:1 ratio creates a light, crispy coating. Dipping the chicken in beaten egg before dredging it in the flour-cornstarch mix ensures the coating sticks well. Make sure the batter resembles a thick pancake batter for the best results.
- Frying Technique: Frying the chicken in small batches at the right temperature (around 350°F) is essential. This prevents overcrowding and ensures each piece is evenly cooked and crispy. I’ve learned that shaking off any excess flour after dredging and not overcrowding the oil are critical steps.
- Sauce Preparation: The sauce is a blend of orange juice and zest, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and sriracha sauce. Simmering these ingredients and then thickening with a cornstarch slurry creates a robustly flavorful sauce. The key is to achieve a syrupy consistency that coats the chicken well.
- Combining Chicken and Sauce: Once the chicken is fried and the sauce is ready, toss them together just before serving. This ensures the chicken remains crispy and gets fully coated in the sauce. Serving immediately is crucial to maintain the texture and flavor.
Now that you know the secrets to making Panda Express’ divinely delicious Orange Chicken, you can skip the takeout and go about making this beauty at home for you and your family. From the juicy, tender chicken to the succulent sweet-sour-spicy sauce, this chicken hits all the notes.
To compliment this recipe we recommend using Panda Express fried rice. So, without further ado, it’s time to get cooking!